THP Entry: Tinusaur AVR Platform Teaches Noobs, Plays Game of Life

tinusaur[Neven Boyanov] says there’s nothing special about Tinusaur, the bite-sized platform for learning and teaching the joys of programming AVRs. But if you’re dying to gain a deeper understanding of your Arduino or are looking to teach someone else the basics, you may disagree with that assessment.

Tinusaur is easy to assemble and contains only the components necessary for ATTiny13/25/45/85 operation (the kit comes with an ’85). [Neven] saved space and memory by forgoing USB voltage regulator. An optional button cell mount and jumper are included in the kit.

[Neven] is selling boards and kits through the Tinusaur site, or you can get the board from a few 3rd party vendors. His site has some projects and useful guides for assembling and driving your Tinusaur. He recently programmed it to play Conway’s Game of Life on an 8×8 LED matrix. If you’re looking for the zero-entry side of the AVR swimming pool, you can program it from the Arduino IDE. Be warned, though; they aren’t fully compatible.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

Controlling High Voltage 7-Segment Displays

highvoltage7seg

The MAX7219 is one of those parts in your bin that has a “done and done” attitude. In case you’re unfamiliar, this chip can be used to control 7-Segment displays, 8×8 Matrix displays, or even a pile of random LEDs. You talk to it via a simple serial interface and it handles the tasks you don’t want to fuss with, such as multiplexing and modulation. Not all displays are alike, however, so [Raj] wrote in to show how he used the MAX7219 to control high voltage 7-segment displays.

The spec on the MAX7219 only allows an input voltage of 5V, which limits the driver output to around 4V and can cause problems when using large displays that series-connect LEDs internally. [Raj's] solution allows the MAX7219 to control displays with combined forward voltages of up to 24V, and as an added bonus, the circuit maintains compatibility with existing microcontroller libraries. We imagine this could be a nifty trick to keep on hand the next time you need to control large scoreboard displays.

The circuit works with the help of intermediate drivers to essentially level-shift the voltage to the display, which both provides the high voltage and protects the MAX7219’s inputs. One of the drawbacks of this circuit is losing the MAX7219’s constant current feature, requiring that each segment connection includes a current-limiting resistor. We appreciate this design’s attention to default states, because you wouldn’t want all of your LEDs turning ON during boot-up!

Prototyping a modular LED matrix

led-matrix-modular-prototype

[Will] was toying with the idea of creating a scrolling LED marquee to display messages as his wedding in May. But you’ve got to crawl before you can walk so he decided to see what he could do with the MAX7219 LED driver chips. They do come in a DIP package, but the 24-pin 0.1″ pitch chip will end up being larger than the 8×8 LED modules he wanted to use. So he opted to go with a surface mount part and spun a PCB which makes the LEDs modular.

These drivers are great when you’re dealing with a lot of LEDs (like the motorcycle helmet of many blinking colors). Since they use SPI for communications it’s possible to chain the chips with a minimum of connections. [Will] designed his board to have a male header on one side and a female socket on the other. Not only does it make aligning and connecting each block simple, but it allows you to change your mind at any time about  which microcontroller to use to command them. For his first set of tests he plugged the male header into a breadboard and drove it with an Arduino. We hope to hear back from him with an update when gets the final device assembled in time for the big day.

Incredible fabrication process makes this Word Clock stand out

From the look of it his is just another Word Clock, right? From the outside maybe. But if you take a look at the build photos this a good example of extreme fabrication.The design uses a five-layer lamination of glass bezel, vinyl lettering, diffuser, mounting plate, and back panel. The mounting and lettering layers were labor intensive, but are also the reason for the gorgeous finished look.

The bezel consists of black adhesive foil applied to the back of the glass faceplate. The letters were cut out using a vinyl cutter, and the lamination process happened in a pool of water. This technique helps to ensure that no fine particles end up between the glass and the foil.

The wooden mounting bracket was ordered from a local kitchen cabinet fabricator. It’s MDF that is 17.7″ and has been edge wrapped in glossy white PVC. Once it arrived, [Muris] started drilling the 248 holes and their counter sinks. This is on the front side of the layer and when sprayed with silver paint the countsinks act as reflectors. On the back side he milled groves to accept PCB strips to host the LEDs as well as the breakout boards that hold the MAX7219 drivers.

Don’t miss the video clip after the break that shows off the final product.

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Helmet of many LEDs built for Burning Man

This motorcycle helmet was heavily altered to accept all of the hardware that goes into driving that huge array of LEDs. [Brian Cardellini] built it to wear at burning man. He claims to have been in over his head with the project, but we certainly don’t get that feeling when we see the thing in action. It’s light on build details, but there are plenty of demo shots in the video after the break. The animation and fading action really gets started about a minute and a half into it.

One of the early frames of the video is a shot of the parts order webpage. Since it’s an HD clip we were able to glean a few bits and pieces from that. It includes a MAX7219 LED Display Driver and fifteen 25-packs of Blue LEDs. Now that chip is a great choice, and one of the later shots shows two of them on breakout board driven by an Arduino. The look is very clean since he carved out most of the helmet’s padding to make room for the electronics.

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Wide word-clock takes a modular approach

[Ishan Karve] took on the challenge of building his own word clock. This is a timepiece that displays the current time in the same syntax you would use if someone asked you what time it was. You’ll find a lot of these projects around, with one of our favorites using etched copper clad as a bezel. But [Ishan] departed for the ordinary by building a clock that is rectangular rather than square. To do so he uses a 16×8 LED matrix that is made up of small modules.

He designed a board that holds a 4×4 LED matrix and includes pin headers on each edge. This way he can arrange these 16-pixel blocks into arrays to make a larger grid. For the clock he used eight boards. These are driven by two MAX7219 chips, with an ATmega168 as the main controller and a DS1307 to keep time. Each LED is isolated by a thick layer of acrylic which as one hole for each pixel. This prevents light from bleeding over into letters that should not be illuminated. Check out the result in the clip after the break.

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LED clock lights up a dead Mac Mini

[Professor Shadoko's] Mac Mini died. But since the case designs on Apple products are half the reason to buy them, he decided to reuse the enclosure by turning it into this clock (translated).

As with the binary clock we saw yesterday, this one uses a bunch of LEDs to display the time, but it does it in a way that’s a bit more readable if you know what you’re looking for. The face has been divided up into two columns. On the left is hours, then minutes and seconds in increments of five. To the right is AM/PM, with minutes and seconds in increments of one. If we’re doing this right, the time seen above is 10:23:42 PM on April 28th, 2012. The white LEDs below the date act as a digital pendulum, scrolling left and right as the seconds tick by.

The display uses two MAX7219 LED drivers to control the grid which is build on a big hunk of protoboard. An Arduino ties the whole system together with a Chonodot for accurate time keeping. There’s even an ambient light sensor which adjusts the LED intensity to make this readable in direct sun, or the dark of night. See a demo clip embedded after the break.

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