AM/FM SOS beacon saves your bacon

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[BadWolf] sent us a device called the “Bacon Beacon“, which is his 555 Design Contest entry. In short, it’s a life-saving device that emits an S.O.S. signal in Morse code over both the AM and FM bands. The device uses five 555 timers to get the job done, each of them dedicated to a specific task. Three of the timers are used for clocking and Morse generation, while the remaining two are used to produce and transmit an audible signal over the air waves. Currently, the signal can be received about a mile away from the source, which would theoretically allow for a search and rescue team to locate you with a simple radio and directional antenna.

The current design is still a bit rough around the edges, but the final plans would have the circuit built into a flashlight-like device equipped with red and green signaling LEDs. It’s a clever project and would make for a great tool if you got lost while hiking, or in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Stick around for a quick video of the Bacon Beacon in action, and swing by [BadWolf’s] site if you want to know why his project has such a strange moniker (hint: it’s not because it can “save your bacon”).

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DIY lightning special effects

Halloween may have come and gone but thats no reason not to take a look at this neat little special effects setup.  Basically it uses an analogue circuit to monitor an audio signal and triggers some camera flashes using 5V relays.  The idea is that you can play lightning strikes and other spooky sounds, and the system will trigger camera flashes to coincide with the lightning strikes. Adding in some color organs in addition to the camera flashes will dim your lights to help achieve a thunder like effect. Unfortunately there aren’t any schematics for the color organs (which technically might be just light organs) but that doesn’t detract from the seemingly well designed analogue signal processing. Check it out in action after the break.

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DIY hot air hand dryer – an OCD sufferer’s best friend

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[haqnmaq] admits that he suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and on occasion, can be found washing his hands up to 20 times an hour. Very distrustful of cloth towels, he exclusively uses paper towels to dry his hands, to the tune of 2-3 rolls a day. In an effort to lessen the impact his OCD has on the environment and his wallet, he decided to build an automated hot air hand dryer using a 555 timer, which doubles as his entry in the 555 Design Contest.

The concept behind his project is to use a hair dryer as a hot air source, relying on a phototransistor and a pair of IR LEDs to detect when hands are placed under the dryer. When a pair of hands are detected, a relay is triggered and the hair dryer is turned on. Once the dryer has run for a pre-determined but adjustable time, the relay is opened, and the hair dryer turns off.

It’s a pretty simple project, but one that is quite useful, whether you suffer from OCD or not. The only thing he might want to watch out for is the restricted air flow to the dryer, since it is mounted in a sealed plastic container – a few seconds with a hole saw should remedy the problem quite easily.

Want to see the hand dryer in action? Keep reading for a short video demonstration.

[Thanks Ryan]

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Hear that? It’s a 555 Timer AM radio

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[Eric] recently built an AM radio based on a 555 timer, and posted a few pictures to the Hack-a-Day Flickr pool. He used the 555 timer as an AM demodulator and power amplifier in order to drive the speaker. A hand-wound inductor is used to tune the signal which is then superimposed over the ramp signal produced by the circuit he built. [Eric] points out that he chose a CMOS 555 timer because of its superior performance in this particular application since the timer is used in a bit of a nontraditional manner. He shared his circuit diagram as well as a great video walking through each part of his design, finishing off with a demonstration of the radio, which can be seen below.

This is yet another great project that will be entered in the 555 Design Contest – simple and elegant. We love seeing these, so keep them coming!

If you want to see more cool projects made by Hack-a-Day readers, be sure to check out our Flickr pool as well as the forums.

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555 Two-fer – Baby swing upgrade and a Headphone tube amp

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[Jason] sent in two 555 timer driven items that were worth sharing, both of which are entries in the 555 Design Contest.

The first item is a circuit that automatically resets an infant swing. [Jay], who built both items, has an infant swing for his daughter that spins a mobile and plays music. It’s great but it only works for 7 minutes and 15 seconds before a button push is required to trigger it again. He found this limitation to be annoying, and as I have owned the same swing, I can echo his frustrations. He probed the swing and found that a 5v pulse was required to reactivate the mobile, but it had to be sent after it turned off to have any effect. He put together a simple circuit that would do the button pushing for him, as you can see in the video below.

[Jay’s] other entry is a headphone tube amp using a quartet of 6DJ8 vacuum tubes. The 555 timer in the amp is used to drive a FET and the hand-wound transformer he built for the amp. You can see a video of the amp in action below as well.

The projects are lacking a thorough write-up, but he does provide schematics for both the swing reset switch and the tube amp for those looking to replicate either item.

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Punch tape musical synth

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[Jeri Ellsworth] sent over a 555 design contest entry that struck her as particularly interesting. The Synthanola is a three-channel music synthesizer that accepts input from an old Heathkit paper tape reader. While this hack might seem overly retro, it’s actually an extremely appropriate use of technology, as the Heathkit H-10 and the 555 timer were both popular tech in the 70’s. This retro-focused synth uses fourteen 555 timers, twelve of which are dedicated to synthesizing audio. If this entry does not win the contest, it certainly must be a strong contender for most 555 timers used.

[Thrashbarg] gives a detailed explanation of the logic used to drive the music playback from the punch tape, as well as full circuit diagrams for his entry. So far he has encoded MP3s of Bach’s Invention and Fugue in D Minor to tape, with hopefully more to come. In order to truly appreciate his efforts, the Synthanola should be seen as well as heard. Stick around for a pair of videos of the synth in action.

If you’re interested in seeing more 555 contest entries, be sure to check out some of our previously featured projects.

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Screamer doll prank toy

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While it is only the middle of February, it might be a good time to start thinking about your plans for April Fool’s day. [Dino’s] Screamer Doll is his submission to the upcoming 555 Contest.  This fun little circuit can be used to easily annoy your cube or house mates and is perfect for all of the April Fool’s day pranksters out there. He fit all the components into a small plastic toy, replacing the eyes and mouth of the doll with three photo cells, and swapping the nose out for a bright LED. When light hits the photo cells, a loud high-pitched squeal is emitted, and the LED blinks furiously until the light source is removed. Shielding the device from light will cause both the sound and LED to slow down, but the brightness of the LED ensures that the toy still makes noise when covered.

It would be great to see a version of this project that is completely silent in the dark, allowing it to be hidden at night, greeting its victims come morning.

If you want to see video of the device in action, read on – just be sure to keep your speaker volume at a reasonable level!

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