[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


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.

Antique phone provides a soundtrack perfect for restoring old cars


[Simon] is in the middle of restoring/building himself an Austin 7 Special out in his garage, and like most tinkerers, found that music helps to move the process along. He happened to have an old Bakelite generator phone out in the garage as well, and figured that he might as well have it do something other than simply hang on the wall.

Playing music from the 1930 seemed like a fitting enough task, so he picked up an Adafruit Waveshield and spent some time wiring it up to the old telephone. His new radio works simply enough, piping .wav files through the handset, provided someone has cranked the phone’s generator recently.

While cranking the generator is required to play music, the Arduino is actually powered off a pair of AA batteries. The cranking is all cosmetic, but he did program the Arduino to slow the music down every once in awhile, requiring that the generator be turned to get things back up to speed.

It really is a neat way to repurpose the old phone, and we like the fact that [Simon] did not gut it to put this project together.

Continue reading to see a short video of his new music player in action.

[Read more...]

A TV-B-Gone with a PIC twist


[Kayvon] thought that the TV-B-Gone was a fun little device and wanted to build one, but he didn’t have an AVR programmer handy. Rather than picking up some AVR kit and simply building a replica, he decided to give his PIC skills a workout and build a Microchip derivative of his own.

The PIC-based TV-B-Gone is pretty similar to its AVR-borne brethren, featuring a PIC24F08KA101 at the helm instead of an ATTiny. His version of the TV-B-Gone can be left on indefinitely, allowing him to situate the device in a convenient hiding place to wreak havoc for as long as he likes.

[Kayvon's] TV-B-Gone does everything the original can at just under $7, which is quite a bit cheaper than the Adafruit kit. If you’re not averse to perfboard construction, be sure to check out the build thread over in the Adafruit forums. [Kayvon] has done most of the heavy lifting for you – all you need to do is build it.

Circuit Playground – An electronics reference app from Adafruit

It’s not everyday that we review software around here, but the folks at Adafruit recently put together an iOS app that I figured might be of interest. Their iPad/iPhone compatible application is called “Circuit Playground”, and it includes all sorts of handy electronics reference tools. For the context of this review, it should be noted that I paid for the application myself, and that I have had no communication with the Adafruit team regarding my assessment of the app.

[Read more...]