Detailed tutorial shows how to unleash your inner [Michael Knight]

developing_a_larson_scanner

Our own [Mike Szczys] recently sat down and put together a great tutorial on building a Larson Scanner. The ubiquitous circuit is usually one of the first few projects on a budding hackers list of things to build, since they are just so darn fun.

Simple versions of the scanner sweep back and forth lighting the LEDs without any sort of transition between them. The configuration most familiar to us all as featured in Knight Rider and Battlestar Galactica are a bit more complex, and have a fading trail of light that follows behind the leading edge of the sweep. [Mike] notes that this fading is traditionally accomplished through the use of capacitors, which cause the light to gradually fade as the animation sweeps across the LED array. He decided to take a different route with his circuit, relying on PWM control of the LEDs instead.

Mike put together a simple circuit using an ATmega168, a handful of resistors, and of course, an array of LEDs. Utilizing interrupts and PWM, he was able to accurately recreate the iconic light sweep without the use of any capacitors. One big benefit to his design aside from the lower component count is the fact that he can easily adjust the speed of the sweep as well as the fading properties with a few small code tweaks.

Be sure to check out his blog at some point, where he shares his code, some circuit diagrams, and plenty more details on how his scanner was built. In the meantime, take a look at the video below to see the result of [Mike’s] work.

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Toy car fitted with lights and sirens is a children’s delight

police_car_lights_and_sirens

[Nathan], a member of the DangerousPrototypes forums, was looking for a project he could use to enter the 7400 logic competition they are holding. His kids had a small ride on police car, but the light bar on top contained no lights, and the car made no sounds when his children were in pursuit of baddies around the house. [Nathan] had all the inspiration he needed, and took to his workshop in order to fix this glaring oversight by the toys’ creators.

He designed a circuit based loosely around a Cylon-style light that he saw a while back at the Evil Mad Scientist Labs, which employed an oscillator and a 4107 decade counter to control the lights. His design uses a 74HC04 hex inverter as the oscillator, while the decade counter is used to modulate the siren’s frequency and control the rotating LED beacons.

The final result is great if you ask us. An “unnamed adult female” in the house was not nearly as impressed by the additions based upon how much time [Nathan] spent on the project, but his children were absolutely thrilled.

Continue reading to see a quick video of the revamped police car in action.

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Candied LEDs are a light, tasty treat

rock_candy_diffused_leds

[Emily Daniels] recently snagged a free iPad in the Instructables “Play with your food challenge” with an interesting way to work with LEDs. Growing up, most kids attempted to make, or at least have seen rock candy be produced. [Emily] thought it would be interesting to mix LEDs with the stuff to see what she could come up with, and her candied LEDs are the result.

The process is pretty straightforward, and involves mixing up a batch of supersaturated sugar syrup in which LEDs are suspended. The LEDs act as a nucleation point for the crystal formation, growing a nice solid coating of sugar after a couple weeks’ time. After some cleaning up, the LEDs can be connected to a coin cell battery or similar, as you would normally do. The sugar acts as a diffusing medium for the LEDs, giving them a nice soft beam pattern.

Obviously you likely wouldn’t want to use these for any long-term electronics project, but it’s a fun activity for the kids, and it could be a good way to incorporate electronics into baked goods.

Large scale Tetris game controlled with DDR pads

led_tetris_using_ddr_pads

Even though Tetris came to the US 25 long years ago, it never fails to entertain. Whatever it is that gives the game such lasting power is a mystery to us, but we’re always interested in seeing fresh takes on the classic game.

MIT students [Leah Alpert] and [Russell Cohen] tweaked Tetris a bit to get players off the couch and literally thinking on their feet. The game boards were constructed using RGB LEDs installed in laser-cut acrylic tubes, arranged in a pair of large 6 foot tall floor standing matrices.

Game play progresses as you would expect, with two players battling head to head to achieve the high score, while simultaneously sabotaging their opponent. Instead of controllers however, each player stands on a Dance Dance Revolution mat, manipulating their game pieces with their feet.

While the DDR pads aren’t exactly a Kinect controller, we have no doubt that playing Tetris this way is incredibly fun – we would certainly install a pair of these boards in our game room without a second thought.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

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Keeping simple children’s toys interesting with small modifications

souping_up_slot_cars

[Jaroslav] was racing slot cars with his son not too long ago, but like many of us discovered in our youth, driving cars around a small oval track can get dull after awhile. Rather than buy more track sections, he decided to fiddle with their cars a bit to make racing them a little more exciting.

After removing the top of his slot car, [Jaroslav] found that it cruised around corners with ease, giving him a distinct advantage over his son. He did the same with his son’s car to level the playing field, then he decided to add a few extra LEDs to make driving around the small track more lively.

Now, this obviously isn’t the most advanced of modifications, but it is a great example of extending the useful life of a toy by using cheap, easy to access components. We think that it would be reasonable to add even more features to the cars/track such as speed-dependent lighting or lap counters without changing the car dynamics all that much.

Any thoughts or suggestions to help [Jaroslav] soup up his kid’s race track even more? Share them with us in the comments.

World clock simulates night and day

geochron_world_clock_clone

[Justin] always wanted a GeoChron clock, but since they run in the range of several thousand dollars apiece, he was pretty certain he would never have the chance to own one. Undaunted, he figured out a way to build a small version of the clock for himself, and he wrote in to share how it was done.

He first purchased a Wise Clock 3 from FlorinC, but he definitely wasn’t going to use the clock as it was originally intended. Rather than display the time in numbers, he pulled the Wise Clock apart and sandwiched a vellum printout of a world map in between the front face plates. A tweaked firmware image allows him to simulate day and night using the Wise Clock’s LED array. He also programmed the clock to take into account seasonal light patterns, as you can see in the video embedded below.

We think this is a great idea, and though we would probably use plain white LEDs if we built one, the RGB LEDs in the Wise Clock certainly provide a neat effect.

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Converting a lame Tron toy into a cool Halloween costume prop

sweet_souped_up_tron_identity_disc

Instructable user [cubeberg’s] daughter saw Tron:Legacy earlier this year and decided right then and there that she wanted to dress up as Quorra for Halloween. Being the awesome dad he is, he decided to make her costume himself, and hit the stores in search of an Identity Disc to complete the look.

The toy was pretty underwhelming, and lacked the lighting that a proper Tron prop should have. He figured he had the skills to make it a bit better, so he gathered some tools, a bunch of LEDs, and set off for his workshop. He gutted the disc, cutting out any extraneous bits of plastic he could find. He wired up 64 LEDs between the disc’s inner and outer ring, which he controls using an ATmega 328 paired with a Max7221 display driver.

He doesn’t show any pictures of what the toy looked like beforehand, but the final product looks great. We bet that his daughter is pretty pumped for Halloween to roll around – we know we would be.

Continue reading to see a quick video demo of his souped up Identity Disc in action.

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