Homemade Activity Monitor

KakaoTalk_20140817_174811213

A group of developers have uploaded a tutorial on Instructables showing the steps needed to develop a homemade DIY fitness tracker. The design is the second iteration of an Arduino-based wearable smart watch project of theirs. This time around, they opted to focus more on the monitoring system rather than a visual display. It is called the ‘RetroBand’ and records steps taken and calories burned by the user.

The microcontroller used is an Arduino Pro mini 3.3v. Accelerometer and gyro sensors were integrated to capture the movement of the ‘RetroBand.’ A wireless bluetooth module connects to an Android phone which presents the data through a Play Store app complete with graphs included. An enclosure was 3D printed. Everything is powered by a one cell Lithum-Polymer battery. The code for the project can be found on Github, and additional information with a how-to manual is on their website (which is in Korean, but can easily be translated through the browser).

Rolly Bot Puts a New Spin on Independent Wheel Control

rolly bot

All of [Darcy]‘s friends were making wheeled robots, so naturally, he had to make one too. His friends complicated theirs with h-bridges and casters for independent wheel maneuvering, but [Darcy] wanted something simpler. A couple of 9g servos later, the Rolly Bot was born.

Rolly Bot is self-balancing because of its low center of gravity. Should it hit a wall, the body will flip over, driving it back in the other direction. The BOM comes to a whopping $10, and that includes continuous rotation servos. It does not include the remote control capability he added later, or the cost of the CNC you would need to completely replicate this build. He even made a stand so he could test the wheels during programming.

[Darcy]‘s code is on his site along with some pictures of another version someone else built. Watch Rolly Bot roll around after the jump.

How would you make this build even simpler? Tell us in the comments.

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POV Display Does it on the Cheap

lowBudgetPOV

[Sholto] hacked together this ultra low-budget spinning display. He calls it a zoetrope, but we think it’s actually an LED based Persistence Of Vision (POV) affair. We’ve seen plenty of POV devices in the past, but this one proves that a hack doesn’t have to be expensive or pretty to work!

The major parts of the POV display were things that [Sholto] had lying around. A couple of candy tins, a simple brushed hobby motor, an Arduino Pro Mini, 7 green LEDs, and an old hall effect sensor were all that were required. Fancy displays might use commercial slip rings to transfer power, but [Sholto] made it work on the cheap!

The two tins provide a base for the display and the negative supply for the Arduino. The tins are soldered together and insulated from the motor, which is hot glued into the lower tin. A paper clip contacts the inside of the lid, making the entire assembly a slip ring for the negative side of the Arduino’s power supply. Some copper braid rubbing on the motor’s metal case forms the positive side.

[Sholto] chose his resistors to slightly overdrive his green LEDs. This makes the display appear brighter in POV use. During normal operation, the LEDs won’t be driven long enough to cause damage. If the software locks up with LEDs on though, all bets are off!

[Sholto] includes software for a pretty darn cool looking “saw wave” demo, and a simple numeric display. With a bit more work this could make a pretty cool POV clock, at least for as long as the motor brushes hold up!

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Visualize Vroom with This RGB LED Tachometer

tach[Pete Mills] recently bought the all-new Ford Fiesta, which offers impressive fuel economy over that of his Jeep. He soon figured out that he has real time access to a wealth of engine and chassis data through Ford’s OpenXC platform and used it to build blueShift, a neopixel tachometer. The car already has a tach, but this one is more visual, can be seen in periphery, and is just plain fun.

In case you hadn’t heard, the OpenXC platform is Ford’s consumer key to the kingdom of OBD2 treasures. It unlocks the magic through its Vehicle Interface, which plugs into the OBD2 port and translates the CAN bus messages to OpenXC format. These messages are packaged into JSON format and can be sent over Bluetooth or Ethernet/Wi-Fi to an Android, Python, or iOS device.

