Add Robotic Farming to Your Backyard with Farmbot Genesis

Growing your own food is a fun hobby and generally as rewarding as people say it is. However, it does have its quirks and it definitely equires quite the time input. That’s why it was so satisfying to watch Farmbot push a weed underground. Take that!

Farmbot is a project that has been going on for a few years now, it was a semifinalist in the Hackaday Prize 2014, and that development time shows in the project documented on their website. The robot can plant, water, analyze, and weed a garden filled with arbitrarily chosen plant life. It’s low power and low maintenance. On top of that, every single bit is documented on their website. It’s really well done and thorough. They are gearing up to sell kits, but if you want it now; just do it yourself.

The bot itself is exactly what you’d expect if you were to pick out the cheapest most accessible way to build a robot: aluminum extrusions, plate metal, and 3D printer parts make up the frame. The brain is a Raspberry Pi hooked to its regular companion, an Arduino. On top of all this is a fairly comprehensive software stack.

The user can lay out the garden graphically. They can get as macro or micro as they’d like about the routines the robot uses. The robot will happily come to life in intervals and manage a garden. They hope that by selling kits they’ll interest a whole slew of hackers who can contribute back to the problem of small scale robotic farming.

Arduino + Software Defined Radio = Millions of Vulnerable Volkswagens

As we’ve mentioned previously, the integrity of your vehicle in an era where even your car can have a data connection could be a dubious bet at best. Speaking to these concerns, a soon-to-be published paper (PDF) out of the University of Birmingham in the UK, states that virtually every Volkswagen sold since 1995 can be hacked and unlocked by cloning the vehicle’s keyfob via an Arduino and software defined radio (SDR).

The research team, led by [Flavio Garcia], have described two main vulnerabilities: the first requires combining a cyrptographic key from the vehicle with the signal from the owner’s fob to grant access, while the second takes advantage of the virtually ancient HiTag2 security system that was implemented in the 1990s. The former affects up to 100 million vehicles across the Volkswagen line, while the latter will work on models from Citroen, Peugeot, Opel, Nissan, Alfa Romero, Fiat, Mitsubishi and Ford.

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HardWino Takes The Effort Out of Happy Hour

A personal bartender is hard to come by these days. What has the world come to when a maker has to build their own? [Pierre Charlier] can lend you a helping hand vis-à-vis with HardWino, an open-source cocktail maker.

The auto-bar is housed on a six-slot, rotating beverage holder, controlled by an Arduino Mega and accepts drink orders via a TFT screen. Stepper motors and L298 driver boards are supported on 3D printed parts and powered by a standard 12V DC jack. Assembling HardWino is a little involved, so [Charlier]  has provided a thorough step-by-step process in the video after the break.

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Laser Sequencer uses Arduino to Enable Super-Microscope!

[Philip]’s Laser control Arduino shield.

[Philip Nicovich] has been building laser sequencers over at the University of New South Wales. His platform is used to sequence laser excitation on his fluorescence microscopy systems. In [Philip]’s case, these systems are used for super-resolution microscopy, that is breaking the diffraction limit allowing the imaging of structures of only a few nanometers (1 millionth of a millimeter) in size.

Using an Arduino shield he designed in Eagle, [Philip] was able to build the system for less than half the cost of a commercial platform.

The control system is build around the simple Arduino shield shown to the right, which uses simple 74 series logic to send TTL control signals to the laser diodes used in his rig. The Arduino runs code which allows laser firing sequences to be programmed and executed.

[Philip] also provides scripts which show how the Arduino can be interfaced with the open source micro manager control software.


As well as the schematics [Philip] has provided STEP files and drawings for the enclosure and mounts used in the system and a detailed BOM.

More useful than all this perhaps is the comprehensive write-up he provides. This describes the motivation for decisions such as the use of aluminum over steel due to its ability to transfer heat more effectively, and not to use thermal paste due to out-gassing.

