Christmas tree water sensor gets an upgrade and a fancy new box

xmas-tree-water-sensor

[Eric Ayars] has a nice cast iron Christmas tree stand at home, but the only drawback is that the stand makes it hard to see just how much water is available to the tree. Last year we covered a small gadget he created to help keep tabs on the water level, but as several of you predicted, the system eventually failed.

His previous solution used copper plated proto board to sense how much water was in the stand, but the leads corroded in about a week’s time. With Christmas just around the corner, he decided to give things another try.

His revamped water level sensor relies on measuring capacitance changes in a copper strip board when under water rather than detecting a complete circuit like the previous model. To protect his sensor this time around he coated the board with polyurethane, which should provide a decent corrosion barrier.

Using the Arduino CapSense library, the sensor can detect the presence of water, signaling an alarm if the base needs refilling. One of our readers suggested that he use the tree itself as a low water indicator, which is just what [Eric] did this year. If the water is somewhat low, the Arduino-controlled relay powering the tree is switched off and then on again, every 5 seconds. If the base is nearly dry, the tree asks for water by blinking the word “Water” repeatedly in Morse code.

We think that this year’s solution is pretty clever, and we’re glad to see that [Eric] didn’t give up after last year’s setback!

The force is strong with this Christmas tree light show

star-wars-christmas-tree

[Zach] is a huge Star Wars fan, and in addition to the array holiday decorations that adorn his house, he says that his wife is nice enough to let him put up a Christmas tree full of Star Wars ornaments. For the past few years, the tree sat in the corner of the room unlit, but his wife thought that it should have some lights this year.

His wife came home with a small string of battery-operated lights, but [Zach] wanted something with a bit more geek cred. He decided to program the lights to play the Star Wars theme song, translating the tune’s pitch to light intensity.

He dug through his bin of electronics and found an MSP430 along with a small target board that would do the job nicely. He sat down with some sheet music, translating the notes to PWM values, resulting in the light show you see below.

While his wife provided a lovely violin accompaniment to the tree, we think that a small audio module would make a great addition to the tree next year.

Continue reading “The force is strong with this Christmas tree light show”

Creating art from an old Christmas tree

So you manged to get a great deal on a fake tree during the after Christmas sales, but what should you do with your old one? If it was lighted with fiber optics you can reuse the strands to create your own star map. [Mr Trick] shows how to disassemble one of these trees, grouping the fibers by length. He built a wood frame, then covered it with a layer of cardboard and another of black fabric. From there the painstaking process of routing the fibers in a way to looks convincing starts.[Mr Trick's] final product uses multiple LED light sources and even includes RF control.

Think this project is large and time-consuming? Check out the same idea built into a bedroom ceiling.

Hackaday links: December 26, 2010

Obligatory tech tree

It’s hard to let a Christmas go by without looking in on a geeky Christmas tree project. Luckily, [Peter Davenport] decided to share his Arduino and LCD shield tree.

Blinking USB dude

If you’ve got a 555 timer and some commonly salvageable components give this blinking LED man a try. The version above is USB powered but that’s just to take advantage of the 5V regulated power.

Propeller business card

[Jay's] business card is packing quite a punch with this Propeller microcontroller. We love seeing electronics design in cards (however unrealistic the price and portability may be), and this is a big processing upgrade compared to the Tiny85 based offering.

Flying high in NYC


We leave you with a spectacular view of New York City. This breathtaking footage is just as fascinating as the first videos we saw from these folks.

Christmas tree low-water monitor

The end of the year is rapidly approaching and there’s a good chance you have a slowly dying tree in your living room. Help it hold on a little longer by using [Eric Ayars'] Christmas Tree water monitor. He’s built a sensor out of a piece of strip board. Three bus strips on the board allow for a variety of alerts. When all three are submerged everything is ok. When the two longer traces are still under water but the third is not an LED will blink to let you know it’s time. If you don’t pay attention and there’s no water left, a piezo buzzer makes noise until you add water (or the coin cell runs out of juice).

This project centers around an ATtiny85 that [Eric] programmed using an Arduino, one of the methods we covered in our AVR Programming Tutorial. But if this simple circuit isn’t high-tech enough for you, we saw a similar method last year that will send an alert to your iPhone.

Fake Christmas tree makes it fake snow

Let it snow inside your house this Christmas by building your own snow making tree. [Trey] was inspired by a snowing lamp-post he came across in a story. He looked around the house and came up with all the stuff necessary to make this happen with a Christmas tree. The snow is loose Styrofoam like you’d find in a bean bag chair. At the bottom of the tree there’s an inverted umbrella to collect the snowfall and funnel it into a blower salvaged from an inflatable Halloween yard ornament. The blower shoots the Styrofoam up through a PVC pipe, which also serves as the trunk of the fake tree, and it erupts from the top bringing Christmas cheer to an otherwise quiet room. See for yourself.

Light up your limbs

Here’s a Christmas tree project we can get behind. The “tree” itself is made of twisted pairs of insulated copper wire.  At the end of each pair a surface mount LED has been soldered between the two conductors.  All of the wire limbs converge into a 4×4 matrix. One tree uses a prototyping shield and an Arduino, the other tree is just using an ATtiny2313 microprocessor. Take a look at the twinkling tree in the video after the break.

This artful creation uses one color of LEDs.  We’d love to see future improvements that incorporate multiple colors, enhance the fading effects, and perhaps add some interactivity such as pulsing to an inspiring rendition of Chestnuts Roasting on and Open Fire (which, consequently, is called “The Christmas Song“).

Continue reading “Light up your limbs”