Darth Vader Magic 8 Ball

Imagine that your wife likes Darth Vader and wants help making important life choices. (Who doesn’t?) [bithead942] solves both problems in one project by gutting a Lego clock and making a talking animatronic Darth Vader 8-Ball-style oracle. Now his wife can simply press Darth’s head and her decision-making is handled by the Dark Side of the Force.

You can see the result in the video below the break.

The internals consist mainly of an Arduino Nano, a WTV020SD WAV playback chip, and some swanky servos. [bithead942] took a Dremel to the existing clock interior and found a way to make it all fit. The cloak helped, and the speaker was a good fit for the previous clock’s display.

Then he used IMDB and combed through the Star Wars movies to find Darth Vader quotes that kinda sound like the 8-Ball’s answers. As [bithead942] mentions Darth Vader doesn’t really dwell much on the positive, so finding instances where he says “yes” was hard work. This is in contrast to the original 8 Ball which has a brighter outlook than a cheerleader on Prozac, but there’s a reason they call it the Dark Side.

We really like the way the waist and arm servos work together to bring Darth to life. The added oak base with pull-out instruction card not only makes Darth look fancy, but prevents him from falling over when he leans forward to talk. All in all, a really nice build and well written-up with difficulties and their solutions.

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Hacking the Crayola Digital Light Designer

[Harry] wrote in with his hack of the Crayola Light Designer. The Light Designer is a pretty unique toy that lets kids write on a cone-shaped POV display with an infrared light pen. [Harry] cracked one open and discovered it has a spinning assembly with a strip of 32 RGB LEDs for the display and a strip of photodiodes to detect pen position. These were ripe for the hacking.

The spinning assembly uses several slip ring connections to send power and data to the spinning assembly. [Harry] connected a logic analyzer to several of the connections to determine which lines were clock, data, and frame select (the strip is split into 2 16-led “frames”). He went on to reverse-engineer the serial protocol so he could drive the strips himself.

Instead of reverse-engineering the microcontroller on the product’s PCB, [Harry] decided to use a Leostick (Arduino Leonardo clone) to control the LEDs and spinner. He mounted the Leostick on the shaft of the spinning assembly, and powered it over the slip ring connections. After adding some capacitance to make up for noisy power from the slip rings, [Harry] had the POV display up and running with his own controller. Check out the video after the break to see the hacked POV display in action.

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Hello Kitty Night Light Gets Flashy Upgrades

See something in the world that sucks? As a person with hacker prowess, you view this sucky thing as a challenge to come up with an improvement and in some cases, an improvement that extends beyond what’s truly necessary but is just plain cool. This is what maker and father [Dan McDougall] did with his daughter’s light projecting Hello Kitty pillow.

kittypillow2As a thing whose one purpose was to shine bright starry patterns on a child’s wall at night, the pillow failed miserably. [Dan] Wondered why his daughter’s toy couldn’t live up to reasonable expectations all while sucking batteries dry, so he opened the large pink plastic casing in the center of the pillow to find a rather minimal board driving three very dim LEDs. The LEDs that faded on and off to create mixtures of different colors weren’t even red, green and blue either. The makers of the toy used yellow instead of the slightly more expensive blue color. Having none of this, [Dan] replaced these sad innards with an Arduino Pro Mini which he programmed to drive an old salvaged speaker and three bright RGB LEDs borrowed from the end of a light strip. For the unnecessary but cool part, he used the additional pins of the Arduino micro-controller to add four touch sensitive buttons on the outside of the pink casing. These small capacitive tiles made from copper tape activate sound and change the color of the LEDs when touched, making the pillow a lot more reactive than it was before.

The Arduino Mini board and the added components fit nicely inside the original pink casing of the pillow when all was soldered up and finished. With threefold ultra bright LEDs and a super strobe mode, his daughter’s Hello Kitty pillow is more of a disco ball than a night light now… but we doubt she will complain about the cool additions. To see the pillow in action and hear more about the upgrades you can check out [Dan’s] video below:

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A Remote Control, Swing Wing F-14

Anyone can build a remote control airplane with a sheet of foam, some glue, and a handful of servos. Building an F-14, complete with the swing wing mechanism? [Thomas] found built one that’ll take you right into the danger zone.

