Hacking cakes with LEDs, the sequel!

A few weeks back we ran a piece about the convergence of making and baking in an attempt to create a cake festooned with working LEDs. The moral was that not every creative idea ends in victory, but we applauded the spirit it takes to post one’s goofs for the whole internet to see and to learn from.

[Craig]’s LED matrix proved unreliable…and the underlying cake didn’t fare much better, resembling that charred lump in the toaster oven in Time Bandits. The cakes-with-lights meme might have died right there if not for a fluke of association…

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A Bright Idea

[Jeri Ellsworth] had a bright idea – a brain-activated light bulb that floats above your head. While out and about, she saw some guy with a video game icon attached to metal rod sticking out of his backpack. The rod made the icon appear to be floating above his head (think The Sims), which was the inspiration for this LED powered light bulb. The bulb is connected to a metal rod, as well as a metal hoop which is springy enough to keep a pair of electrodes snugly attached to your head.

Those electrodes, along with a third probe used for noise reference, are hooked up to a AD620 instrumentation amplifier. With the help of op amps, it modulates the red or green LEDs that are attached to the back side of the light bulb. The end result is an amusing way to show brain activity while being grilled on a Q/A panel, or while just wandering around taking in all the amazing sights presented at Maker Faire.

Join us after the break for a video demonstration.

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Awesome custom disco basement

led_shelves

[Evan] is one of those neighbors you only wish you had.

His neighbors were renovating their basement for use as home theater, and he stopped by to check out how things were coming along. While there, he suggested they add some LED lighting to their shelving unit to make them pop. His neighbors were game, so he sourced some cheap RGB LEDs online and began working on the circuits and firmware needed to control the lights. His neighbors wrote some custom software that interfaces with iTunes to create a neat visualization in the shelving unit whenever music is played.

Once everything was complete, his neighbors informed him that they wanted an additional 20 overhead can lights and a set of 4 wall sconces wired up as well. Needless to say he was pretty excited, so he got busy wiring up the remainder of the basement.

He pushed the installation’s PIC microcontroller about as far as he possibly could, resulting in the awesome show seen in the video below.

Needless to say, it’s pretty impressive, though we wish we could have a peek at the code used to run everything. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

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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]

Cheap open-source pace clock keeps your practice on schedule

pace_timer

Pace clocks are used in a variety of sports, from swimming to track. The systems are typically expensive however, often beyond the reach of smaller organizations and underfunded programs. For their electrical and computer engineering final project, Cornell students [Paul Swirhun and Shao-Yu Liang] set out to build a much cheaper alternative to commercial pace clocks, with a far simpler wireless user interface.

Their clock uses an ATmega32a to handle all of the processing which is paired with a RN-42 Bluetooth module for communicating with Android smartphones. Their seven-segment displays are built using custom PCBs that they designed and fabricated for the project which are controlled by TLC5940NT LED drivers. The Android software allows users to connect to the pace clock remotely, creating any sort of multi-layered swimming or running routines.

When the project was completed, the pair tallied their total hardware cost to be under $250 apiece at low production volumes. Even when taking assembly time into account, their solution is several magnitudes cheaper than similar commercial systems.

Stick around if you are interested in seeing a demo video of their final product in action.

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Meet Mr. Clappidoo

mr_clappidoo

[Laurence] tinkers around the house quite a bit, making all sorts of fun interactive toys for his children to play with. Mr. Clappidoo is a toy that he finished a while back, which bears a striking resemblance to one of his projects we recently showed you, Papydoo. This is not a coincidence, as Papydoo was created after Mr. Clappidoo was built, borrowing many features from his predecessor.

Who is your daddy and what does he do?

It’s a good thing you asked. Mr. Clappidoo uses an IR motion sensor to detect nearby objects, waking up and interacting with whatever crosses his path. He is capable of four different random moods ranging from angry to flirty. He projects these moods by changing the color of his LED-lit eyes as well as playing simple sounds. A balsa wood chest makes up Clappidoo’s body, and he repeatedly claps his lid mouth open and shut using a small servo, hence the name.

Like his other projects, [Lawrence] has focused his efforts to ensure that the three AA batteries used to power Clappidoo last as long as possible. He says that with moderate usage the device can run off the same set of batteries for a few months before needing replacement.

It’s a fun little contraption, sure to please the kids. Stick around for a quick video of Clappidoo in action.

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LED Matrix Helmits Inspiried by You-Know-Who

Here is a post from [John's Projects]. For the insane, satirical, and incredible 2011 Omaha Groundhog Prom [John] and his buddy fabricated  helmets reminiscent of our favorite robot rockers.  [John] needed something harder, better, faster, stronger than the competition and wound up creating LED matrices that mount behind aerodynamic motorcycle helmet visors.

The helmets were constructed in about a weeks time and in a similar fashion to the real helmets. [John] sourced some cheap motorcycle headgear and mounted the LEDs, their driving transistors, and ballast resistors to a 1/32″ (flexible) plexiglass sheet that sits face to face with the wearer. [John] walks through the whole process starting with a half inch grid drawn onto a paper template. The template is cut from the plexi using tin snips, then LED holes are carefully drilled in the thin plastic using various bits up to 13/64″. The 90 some odd LEDs are, one more time, fitted then hot glued in place and soldered in vertical columns to simplify things and prevent any short circuit. An Arduino Pro (via common emitter 2n2222 on/off circuits) provides some digital love to the 18 LED columns and is connected to a Velleman Sound-to-light kit which modulates the brightness of the whole visor based on da funk. Two pots are also wired to provide sensitivity and pattern selection to the human after all.

We can’t imagine the technologic setup is fresh after being subjected to the steam machine, high life, and whatever else for too long. Oh yeah, Some brighter LEDs could give the helmets night vision and make the whole thing come alive with emotion. Something about us is burnin to know what powers the helmets. Nice work [John]!

If you are looking to do some homework on these high fidelity rock’n roll outfits in the prime time of your life check out this very detailed example, a helmet construction video,  or finish the costume off with some EL wire.

Check out some videos of these superheros rollin’ & scratchin’ after the jump!

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