Giant pencil used as an Etch a Sketch stylus

The gang over at Waterloo Labs decided to add a team-building aspect to a plain old Etch a Sketch. Instead of just twisting the two knobs with your own mitts, they’re converting this giant pencil’s movements into Etch a Sketch art.

The challenge here is figuring out a reliable way to track the tip of the pencil as it moves through the air. You may have already guess that they are using a Microsoft Kinect depth camera for this task. The Windows SDK for the device actually has a wrapper that helps it to play nicely with LabView, where the data is converted to position commands for the display.

On the Etch a Sketch side of things they’ve chosen the time-tested technique of adding gears and stepper motors to each of the toy’s knobs. As you can see from the video after the break, the results are mixed. We’d say from the CNC ‘W’ demo that is shown there’s room for improvement when it comes to the motor driver. We can’t really tell if the Kinect data translation is working as intended or not. But we say load it up and bring to a conference. We’re sure it’ll attract a lot of attention just like this giant version did.

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Digital measuring tape

You’ll never come up short with this measuring tape. That’s because there isn’t actually any tape in the device; it measures distance based on the rotation of a wheel. Roll it across the room and you’ll get an accurate measurement of the distance the little bugger traveled. Like the Etch-a-Sketch from Monday this uses the encoder wheel from a mouse as the input. The IR emitter and sensor from the ubiquitous peripheral find a new home on the PCB that hosts the PIC 16F819. It monitors the rotation, turns it into inches, then spits that number out on a 7 segment display. Handy, and cheap!

High Voltage Etch a Sketch

What do you get when you mix a simple X/Y plotter, a Flyback transformer, and an unhealthy disregard for safety? Possibly the worlds most dangerous jumbo Etch a Sketch! [Kalboon] started off by making an imprecise X/Y movement device, similar to a CNC machine setup, but with less emphasis on precision. This rig is powered by some commonly salvagable materials, including an old scanner, a remote control car, and some hobby servos. We like this approach because most of these materials could be scrounged from a parts bin, surplus sale, or craigslist for little to no actual cost. The flyback transformer comes from an old TV or monitor, though if you have common sense safety concerns, we would recommend just mounting a dry erase marker and a dry erase board to substitute out the high voltage bits. For people wanting a low cost introduction project to making a CNC or Makerbot style build, this isn’t a bad place to start.

Report from ESC Silicon Valley 2010

Ah, the heady aroma of damp engineers! It’s raining in Silicon Valley, where the 2010 Embedded Systems Conference is getting off the ground at San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center.

ESC is primarily an industry event. In the past there’s been some lighter fare such as Parallax, Inc. representing the hobbyist market and giant robot giraffes walking the expo. With the economy now turned sour, the show floor lately is just a bit smaller and the focus more businesslike. Still, nestled between components intended to sell by the millions and oscilloscopes costing more than some cars, one can still find a few nifty technology products well within the budget of most Hack a Day readers, along with a few good classic hacks and tech demos…

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Jeri makes integrated circuits

[Jeri Ellsworth] made this silicon inverter at home, by hand. It took her two years to get the process figured out and achieve something we didn’t think was possible. The complexity of manufacture, and the wide range of tools and materials needed seem insurmountable but she did it anyway. Her home chip fab Flickr set is well commented and details her work area and part of the processing. If you’re hurting for more check out her 40 minute Metalab talk which we’ve embedded after the break.

If her name sounds familiar but you just can’t place it you may know her from The Fatman and Circuit Girl. We’ve also featured some of her hacks, such as her Pinball challenge against [Ben Heckendorn], and her giant Etch-a-Sketch.

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Propeller takes Step-a-Sketch to a new level

[Mpark's] propeller controlled Etch-a-Sketch is well built and very accurate. He was inspired by the Step-a-Sketch project and he’s carried that design through to a stunning conclusion. The driver board was built around a Parallax Propeller P8X32A microcontroller. But this isn’t just a serial controller board for connecting the hardware to a PC running CNC software. He’s included TV out and a keyboard port so that programming can be done on the chip itself.

In the video after the break you can see how precise the plotting is on the Etch-a-Sketch. It is well mounted but also benefits from some software compensation for the toy’s imprecise controls. [Mpark] has also included an erase function that tilts the frame upside-down a few times. This is used not only to erase a drawing but to hide the line created when moving the stylus into its starting position.

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Ask a winner updates day 3: Answers

Not too long ago we asked our readers what they would like to hear about from the PUSH N900 winners and their hacks. We got some silly questions, and some serious, we asked both and now the PUSH teams have answered.

The days are getting closer and closer to the N900 PUSH Showcase, and as such the teams are getting more and more stressed. But the team from Sketch Your World was willing to take time of out of their busy day for our interview. As always, keep up to date on the team at their blog – they’ve started drawing on the Etch a Sketch(tm), and it even (okay, it doesn’t really, but it’s still progress) looks like a circle!

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