Internet of Cowbell

If this is a sign of the times, the Internet of Things promises a lot of entertainment for hackers who can come up with wacky ideas and interactive projects. [Brandon] built a cowbell that rings when you tweet #morecowbell. Why? Because!

On the hardware side it is quite simple, and can be built in a number of different ways depending on the parts you have lying around. [Brandon] used an Electric Imp and its corresponding breakout board. A Sparkfun mini FET shield helps drive the solenoid that hits the cowbell. And because he had one lying around, he added a counter across the solenoid to count the number of times the Twitterati have rung the Cowbell.

The code for the Electric Imp consists of two parts – the “agent code” that runs on a server in the Electric Imp Cloud and the “device code” that runs on the imp itself – and is available at this Git link. Once you tweet with the hashtag, the Cowbell replies back, randomly selecting one from a list of stored responses. Would be nice to see a video of the Cowbell in action. And if it can be made to play the Salsa beat.

Help! There’s an Imp in my Coffee Pot!

Coffee. The lifeblood of our society. The sweet nectar of bean, whose chemical compound makes us feel so, so good. Doesn’t it deserve a place in the Internet of Things? [Matt] and [Don] thought so — so they connected their old coffee pot to their phones.

After receiving their developer version of the Electric Imp board, the two started thinking of small projects to test it out on; ones that might even have a real-world application. Since the Imp is capable of receiving inputs via the web, it’s super easy to write an app to control things — in this case, a coffee pot.

Hardware-wise it was actually pretty simple. The coffee pot control board provides power for the Imp, and the On/Off switch of the coffee maker is wired to one of the Imp’s outputs. One simple app later, and boom we have wireless java capabilities. Heh. Java.

Continue reading “Help! There’s an Imp in my Coffee Pot!”

A Tweeting Vending Machine

[Sigurd] manage to obtain an old vending machine from his dorm. The only problem was that the micocontroller on the main board was broken. He and his friend decided they could most likely get the machine back into working order, but they also knew they could probably give it a few upgrades.

This system uses two Arduino Pro Minis and an Electric Imp to cram in all of the new features. One Arduino is connected to the machine’s original main board. The Arduino interfaces with some of the shift registers, relays, and voltage regulators. This microcontroller also lights up the buttons on the machine as long as that particular beverage is not empty. It controls the seven segment LED display, as well as reading the coin validator.

The team had to reverse engineer the original coin validator in order to figure out how the machine detected and counted the coins. Once they figured out how to read the state of the coins, they also built a custom driver board to drive the solenoids.

A second Arduino is used to read NFC and RFID cards using a Mifare RC522 reader. The system uses its own credit system, so a user can be issued a card with a certain amount of pre-paid credit. It will then deduct credit appropriately once a beverage is vended. The two Arduinos communicate via Serial.

The team also wanted this machine to have the ability to communicate with the outside world. In this case, that meant sending cheeky tweets. They originally used a Raspberry Pi for this, but found that the SD card kept getting corrupted. They eventually switched to an Electric Imp, which worked well. The Arduino sends a status update to the Imp every minute. If the status changes, for example if a beverage was dispensed, then the Imp will send a tweet to let the world know. It will also send a tweet to the maintenance person if there is a jam or if a particular slot becomes empty. Continue reading “A Tweeting Vending Machine”

Sleek Desk Lamp Changes Colors Based on Sun Position

[Connor] was working on a project for his college manufacturing class when he came up with the idea for this sleek desk lamp. As a college student, he’s not fond of having his papers glowing brightly in front of him at night. This lamp takes care of the problem by adjusting the color temperature based on the position of the sun. It also contains a capacitive touch sensor to adjust the brightness without the need for buttons with moving parts.

The base is made from two sheets of aluminum and a bar of aluminum. These were cut and milled to the final shape. [Connor] found a nice DC barrel jack from Jameco that fits nicely with this design. The head of the lamp was made from another piece of aluminum bar stock. All of the aluminum pieces are held together with brass screws.

A slot was milled out of the bottom of the head-piece to make room for an LED strip and a piece of 1/8″ acrylic. This piece of acrylic acts as a light diffuser.  Another piece of acrylic was cut and added to the bottom of the base of the lamp. This makes for a nice glowing outline around the bottom that gives it an almost futuristic look.