While I can almost hear the cries of “not a hack”, the growing use of open source platforms and tool in academia fills us with joy. Thanks for the write-up [Philip] we look forward to hearing more about your laser systems in the future!

Alternator Becomes Motor for This Electric Go-kart

Growing up in the 70s and 80s, a go-kart was a quick ticket to coolness, second maybe to a mini-bike. In both cases, a welded steel tube frame and a cast-off lawnmower engine were all that stood between you and neighborhood glory. Looks like a couple of engineering students caught the retro juvenile delinquent bug and built this electric go-kart for their final project.

While the frame for [Adrian Georgescu] and [Masoud Johnson]’s build was a second-hand find, the powertrain is all custom. They targeted a power output of 3 kW but found no affordable motors in that range. So, in true hacker fashion, they rolled their own motor from a used Subaru alternator. The three-phase motor controller came from an electric scooter, three LiPo packs provide the juice, and a pair of Arduinos takes care of throttle control, speed sensing, and sending data to the virtual dashboard on an Android phone. Some lights and a snappy red and black paint job finished off the build. While the video below shows that the acceleration isn’t exactly neck-snapping in the Tesla style, the e-kart can build up to a good speed – 53 km/h. Not too shabby, and no deafening engine right behind your head.

If you’ve got the e-kart bug, best check out some of our previous posts, like this kart built from off-the-shelf components, or this four-wheel-drive mini-kart. Any way you build it, you’ll rule the cul-de-sac.

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Pimoroni Wash Their Hands Of Arduino

One of the big stories of last year was the fracture of the official Arduino supply into two competing organisations at daggers drawn, each headed by a different faction with its origins in the team that gave us the popular single board computers. Since then we’ve had Arduinos from Arduino LLC (the [Massimo], arguably the ‘original’, and Arduino trademark holder in the United States) and Arduino SRL (the [Musto], and owner of the Arduino trademark everywhere except the US) , two websites, two forks of the IDE, and “real” Arduino boards available under a couple of names depending on where in the world you live due to a flurry of legal manoeuvres. Yes. it’s confusing.

Today came news of a supplier throwing its hands up in despair  at the demands imposed on them as part of this debacle. Pimoroni, famous as supplier of Raspberry Pi goodies, has put up a blog post explaining why they will henceforth no longer be selling Arduinos. They took the side of Arduino LLC, and the blog post details their extensive trials and delays in making contact with the company before eventually being told they would have to agree to purchase substantial stocks both Arduino and Genuino branded versions of identical products and agree to sell them through separate supply channels for both Europe and the rest of the world before they could proceed. This is not a practical proposition for a small company, and the Pimoroni people deliver a very pithy explanation of exactly why towards the bottom of their post.

We’ve covered the Arduino versus Arduino debacle extensively in the past, this is simply the latest in a long line of stories. Pimoroni have hit the nail on the head when they make the point that the customers and suppliers really don’t care about spats between the various inheritors of the Arduino legacy, they just want an Arduino. And with so many other Arduino-compatible boards available they don’t have to look very hard to find one if the right shade of blue solder-resist or the shape of the map of Italy on the back isn’t a special concern. Can we be the only ones wishing something like this might knock a bit of sense into the various parties?

Fun Audio Waveform Generator Is More Than The Sum Of Its Parts

[Joekutz] wanted to re-build an audio-rate function generator project that he found over on Instructables. By itself, the project is very simple: it’s an 8-bit resistor-ladder DAC, a nice enclosure, and the rest is firmware.

[Joekutz] decided this wasn’t enough. He needed an LCD display, a speaker, and one-hertz precision. The LCD display alone is an insane hack. He reverse-engineers a calculator simply to use the display. But instead of mapping each key on the calculator and typing each number in directly, he only taps the four 1, +, =, and clear keys. He can then enter arbitrary numbers by typing in the right number of ones and adding them up. 345 = 111 + 111 + 111 + 11 + 1. In his video, embedded below, he describes this as a “rather stupid” idea. We think it’s hilarious.

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