Rainy Day Fun by Calculating Pi

If you need a truly random event generator, just wait till your next rainstorm. Whether any given spot on the ground is hit by a drop at a particular time is anyone’s guess, and such randomness is key to this simple rig that estimates the value of pi using raindrop sensors.

You may recall [AlphaPhoenix]’s recent electroshock Settlers of Catan expeditor. The idea with this less shocking build is to estimate the value of pi using the ratio of the area of a square sensor to a circular one. Simple piezo transducers serve as impact sensors that feed an Arduino and count the relative number of raindrops hitting the sensors. In the first video below, we see that as more data accumulates, the Arduino’s estimate of pi eventually converges on the well-known 3.14159 value. The second video has details of the math behind the method, plus a discussion of the real-world problems that cropped up during testing — turns out that waterproofing and grounding were both key to noise-free data from the sensor pads.

In the end, [AlphaPhoenix] isn’t proving anything new, but we like the method here and can see applications for it. What about using such sensors to detect individual popcorn kernels popping to demonstrate the Gaussian distribution? We also can’t help but think of other ways to measure raindrops; how about strain gauges that weigh the rainwater as it accumulates differentially in square and circular containers? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Continue reading “Rainy Day Fun by Calculating Pi”

Router jig for a perfect circle


We once enlisted a contractor to cut a plywood circle for a cat condo we were building. Now we’re embarrassed that we couldn’t come up with a solution as eloquent and easy to use as this circle cutting router jig which [Grays42] built.

He’s using a small trim router for the job. The jig is made up of two thick-walled pieces of PVC pipe. We don’t think the router is attached to jig. Instead you hold it against the wooden spacer which is on the outside edge of the cut. He doesn’t mention how he made the spacers, but we’d recommend cutting a hole the size of the pipes and then ripping down the middle to remove some of the material (tape the two spacers together during fabrication to ensure proper alignment). It just takes some nuts and bolts from the hardware store to assemble everything.

[Grays42] is using this to cut rings for his telescope build. We have our eye on it for making our own wooden Bulbdial clock.

[via Reddit]

Three pendulum harmonograph

Just the other day we were thinking “You know what we need more of around here? Harmonographs!” And our requests were answered when [Paul] sent in his three pendulum harmonograph. For those unaware, it’s a mechanical device that draws Lissajous curves or “really cool circles” to quote some of our staff.

[Paul] includes all the plans necessary to make your own harmonograph and begin drawing today. If you can’t wait, there’s a video of the three pendulum harmonograph etching a masterpiece after the jump. Continue reading “Three pendulum harmonograph”