This was [Thomas]’ first go at scratch building a RC airplane, and wanted a lot of electronics inside. His choice of airframe was the venerable F-14 Tomcat, complete with wings that swing out for landing and swing in for high-speed flight. This isn’t just taking off-the-shelf receivers and putting them in a fancy airframe, either: [Thomas\ is reading the PWM signals from the receiver with a small electronics board, mixing the elevons with his own code, and implementing an auto stabilization system with an accelerometer.

Most of the work on the airframe was done by [Maybz] over on the RCGroups forums. That’s an impressive thread spanning seven years of posts. [Thomas] doesn’t see his F-14 as an end goal, though: he’s using this as a stepping stone to learn about building unstable planes for a more complex UAV.

Videos below, with a warning to headphone users.

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[Harrison Krix’s] Marriott Chariot

Atlanta’s Mini Maker Faire had plenty of booths to keep visitors busy, but the largest spectacle by far was the racetrack smack-dab in the middle, and you’d be hard pressed to find a more eye-catching contender than [Harrison Krix’s] vehicle: the Marriott Chariot.

If [Krix’s] name looks familiar, that’s because he’s the master artisan behind Volpin Props, and is responsible for such favorites as the Futurama Holophonor replica and the Daft Punk helmet. (Actually, he made the other one, too).

The Chariot is yet another competitor in the Power Racing Series, an event that keeps popping up here on Hackaday. [Krix] drew inspiration from this Jeep build we featured earlier in the summer, and went to work sourcing an old plastic body to get started. The frame is 16 gauge square tubing, with a custom motor mount machined from 3/16 steel. After welding the chassis together, [Krix] chopped up a small bicycle to snag its head tube and headset bearings. A pair of sealed lead acid batteries fit horizontally in the frame, providing a slightly lower center of gravity.

[Krix] has a keen eye for precision and his build journal shows each step of his meticulous process. But, you ask, why “Marriott Chariot?” and why does the car look like someone threw up a kaleidoscope? Read on beyond the break, dear reader, to learn the Chariot’s origin and to see a video of it winding around the track.

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Giving Life to an Undead Baby Doll

If carving a pumpkin this month is too passé for you, take a shot at [Jason Suter’s] instructable and build an animatronic legless zombie child that will surely creep out anyone who has a fear of dolls or other vacant-faced toy babies.

Beginning with a sacrificial doll, [Jason] dismembers all of the limbs and head from the torso in order to make room for the robotic upgrades. The servo motors which animate the new wooden dowel bones are mounted to a chassis cut with a CNC machine. [Jason’s] instructions include some nice diagrams demonstrating how the points of articulation at the shoulders and elbows work in conjunction to produce different flavors of crawling and dragging.

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To top it off, the head is attached to its own mounting plate with tendons that rock back and forth in a miserable undead sort-of fashion. As an added nicety, he explains how to install a bluetooth module into the circuitry so he can tweak and upload his example code to the Arduino brain remotely without needing to get his hands near it. There is of course some additional melting, painting, and doll torture required to achieve that rough-up undead look… but that’s all just icing on top of a well executed piece of animatronics.

In his video [Jason] gives us an overview of his zombie’s build and also shows it in action:

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Even More Power Wheels Racers

With the Power Wheels Racing series wrapping up for the year, the teams are winding down and writing up their build and rebuild logs for their cars. In previous years, the kids from MIT, a.k.a. MITERS, have brought small electric cars to the races, but nothing like this. It’s a true Power Wheels, or at least the plastic shell, an alternator, a huge battery pack, and a completely custom drivetrain.

[Dane], [Ben], [Rob], [Mike], and [Ciaran] started their build with an alternator that was salvaged from [Charles]’ Chibi-Mikuvan, added a motor from a CDROM drive for a sensor, and basked in the glory of what this cart would become. The frame was crafted from 1″ square tube, a custom disc brake machined, and a 10S2P battery pack built.

The alternator the team used for a motor had a rather small shaft, and there were no readily available gearboxes. The team opted to build their own with helical gears milled on the MITERS Bridgeport mill. That in itself is worth of a Hackaday post. Just check out this video.

With the build held together with duct tape a baling wire, the team headed out to the races in Detroit. Testing the racer before getting to Detroit would have been a good idea. During the endurance race, a set of 10″ rear tires were torn apart in just four laps, impressively bad, until you realize the smaller pink tires that were also from Harbor Freight fared even worse.

After a few races, the MITERS team figured out the weaknesses of their car and managed to get everything working perfectly for the race at Maker Faire NY.

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