Mustachioed Rover Simultaneously Manly, Adorable

[Rick], an Adafruit learning system contributor, is excited by the implications of STEM’s reach into K-12 education. He was inspired to design Red Rover, a low-cost robot that can be easily replicated by anyone with access to a 3-D printer.

This adorable autonomous rover is based on the adafruit Trinket microcontroller, but will also rove under the power of an Arduino micro. It really is quite simple—the Trinket drives two continuous rotation micro servos and pretty much any flavor of rangefinder you like. [Rick] tested it with Parallax PING))), Maxbotix, and Grove sensors, and they all worked just fine.

What’s truly awesome about Red Rover are the track treads. [Rick] initially experimented with flexible filament. While he had good results, it was not a cost-effective solution. What you see in the picture and the short video after the break are actually rubber bracelets from Oriental Trading.

The plastic part count comes in at seven, all of which can be printed together at once. [Rick]‘s gallery includes both small and large chassis and three different servo mounts. The Red Rover guide builds on other adafruit guides for Trinket general use, servo modification, and Trinket-specific servo control.

Update: Added [Rick]‘s demo video after the break!

[Read more...]

Arduino-Based Power Failure Alert System


When the power went out at his parents’ shop and ruined the contents of their fridge, [Lauters Mehdi] got to work building a custom power failure alert system to prevent future disasters. Although some commercial products address this problem, [Lauters] decided that he could build his own for the same cost while integrating a specific alert feature: one that fires off an SMS to predefined contacts upon mains power failure.

The first step was to enable communication between an Arduino Micro and a Nokia cell phone. His Nokia 3310 uses FBus protocol, but [Lauters] couldn’t find an Arduino library to make the job easier. Instead, he prototyped basic communication by running an Arduino Uno as a simple serial repeater to issue commands from the computer directly to the phone, and eventually worked out how to send an SMS from the ‘duino. [Lauters] then took the phone apart and tapped into the power button to control on/off states. He also disconnected the phone’s battery and plugged it into an attached PCB. The system operates off mains power but swaps to a 1000mAH 9V backup battery during a power outage, logging the time and sending out the SMS alerts. A second message informs the contacts when power has been restored.

Head over to [Lauters's] project blog for schematics and photos, then see his GitHub for the source code. If you want to see other SMS hacking projects, check out the similar build that keeps a remote-location cabin warm, or the portable power strip activated by SMS.

USB NeXT Keyboard

USB NeXT Keyboard

[Ladyada] and [pt] had an old keyboard from NeXT, but since it used a custom protocol it wasn’t usable with modern hardware. So they built a custom device to convert the NeXT protocol to USB.

The device uses a Arduino Micro to read data from the keyboard and communicate as a HID device over USB. It connects to the keyboard using the original mini-DIN connector, and is housed in the classic Altoids tin enclosure.

Since the protocol used by NeXT isn’t standard, they had to figure it out and write some code to interpret it. The keyboard communicates bidirectionally with the computer, so they needed to send the correct frames to key data back.

Fortunately, they hit on a Japanese keyboard enthusiast’s site, which had protocol specifications. They implemented this protocol on the Micro, and used the Keyboard library to create a HID device.

The final product is an adapter for NeXT to USB, which allows for the old keyboards to be used on any computer with USB. It’s a good way to bring back life to some otherwise unusable antique hardware.

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.