NASA inspired circadian rhythm lights

circadian-rhythm-light-rig

After reading about an initiative between NASA and Boeing to develop lights for the International Space Station [Rasathus] decided to give it a go at building his own. The project uses RGB pixels to build a circadian rhythm light installation. Without the normal rise and fall of the sun the sleep wake schedule for the astronauts can be pretty rough. This uses color and intensity of light in a well-defined schedule to help alleviate that. [Rasathus] is trying to bring his project in well under the $11.1 million mark which was established for the ISS.

The light modules he’s using are from a strand of LEDs from Adafruit. Each is driven by a WS2801 controller, a common driver used for easy and complicated projects like this huge ball of light which our own [Jesse Congdon] tackled. The board above is the start of an adapter board for interfacing with the Raspberry Pi GPIO header. [Rasathus] wanted to make certain he didn’t fry the control electronics so he built some protection into this adapter. The control software is covered in the second portion of  the write up. We’ve embedded the video from that post after the break.

[Read more...]

Adafruit’s got a new board, an official Arduino

There’s a new Arduino in town, this time designed in conjunction with Adafruit. It’s the Arduino Micro, a very neat little board designed for breadboard use.

Ostensibly an upgrade of the long in the tooth Arduino Nano, the new Micro takes all the best features of the new Arduino Leonardo and shrinks them down to a convenient stick of gum-sized package. It’s powered by the ATmega32u4 microcontroller, and with a MicroUSB port is able to emulate keyboards, mice and other USB input devices.

Of course with any microcontroller dev board, comparisons must be drawn between the Arduino Micro and the very popular Teensy USB dev board. Like the Teensy boards (and the new Arduino Leonardo), the Micro is able to function as a USB keyboard or mouse. The Teensys, though, is loaded with LUFA making it able to emulate just about anything from mice, USB audio devices, and MIDI synths.

Web IDE for the Raspi

For this month’s release of Adafruit’s Raspberry Pi Linux distribution, [Limor], et al. decided to build a web-based IDE for the Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi WebIDE is a web server that runs on the Raspi. By connecting to your raspi in a web browser, you’re able to create your own Python programs that are able to interact with the GPIO pins. All the code is stored in the cloud with the help of bitbucket.

The WebIDE is in its early Alpha stage right now; there are a few bugs and minor issues, but in the video after the break, [Limor] shows us it’s possible to push code to a Raspi through the Internet and view the result in a web-based serial terminal.

For fear of editorializing, we have to point out that Adafruit’s web IDE – along with other Arduino web IDEs such as Codebender and the Wifino – work on the cloud. If you’re planning a long-term project that relies on a web-based IDE, you might be in for a world of hurt if only because you can’t host a cloud on a personal server. We’d love to see a package that allows us to have the same functionality as bitbucket on a personal server. If you can find a project that does something similar, or have written your own, send it in and we’ll spread the word.

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[Limor Fried] (Adafruit) up for Entrepreneur of 2012 award

[Limor Fried], the brains behind Adafruit is one of the five finalists for the Entrepreneur of 2012 award in Entrepreneur magazine. We’ve always been big fans of how she chooses to run her business. Adafruit supplies open source hardware and compiles tons of great tutorials on the pieces. Not only that but they have pushed very hard to build a community that shares information and encourages others to build things, with their “ask an educator” series and the community “show and tell” that we hope to emulate at some point.

You’ll notice she’s the only engineer in the list. Not only would your vote go toward getting an engineer to win, it would also be shedding light on the open source hardware movement.

Unfortunately, the voting is being done through facebook. We know many of you will opt not to participate due to this fact. It is unfortunate that this is becoming so common. I’ll be voting though. We could use more companies like Adafruit.

Lego for girls? [Limor] has some ideas.

When Lego announced that they were going to do a series of “Lego for girls”, many of us didn’t get it. When we were kids(get off my lawn!), legos were completely asexual. At least, that’s how my mind saw them, being a caucasian male. While the idea itself makes sense in marketing terms, the products they rolled out were stuck firmly in the same old gender roles. Pink abounds and flowers are prevalent. There’s nothing wrong with little girls being into those things, but it is sad when that is the only option ever presented. To attempt a parallel, I’m not into sports, and I can tell you that the availability of scientific role models kept me sane through many tough periods of life.

[Limor], who you may recognize as the brains behind Adafruit has proposed the set you see above which puts another option out there. They’ve entered the set into the Lego Cuusoo site, where it could become a real product if it earns enough votes. Here is another nice idea for female lego sets being proposed, that shows females in realistic roles such as a chemist and archaeologist .  I’m kind of surprised that I don’t see [Amelia Earhart] or [Ada Lovelace] herself anywhere in the list.

Gender roles aside, who is going to build the ultimate [Nikola Tesla] kit for us?

Text adventures for Arduino starting with Hunt the Wumpus

Let’s be honest, you’re going to have trouble getting kids to play text-based adventure games these days. But this is one way to get them interested. This weekend you should get together with niece, nephew, son, or daughter and help them build their own hardware and program it with an adventure game. One last project before school’s out and the weather’s nice.

This is [Dan's] shiny example of Hunt the Wumpus. He used Adafruit’s RGB LCD shield for Arduino. It’s got a character LCD and five buttons. But you can easily breadboard this yourself using a few tactiles plus a screen and uC of your own choosing. One nice touch with this one is the RGB backlight which is used to add an element of danger to the story line. He also mentions a few bugs in the Arduino language which he found while setting up the game.

We’ve been meaning to make our version of Zork using an Arduino, GLCD, and PS/2 keyboard ever since we read “Ready Player One”. This is just a bit more encouragement to get moving on that project.

[Thanks PT]

Using GPS to stay aware of red light cameras

red-light-camera-alerter

Depending on how you view them, red light cameras are a great way to get people to drive carefully, or an utter nuisance. We agree with the latter opinion, as does [Dave], so he built a handy little device that alerts him when he’s about to approach one of these intersections.

His Red Light Camera Alerter is based around an Atmega 328P sporting the Arduino bootloader. The micro obtains GPS coordinates while [Dave] is driving, comparing his current location with a table of all known red light intersections in the area. As he nears a red light camera, the status LED changes colors from blue to yellow to red as he gets closer, making it easy to keep aware of his situation. He also included an Adafruit OLED display in his device, which relays his speed, GPS coordinates, heading, and actual distance from the red light in real time.

While [Dave] admits that he doesn’t really have a need for the alerter as there are only a couple located in his immediate vicinity, he says it was a fun and easy way to get some experience with using GPS sensors in his projects. He doesn’t have any video of it in action, but you can find the code he uses to drive the alerter on his blog.

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