HC-SR04 Isn’t the Same as Parallax PING))) But It Can Pretend to Be!

“It’s only software!” A sentence that strikes terror in the heart of an embedded systems software developer. That sentence is often uttered when the software person finds a bug in the hardware and others assume it’s going to be easier for fix in software rather than spin a new hardware revision. No wonder software is always late.

[Clint Stevenson] is his own hardware and software guy, as are most of us. He wanted to use the less expensive HC-SR04 ultrasonic rangefinder in a prototype. Longer term he wanted to have the choice of either a Parallax PING or MaxBotix ultrasonic sensor for their better performance outdoors. His hardware hack of the SR04 made this a software problem which he also managed to solve!

[Clint] was working with the Arduino library, based on the Parallax PING, which uses a single pin for trigger and echo. The HC-SR04 uses separate pins. Originally he modified the Arduino library to accept the two pin approach. But with his long term goal in mind, he also modified the HC-SR04 sensor by removing the on-board pull-up resistor and adding a new one on the connector side to combine the signals. That gave him an SR04 that worked with the single-pin based library.

We’ve seen Parallax PING projects for sensing water depth and to generate music. These could be hacked to use the HC-SR04 using [Clint’s] techniques.

[Arduino and HC-SR04 photo from Blax Lab]

Make your RC car drive itself with this simple brain swap


If the kids have lost interest in that RC car or truck you bought them over the holidays, [Randy Sarafan] from Instructables has a few ideas that might help make the toys fun again, while teaching your kids a bit about electronics in the process. In his writeup, he shows how to swap out the brains of your run of the mill RC truck, enabling it to do far more than was originally intended. The procedure is pretty simple, and something that you can easily involve your kids in, if you’d like.

He uses an Arduino and a motor shield to keep the conversion simple, but this can be done with just about any capable microcontroller you might have on hand. [Randy] added a Parallax Ping sensor to the front of the truck enabling it to avoid objects as it drives itself, but since he cut out the truck’s original control board we’re assuming that there’s no way to override the truck’s actions at present.

[Randy] calls the conversion a “robot” though it seems like more of a semi-autonomous rover if you ask us. Regardless, revamping an old RC car is certainly far better than letting it collect dust on a shelf, or worse, tossing it out during spring cleaning.

Continue reading to see a short video of [Randy’s] RC truck in action.

[via HackedGadgets]

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Range finder musical toy


Instructables user [sketchsk3tch] was looking to make a fun toy for his kids using things he had around the house and came up with the Ping Organ. The organ is played by standing in front of the Parallax Ping range sensor, and moving around any which way you please. He interfaced the range sensor with an Arduino, scavenging a small speaker from an old toy for audio output.

The code for the project is fairly straightforward, borrowing most of it from the demo software that shipped with the Ping and the Arduino. He made a few small tweaks in order to get the organ to play frequencies of actual notes, as well as to allow for some flexibility when calculating the specific note to play.

While not the most complex project we have ever featured, [sketchsk3tch] reports that his kids love to spend time flailing around wildly in front of the organ, which is exactly what he intended.
Video of the organ being tested after the break.

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