How to Stop Grandma’s Wheelchair If She Goes Out of RC Range

Okay, so he doesn’t have Grandma riding in it that we know of, but [zim] recently decided to turn a Jazzy mobility chair into “a radio-controlled platform for mischief”. RC offers more range than wifi or bluetooth, and he was able to find a reasonably priced secondhand radio on Craigslist. However, he found out that in the event of signal loss, the receiver keeps sending the last commands to the speed controller. [zim] didn’t want his 150 lb (68kg) mischief platform getting loose, so he devised a fail-safe that cuts power to the motor when the signal is lost.

[zim] discovered that the receiver returns channel 3 (the throttle) to a preset condition whenever the signal is lost. He used a 24V HVAC relay controlled by an Arduino Nano to sample the PW on channel 3 and shut it off when either the throttle or the signal are cut.

If Grandma is feisty, you could build this caged-in version with a shopping cart.

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Self-Balancing Robots Wobble, But They Don’t Fall Down

[Trandi] can check ‘build a self-balancing robot’ off of his to-do list. Over a couple of weekends, he built said robot, and, in his own words, managed not to over-design it. It even kept the attention of his 2-year-old son for several minutes, and that’s always a plus.

He was originally going to re-purpose one of his son’s RC cars, but didn’t want to risk breaking it. Instead, he designed a triangular 3-D printed chassis to hold a motor and some cogs to fit both the motor shaft and some re-used Meccano wheels. [Trandi]‘s design employs an MPU 6050 6-DOF IMU for the balancing act and is built on an Arduino Nano clone.

[Trandi] is controlling the motor with an L293D, which has built-in flyback diodes to minimize spikes. He found that the Nano clone was not powerful enough to handle everything, so he added an L7805CV voltage regulator. After the break, watch [Trandi]‘s cute bot tool around on various types of terrain, with and without a payload.

Don’t have an IMU lying around? You don’t really need one to build a self-balancing bot, as this IR-based lilliputian bot will demonstrate.

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RFID Reader Snoops Cards from 3 Feet Away


Security researcher [Fran Brown] sent us this tip about his Tastic RFID Thief, which can stealthily snag the information off an RFID card at long range. If you’ve worked with passive RFID before, you know that most readers only work within inches of the card. In [Fran's] DEFCON talk this summer he calls it the “ass-grabbing method” of trying to get a hidden antenna close enough to a target’s wallet.

His solution takes an off-the-shelf high-powered reader, (such as the HID MaxiProx 5375), and makes it amazingly portable by embedding 12 AA batteries and a custom PCB using an Arduino Nano to interpret the reader’s output. When the reader sees a nearby card, the information is parsed through the Nano and the data is both sent to an LCD screen and stored to a .txt file on a removable microSD card for later retrieval.

There are two short videos after the break: a demonstration of the Tastic RFID Thief and a quick look at its guts. If you’re considering reproducing this tool and you’re picking your jaw off the floor over the price of the reader, you can always try building your own…

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Clean and minimal self-balancing robot


The VertiBOT is a self balancing robot project taken on for the purpose of exploring how the sensors work in conjunction with some PID algorithms.

[Miguel] didn’t roll any extras into the build. But you have to admit that makes it look interesting. There’s almost nothing to it and yet, as you can see in the clip after the break, he accomplished everything he set out to.

The body and wheels are 3D printed, with black bands for tires to help give it some traction. Note the connection in the center of the body which allowed him to make a longer part by printing in two stages. On the electronic side of things he’s using an Arduino Nano. A level converter lets it communicate with the 6 DOF IMU board which is used to detect movement. Three potentiometers provide a way for him to tweak the PID loop without having to bother with reflashing any code. And of course there’s an option to control it remotely thanks to a Bluetooth module also in the mix.

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Wireless solar water heater controller ensures hot water every time


[Peter Sobey] had a solar hot water heater installed in his home, which worked great until he relocated his kitchen to a neighboring room. Now a good bit further from the tank, the hot water reaching his sink was tepid at best due to the increased distance and temperature limiting mixer valve in the new heater.

He installed a salvaged solar panel and water tank solely for use in his kitchen, but as the panel was located above the tank, he had to find a way to actively monitor and control the water temperature. His pump and valve system was originally driven with an off the shelf PICAXE-based controller, but he eventually got the urge to add a wireless display and control panel to the mix.

A pair of Arduino Nanos run the show now, one of which resides in the pump controller box, while the other is used in the temperature display box in his kitchen. He uses a set of Bluetooth modules to link the Arduinos together, relaying temperature data and allowing him to send the pump controller manual commands if needed.

He says the system works a treat, and he’s much happier with his homebrew controller than the one he used originally.

Adding keypad security to your automobile’s ignition system

[BadWolf] managed to make some free time to get back to his own electronic projects. This time around he’s created a security system for his car. It’s patched into the ignition, preventing the engine from starting when the key is turned. A driver must first insert the key, then type the combination on a keypad in the center console before the car will fire up.

While he was working on the project he also decided to add a start button to the dash-board (we think it does make it look like a later model vehicle). The keypad is driven by an Arduino Nano which has the start code stored in it. Power for the system is provided by a USB hub hidden behind the dash which he thinks will also come in handy with future hacks.

When the proper code is entered, you’ll hear a rendition of the Super Mario Bros. theme. The speaker also lends a pleasant beep with each keypress. See the demo clip after the break to hear it for yourself.

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Arduino Nano updated


The official Arduino Nano design has been updated to version 3.0. Like other new Arduino designs, it’s using the ATmega328 instead of the ATmega168. It’s also a slightly more reasonable $35. The small board is designed to be plugged directly into a breadboard and accessed via mini USB cable. This new design is also two layers instead of four making it easier to produce and modify. The new Nanos will ship at the end of the month.