The capacitive touch sensor is a pretty simple circuit. [Connor] used the Arduino capacitive touch sensor library to make his life a bit easier. The electronic circuit really only requires a single resistor between two Arduino pins. One of the pins is also attached to the aluminum body of the lamp. Now simply touching the lamp body allows [Connor] to adjust the brightness of the lamp.

[Connor] ended up using an Electric Imp to track the sun. The Imp uses the wunderground API to connect to the weather site and track the sun’s location. In the earlier parts of the day, the LED colors are cooler and have more blues. In the evening when the sun is setting or has already set, the lights turn more red and warm. This is easier on the eyes when you are hunched over your desk studying for your next exam. The end result is not only functional, but also looks like something you might find at that fancy gadget store in your local shopping mall.

Remote Control for an Elevator


The elevator at [Alex]’s office building has some quirks which make it very inconvenient to everyone in the building. The major problem was that the doors of the elevator at each floor stay locked until someone walks down the hall to hit a button. Obviously this was a hassle, so [Alex] built a controller that can remotely call and unlock the elevator. (Part 2 of the project is located on a separate page.)

The first step was to source the hardware and figure out exactly how the controls for the elevator worked. [Alex] decided to use an Electric Imp for this project, and after getting it connected to the Internet, he realized that he could power it directly off of the elevator’s 10V supply. From there, he used relays to interface the Electric Imp with the “elevator call” and “elevator unlock” buttons inside the elevator’s control panel.

Once the hardware side was completed, it was time to move on to the software side. [Alex] wrote a mobile app for a user interface that can be accessed from anywhere, and also wrote the code for the Electric Imp agent and the code that runs on the Electric Imp itself. Now, a simple tap of a button on a mobile device is enough to call the elevator or unlock it, rather than in the past where someone had to run down a hall to hit the button.

We hope there is some security on the mobile app, otherwise anyone in the world will be able to call the elevator and turn it into a passenger-less useless machine!

Environmental Sound Detectors 

We all know that sound. That sound of a noisy yapping dog, or the sound of a disruptive garbage truck loudly picking up the trash while making a ruckus along the way. It can be extremely distracting and frustrating to deal with. And more often than not, we have little control over the noise pollution in the area. Unless of course, you build a monitoring solution to raise awareness of the situation, like this one that [Edmund] made.

It was designed in conjunction with the Earth Journalism Network (EJN) in order to, as their website states, “facilitate story-telling of the sources and health impacts of noise from around the world“. An Arduino Pro Mini was the backbone of the project. Being open-source in nature meant that it could be customized easily with a wide array of sensors. [Edmund] chose to use an Electric Imp adding WiFi capability to the device. His step-by-step tutorial showed the design process, leading into the prototyping of the parts, and contains schematics for the circuit. As of the time that this article was published, the coding section of project hasn’t been released yet, but the first three parts give enough information to get the ball rolling.

This type of monitoring solution has the potential to record the noise levels of neighborhoods all across the world. With a large enough pool of data, API’s can be developed for uses like house hunting web searches that show which areas in town are the quietest, or which ones are the loudest. This will surely provide a wealth of knowledge about noise pollution, and it will be interesting to see how people utilize this (and projects similar) in the future.

The Electric Imp and an Easy Hackaday Prize Entry


We’re a little under a month until the first cutoff date for The Hackaday Prize, and there have been a few questions we’ve been answering again and again: ‘what does ‘connected’ mean?’ and, ‘do I really have enough time to build something for The Hackaday Prize?’ Lucky for you, [Matt] from Electric Imp put together a very short demo of a sample THP entry. It’s a ‘HACKING’ light, kind of like an ‘on air’ light you’d find in a TV or Radio studio.

The idea for the project came from a tweet to [Matt] that seemed simple enough to implement. After grabbing an Imp and a breakout board, a LED, button, and resistor were wired up, with power supplied over USB. The code for the device was simple enough, and the Imp makes it easy to make that ‘hacking’ button tweet and serve a simple web page.

[Matt] pulled this project together in an afternoon, and although it’s not nearly as complex as the 3D printers, CNC machines, and freakin’ tricorders that are also entered into The Hackaday Prize, it meets all the requirements we’re looking for.

Of course, ‘connected’ is a very broad term, and even if you have a project that communicates with LEDs, a serial connection, or even pigeons, it’ll be more than enough to tick that ‘connected’ check box.

There’s still a few weeks until the first cutoff date for The Hackaday Prize, so get moving.

[via Bearded Inventor]