Hackaday Links: November 8, 2015

[Burt Rutan] is someone who needs no introduction. Apparently, he likes the look of the Icon A5 and is working on his own version.

Earlier this week, the US Air Force lost a few satellites a minute after launch from Barking Sands in Hawaii. This was the first launch of the three stage, solid fueled SPARK rocket, although earlier versions were used to launch nuclear warheads into space. There are some great Army videos for these nuclear explosions in space, by the way.

[Alexandre] is working on an Arduino compatible board that has an integrated GSM module and WiFi chip. It’s called the Red Dragon, and that means he needs some really good board art. The finished product looks good in Eagle, and something we can’t wait to see back from the board house.

The Chippocolypse! Or however you spell it! TI is declaring a lot of chips EOL, and although this includes a lot of op-amps and other analog ephemera (PDF), the hi-fi community is reeling and a lot of people are stocking up on their favorite amplifiers.

[Jeremy] got tired of plugging jumper wires into a breadboard when programming his ATMega8 (including the ‘168 and ‘328) microcontrollers. The solution? A breadboard backpack that fits right over the IC. All the files are available, and the PCB can be found on Upverter.

In case you haven’t heard, we’re having a Super Conference in San Francisco later this week. Adafruit was kind enough to plug our plug for the con on Ask an Engineer last week.

Automated Robotic Target Practice

Fan of shooting things? Jealous of proper shooting ranges? Why not build your own automated target practice rig with a few servos and an ATMega168?

[Cowboy Bob] of Making Stuff decided he needed a practice target, and wanted to make it a bit more interesting than throwing up some beer cans on a fence. He’s created a highly durable 10-target “Robo-Target” which can be remote controlled or automated.  A thick piece of 1/4″ angle steel makes up the main frame of it, so if you’re practicing with hand guns it’ll take the abuse. If you’re just using  an air soft or paintball gun you probably don’t need to make it this beefy.

Five servo motors swing paper five targets back and forth on 3D printed swing arms — and since each target has a front and a back side, it gives you 10 different things to shoot at. In challenge mode it’ll even show you two targets at a time which will require you to quickfire in order to get both!

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Open Source Power Line Communication

Power Line Communication Filtering


Since we all have wires running throughout our houses to provide mains power, there’s a number of devices that piggyback on mains lines for communication. For his thesis project, [Haris Andrianakis] developed his own power line communication system.

The basic principle of the system is to inject a signal onto the power lines at a much higher frequency than the 50 or 60 Hz of the AC power itself. Using both active and passive filters, the signal can be separated from the AC power and decoded. This system uses frequency-shift keying to encode data. This part is done by a ST7540 modem that’s designed for power line applications. The modem is controlled over SPI by an ATmega168 microcontroller.

[Haris]’ write up goes into detail about some of the challenges he faced, and how to protect the device from the high voltages present. The final result is a remote display for a weigh scale, which communicates over the power line. Schematics, PCB layout, and software are all available.

Energy-Saving Fireplace Thermostat

[Andrian] has a boiler stove that heats water and sends it to a radiator. As the fireplace heats the water in a boiler a temperature sensor opens the a valve to send the warm water to the radiator. The radiator sends its cool water back to the boiler to be reheated. The valve is slow, so before the boiler can send all the water to the radiator, it’s getting cool water back causing the valve to close while the heat is built back up. To prevent the valve from working so hard and wasting energy, [Andrian] designed a better thermostat to control the valve operation.

The thermostat uses one LM85 temperature sensor to check the water in the boiler and another one for the ambient temperature. Once the boiler water reaches the desired temperature, the valve is opened via relay. The system waits for half an hour and then checks the boiler temperature again. The brains of this operation is an ATMega168 with a 32.768kHz crystal as the RTC. Code and PCB files are available in his repo.

We love to see these types of hacks that challenge the status quo and increase the efficiency of appliances. We applaud you, [Andrian], for turning your dissatisfaction into a positive plan of action and for sharing your experience with the rest of us!

If you want to up the eco-friendliness of heating water a bit, you could heat the water with a compost heap.

Update From Wayback: AVGA Reborn as RetroWiz


This one has been a long time coming. We’re finally seeing an update to [Jaromir’s] retro gaming platform based around and ATmega chip. The thing that was novel about it back in 2009, and continues to be to this day, is the use of VGA output (PAL) from an AVR chip rather than composite video like most offerings.

Good projects never die and recently he picked the hardware up again, spinning a mostly surface mount board and putting together a new website to feature his work. Above you can see a demo of Commander Keen 4 running on the hardware (video below). He’s also has a rather trippy Super Mario port and adapted [Albert Seward’s] PacMan source for the hardware.

The chip is being clocked at 32MHz with VGA clock running at 19.6608 MHz. This gives him sixteen colors with a resolution of 192×144. He concedes that you get better resolution out of composite video, but who needs resolution for retro gaming?

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HaDuino: Open Your Beer Using Arduino

Frankly we’re tired of Arduino having a bad name here at Hackaday. So [Brian Benchoff] came up with a way to make it useful to a wider audience. His creation, which we call the HaDuino, lets you use the Arduino clone to open a tasty bottle of beer.

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Omniwheel robot build uses a bit of everything


Machinist, electronics engineer, programmer, and factory worker are all skills you can wield if you take on a project like building this omniwheel robot (translated).

The omniwheels work in this tripod orientation because they include rollers which turn perpendicular to the wheel’s axis. This avoids the differential issue cause by fixed-position wheels. When the three motors are driven correctly, as shown in the video below, this design makes for the most maneuverable of wheeled robots.

An aluminum plate serves as the chassis. [Malte] milled the plate, cutting out slots for the motor with threaded holes to receive the mounting screws. A few stand-offs hold the hunk of protoboard which makes up the electronic side of the build. The large DIP chip is an ATmega168. It drives the motors via the trio of red stepper motor driver boards which he picked up on eBay.

So far the vehicle is tethered, using a knock-off of a SixAxis style controller. But as we said before, driving the motors correctly is the hard part and he’s definitely solved that problem.

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