Unary Clock for the Binary-Challenged

If binary clocks have you confused by all the math required to figure out what time it is, we have the solution for you: a unary clock. After all, what’s simpler than summing up powers of two? Powers of one! To figure out the time, you start with the ones digit. If it’s on, you add one to the total. Then move on to the next digit. Since 12 equals one, you add another one if it’s lit. Then on to the third LED. 13 = 1, so if it’s lit, you add another one, and so on.

OK, we’re messing around. Calling this a “unary” clock is ridiculous. When it’s seven o’clock, there are seven LEDs lit. Nice and easy to read. Sixty minute LEDs is silly, so here each minute LED stands for five minutes. Good enough.

What we really like about this clock is the build. It’s intended as educational for school kids, so it has to be simple to build and easy to personalize. Building the body out of Lego bricks fits the specs nicely. Transparent Lego bricks are used to give the white LEDs some color. That was too bright, so [Shrimping It] added paper cutouts from a hole punch as diffusers.

Clock builds are a great intro to electronics because they offer so many possibilities. Whether you want to go geary, use the clock as an excuse to try out fabrication techniques, or showcase a neat display technology, your imagination has a lot of room to wander. Show us yours?

Oh No! It’s the Claw!

What’s more seductive than a claw machine? After all, how hard can it be to snag that $2 teddy bear that is practically poking out of the pile of merchandise? But after 20 quarters, you realize you’ve spent $5, and you still don’t have anything to show for it.

[CreativeGuy88] decided to build his own claw machine (that way, he gets to keep the quarters). This sizable build is as much woodworking project as anything. However, the motors and control joysticks require electrical wiring and [CreativeGuy88] used Lego bricks to make much of the carriage.

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Lego Nuclear Reactor Uses Arduino

Before the NSA deletes this post, we’ll be clear: We’re talking about a model of a nuclear reactor, not the real thing. Using Legos, [wgurecky] built a point kinetic reactor model that interfaces with the reactor simulator, pyReactor.

Even without the Lego, the Python code demonstrates reactor control in several modes. In power control mode, the user sets a power output, and the reactor attempts to maintain it. In control rod mode, the user can adjust the position of the control rods and see the results.

If things get out of hand, there’s a SCRAM button to shut the reactor down in a hurry. The Lego model uses an Arduino to move the rods up and down (using a servo) and controls the simulated Cherenkov radiation (courtesy of blue LEDs).

We’ve been excited to see more high schools with significant engineering programs. This would be a good project for kids interested in nuclear engineering. It certainly is a lot safer than one of our previous reactor projects.

Rope Braiding Machine Built Entirely from LEGO Technics

If you’ve ever seen a rope-braiding machine in action, you know they’re amazing machines where bobbins of thread whirl and spin in a complex dance to weave the threads under and over each other. Building one of these machines must be incredibly difficult; building one out of LEGO Technics pieces is darn near insane.

[Nico71], as hardcore a Technics builder as they come, tackled this complex build and made it work. A large drum spins horizontally and carries three groups of three planetary-mounted thread bobbins. The entire drum spins in one direction while the bobbins and another die with three holes spin the other way. The resulting braids are then fed through another spinning die, and the resulting 9-strand rope is taken up by a winding drum. The drum has a self-reversing feeding mechanism to keep the finished spool neat and tidy. The most impressive thing about the build, though, is the fact that it’s all powered by a single motor, and that everything is synchronized via gears, shafts, sprockets, chains and clutches. It’s a Technics tour de force you can see in action after the break.

[Nico71]’s build are pretty amazing. Some are pure art, others are models of classic cars and motorcycles, but things like his loom and the calculator he’s working on now are remarkable. Of course if you need to see more of the mesmerizing ballet of rope-braiding machines, check out this 16-bobbin hand-cranked version.

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Lego Gaming Computer Case

Lego isn’t the first material that springs to mind when you think about building a new gaming computer case, but it does make sense when you think about it. It is easy to work with, can be easily reconfigured, and it’s pretty cheap. That’s the idea behind this very cool (no pun intended) gaming computer case build by [Mike Schropp]. Built around a Skylake i7 CPU and an NVidia 980 Ti graphics card, his build has an unusual X-shaped design that allows for plenty of airflow. The sides of the X hold the CPU cooler, the power supply, the hard drives and the graphics card cooler, so each of them has its own separate flow of cool air from the outside. That avoids the common problem of hot air from one component being passed over another, so it doesn’t get cooled properly. Critically for a gaming system, this design keeps all of the components much cooler than a more traditional case, which makes for more overclocking potential.

At the moment, [Mike] says he is struggling to keep up with the demand for people who want to buy custom versions of his build, but he is planning to release the details soon. “Initially that will probably be in the form of a DIY kit, where you can buy the plans with all the Lego bricks needed for the build, in a kit form” he told us. “Then you can add your own computer components to complete your build. At some point I’ll probably also just offer the plans themselves and allow the end-user to acquire the Lego bricks needed.”

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Lego Technic of the Past Eliminates Apple ][ with Arduino and Touchscreen

[JAC_101], the Director of Legal Evil Emeritus for LVL1 Hackerspace (don’t ask me, it’s their title system), was challenged to a hacking duel. It all started years ago. The person who is now president of LVL1, visited the space for the first time and brought with her a discarded Apple II controller for Lego bricks which had previously belonged to her father. Excited to test it, the space found that, unfortunately, LVL1’s Apple II wouldn’t boot. An argument ensued, probably some trash talking, and [JAC_101] left with the challenge: Could he build an Arduino interface for the Apple II Lego controller quicker than the hackerspace could fix its Apple II?”

Other things that belonged to people's fathers.
Other things that belonged to people’s fathers.

In the end, a concentrated force by one hacker over two years overcame the collective ADHD of many. He began by opening the interface to look inside, a completely unnecessary step since he found it was already thoroughly documented. Next he forgot about the project for a year. Then he remembered it, and built an interface for an Arduino Uno to hook to the controller and wrote a library for the interface. Realizing that sending serial commands was not in line with the original friendly intention of the device, he added a graphical display to the project; which allowed the user to control the panel with touch. In the end he won the challenge and LVL1 still doesn’t have a working Apple II. We assume some gloating occurred. Some videos of it in action after the break.

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Hillbilly Lego Focus Puller

There’s almost nothing you can’t build with the right set of Lego parts. [Rigjob] built up a Lego-based wireless remote follow-focus system that’ll give professional systems a run for their money.

Now [Rigjob] self-identifies as a hillbilly, but he’s not just a redneck with a camera. He’s set up the Lego controller to remember minimum and maximum focus positions as well as mark points along the way. The controller simply won’t turn the lens outside of the focus range, and an interactive graph shows you where you are within the range. For a focus wheel, he uses (drum-roll please!) a Lego off-road wheel. It looks really comfortable, usable, and actually quite professional.

There’s a lot of tech in the Lego controller and motors that make this “simple” hack simple. Under the hood, there’s a Bluetooth connection, a geared stepper motor with a position sensor, a communication protocol, and a whole ton of programming in the Lego controller that makes it all drag-and-drop programmable. But to a long-bearded hillbilly cameraman, it all looks like child’s play. And that’s the hallmark of good design. Kudos, Lego.

If you can’t get enough Lego camera tech, check out this DIY slit-scan stargate rig, or (what else?) a Lego 3D chocolate printer.

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