Electro-static see-saw

Many of you may have seen these fun little toys in museums or possibly even in school. Instructibles user [brazilero2008] takes us through the process of constructing one on our own.

Most of this toy are constructed from fairly household materials like foil, paper, straws etc. The fun part comes when you find the power supply. [brazilero2008] is using an air ionizer that he found at a rummage sale, though any high voltage DC source should work. He shares some tips on how to save time and effort creating the balls on the end by telling us how he did it the difficult way.

We admit this isn’t the most attention grabbing project, but we think it would be a fun educational weekend project.

Papercraft flowers teach kids about 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]

Learning electronics concepts step by step


We realize that not everyone out there holds a degree in electrical engineering or has the ability to tell NPN transistors apart from PNP transistors by taste alone, so we occasionally like to mention things that appeal to the beginners in the crowd. While there is a clear division between Arduino supporters and detractors, it is hard to deny that the devices have their place, and can be quite useful when exploring certain electronics concepts.

For the supporters out there, [John Boxall] has put together a site jam-packed with Arduino tutorials covering a wide array of concepts and techniques. We have covered his work before in relation to specific topics, but we felt that his site deserved mention as a whole. His tutorials cover some of the most basic concepts such as lighting LEDs with the Arduino, and work their way to more advanced subjects, lesson by lesson.

He is not satisfied with simply introducing a concept and handing out a sketch that does the work. He takes the time to expand on the concepts, giving the reader enough detail to use their new-found knowledge in later projects. If you were to follow his tutorials from beginning to end, you would be exposed to LCD screen control, shift registers, real-time clocks, I2C bus communications, and more. These skills and concepts can be carried on to future projects as well as other micro controllers, making his tutorials a very valuable learning tool worth checking out.

Guitar teaches you to play using LEDs


[Andrew] is an electrical engineering student at UIC, and decided that he would build a MIDI guitar for his senior design project. After tinkering for awhile, things were not looking good, and the MIDI guitar idea was scrapped. With his deadline creeping up, he came up with a new idea, the Guitarduino. His new project is a guitar that teaches you how to play chords and scales by showing you the proper notes to play via LEDs embedded in the guitar’s neck.

He removed the neck, and carefully drilled the holes that would eventually house his 130+ LEDs. The LEDs were wired to his Arduino via some multiplexing circuitry that resides on the back of the guitar’s body. The Arduino was mounted on the front of the guitar along with a shield used for communicating with his LED array. He built another shield that serves as the LCD display as well as the input board for his guitar.

The final result of all his work is fantastic. The user simply needs to dial in the chord or scale that he wants to learn, and the guitar lights up, showing the proper finger positions on the fretboard. We could see this coming in quite handy for anyone just starting to learn how to play.

Check out the video below to see a demonstration and walkthrough [Andrew] put together highlighting his guitar’s features.

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The chief cook robot

We feel the need to apologize immediately for the use of Yakkity Sax in the preceding video and recommend you watch the longer, yak free, video below. It shows researchers at the Learning Algorithms and Systems Laboratory teaching a robot how to make a ham and cheese omelet. Each working area and food item is labeled with a machine recognizable tag. The researcher demonstrates the task by guiding the robot’s hand. The robot combines multiple demonstrations to generalize the skill. It can then adapt the learned skill to the specific task. You can see this in the video when the robot adjusts to the location of the bowl and cutting board when they’re moved around. Teaching through demonstration would make the use of robotics much easier for the general population.

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