Hacklet #8: The Animals

8

This week on the Hacklet we’re looking at Hackaday.io projects that are all about animals! Hackers and makers are well-known animal lovers, in fact many a hacker can be found with a pet curled up at their feet, or on their keyboard!

catWater[Brian's] cat Roger loves drinking from the bathtub faucet. Unfortunately Roger hasn’t learned how to operate the faucet himself, so it gets left on quite a bit. To keep Roger happy while saving water, [Brian] created the Snooty Cat Waterer. Cat’s still don’t have thumbs, so [Brian] turned to capacitive sensing in the form of a Microchip MTCH10 capacitive proximity sensor chip. Coupled with a home etched PC board, the waterer can detect a cat at 3 inches. A valve and water feed teed off the toilet provide the flow. The project is moving along well, though Roger has been slow to warm up to this new water source.

 

catWater2[Jsc] has the opposite problem. His cat has decided that bathtubs are the perfect litter boxes. [Jsc] is taking aim at this little problem with his Cat Dissuader. After a servo controlled squirt bottle proved too anemic for his needs, [Jsc] turned to the Super Soaker Hydrostorm. These electric water guns can be had for as little as $16 on sale. [JSC] didn’t want to permanently modify the gun, so he 3D printed a switchable battery pack.The replacement pack is actually powered by a simple wall wart. Power to the gun is controlled by an Arduino, which senses his cat with a passive infrared sensor. Since the dissuader was installed, [Jsc's] cat has been a model citizen!

 

doggieBowlCat’s don’t get all the love though, plenty of engineers and hackers have dogs around the house. [Colin] loves his dog, but he and his family were forgetting to feed it. He created Feed the Dog to help the household keep its four-legged member from going hungry. [Colin] tried a microcontroller, but eventually settled on implementing the circuit with old-fashioned 4000 series CMOS logic chips. He used a 4060 (14-stage ripple counter w/ internal oscillator) as an 8 hour timer, and 4013 dual flip-flop. Operation of Feed the Dog is as simple as wagging your tail. Once the dog is feed, the human presses a button. A green “Just fed” LED will glow for 30 minutes, then go dark. After about 6 hours, a red LED turns on. After 8 hours, the red LED starts blinking, letting everyone know that it’s time to feed the dog.

 

chookin

[Steve] has outdoor pets. Chooks to be exact, or chickens for the non Australians out there. He loves watching his birds, especially Darth Vader, who is practicing to become a rooster. To keep track of the birds, he’s created What the Chook?, a sensor suite for the hen-house. He’s using a GCDuiNode with a number of sensors. Temperature, humidity, even a methane detector for when the bedding needs to be replaced. An OV528 JPEG camera allows [Steve] to get pictures of his flock. The entire project connects via WiFi. Steve hopes to power it from a couple of AA batteries. [Steve] also entered What the Chook? in The Hackaday Prize. If he wins, this will be the first case of flightless birds sending a human to space!

 

hackaspace-mini

Hey – Did you know that Hackaday is building a Hackerspace in Pasadena California? We’re rounding up the local community while our space is being built out. Join us at a Happy Hour Show & Tell Meetup Event hosted by our own [Jasmine Brackett] August 18th! It’s an informal show and tell, so you don’t have to bring a hack to attend. If you’re local to Pasadena, come on down and say hello!

 

 

 

 

 

A Tweeting Litter Box

SmartLitterBox

How can you not be interested in a project that uses load cells, Bluetooth, a Raspberry Pi, and Twitter. Even for those of our readers without a cat, [Scott's] tweeting litter box is worth the read.

Each aspect of this project can be re-purposed for almost any application. The inexpensive load cells, which available from eBay and other retailers, is used to sense when a cat is inside the litter box. Typically sensors like the load cell (that contain a strain gauge) this use a Wheatstone bridge, which is very important for maximizing the sensitivity of resistive sensor. The output then goes to a HX711, which is an ADC specifically built for load cells. A simple alternative would be using an instrumentation amplifier and the built-in ADC of the Arduino. Now, the magic happens. The weight reading is transmitted via an HC-06 Bluetooth module to a Raspberry Pi. Using a simple Perl script, the excreted weight, duration, and the cat’s resulting body weight is then tweeted!

