A Salinometer built for the Science Olympiad

This is a Digital Salinometer which [Daniel Kramnik] built as a Science Olympiad entry. He’s a Junior in High School and when looking for a project to enter into the Water Quality event he was interested in achieving greater accuracy than a mechanical hydrometer provides.

We think the circuit design is very impressive for anyone who hasn’t complete formal training as an engineer, and outstanding for someone as young as [Daniel]. Measurements depend on two main parts, a temperature control and a salinity sensor. These are both necessary because fluctuation in sample temperature will affect the salinity reading.

A Peltier element is used to heat the water sample if it doesn’t fall within a set range of temperatures. From there, an Op-Amp circuit conditions a signal running through the sample, passing an output to the ADC converter chip which drives the three-digit readout. [Daniel] calculates an accuracy within 0.0014%. He must be on the mark because he’s won his regional competition and will soon compete at the state level.

Data logging with a cheap Lux meter

[Minisystem] has a thing for dynamo powered bike lights. He wanted to measure how well his latest is working, but just logging the current flow through the LEDs wasn’t enough for him. He picked up a cheap Lux meter and hacked into the circuit to log measurements while he rides.

He started by cracking open the case to see what the meter held inside. There’s a Texas Instruments Op-Amp that connects to the light sensor. The datasheet for the part didn’t help much, but [Minisystem] did find that the current output on one of the pins changes with light intensity. Further testing led him to discover that the signal is a multiple of 10 for what is shown on the Lux meter’s readout. All he needs to do is take regular measurement of this current and save that data.

To do this, he grabbed his trusty Arduino and made a connection between one of its analog inputs and the op-amp pin. It should be easy enough to dump measurements into the Arduino’s own EEPROM, or use an external storage chip or SD card.

[Thanks Jason]

Improving audio output from an HD radio receiver

[Phil] picked up an HD radio receiver when Radio Shack was clearing them out at a 60% discount. But to his disappointment, when he hooked it up the sound left a lot to be desired with limited mid-range and flat bass. After some forum mining he discovered that the optical output didn’t have this problem, and came to the conclusion that the op-amp driving the analog audio-out jack needed some tweaking. He didn’t get his hands on a schematic for the board, but took the advice from some vintage equipment gurus and swapped the stock IC for a Burr-Brown OPA2604AP chip.

This fixed the problem without any other adjustments to the hardware. But while he was in there, he also secured the external antenna connector jack to the chassis for good measure.

If you’re wondering about the particulars of the equipment, [Phil] was hacking an Auvio HD Radio tuner. But he also mentions that Best Buy sells an Insignia NS-HDTUNE which may benefit from the same modification.

Measuring RPM with reflective sensors

[Arao] wanted to measure the RPM of a spinning wheel using parts that he could scavenge from his junk box. A bit of thought led him to build a reflective sensor which can measure the spinning of a wheel (translated).

He got his hands on an infrared phototransistor which had been used as part of the remote control for some consumer electronics. Snooping around with his multimeter helped him establish the pin out of the device. By positioning an IR LED inside of a shroud, yet adjacent to the phototransistor, he can measure the intensity of the LED’s light as it is reflected off of nearby surfaces. The pulley seen above has a piece of electrical tape on it. When this passes by the LED, less of the infrared light is reflected and the drop in intensity is picked up by the phototransistor. [Arao] made the system rock-solid by rolling an LM358 op-amp into the circuit. He’s posted the schematic as well as some screen shots from an oscilloscope during testing.

DIY sound localization sensor


Sound localization is very popular in law enforcement circles due to its accuracy and ability to quickly separate gunshots from other similar noises. These systems don’t come cheap, and after trying to build one himself, [Fileark] knows why.

He thought it would be neat to build a sound localization sensor based on how the human ear determines a sound’s source. Once he got started however, he realized just how hard it was to do localization just right.

He used an LM324N op-amp as a volume comparator, which he says works decently enough though he figures there are ICs out there that can do a better job. [Fileark] reports that the sound detector works well when the source is within about a foot of the sensors, but performance deteriorates at greater distances. He may consider using an ARM Cortex-M3 as his sound processor if he builds a second version, since the Arudino he used just doesn’t have enough power to sample and run calculations within the 10-50 microsecond window he requires.

Keep reading to see a video of his sound localization sensor in action.

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Turning music into a light show

[nickinoki] Made a light show using some amplifiers and an arduino. First he created a microphone circuit based around a LM386 Audio Amplifier. After amplifying the output of the microphone a second time, he uses three bandpass filters to block all but a few desired frequencies from reaching the arduino.  By only letting a few frequencies through the arduino is able to determine if the song is louder at higher or lower frequencies.  Then using the three analogue inputs he created a scheme for generating the light show on an arduino. While he was unable to achieve the exact target frequencies with his bandpass filters they worked well enough to allow him to successfully generate the light show.

Segfault: balancing transport using a dozen op-amps

The Segfault is a balancing transport similar to a Segway, but it uses analog comparators instead of digital circuitry. On board you’ll find no less than twelve LMC6484 op amps. They take signals from the gyroscope and the accelerometer, balance and filter them, then drive the motor h-bridges accordingly.

[Charles], the guy behind the Segfault, is also the one responsible for DeathBlades. As with that project he does just as well at documenting as he does at fabrication. Take some time to enjoy his posts associated with this two-wheeled-wonder (especially the build process) and then watch in the video after the break.

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