Asynchronous fireflies use few parts

led-firefly

[Karl Lunt] wrote in to share his LED firefly project. His goals for the project were to develop a low-power, low parts count module that can sense when it’s dark and then mimic the blinking patterns you’d associate with its biological namesake.

We like his design which uses a coin cell battery holder as the chassis for the project. The ATtiny13 driving the hardware is held in place by the two power wires. This lets him flash new firmware by rotating the chip and plugging in a little adapter he build. The LED connection might look a bit peculiar to you. It has a resistor in parallel, which doesn’t satisfy the normal role of a current limiting resistor. That’s by design. [Karl] is driving the LED without any current limiting, which should be just fine with the 3V battery and short illumination time of the diode. The resistor comes into play when he uses the LED as a light sensor. Past firefly projects included light dependent resistors to detect light and synchronize multiple units. [Karl] is foregoing the LDR, using the LED with a resistor in parallel to combat the capacitive qualities of the diode. As we mentioned, this senses ambient light, but we’d love to see an update that also uses the LED to synchronize a set of the devices.

MSP430-based wristwatch project

[Nav] is working on a scratch-built wristwatch. Although it is based on an MSP430 microcontroller, it’s not the ready-to-hack ezCronos that you might be thinking of. Instead, [Nav] started with a different TI development tool that we’ve looked at before, the ez430-F2013.

The breakout board for the F2013 is small enough to meet his needs, but still provides easy soldering with 0.1″ vias that break out each pin. To make sure the timepiece is accurate he added a 32.768 kHz clock crystal. A small, square, LCD screen acts as the face of the watch, but we didn’t find specific part information for the display.

Currently the watch can run for a few days on the CR2032. We’d bet some work with sleep modes for the microcontroller can help with that. The watch has a couple of buttons that let you control it, and [Nav] discovered that he could fit everything into the watch case for an iPod nano. That’s creative!

We’ve seen other hacks with tiny batteries. The next logical step here would be to swap out the disposable coin cell for something that can be topped off with an external charger.

Extending the battery life of LED dominoes

[Fede.tft] wrote in to tell us about some work he’s been doing to save battery life for LED dominoes. He originally got the idea after reading this post about the electronic gaming pieces. That project was aimed at the 555 timer contest and therefore, used a 555 timer. [Fede.tft] calculates the battery life for the CR2302 battery in the 555 circuit at no more than about 80 days. That’s if you never use them and the LEDs are never illuminated. It makes sense to remove the batteries from the device when not in use, but a redesign to increase efficiency is definitely worth the effort.

This rendition does away with the 555 chip in favor of a CMOS chip. By building a circuit around four NAND gates of a CD4011 chip, the standby lifetime of the battery is calculated to increase to about 4.5 years. Not bad! Add to this the fact that replacing the 555 timer didn’t increase the component count, the price for the chip is similar to the 555, and you didn’t need to resort to a microcontroller. Yep, we like it.

Button cell connectors for breadboarding

We’re working on a project that has a battery backup, but we don’t have any more coin cell holders on hand. No problem, we remember seeing a double pin header used for this. But when we tried to shove the CR2032 battery in between the pins it was a no-go. We could swear we’d featured a project that does this but couldn’t find it here at Hackaday. After much searching we came up with the Guerrilla battery holder which is seen on the left. No wonder it wasn’t working, the CR1212 in that picture is a much smaller package. So we figured we’d have to come up with something else, until inspiration struck.

There must be some other way to configure the pin header to work with a fatter cell body. On the right you can see that a diagonal orientation works like a charm. Join us after the break for a couple of close-ups of that connector and our thoughts on using this with a variety of different cells.

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Advent wreath from parts you have on hand

Here’s an advent wreath made from six parts and a paper clip. Powered by a CR2032 3v button cell, the circuit has been free-formed using a paper clip as the conductor. We love the “dead bug” style of construction used with the ATtiny13 microcontroller because it adds an extra level of intrigue for the uninitiated. This project build on the flickering circuit we saw last year and uses the LEDs as light sensors, only turning on when a certain darkness level has been reached.

We used a tiny13 with our Menorah project last year and still have some lying around that we can use for this. We’re sure you’ve got at least a couple of low-pin-count micros on hand. If you don’t, you should!

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