NXT hacks: tanks and heaters

Here’s a double-dose of Lego NXT goodness; a robotic tank and an automatic aquarium heater.

The image to the left is a robotic tank powered by the popular Lego Mindstorms NXT kit. The brains rest inside of a tube, including the controller brick, ultrasonic range finder, a gyroscope, and a compass. Two sets of treads surround each edge of the tube making us wonder which end is up? We’ve embedded a video of this beast after the break. You’ll see that the tank is incredibly agile in this configuration.

To the right is an aquarium heater. [Dave’s] kid were growing some tiny water dwellers which we’ve always know as Sea-Monkeys. The problem is that the tank needs to be between 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit for the little shrimp to thrive. He dug out his NXT controller and paired it up with the Lego temperature sensor and a dSwitch relay. This setup monitors the Aquarium for temperatures between 72-78 degrees and switches a lamp on an off to regulate the temperature. This keeps his kids and the stagnant pool happy.

Now that we’ve whet your appetite for NXT check out the wiimote operated NXT Segway and the NXT Sudoku solver.

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Greenhouse guard


[Seth King] sent in his latest hack where he used an Arduino to regulate various aspects of a greenhouse. He has sensors for soil and air temperature as well as light and moisture. He built a custom circuit that uses relays to power fans, lights, and heaters. Using timers and the sensor data, the devices can be triggered to create the perfect environment for sprouts. He hopes to make the whole thing wireless by integrating XBees, but for now he ran a USB cord to his computer.

Related: Automatic grow light

Peltier-based cooling/heating backpack

[Max Weisel] recently created a Peltier-based cooling/heating system that fits into a backpack. The system uses two Peltier units, each running at 91.2 watts, with computer heat sinks mounted on one side of the unit to dissipate the excessive amounts of heat generated. While he was originally trying to build a cooling backpack, the use of the Peltier units meant that the cool side would become warm when the direction of current was switched, meaning that the backpack could become a heating backpack with the flip of a switch. In order to power the two Peltier units, he uses two 12v motorcycle batteries, weighing in at around 5 pounds each. While this backpack might be a little heavy for your back, it looks promising for anyone who needs to keep things cool (or warm) on the go.