Video series shows how to build your own solar-charged R/C lawnmower

rc-solar-lawnmower

As winter is officially upon us, we’re pretty sure that the last thing most of you are thinking about is mowing your lawn. We would argue that it’s actually the ideal time to do so – that is, if you are interested in automating the process a bit.

[Robert Smith] has spent a lot of time thinking about his lawn, wanting a way to sit back and relax while doing his weekly trimming. He set off for the workshop to build an R/C electric lawnmower, and thoroughly documented the process in order to help you do the same.

On his web site, you will find a series of videos detailing every bit of the solar charged R/C lawnmower’s construction, taking you through the planning phases all the way to completion. [Robert] has provided just about anything you could possibly need including parts lists, schematics, code, and more.

If the short introductory video below has you interested, be sure to swing by his site for everything you need to build one of your own.

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Papercraft flowers teach kids about batteries

saltwater_papercraft_batteries

[Emily Daniels] has been teaching interactive electronics workshops geared towards children for some time now, recently holding a session that demonstrated how batteries work in a pretty novel fashion.

She wanted to keep things safe and simple due to the class size, so she didn’t want to rely on using soldering irons for the demonstration. Instead, she showed the children how batteries function by building simple voltaic cells with paper flowers, salt water, and LEDs. The paper flowers’ absorbency was used to act as a salt bridge between the wire pairs that adorned each petal. After salt water was applied to each of the flower’s petals, the center-mounted LED came to life, much to the amazement of her class.

The concept is quite simple, and the LED flowers are pretty easy to build, as you can see in her Instructables tutorial.

We think it’s a great way to demonstrate these sorts of simple concepts to kids, and hope to see more like it.

[via Adafruit blog]

(mini)How-To: Refill your DTG inks

The number one and number two things asked after presentation of our DIYDTG were…
“How does it hold up in the wash?”
and…
“How did you change out the inks?”
While we’ve explained the first several times (regular ink washes out, DTG ink gets a little lighter but survives) we can hopefully answer the second with a tutorial.

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How-to: DIYDTG

For those unaware, the little acronym above stands for Do-It-Yourself-Direct-To-Garment printing. In layman’s terms, printing your own shirts and designs. Commercial DTGs can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 which for the hobbyist who only wants a few shirts is ridiculous. So you would think this field of technology would be hacked to no end, but we’ve actually only seen one other fully finished and working DIYDTG. So we took it upon ourselves to build a DIYDTG as cheaply and as successfully as possible. Continue reading “How-to: DIYDTG”

How-to: Programmable logic devices (CPLD)

Complex programmable logic devices (CPLDs) contain the building blocks for hundreds of 7400-serries logic ICs. Complete circuits can be designed on a PC and then uploaded to a CPLD for instant implementation. A microcontroller connected to a CPLD is like a microcontroller paired with a reprogrammable circuit board and a fully stocked electronics store.

At first we weren’t sure of the wide appeal and application of CPLDs in hobbyist projects, but we’ve been convinced. A custom logic device can eliminate days of reading datasheets, finding the ideal logic IC combination, and then waiting for chips to arrive. Circuit boards are simpler with CPLDs because a single chip with programmable pin placement can replace 100s of individual logic ICs. Circuit mistakes can be corrected by uploading a new design, rather than etching and stuffing a new circuit board. CPLDs are fast, with reaction times starting at 100MHz. Despite their extreme versatility, CPLDs are a mature technology with chips starting at $1.

We’ve got a home-etchable, self programming development board to get you started. Don’t worry, this board has a serial port interface for working with the CPLD, and doesn’t require a separate (usually parallel port) JTAG programmer.

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How-to: USB remote control receiver

Now that we listen to MP3s, and watch XVIDs or x264s, a computer is the entertainment center in at least one room of most homes. Unless you have a special HTPC, though, you’re probably stuck using the keyboard to pause, change the volume, and fast-forward through annoying Mythbusters recaps. PC remote control receivers range from ancient serial port designs (who has one?) to USB devices not supported by popular software. In this how-to we design a USB infrared receiver that imitates a common protocol supported by software for Windows, Linux, and Mac. We’ve got a full guide to the protocol plus schematics and a parts list.

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How-To: Web server on a business card (Part 1)

For years, Microchip PIC microcontrollers dominated; PIC16F84 hacks and projects are everywhere. The 8-bit 16F and 18F lines are supported by several coding environments and easy-to-build serial port programmers. Microchip’s 16-bit PIC24F is cheaper, faster, and easier to work with, but largely absent from hacks and projects.

We recently used a Microchip PIC24F microcontroller in a mini web server project, but didn’t find many introductory references to link to. In this article we’ll cover some PIC 24F basics: support circuitry and programming options. We’ll also talk about our favorite features, and how we figured them out. Our next article will outline a web server on a business card based on the PIC 24F.

Continue reading “How-To: Web server on a business card (Part 1)”