Open Source Hackable Robot

children with robots

The world of robots is an interesting place, and it’s an even better place for children to get started in electronics. To that end, [Richard Albritton] has created a low-cost, open source robotics platform called the Hack-E-Bot specifically tailored to make it as easy as possible to get started.

The goals for the robot kit were to spark curiosity for electronics and programming, to be easy to assemble and program, to be scalable, and to be as easy on the wallet as possible. This was accomplished by using the familiar Arduino microcontroller on an intuitive platform. The robot uses an ultrasonic rangefinder to navigate as well, and can support a wide range of other sensors. The kit comes in at just under $50, making it a great option for an entry-level robot.

The project is currently seeking crowd funding and [Richard] is also seeking educators to get involved. Currently the only kits available are at fairs and other conventions but they should be able to start producing them in greater quantities in the future. The Arduino libraries are a work in progress but they are available on the project site, as well as several instructional videos and other information about the project.


Stepping Through Code on a Pace 4000 Set Top Box


[Lee] wrote in to tell us about a Set Top Box he hacked. Before the cable industry lawyers get out their flaming swords… he’s not stealing cable, or really doing much of anything. This is a hack just for the adventure and thrill of making someone else’s hardware design do your bidding without any kind of instructions.

He posted about the adventure in two parts. The first is finding the JTAG header and identifying the pins. Arduino to the rescue! No really, and this is the type of Arduino use we love. Using a package called JTAGenum the board becomes a quick tool for probing and identifying JTAG connections.

The image above shows a different piece of hardware. From looking at it we’re pretty sure this is a Bus Blaster which is specifically designed for JTAG debugging with ARM processors. This is the beginning of the second part of his documentation which involves code dumping and stepping through lines code (or instructions) using OpenOCD and GDB. It’s a chore to follow all that [Lee] discovered just to write his name to the display of the box. But we certainly found it interesting. The display has a convoluted addressing scheme. We assume that there are cascading shift registers driving the segments and that’s why it behaves the way it does. Take a look for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments.

THP Semifinalist: Farmbot

Farmbot Progress

The FarmBot team has been pretty busy with their CNC Farming and Gathering machine. The idea is to automate the farming process with precise deployment of tools: plows, seed injection, watering, sensors, etc. An Arduino with an added RAMPS handles the movement, and a Raspi provides internet connectivity. Their prototype has already experienced four major iterations: the first revision addressed bigger issues such as frame/track stability and simplification of parts. Now they’re locking down the specifics on internet-of-things integration and coding for advanced movement functions.

The most recent upgrade provides a significant improvement by overhauling the implementation of the tools. Originally, the team envisioned a single, multi-function tool head design that carried everything around all the time. Problem is, the tool that’s in-use probably works best if it’s lower than the others, and piling them all onto one piece spells trouble. The solution? a universal tool mounting system, of course. You can see them testing their design in a video after the break.

If the FarmBot progress isn’t impressive enough—and admittedly we’d have called project lead [Rory Aronson] crazy for attempting to pull this off…but he did it—the FarmBot crew started and successfully funded an entire sub-project through Kickstarter. OpenFarm is an open-source database set to become the go-to wiki for all things farming and gardening. It’s the result of [Rory] encountering an overwhelming amount of generic, poorly written advice on plant growing, so he just crowdsourced a solution. You know, no sweat.

SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

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A Proof of Concept Project for the ESP8266


It’s hardly been a month since we first heard of the impossibly cheap WiFi adapter for micros, the ESP8266. Since then orders have slowly been flowing out of ports in China and onto the workbenches of tinkerers around the world. Finally, we have a working project using this module. It might only be a display to show the current weather conditions, but it’s a start, and only a hint of what this module can do.

Since the ESP8266 found its way into the storefronts of the usual distributors, a lot of effort has gone into translating the datasheets both on and the nurdspace wiki. The module does respond to simple AT commands, and with the right bit of code it’s possible to pull a few bits of data off of the Internet.

The code requests data from and displays the current temperature, pressure, and humidity on a small TFT display. The entire thing is powered by just an Arduino, so for anyone wanting a cheap way to put an Arduino project on the Internet, there ‘ya go.

Developed on Hackaday: Mooltipass Arduino Shields Compatibility

Mooltipass arduino

Some of our dear readers may already have an infallible system to remember different complex passwords for the different websites they visit daily. This is why they may have not been following the offline password keeper that the Hackaday community is building.

The Mooltipass has a characteristic that may regain their interest: it is possible to connect Arduino shields to it. In the video embedded below you can see the Arduino conversion process our development team imagined a few months back. The operation simply consists in using a knife to remove plastic bits on top of standard Arduino headers. We also embedded a few use cases with their respective sketches that may be downloaded from our official GitHub repository.

As with stacking several shields, a little tweaking may be required to keep the functionalities from both the Mooltipass and the connected shield. We therefore strongly welcome Arduino enthusiasts to let us know what they think of our setup.

In the meantime, you may want to subscribe to our official Google Group to stay informed of the Mooltipass launch date.

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LEDs Turn This Paper Map into a Tram Tracker

Subway radar

Public transit can be a wonderful thing. It can also be annoying if the trains are running behind schedule. These days, many public transit systems are connected to the Internet. This means you can check if your train will be on time at any moment using a computer or smart phone. [Christoph] wanted to take this concept one step further for the Devlol hackerspace is Linz, Austria, so he built himself an electronic tracking system (Google translate).

[Christoph] started with a printed paper map of the train system. This was placed inside what began as an ordinary picture frame. Then, [Christoph] strung together a series of BulletPixel2 LEDs in parallel. The BulletPixel2 LEDs are 8mm tri-color LEDs that also contain a small controller chip. This allows them to be controlled serially using just one wire. It’s similar to having an RGB LED strip, minus the actual strip. [Christoph] used 50 LEDs when all was said and done. The LEDs were mounted into the photo frame along the three main train lines; red, green, and blue. The color of the LED obviously corresponds to the color of the train line.

The train location data is pulled from the Internet using a Raspberry Pi. The information must be pulled constantly in order to keep the map accurate and up to date. The Raspberry Pi then communicates with an Arduino Uno, which is used to actually control the string of LEDs. The electronics can all be hidden behind the photo frame, out of sight. The final product is a slick “radar” for the local train system.

City Lights Telling Stories

morse code lights

If you’re walking around town and you see a light suddenly start to switch on and off seemingly at random, don’t discount it as a loose wire so quickly. [René] has been hard at work on a project to use city lights of all shapes and sizes for Morse messages, and a way for anyone to easily decode these messages if they happen upon one while out and about.

The lights can tell any story that is programmed into them. The code on the site is written for an Arduino-style microcontroller but it could be easily exported to any device that can switch power to turn a light on and off. Any light can work, there’s even video of a single headlight on a van blinking out some dots and dashes.

The other part of this project is a smartphone app that can decode the messages using the camera, although any Morse code interpreter can translate the messages, or if you’re a ham radio enthusiast you might recognize the messages without any tools whatsoever!

The great thing about this project is that it uses everyday objects to hide messages in plain sight, but where only some will be able to find them. This is indeed true hacker fashion! If you’re interested in making your own Morse code light, the code is available on the project site.


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