[Pete] went with Bluetooth and used a BlueSMiRF with an Arduino Pro Mini. He derives power from the car’s on-board USB port, but has future plans to use the OpenXC VI port. blueShift reads the RPM data and displays a green trail as the engine revs up. At the peak revolution, it shows a red LED. This one is sticky and will persist for the lesser of three seconds or the time elapsed to a new positive RPM. [Pete] is also reading the headlight status of the car. As soon as they come on, the RGB LEDs dim to avoid blinding him at night.

[Pete] wanted to make an enclosure more finished-looking than a Tupperware box. He nearly detoured into 3D-printer design, but ended up putting together a Prusa i3v and came up with this RAM mount-compatible enclosure. His fantastic write-up and code are on his blog, but you can make the jump to see a short demo and a full explanation video. You can also make smart brake lights or even create art with OpenXC.

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Throwback Handheld Built with Modern Hobby Hardware

magpi-gaming-handheld

Remember all of those fantastically horrible handheld LCD games that hit the toy stores back in the ’90s. You know, the ones that had custom LCD screens to make for some fake animation. Here’s an example of what those should have been. It’s an LCD-based handheld with some soul.

The entire thing is roughly the size of a television remote, with a 3D printed case making it very presentable. But looking at the wiring which hides inside proves this is one-of-a-kind. The Arduino Pro Mini is probably the biggest difference in technology from back in the day compared to now. It has plenty of space for all of the different settings and games shown off in the clip below. The user interface itself is definitely a throw-back though. The Nokia 3310 screen boasts a whopping 84×48 pixel monochrome area. There are four buttons serving as a d-pad, and two as action buttons. Perhaps the greatest feature (besides the printed case we already mentioned) is the ability to recharge the internal battery via USB.

[Zippy314] built this with his son. What’s more fun: learning to program the games, or mastering them and discovering the bugs you missed along the way?

 

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Make Your Own Smart Watch

SmartWatch

Wearables are all the rage lately. Have you been eyeing the Pebble or one of the new smart watches lately but are not sure if it’s for you? With [GodsTale's] “Retro Watch” you can now build your own, allowing you to try out a smart watch without making a huge investment.

This smart watch uses very common and easy to obtain parts: Arduino Pro Mini, HC-06 Bluetooth module, Adafruit’s 0.96’’ OLED display, and a lithium battery. It is amazing how few parts can be used to make such a functional project. While the example packaging shown is a bit rugged around the edges, it gets the job done. Having such simple hardware allows [GodsTale] to focus on the software. One of the coolest aspects of this project is the Android app [GodsTale] provides. The app provides basic functionality, such as viewing RSS feeds and Android notifications. Check out the GitHub and a more detailed write-up for more information.

It would be great to see this project evolve in the future, it has so much potential. We would love to see a custom circuit board, or a model for a 3D printed case for this awesome smart watch. See a video of the Retro Watch in action after the break. If you thought this was cool, check out a few of these recent hacks.

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An Android Controlled Arduino Drone

Drone

Who among us has not wanted to create their own drone? [Stefan] wrote in to tell us about a project for high school students, where a Styrofoam glider (translated) is converted into an Android (or PC) controlled drone.

[Stefan] tells us that the inspiration for this project comes from 100 years ago, when “steam-engines were THE thing” and children became introduced to modern technology with toy engines. “Today, mechatronic designs are all around us and this is an attempt to build the equivalent of the toy steam engine.” This project showcases how modern tools make it easy for kids to get involved and excited about hardware hacking, electronics, and software.

At the heart of the glider is an Arduino Pro Mini which communicates with either a computer or an Android phone via Bluetooth. It is especially interesting to note that the student’s used Processing to create the Android app, rather than complicating things by using Eclipse and Android Development Tools (ADT). While the more detailed PDF documentation at the end of the project page is in German, all of the Processingand Arduino code needed to build the project is provided. It would be awesome to see more Bluetooth related projects include a simple Android application; after all, many of us carry computers in our pockets these days, so we might as well put them to good use!

Do you have any well documented projects that introduce young and budding engineers to hardware or software hacking? Let us know in the comment section or send us a tip!

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