Atomic Powered Robots and Records Played With Optics


If you were a child of the 80′s or early 90′s you probably remember Magic Mike. He went by many names, but he always said the same thing “I am the atomic powered robot. Please give my best wishes to everybody!” [Oona's] version of Mike had been malfunctioning for a few years. He’d stopped talking! She decided he needed more input, so she disassembled Mike to reveal the flesh colored plastic box in the center of his chest. This talkbox was used as a sound module in several toys. Before the days of cheap digital playback devices, sounds were recorded in a decidedly analog fashion. [Oona] found that Mike’s voice and sound effects were recorded on a tiny phonograph record in his chest. The phonograph was spun up by an electric motor, but the playback and amplification system was all mechanical, consisting of a needle coupled to a small plastic loudspeaker. The system was very similar to the early phonograph designs.

Mike’s record contained two interwoven spiral tracks. Interwoven tracks is a technique that has been used before, albeit rarely on commercial albums. One track contained Mike’s voice, the other the sound of his laser gun. The track to be played would be chosen at random depending upon where the needle and record stopped after the previous play. The record completely sidetracked [Oona's] repair work. She decided to try to read the record optically. She started with a high resolution image (image link) of the record, and wrote some Perl code to interpolate a spiral around the grooves. The result was rather noisy, and contained quite a bit of crosstalk. [Oona] tried again with laser illumination using a Lego train set. Unfortunately the Lego train / laser system wasn’t smooth enough to get a good image. In the end she used a bit of Gimp magic and was able to pull better audio from her original image. We never did find out if she put poor Mike back together though.

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Dad-Built Rocket Control Module

Like a lot of parents, [justbennett]‘s kids like to play rocket and spaceship command. His kids’ imagination-assigned controls kept shifting from this LEGO to that banana to the dog’s tail, so [justbennett] did what he had to do: make this Dad-built rocket control module for them.

The module supports all of the vital sub-modules required for rocket and spaceship administration. There is a launch status indicator, an acceleration vector resonator (AVR), and a com-link. He used mostly parts on hand, and the Arduino count is zero. He built a NASA-grade Plexiglas enclosure to avoid juice box incidents. The two pieces are connected with aluminum angle bar so that he can make repairs or modifications.

The analogue joystick was a thrift store find. [Justbennett] wired the trigger and thumb buttons up as the AVR which activate a recycled PICAXE 08M project of his. The PICAXE senses the button pushes to flash an LED and play an ascending or descending tone. Long-pressing one button will result in an explosion noise as you might expect.

The launch status indicator is a potentiometer wired to a second PICAXE and three LEDs that light up in sequence. In the future, [justbennett] intends to add haptic feedback with a tiny vibration motor. The com-link packet messaging system is a Radio Shack recording module and two big, tempting buttons. The control module ships with a message from Star Command that explains the controls.

Robot Chameleon Teaches Little Girl About Camouflage


[Markus] has been teaching his daughter about animals using a big old animal encyclopedia. A few days ago, they stumbled upon the chameleon, and when he tried to explain its camouflage abilities, she didn’t quite understand. So he decided to make her a pet color-changing chameleon robot. The best part is he built it during her nap!

It’s a fairly simple circuit consisting of an Arduino Uno, a TCS3200 color sensor with breakout board, a ping pong ball, some resistors, and an RGB LED. He plans on adding temperature sensing as well as a capacitive sensor for touch later on. So far, his daughter loves it and plays with it all the time. She’s starting to learn how some chameleons can change their skin color in order to camouflage — and she’s learning the names of some new colors too!

As always, there’s a demonstration video following the break.

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Decascrap: A Three Servo Decapod


[Drewtoby] loves making robots. His latest project is a 10-legged bot called the Decascrap, which makes use of only 3 servos!

What we like most about this project is the leg mechanism [Drew] has cooked up. The legs are made of guitar picks hinged to what look like popsicle sticks. Each guitar pick has a hole punched in it which allows the servo rod to go through the legs. Strategically placed globs of hot glue on either side of each leg on the servo rod allows for the parallel motion during the actuation of the legs. A third servo tilts the bot back and forth as the legs are moved, allowing the bot to scuttle about.

Stick around after the break to see it tackle some rough terrain — well, actually it’s just a piece of uneven foam, but hey!

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Clever Mini-Matchstick Gun


Looking for a quick fun little project you can do for next to nothing? Why not make your own matchstick/toothpick launcher!

[Grant Thompson] the [King of Random] is at it again with another fun project that anyone can do — we just hope you’re responsible with it! All you need is some clothespins, a utility knife, and some form of munition — we like the flaming matches!

By cutting a few grooves into the clothespin, gluing it back together and re-configuring the spring layout, you can make a formidable mini-gun that can shoot upwards of 20 feet. Using a pointy toothpick it will skewer innocent fruits quite effectively too!

To see it in action and to learn how to make one yourself, stick around after the break.

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LittleBits Little Lathe

LittleBits Lathe

Do you need a practical, useful and fun project for a young hacker who is under your wing? How about letting them get a bit of electronics experience snapping together a LittleBits little lathe to customize their crayons. Truthfully, this isn’t much of an electronics hack, but it does make fun use of a LittleBits motor module and all those old crayons you might have lying around. You could make this a weekend project to share with the kids, plus you never know what will spark that first interest in a young engineer.

If you’re unfamiliar with LittleBits, they are small electronic modules that magnetically snap together to build larger circuits. The modules are color-coded by functionality with non-reversible magnetic connectors to help the little ones understand how to connect and integrate the modules. These LittleBits kits are great for the young beginner in electronics or just for fun at any age. Individually, the modules are quite expensive, but the parts are well worth the price because children will find the system intuitive to use and the modules are robust in the hands of careless kids. A more cost-effective purchase would be one of the kits from

In this Instructable, [maxnoble440] demonstrates the little lathe turning a crayon using a variety of tools from the very sharp to the “safe for all ages.” The geared LittleBits motor turns slowly and appears to have enough torque to carve crayons—and possibly clay—packed around a small dowel. To build this project you will need a “little bit” of wood-crafting skill to construct the mini-lathe bed. All the instructions are available in the Instructable as well as a short video, which you can watch after the break below.

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Fun with Wooden Balls


Have you ever found the need to make your own wooden balls for a project? To be frank, we haven’t either! But seriously — how would you do it? Well, lucky for us, Hackaday Alum [Jeremy Cook] has experimented with a few different methods.

He was originally inspired by this video from [Philip Stephens] who makes them completely by hand using a hand-made hole saw. Not wanting to spend hours making a ball, he thought about ways to automate it — well, kind of.

His first attempt was to use a mill and a rudimentary rotary index table consisting of a wood clamp — Hold a wooden dowel in place, hole saw halfway through, rotate in the clamp, repeat times infinity. Eventually you’ll be left with a wooden ball whose sharp edges you can just break off. Not very satisfied with this method, he discovered a Reddit thread on making wooden balls with a rather ingenious method… Stick around after the break to see how.

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