Adding a heart rate monitor to your exercise equipment

This is the readout which [Remick] added to his stationary bicycle. It displays heart rate, calories burned, and a few other items to help motivate his workout routine.

Back when he was ordering a TI Chronos watch he also picked up a heart rate chest strap and receiver. The receiver can be read using a UART, making it easy to interface with the ATmega328 which drives the system. The screen is a graphic LCD, which gave him a lot of control on how to organize the displayed data. Three buttons on the side operate the menu system into which a user can enter sex, age, and weight information. This is used to calculate the calories burned and the percentage of maximum heart rate. The three readouts to the right are for time spent in each workout zone (fat burning, fitness, or performance). The final product looks great because of the PCB he etched and the case he housed it in.

Taking a moon light from grayscale to full color

[Terry Miller] picked up a moon light on the cheap. All it does is light up some white LEDs to simulate moon phases after sensing nightfall via an LDR. He figured he could do better and set out to replace the electronics with a more colorful offering.

He chose to use an ATmega328 because he already had it on hand. The chip drives a series of RGB LEDs in a multiplex arrangement. To protect the I/O pins (and drive the LEDs at their target current) he is using a set of high and low side MOSFETs. Rather than rely on the light sensor to switch on the lamp he decided to add an IR receiver. In the video after the break you can see that this lets him cycle through colors and effects, in addition to switching the lamp on and off with a remote control.

With the enclosure put back together he is still able to reprogram the chip thanks to a serial header included in the design. The device is battery operated and the life estimates are included in his write-up.

[Read more...]

Red Bull Creation hardware (Bullduino) arrives

The Bullduino’s are starting to arrive. When [Arclight] received his in the mail the first thing he did was to share the hardware details. Of course this is the hardware that participants in the Red Bull Creation contest will be receiving ahead of this year’s contest.

The board is an ATmega328 Arduino clone. Instead of an FTDI chip for USB this one is sporting an ATmega8u2. That’s not too much of a surprise as it should translate to a cost savings. [Arclight] reports that the stock firmware flashes a message in Morse code. It seems the Harford HackerSpace got their Bullduino several days ago and already decoded the message. It reads:

“Wouldn’t lou prefer a good game of chess?”

The guys that did the decoding speculate that this could be a type as ‘l’ and ‘y’ are inversions of each other in Morse code; or it could be some kind of clue. At any rate, if you want to do some disassembly and see if there’s anything lurking in the firmware, [Arclight] posted FLASH and EEPROM dumps from both ATmega chips along with his article.

New and improved Potentar

We like what we’re seeing and hearing with [Dorian Damon's] newest version of the Potentar. This is revision 2.0 of the instrument we saw in a December links post. He calls it the Potentar, since it uses a linear potentiometer in a way similar to how the frets on a guitar work (Potentiometer + Guitar = Potentar).

The first thing you should notice is the case upgrade. The original used what looked like unfinished scrap wood, but finished wood of this case really makes the thing look like a traditional instrument. With this design he loses the Arduino in favor of a standalone ATmega328 chip. You’ll notice knobs and a switch on the face of the body. This allows for selecting a couple different kinds of scales and turning the power off. The linear potentiometer and sewing machine button are the same as before. After the break you can catch his description and a quick performance thanks to the audio jack for patching it into an amp.

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Motion sensitive RGB lamp can standby for 3 years

Ooooh, nice enclosure! This is a little motion sensing lamp which [Krazatchu] built a few years back as a Mother’s Day gift. The PIR sensor is easy enough to see as the white dome on the front of the case. But look closely below that and you’ll see the LDR which it uses to keep the thing asleep during the day. This is intended to save on batteries but the original version still ate through them like crazy. This year he gutted it and worked out a much more power-friendly design.

He moved to a TLC1079 OpAmp which greatly reduced power consumption when reading from the PIR sensor. The microcontroller was also upgraded from an ATtiny13 to an ATmega328, making the new version Arduino compatible. It puts itself to sleep and keeps the lights out during the day, drawing just 0.08 mA. When driving the RGB LED the lamp pulls about 50 mA. That should still last a while on three AA batteries but we’d still recommend using rechargeables.

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Surround Sound system controller replacement includes home automation

[Neoxy] always wanted surround sound for his computer, and one day he managed to get a hold of a dead 5.1 system. Why buy one when you can repair someone’s rubbish, right? That turned out to be easier said than done, but after several false-starts he managed to resurrect the audio system by replacing the microcontroller.

We find his trouble-shooting technique interesting. The amp would power up without a hitch but no sound would come out of it. So he took a headphone cable and used the L and R conductors as probes. That cable was fed from an MP3 player, and by touching the probes to the audio inputs for the pre-amp and amplifier circuits he could get great sound out of the speakers. Reasonably certain that those boards were working fine he narrowed down the troubles to three chips that mix, select inputs, and control the system.

A lot of prototyping with an ATmega328 and an Arduino led him to the functionality you see in the video after the break. Not only did he get the system working, but he’s using the Arduino to add Internet control for the device.

[Read more...]

Motor controller also does nyan cat

As a freshman at UC Berkeley, [Keegan] has been helping out with his school’s Pioneers in Engineering program that gives high school students some hands on experience with engineering principles, usually by building robots. This year, [Keegan]‘s project is a motor controller that just so happens to play the nyan cat song over the motor PWM output.

The motor controller is meant to replace the Pololu simple motor controller the PiE team is currently using. Onboard is an H-bridge chip and an ATmega328 that takes commands from an I2C bus. The ‘328 is loaded up with the Arduino bootloader making the firmware very accessible – a good thing for the high school students that will be building and programming these robots.

[Keegan] put up the Eagle files for the board up on the PiE Wiki. For now, just enjoy the dulcet tones of the pop tart cat theme song after the break.

[Read more...]

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