A Mini Op-Amp Based Line Following Robot


There’s no denying it. Super small robots are just cool. [Pinomelean] has posted an Instructable on how to create a mini line following robot using only analog circuitry. This would make a great demo project to show your friends and family what you’ve been up to.

Analog circuitry can be used instead of a microcontroller for many different applications, and this is one of them. The circuit consists of two op-amps that amplify the output of two phototransistors, which control each motor. This circuit is super simple yet very effective. The mechanical system is also quite cool and well thought out. To keep things simple, the motors drive the wheel treads, rather than directly through an axle. After the build was completed, the device needed to be calibrated by turning potentiometers that control the gain of each op-amp. Once everything is balanced, the robot runs great! See it in action after the break.

While not the smallest line follower we have seen, this robot is quite easy to reproduce. What little robots have you build lately? Send us a tip and let us know!

[via Embedded Lab]

Continue reading “A Mini Op-Amp Based Line Following Robot”

Accelerometer Poi


Even if you’ve never attended a rave, you have probably seen one portrayed on film or television. Those glowing spheres-on-a-string being swung around are called poi, and [Matt Keeter] has designed a pair with an accelerometer upgrade. Poi have a long history and were originally made from plants, but contemporary examples usually feature some kind of light, whether it’s fire, LEDs, or even glowsticks tied to shoelaces.

This build required double-sided PCBs and [Matt] had to custom make the protective covering that slips over the board. The poi are powered by 2 AA batteries fed into a 5V boost regulator. But wait, no microcontroller and no PWM? Actually, we think it’s quite clever that [Matt] took the output from the accelerometer and fed into an inverting amplifier. This keeps the voltage constant while allowing the accelerometer to vary the current. Had he used PWM, the fast motion of the swinging poi would instead produce a blinking effect.

An additional trimmer potentiometer accounts for variability in the accelerometers’ output by adjusting the default brightness. If the recent recap of Burning Man has you excitedly planning to attend next summer, you’d probably find plenty of opportunities to use these in the desert.

Crystal oven temperature sensor reads 0.01F resolution


[Scott Harden] continues his work on a high precision crystal oven. Being able to set a precise temperature depends on the ability to measure temperature with precision as well. That’s where this circuit comes in. It’s based around an LM335 linear temperature sensor. He’s designed support circuitry that can read temperature with hundredth-of-a-degree resolution.

Reading the sensor directly with an AVR microcontroller’s Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC) will only yield about 1-2 degrees of range. He approached the problem by amplifying the output of the sensor to target a specific range. For the demonstration he adjusts the swing from 0-5V to correspond to a room temperature to body temperature range.

Of course he’s using analog circuitry to make this happen. But before our digital-only readers click away you should view his video explanation. This exhibits the base functionality of OpAmps. And we think [Scott] did a great job of presenting the concepts by providing a clear and readable schematic and explaining each part slowly and completely.

So what’s this crystal oven we mentioned? It’s a radio project that goes back several years.

Continue reading “Crystal oven temperature sensor reads 0.01F resolution”

Super-cap powered blinky jewelry charged by the sun or USB


We don’t see ourselves wearing these pendants around, but we still enjoyed taking a look at the design. These are just two from a wide range of offerings meant to be worn around and recharged by the sun. But a cloudy day won’t ruing the fun; they can be topped off via USB as well. Parts lists and schematics are included in the assembly Instructables for both the Owl and the Heart.

[Marty] and [Robin], a brother and sister developement/design team, were showing them off at the Sector67 hackerspace in Madison, WI. The single integrated circuit used in both is an OpAmp responsible for managing the blinking. The heart board has a calculator-style solar cell which charges that 0.5F supercap. The Owl has just a 0.022F coin-type capacitor and features a different style of solar harvester. The six components around the cap are each individual solar cells. [Marty] told us that they pump out a ton of juice in direct sunlight, outperforming the calculator-style cell. The opposite is true indoors. But as we’ve seen before, indoor solar harvesting is a tough game.

Need even more bling around your neck? Check out these LED matrix pendants.

Pulse Oximeter from LM324, LED, and Photodiode

This pulse oximeter is so simple and cheap to build it’s almost criminal. The most obvious way to monitor the output of the sensor is to use an oscilloscope. The poor-man’s stand-in for that is a sound card, which is what [Scott Harden] demonstrates in his write-up.

It uses a concept we’ve seen a few times before. The light from an LED shines through your finger and is measured on the other side by a phototransistor. It’s that light grey plastic thing you see on a patient’s finger when they’re in the hospital. [Scott] went with a common wooden clothes pin as a way to mount and align the sensor with your finger. It is monitored by the simplest of circuits which uses just one chip: an LM324 op-amp. There are three basic stages which he explains well in the video after the jump. The incoming signal is decoupled before being fed to the first amplifier stage. From there it is fed to an adjustable low-pass filter to help eliminate 60Hz noise from AC power in the room. The last stage amplifies the signal again while using another low-pass filter in parallel.

Continue reading “Pulse Oximeter from LM324, LED, and Photodiode”

Nebulophone microcontroller synthesizer project sounds great

Judging from the video (found after the break) the Nebulophone is one of the best sounding DIY synthesizers we’ve seen. Especially when you consider the simplicity of the hardware design. It uses an AVR chip and an OpAmp. The rest of the parts are just a few handfuls of inexpensive components.

The device was developed by Bleep Labs, and they sell the synthesizer kit seen on the left. But since it’s an open source project you can follow their design to fabricate your own, which is what [BlinkyBlinky] did with his offering seen to the right.

An ATmega328 drives the device, which is the chip often used in the Arduino Duemilanove. The keyboard is a set of traces hooked to the microcontroller. These are tinned pads on the kit PCB, but the DIY version simply uses some adhesive copper foil with a jumper wire soldered to it. The keys are played with a probe that makes the electrical connection, a common practice on these stylophone type designs. Chances are you have everything on hand to make this happen so keep it in mind for that next cold winter weekend that’s making everyone a bit stir crazy.

Continue reading “Nebulophone microcontroller synthesizer project sounds great”

Making your anime papercraft move to the music

This anime character is dancing to the music thanks to some animatronic tricks which [Scott Harden] put together. She dances perfectly, exhibiting different arm and head movements at just the right time. The secret to the synchronization is actually in the right channel of the audio being played.

The character in question is from an Internet meme called the Leekspin song. [Scott] reproduced it on some foam board, adding a servo to one arm to do the leek spinning, and another to move the head. These are both driven by an ATtiny44. All of the movements have been preprogrammed to go along with the audio track. But he needed a way to synchronize the beginning of each action set. The solution was to re-encode the audio with one track devoted to a set of sine wave pulses. The right audio channel feeds to the AVR chip via an LM741 opamp. Each sine wave triggers the AVR to execute the next dance move in the sequence. You can see the demo video for the project after the break.

Continue reading “Making your anime papercraft move to the music”