Very nice work! This is a well thought out project that we could see being expanded to recognize the difference between multiple cats (or any other animal that goes inside).

Feedback for automated water and food pet dispensers

pet-food-and-water-automation

[Enrico] figured out a way to fully automate his pet food and water. The system is in two parts, the water trough as seen on the left, and the food dispenser whose control hardware is shown on the right. The system is even hooked up to the network so that he can make sure it didn’t break down while he was away.

The water dispenser uses parts from a sprinkler system. Since it’s mounted outdoors it doesn’t matter if the water overflows a little bit. So [Enrico] set up the timer to run the water for three minutes every day. This acts as a backup system since the trough already has the ability to refill itself.

The food dispenser started as a commercial unit. To get feedback from the system he added a couple of magnets to the agitation motor and reads them with a hall effect sensor. In addition to an IP camera that monitors the area around the feeder (so [Enrico] can actually see his dog eating) there is a webcam which monitors the STM32 Discovery board which monitors the feeder. It tracks the number of times the dispenser has run.

Summer vacation home for the indoor cats

Throw your indoor cat a bone (or a tuna steak as it were) this year by building them a summer vacation spot. Since [Travis Brown] lives on a busy street he worries that his cat would get hit by a car if allowed to roam outside. He and a friend found a suitable alternative with this outdoor cat enclosure.

The centerpiece of the build is a platform that overlooks the back yard. It’s got a couple of different levels which lets the cat see over the deck railing, and provides a bit of shade from the sun during the day. Chicken wire encloses the entire structure to make sure our feline friends don’t go off on their own, but the gang-plank that connects the platform to the house lets them decide when to go outside or come back in. The entrance to the house is an open window covered with plywood and fitted with a cat door. This is a nice touch since the cat door can be locked to keep them in a night.

Between this for summer and the heated bed for winter you’re going to have the most spoiled cat on the block.

Cat palace with an automatic heat lamp

[Herpity] was getting tired of his cat manipulating him into turning on a lamp above her bed every time she wanted a nap. She likes the warmth put off by the light bulb but he knew he could do better than that so he built a bed which includes an automatic heat lamp. To help introduce her to the new enclosure he set it on the chair where she normally naps.

The bed has two parts, the lower chamber acts as the sleeping area. There is a false bottom underneath the blanket which acts a platform for the weight sensors which detect when the cat is ready for a nap. A PIC microcontroller monitors two sensors and switches on mains voltage to a heat lamp once the pre-calibrated weight threshold has been reached. The upper part of the enclosure holds all of the electronic components and makes room for the recessed light housing. [Herpity] included an exhaust fan for the upper chamber but it turns out a grating is all he needs to keep the temperature at an acceptable level.

[via Reddit]

Cat trainer will keep them off the counters

Our cats are not allowed on the kitchen counters, and [Iron Jungle] has the same rule. But he spotted some foot prints on the hood above his range and the addition of a security camera caught this picture of [Kelso] breaking the rules. Since he’s not always around to make the fur-ball behave he built an electronic cat trainer to do it for him.

The functionality needed isn’t very intricate. You need to monitor when the cat is where it shouldn’t be and then chase it away. For the latter he grabbed an infrared range finder. When the cat passes in front of the sensor it will trigger the second part of the system: a high-pitched buzzer that’s extremely loud. Any microcontroller will have no trouble driving the system. In this case it’s a PICAXE 28X1.

You can see the trainer in action after the break. It definitely works, because just playing the video chased our own sleeping kitty out of the room.

[Read more...]

PushingBox alerts you of your cat’s roaming habits

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but cats are certainly a hacker’s best muse. They provide so many ‘reasons’ for projects, like this cat door which [Clement] augmented to monitor the comings and goings of his feline friend (translated). He’s using a web service we hadn’t heard of before called PushingBox to send notifications like Tweets and Emails from the Arduino monitoring that door.

The two white rectangles attached to the cat door in the image above are magnets commonly used for entry door monitoring. Using a pair of them along with reed switches lets the system differentiate between an incoming or outgoing cat. The Arduino is web-connected and running the PushingBox API to manage the notification messages. See a demo of the system in the clip after the break.

This would be a nice addition to the cat door we saw [Dino] build. Of course, if you really want to go all out with the cat hacks the next project should be a GPS tracking collar. [Read more...]

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