Beefing up a smoke alarm system with video, temperature, and connectivity

Here’s a little smoke detector hack which [Ivan] has been working on. He wanted to extend the functionality of a standard detector and we’re happy to see that he’s doing it with as little alteration to the original equipment as possible (this is a life-saving device after all). He sent all the build images for the project to our tips line. You’ll find the assembly photos and schematic in the gallery after the break.

As you can see his entry point is the piezo element which generates the shrill sound when smoke as been detected. He connected this to his own hardware using an optoisolator. This allows him to monitor the state of the smoke alarm on his server. It then takes over, providing a webpage that display’s the board’s temperature sensor value and streams video from an infrared camera.

Of course this is of limited value. We’ve always made sure that our home was equipped with smoke detectors but the only time they’ve ever gone off was from normal cooking smoke or after an extremely steamy shower. But still, it’s a fun project to learn from and we’ve actually got several of the older 9V battery type of detectors sitting in our junk bin.

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Heat-seeking firebot drowns out the flames

This robot can find and extinguish fires automatically. It is the culmination of an Embedded Design class project from last school year. [Dan] and his classmates developed a turret that holds both a spray nozzle and heat sensor which would be a fantastic building block for a real-life tower defense game.

The jewel of the sensor array is a TPA81 thermopile array. Note the use of the term ‘array’ in the name. This is more like eight temperature sensors aligned with each other. By monitoring them all, the direction from which the most heat is coming can be determined. Once it’s zeroed in on the fire getting water to the right place can be a difficult task. That’s where the other sensors come into play. An accelerometer allows the bot to determine the angle of the spray nozzle (a weed sprayer was used in this case). An ultrasonic range finder and few algorithms let the Arduino which drives it all make sure that the arc of the water lands on the hot spot. This is all shown quite clearly in the clip below the jump.

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Control Giant Fireballs With Your Mind

[Matt Oehrlein] and [Ed Platt] from the i3 Detroit hackerspace created the Mind Flame project. The project uses Electroencephalography (EEG) sensors from NeuroSky to measure the user’s concentration level. When you’re concentrating hard enough, the Mind Flame launches a giant fireball, which probably breaks your concentration pretty quickly.

Propane is accumulated in tanks, and then released past a hot surface carbide igniter. It looks like an Arduino is used to open the valve, and the result is a massive fireball controlled by your brainwaves.

The Mind Flame was demoed at the Detroit Maker Faire as a competition. Two participants face off to see who can concentrate the hardest and make the device launch three fireballs first. In the future, they want to incorporate new competitive elements. One example is placing wooden houses in the line of fire, and letting opponents try to burn down their adversary’s house before their’s is set ablaze.

You can check out an interview about the project here.

[Via Make]

An interview with [Justin Gray]

When it comes to the subject of hacking, we all have different ideas of what is the coolest. Some prefer bits and solder, some prefer hammers and fire.  [Justin Gray] has built a name for himself doing a broad mixture of the two. Mainly known for his fire sculpture bots, [justin] also has a fab shop where he builds electric motorcycles.

Make magazine recently did a fun interview with some great pictures that show a little bit of [justin's] work.

Justin’s advice for aspiring hackers:

9. What advice do you have for young makers who are inspired by your work?
I think that people who are inspired my work should decide to build and be committed to build and stop listening to the people who insist on going the normal route in life. For kids, keep playing, keep imagining, keep painting and making art.

Join us after the break to see a little bit of robot demolition fun.

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A little fire breathing pony to call your own

[Lvl_joe] has been having a little fun with fire and an animatronic pony. The skeletal horse seen above is a child’s toy denuded of its original plush shell. That’s a good thing, because those synthetic fibers don’t play very nicely with flames. The toy originally retailed for around $300 bucks, but if you’re lucky, like [Joe], you can get one second-hand for $25 or less.

Since the horse is already motorized, it’s not too hard to patch into the drivers. Here an Arduino is used to take input from a Wii Nunchuck, letting you swing the fire sprayer to and fro. A grill igniter makes sure it’s not just spraying automotive starter fluid everywhere. You can hear the click of that tiny spark repeatedly firing in the demo video after the break. The starter fluid comes in an aerosol can. A custom trigger system holds the can in a PVC pipe, and actuates the valve with a Bowden cable.

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Single-column Rubens’ tube

Here’s a fiery project which [Patrick] calls his Pyro Jam Can. It’s the simplest Rubens’ Tube build that we can think of. For the uninformed, a Rubens’ tube uses flammable gas to reveal wave forms passing through the supply vessel. In the past we’ve seen projects with multiple columns, which very clearly show a standing wave. But this version lacks the resolution for that, so the wave is seen as a modulated flame height.

You can see the propane feed tube coming into the can from the right. This keeps the gas flowing steadily, but a diaphram on the bottom of the can made of a latex balloon allows for modulations in flame height by pushing the gas through the aperture a bit faster than it is flowing. A speaker in the base bounces sound waves off of the diaphragm for the effect seen in the video clip after the break.

We wonder if the can will ever heat up enough to melt the balloon on the other end?

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Forget that boring old fire pit, build a Flame Tree instead!

maker_faire_bay_area_2011_fire_tree

Maker Faire is a great event to attend not only because you get to see all sorts of cool designs and machinations, but because you can participate as well. At Maker Faire Bay Area 2011, maker [Brett Levine] put together a fun and interactive display he likes to call the DIY Flame Tree.

The concept is pretty simple, and he says everyone who participated got a pretty good kick out of lending a hand. Each participant was given a piece of copper tubing and allowed to bend, twist, and sculpt it to their liking before using a drill to add holes wherever they pleased. They were then allowed to choose where their portion of the project would be mounted on the existing tree.

With everyone standing a safe distance away from the display, [Brett] pumped it full of propane and lit the various sections on fire. In the video below, you can see that the display was blown around a bit by the wind, but we imagine it would look pretty awesome on a still summer evening.

Even if you’re not into this sort of art, you have to admit that it certainly beats a boring old fire pit!

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