Dumpster diving nets 100 Arduino-powered motor controllers

Never one to pass up the recycle pile at work, [Scott] usually doesn’t find much. A few old hard drives, maybe a ancient laptop every once in a while, but on very rare occasions he finds something actually useful. This latest haul is a gaggle of stepper motor drivers that, with a bit of work, can be reverse engineered and turned into an Arduino.

After prying into one of the plastic-enclosed boards, [Scott] found a LED, a quartet of transistors for powering the motor, and an ATMega168 microcontroller. Interestingly, most of the pins for the 168 were already broken out on the DA15 connector on each controller. The only thing needed was to build a programmer to dump the Arduino bootloader onto these little widgets.

After much trial and error (and building a new programming interface), [Scott] now has 100 Arduinos with a single stepper motor controller built in. He’s already made a toy light cycle rotate on a small stepper (after the break) and blink a LED, but with this many widgets, we’re wondering what crazy contraption [Scott] will come up with.

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Retrotechtacular: Recovering lost moon images by dumpster diving

In 1966 and 67, NASA launched five probes to image the surface of the moon from orbit, eventually returning over two thousand high-resolution images of future Apollo landing sites and selenogical features to researchers on Earth. After taking its pictures of the moon, developing the film in orbit, and scanning the print with an electron gun and photomultiplier tube, the images were sent to Earth stations and recorded onto magnetic tape with a hugely expensive tape recorder, a state-of-the-art storage system costing $300,000. Researchers poured over these images of another world, made a few 35mm prints and sent the magnetic tapes off to the NASA archives.

Under the care of [Nancy Evans], the tapes sat in a warehouse eventually moving to an abandoned McDonalds at Ames Research Center. In 2005, retired and not bound by NASA, [Nancy] made a plea to preserve this milestone of human spaceflight wasting away under the golden arches which was heard by [Dennis Wingo]. [Wingo] and admin of the NASA Watch website admin [Keith Cowling] drove out to [Nancy]‘s house with a truck, picked up the Ampex FR-900 tape drives she had saved in her garage from the trash heap at Eglin Air Force Base and headed to the cache of Lunar Orbiter tapes at Ames.

None of these drives worked, of course. Forty years will do a lot to expensive precision equipment. Luckily, one of the employees at Ames tasked with fixing video equipment had worked on the ancient Ampex drives before. Taking the unbroken parts of these machines and turning them into a single working unit didn’t come easily; again, parts needed to be scavenged from the Ames boneyard.

All this work was worth it for [Cowling], [Wingo], and [Evans] when the first image – an Earthrise picture seen above (sans the obvious Photoshoppery) – appeared on their monitor. Later, an amazing oblique shot of Copernicus crater was recovered.

In the years since these first images from the LOIRP project were released, many more images have been made available. These images are actually comparable to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2012. Not bad for 45-year-old hardware that has since crashed into the moon.

As for what the future holds for the still-magnetized images from the Lunar Orbiter program, [Dennis Wingo] says they’re considering putting up a Kickstarter to close the gap between the necessary funding and what NASA provides. We’ll be sure to post a link when that happens.

via boingboing

Oscilloscope clock made possible by dumpster diving

We see people driving around the night before trash collection and reclaiming items doomed to the land fill (or on their way to recycling… who knows). We’re beginning to think we need to join those ranks. Case in point is this vintage oscilloscope which [Bob Alexander] plucked from the curb in the nick of time. Here’s the kicker, when he got it home he found it still worked! He couldn’t let this opportunity go to waste, so he figured out how to turn it into a clock without losing the ability to use it as a scope.

You probably already know that it’s possible to display your own graphics on an oscilloscope. In fact, you can buy a board from Sparkfun which will turn the scope into an analog clock, and that’s exactly what [Bob] did. But he was met with two problems, the X-axis was flipped and he didn’t have an easy way to power the board.

He struggled with the voltage supply, frying his first attempt at boosting the internal 6.3V supply to use with a linear 5V regulator. His second attempt worked though, soldering a 12V regulator to the transformer. He was then on to the X-axis correction, using a rail-to-rail op-amp to invert the signal. The project finishes by adding toggle controls and buttons on the back of the case to switch between scope and clock modes, and to set the time.

High speed book scanner from trash

book_scanner

[Daniel] sent us his entry to the Epilog laser cutter challenge on instructables. He made a book scanner, mainly out of found parts. The bulk of the project was salvaged from dumpsters, though if you’re not comfortable with that, the free section of craigslist might be able to do the job. The cameras are loaded with CHDK, using StereoData maker, and custom software to compile the images into PDFs. They did a fantastic job of documenting every step of the construction, including helpful tips for some of the more complicated parts. There are several videos in the instructable, so be sure to check them out. We’re particularly amused by the extra step of making the photo captions visually interesting. At 79 steps, it’s a long read, but well worth it.

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