Aquarium automation keeps the fish fed and the lights on

fish-tank-automator

Anyone who owns a fish tank knows that a good amount of care is required to keep fish happy, healthy, and most of all – alive. [Vicente Jiménez] usually has no problem keeping up on the day to day maintenance such as feeding and switching the tank light, but he wanted to automate these processes for times when he can’t be home to take care of the fish (Translation).

His aquarium automation project is meant to cover three separate parts of the operation: light control, feeding, and pump regulation during feeding times. [Vincente] picked up an STM8L Discovery board to control his system, which enabled him to easily control the automation of all three.

He constructed the feeding mechanism using an old cassette player motor, which turns his food drum (an old film canister), twice a day at specified feeding times. Before the drum is turned to dispense food, the STM8L turns off the aquarium’s pump via a relay to ensure it doesn’t get clogged in the process. During the day he keeps the tank illuminated, but once night falls, the microcontroller shuts the lights off so the fish can get their rest.

There’s no video of the system in action, but [Vincente] has detailed its construction pretty thoroughly in his blog, so be sure to check it out if you are in need of something similar.

The CIA’s amazing bots

When you have a virtually unlimited budget, you can pull off some amazing things. This has become most evident recently as the CIA has been showing off some of its old tech. That dragonfly you see above is near life-size and actually flies. They hired a watch maker to build a tiny internal combustion engine to run it. That alone is pretty amazing, but this thing was actually flying in the 70’s. Upon further inspection of the wings, we actually have no idea how this sucker is supposed to fly. Despite our skeptical viewpoint, you can see a tiny clip of it flying after the break.  You can also catch a video of “charlie” the robot catfish.

[via Botjunkie]

[Read more...]

Quick, cheap, and simple vacuum tweezers

[Ken] found that using traditional tweezers is a good way to lose tiny surface mount parts and so set out to make his own vacuum tweezers (PDF). He already had a small aquarium pump that he used as a bubbler for etching circuit boards. After opening up the case he found it was possible to connect tubing to the input of the pump to use as the source for the vacuum. The business end of the device is a syringe which he already had for applying oil in tight spaces. A file took off the sharp tip, and a small hole lined with a bit of soft tubing serves as a valve. Put the needle tip in place and plug the hole with your finger to pick it up. Works like a charm and will go well with our next feature, building your own reflow skillet.

We like [Ken's] work. We just looked in on his copper clad enclosures yesterday.

Automatic fish feeder

This automatic fish feeder didn’t take long to put together and it allows you to adjust how much food is dispensed. [Gagandeep Singh] built it around an Atmel AT89C2051 microcontroller. Like many of the automated feeding systems we see, this uses a character display and a few buttons for the user interface. We’re always curious at how they mechanically dispense the food. In this case, the motor seen at the left pulls open a sliding baffle which is pulled closed again by rubber bands at the right. It’s a bit more involved than the last fish feeder we saw, but your guess is as good as ours on which system works better.

Hacker finds better use for a Windows machine

[Patrick Becker] had an ancient PC on his hands with a blown PSU. He converted this into a stylish home for his Betta splendens.

The aquarium itself is fashioned from a piece for construction glass block with the top cut off. This allows for a window that looks through the tank and shows off the motherboard on the other side. He patched into the AC connector so that the original power cord can be used to control the pump. A lighted pump button was added to the front panel and a fancy bezel fitted to the viewing portal in the side of the case. He finished off the project with a PVC pipe for air and food. His blue screen of death now features water and a real fish.

Polycarbonate fish uses three servos to swim

polycarbonate-fish

[Amnon] is learning the hard way that water and electronics don’t always like to play nicely together. He’s been working on creating a swimming fish that uses three servos to flex a sheet of fish-shaped polycarbonate. This photo doesn’t really do the project justice but you can get a better idea of what he’s accomplished by watching the videos after the break.

The three servos along with some distance sensors for obstacle avoidance are all controlled by a PIC 16F877A microcontroller. [Amnon] tried out three different waterproofing methods; coating the device in varnish, dipping it in hot glue, and dipping it in epoxy. The first two resulted in water damage to the electronics, but the third managed to work. It kept the water out, but also prevents reprogramming of the controller.

Although not successful, we would have loved to see the process of dipping the fish in a churning vat of molten glue. Once perfected, this may be the perfect platform for carrying our weapons of doom.

[Read more...]

Robot fish CAD models


[Bre] dug up this excellent robot fish prototype project. The PPF-O9 has three servos. One on the forward fins to control depth, one on the middle joint, and one final one drives the tail fin. The battery box is mounted to the underside. The control scheme is interesting: the right stick controls left/right and up/down while the left stick controls the frequency and amplitude of the motion. They say the robot is fairly stable, but swimming and turning can be slow. They’ve included CAD files for almost every component to help you with your own designs.

In June, we highlighted a robofish designed for swarm communication.

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