[Stian] thought it would be nice if his coworkers could be electronically notified when the latest batch of coffee is ready. He ended up building an inexpensive coffee alarm system to do exactly that. When the coffee is done, the brewer can press a giant button to notify the rest of the office that it’s time for a cuppa joe.
[Stian’s] first project requirement was to activate the system using a big physical button. He chose a button from Sparkfun, although he ended up modifying it to better suit his needs. The original button came with a single LED built-in. This wasn’t enough for [Stian], so he added two more LEDs. All three LEDs are driven by a ULN2003A NPN transistor array. Now he can flash them in sequence to make a simple animation.
This momentary push button supplies power to a ESP8266 microcontroller using a soft latch power switch. When the momentary switch is pressed, it supplies power to the latch. The latch then powers up the main circuit and continues supplying power even when the push button is released. The reason for this power trickery is to conserve power from the 18650 li-on battery.
The core functionality of the alarm uses a combination of physical hardware and two cloud-based services. The ESP8266 was chosen because it includes a built-in WiFi chip and it only costs five dollars. The microcontroller is configured to connect to the WiFi network with the push of a button. The device also monitors the giant alarm button.
When the button is pressed, it sends an HTTP request to a custom clojure app running on a cloud service called Heroku. The clojure app then stores brewing information in a database and sends a notification to the Slack cloud service. Slack is a sort of project management app that allows multiple users to work on projects and communicate easier over the internet. [Stian] has tapped into it in order to send the actual text notification to his coworkers to let them know that the coffee is ready. Be sure to watch the demo video below. Continue reading “Alarm Notifies the Office When the Coffee is Ready”
[Cornel Masson] is a 46-year-old computer programmer. He’s been working on his computer for the last 30 years. Computer work can be good for the wallet but it can be bad for our health, particularly the neck and back. You can purchase adjustable desks to allow you to change positions from sitting to standing, but unfortunately these desks are often expensive. [Cornel] took matters into his own hands and build his own adjustable riser for under $100.
To start, [Cornel] used a typical computer desk. He didn’t want to build the entire thing from scratch. Instead he focused on building a riser that sits on top of the desk, allowing him to change the height of both the monitor and keyboard. His design used mostly wood, aluminum stock, threaded rods, and drawer slides.
The main component is the monitor stand and riser. The riser is able to slide up and down thanks to four drawer slides mounted vertically. [Cornel] wanted his monitor to move up and down with ease, which meant he needed some kind of counter weight. He ended up using a gas strut from the trunk of a Nissan, which acts as a sort of spring. The way in which it is mounted makes for a very close approximation of his monitor’s weight. The result is a monitor that can be raised or lowered very easily. The stand also includes a locking mechanism to keep it secured in the top position.
The keyboard stand is also mounted to drawer slides, only these are in the horizontal position. When the monitor is lowered for sitting, the keyboard tray is removed from the keyboard stand. The stand can then be pushed backwards, overlapping the monitor stand and taking up much less space. The keyboard stand has small rollers underneath to help with the sliding. The video below contains a slideshow of images that do a great job explaining how it all works.
Of course if replacing the entire desk is an option go nuts.
Continue reading “An Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk for Under $100”
The elevator at [Alex]’s office building has some quirks which make it very inconvenient to everyone in the building. The major problem was that the doors of the elevator at each floor stay locked until someone walks down the hall to hit a button. Obviously this was a hassle, so [Alex] built a controller that can remotely call and unlock the elevator. (Part 2 of the project is located on a separate page.)
The first step was to source the hardware and figure out exactly how the controls for the elevator worked. [Alex] decided to use an Electric Imp for this project, and after getting it connected to the Internet, he realized that he could power it directly off of the elevator’s 10V supply. From there, he used relays to interface the Electric Imp with the “elevator call” and “elevator unlock” buttons inside the elevator’s control panel.
Once the hardware side was completed, it was time to move on to the software side. [Alex] wrote a mobile app for a user interface that can be accessed from anywhere, and also wrote the code for the Electric Imp agent and the code that runs on the Electric Imp itself. Now, a simple tap of a button on a mobile device is enough to call the elevator or unlock it, rather than in the past where someone had to run down a hall to hit the button.
