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Printing and programming a self-balancer

The Hackaday staff isn’t in agreement on 3d printers. Some of us are very enthusiastic, some are indifferent, and some wonder what if they’re as widely useful as the hype makes them sound. But we think [Jason Dorweiler's] self balancing robot is as strong a case as any that 3d printing should be for everyone!

Don’t get us wrong. We love the robot project just for being a cool self-balancer. Seeing the thing stand on its own (video after the break) using an Arduino with accelerometer and gyroscope sensors is pure win. But whenever we see these we always think of all the mechanical fabrication that goes into it. But look at the thing. It’s just printed parts and some wooden dowels! How easy is that?

Sure, sure, you’ve got to have access to the printer, it needs to be well calibrated, and then you’ve got to make the designs to be printed out. But these hurdles are getting easier to overcome every day. After all, there’s no shortage of people to befriend who want nothing more than to show off their Makerbot/RepRap/etc.

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Pocketwatch retrofit takes input from accelerometer

A friend of [CNLohr's] used the mechanism from an old pocket watch in an art piece, but left him with the enclosure. It’s an interesting looking object that feels great in your hand so he decided to fill it with his own electronics, thereby giving it a new life. He’s showing off an early version of the hardware in the video, but plans to send off another version of the board soon to add a few features.

You can see that the round PCB is small enough to fit in the space vacated by the original hardware. The ribbon cable is used to connect to the programmer and we think it’s also the power source for this demonstration. There’s a small Densitron display that’s reading out hex values from the accelerometer. Many of these mems chip (you can learn how they work from this post) include a hardware tap detector. This meant you can tap your finger on the device and the chip will signal an input to whatever chip is attached to it. That’s a great option for user input, and it’s what [CNLohr] chose as the select button here. He tilts the watch to one side, then taps to turn on the LED. That’s all for now, but we like the promise it shows and can’t wait for updates!

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Arduino tells you how rough your last mountain bike ride was

If you want to see what kind of abuse you’re causing your body when out on those single-track rides this system is just the thing. It’s an Arduino data logger that [Wdm006] takes along on the rides with him. When he gets back home, a Python scripts captures the data dump and graphs it. It may sound like a neat trick, but he’s got something planned for that information.

The enclosure mounts to the stem of his bike. It houses an Arduino board with a data logging shield of his own design. That shield holds an SD card for storage, and breaks the other pins out as screw terminals. Right now there’s an accelerometer on the front fork, and some method of recording wheel speed. This is the research phase of an anti-lock brake system (ABS) he plans to build for mountain biking. No word on what hardware he’ll use for that, but we can’t wait to see how it comes out.

The Engineer Guy explains how MEMS accelerometer chips work

There’s a good chance that you use a MEMS accelerometer every single day. It’s the small chip that let your smart phone automatically adjust its screen orientation. They’re great chips, and since they’re mass-produced you can add them to your projects for a song (if you can abide the tiny packaging). But we have no idea of how they are made and only a inkling of how they work. [Bill Hammack] has filled that knowledge gap with this explanation of how MEMS accelerometers are made and how they function.

Our base knowledge comes from the acronym: Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems. There’s something in the chip that moves (so much for solid state electronics; and it makes us wonder if these wear out). [Bill] includes a diagram in his video after the break which shows the silicon-based system that moves as it is affected by gravity. This changes the capacitive properties of the structure, which can be measured and reported to a microcontroller for further use. The structure is built using an intricate etching process which we never want to try out at home.

Looking for a project in which to use one of these devices? We’ve always been fond of this POV device.

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Accelerometer may help make you a sharpshooter

[Chris Suprock] is interested in using technology to improve your accuracy with a firearm. To that end, he’s using an Accelerometer mounted to a gun to gather feedback about each shot.

The hardware setup is pretty simple. We don’t have specific details, but it looks like he’s using a QFN accelerometer chip like you would find in a cellphone. The milled aluminum mounting bracket that holds the board has ‘USB’ printed on it, although the connector is something we don’t really recognize.

In the video after the break [Chris] demonstrates the feedback he can get when the device is mounted on the stock of a Ruger Mini-14. The graph of the data makes it obvious when the trigger was pulled. The most useful part may be the period leading up to that event, as it shows any unnecessary movement prior to the shot. If you’re into sport shooting, this may be one more tool that will help give you the edge on your competitors.

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Building sensors for the Scratch programming language

[Kevin Osborn] is making it a bit easier for young programmers to write programs that interact with the physical world. The device he’s holding in the picture is an Arduino based accelerometer and distance sensor meant for the Scratch language.

Scratch is a programming language developed at MIT. It has kids in mind, and focuses on graphical building blocks. This can make it quite a bit easier to introduce youngsters to programming concepts without the roadblocks and gotchas that come with learning syntax.

As you can see in the clip after the break, [Kevin's] Arduino sketch includes hooks that automatically pull the accelerometer and distance data into the Scratch environment. We figure his example provides everything you need to get just about any type of sensor up and running, be it a magnetometer or LDR (both of which would make a nice burglar-alarm type project). Give it a try with your own hardware and see what you can accomplish.

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iPhone wielding guitar adds tip of your finger or tip the instrument control

[Rob Morris] has been hard at working improving his guitar augmentation techniques. Here he’s demonstrating the use of an iPhone to control the effects while he plays. This builds on the work he shared a few years ago where he strapped a Wii remote to the body of his ax.

Just like the Wii remote, the iPhone includes an accelerometer. As you would expect the best parts of the older hack made it into this one, but the inclusion of the touch screen adds a lot more. In the clip after the break he starts by showing off the screen controlling a whammy bar functionality. But we really love the octave offset feature that comes next. This kind of sound manipulation simply can’t be done using a purely physical method (like the whammy bar can). But he’s not done yet. The demo finishes with a Theremin feature. You’ll notice he plucks a string but no sound comes out until he starts touching the screen. This turns it into an entirely different type of instrument.

The only info we have about putting this together is the list of packages he’s using:  TouchOSC, Max/Msp, and GuitarRig

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