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.

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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.

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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.

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Scratch-built RFID reader

We never bought an RFID reader because it seems too simple to be all that much fun. But [Abdullah] really caught our eye with his latest project. It’s an RFID reader built from discrete parts, and that’s an adventure we can get behind!

His write-up dives right into the theory of the device. He wrapped his own coil, which measure about one microhenry, then shares an equation used to calculate the appropriate capacitor pair for it. This is fed by a 125 kHz oscillator and works as the most basic reader. In practice this needs more components for rock-solid operation and he quickly moves to a marginally more complicated circuit which still does exactly the same thing.

He is now able to detect RFID tag data by reading this circuit with an oscilloscope. But the signal is very very weak. The rest of the post focuses on how to best utilize an OpAmp to increase signal quality and on/off time.

If you’re looking to recreate his reader [Abdullah] included a Kicad schematic and board layout.

Chiptune player uses preprocessed .MOD files

[Kayvon] just finished building this chiptune player based on a PIC microcontroller. The hardware really couldn’t be any simpler. He chose to use a PIC18F2685 just because it’s big enough to store the music files directly and it let him get away with not using an external EEPROM for that purpose. The output pins feed a Digital to Analog Convert (DAC) chip, which in turn outputs analog audio to an LM386 OpAmp. The white trimpot sandwiched between the chips controls the volume.

The real work on this project went into coding a program which translates .MOD files into something the PIC will be able to play. Because of the memory limits of the chip it is unable to directly use all of the instrument samples from these files. [Kayvon] wrote a program with a nice GUI that lets him load in his music and page through each instrument to fine-tune how they are being re-encoded. The audio track from the video after the break doesn’t do the project justice, but you will get a nice look at the hardware and software.

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Morse Code interpreter

[Sulaiman Habsi] and two classmates put together a Morse Code interpreter as a class project at Sultan Qaboos University. The system listens to a morse code signal using a microphone, then translates that input to text which is displayed on this character LCD.

The breadboarded circuit feeds an audio signal from the microphone, through an OpAmp, to the ADC of an ATmega8 microcontroller. The captured signal is stored as a byte in a special way. The three least-significant bits signify how many total dots or dashes are contained in the character, the remaining bits represent those dots and dashes with zeros and ones. A full description of this process is included in a PDF linked in the article above. As you can see in the video after the break, the hardware waits to process all of the signals once the full message has been received.

This would be a great add-on for a Morse Code practice keyer.

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