We hope there is some security on the mobile app, otherwise anyone in the world will be able to call the elevator and turn it into a passenger-less useless machine!
Before this project, [David]’s office had a fairly terrible system to tell everyone who was in the office, who was out, and who wasn’t coming in today. Velcro and whiteboards will do the job, but arcade buttons and LEDs called to [David], leading him to create this In/Out Status Board.
The old system consisted of a whiteboard on the side of each partition, with velcroed labels indicating if a particular person was in the office today, out, sick, or on holiday. Inconvenient to change, and there was no single place everyone could look to see if a particular person was in or not. The new system consists of a four-person pod with four arcade buttons and WS2811 LEDs, an Arduino Nano, and a 433 MHz radio. The main panel is just a bigger version of the four-person pod, keeping track of everyone in the office.
A single button switch will change a person from being in to being out, with longer presses necessary for ‘sick’ and ‘vacation’. It’s interesting to note what’s not included in this build: A fingerprint scanner was out of the question, because that would effectively eliminate anyone ever being marked as ‘sick’. An RFID tag reader was out for the same reason. Also not included is a display. That’s just fine, really – [David] won’t be changing the labels very often, anyway, and that would just add to the cost and complexity of the project.
[MrBuildIt] has lived up to his name when it comes to this year’s Christmas decorations. He built a rig that spreads Christmas cheer from one end of the cubicles to the other.
In the demo video after the break you’ll see that the system is controlled by a nicely polished Android app. It lets you choose from three different Christmas songs (or no music at all) as Santa Claus makes his rounds. The app includes buttons for switching all of the lights on or off but we think it’s more
corny fun to see then turn on as Santa flies overhead.
The sleigh and three tiny reindeer are suspended from a pulley system. When they make it to one end of the office a hall effect sensor serves as a limiting switch. From the look of it you’d think Santa will be flying backwards on the return trip but there is a servo that flips the thing around so that he’s going the right way.
This is quite a gaunlet to have thrown down when it comes to office decor. We’d like to see what geeky thing’s you’ve been doing with your own decorations. Get some details up on the web and send a link our way!
Continue reading “Deck the cubes”
When your co-workers get on your nerves, the mature recourse is to be the bigger person and simply ignore the obnoxious individual. A team of engineers from TI show us a slightly alternative means of dealing with office mates which is not quite as mature, though far more entertaining.
The office toy cum mechanized weapons system relies on a TI MSP430 LaunchPad, coupled with a custom Turret430 breakout board. The former is the brains of the operation, while the latter houses motor drivers for the motorized turret. The system can be steered throughout its 300 degree range of rotation using an attached joystick, but in the interest of catching their target by surprise, they added an automated mode as well. The automated targeting system uses an attached webcam to pick out victims by the color of their clothing, which seems to work pretty well.
To see the system in action, check out the video embedded below.
Continue reading “Automated turret gives you the upper hand in office warfare”
The sales team in [Chuck’s] office is a pretty competitive bunch as you might expect, and they decided that they wanted a system which would allow them to challenge one another during their weekly meetings. The competition involves answering questions posed by their manager, but hand raising only works for so long – they needed a definitive way to tell who “buzzed in” to answer a question first.
Since [Chuck] only had a short bit of time and a tiny budget to work on, he opted to find the easiest solution to the problem, which was an Arduino-based game show buzzer system. The game display is built from an Arduino, some LEDs and an Altoids tin, while the buzzer pushbuttons were salvaged from an old radio broadcast console.
Now, when a question is posed, the salesman can buzz in to answer, knowing that only the quickest person’s button click will be registered. When it’s time for another question, the host simply clicks his buzzer to reset the console.
While it’s not quite as fancy as this game buzzer system we featured a while back, [Chuck] says it does the job perfectly and was cheap to boot.
Continue reading to see a short video of the office game buzzer system in action.
Continue reading “Office game show buzzer keeps things fair and square”