MacGyver, Jedi Knights, Ammo Stockpiles, and Candy Crush

Everyone’s favorite machinist, tinkerer, YouTube celebrity, deadpan comedian, and Canadian is back with a tale of popping a few benzos, stumbling around Mexico, and wondering why everyone else on the planet is so stupid.

The hero of our story considered the feasibility of one hundred and eighty-sixth trimester abortions as he stood outside a Mexican airport watching a stockbroker complain about the battery in his cellphone. Meanwhile, cars drove by.

Here’s how you charge a phone with a car battery and an ‘ol Dixon Ticonderoga.

To charge a battery, all you really need to do is connect the terminals to a power source with the right voltage. A cell phone battery needs about three volts, and a car battery has twelve. You need a voltage divider. You can get that with a pencil. Take out a knife, get to the carbon and clay wrapped in wood, and wire the battery up. Make a cut a quarter of the way down this rather long resistor, and there you will find something around three volts.

Does it work? Yeah. It works even better if you have some tape to hold wires onto the cell phone battery when charging. Is it smart? It is if there is no other conceivable way of charging your cell phone. Should you do it? Nah. Video below. Thanks [Morris] for the link.

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A Ring of Colored Pencils

Colored Pencil Ring

[Peter] proved he has equal parts prowess, patience, and perseverance with this colored pencil ring (imgur link). The ring is made from a cross-section of several colored pencils. The idea seems simple. The build process IS simple. As always though, the devil is in the details.

[Peter] started with a cheap pack of colored pencils. They have to be hexagonal pencils, as round ones won’t work well for this build. [Peter] used two nails to align the  pencils, and medium thickness Cyanoacrylate glue to bond them together. Cyanoacrylate (aka super glue) is a very strong but inflexible bond. We’re curious if a different adhesive might have worked better for this task.

Once the block of glued pencils was dry, [Peter] drilled a hole approximately his ring size. He used a band saw to cut a rough ring blank around the hole, then headed to the wood lathe. He mounted the ring with a jam chuck, which is a piece of wood turned to an interference fit with the workpiece. The problem was that the jam chuck cracked the ring as it was being installed. [Peter] was able to glue the ring back together, and turn it down on his lathe.

Click past the break for more on [Peter’s] ring.

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Giant pencil used as an Etch a Sketch stylus

The gang over at Waterloo Labs decided to add a team-building aspect to a plain old Etch a Sketch. Instead of just twisting the two knobs with your own mitts, they’re converting this giant pencil’s movements into Etch a Sketch art.

The challenge here is figuring out a reliable way to track the tip of the pencil as it moves through the air. You may have already guess that they are using a Microsoft Kinect depth camera for this task. The Windows SDK for the device actually has a wrapper that helps it to play nicely with LabView, where the data is converted to position commands for the display.

On the Etch a Sketch side of things they’ve chosen the time-tested technique of adding gears and stepper motors to each of the toy’s knobs. As you can see from the video after the break, the results are mixed. We’d say from the CNC ‘W’ demo that is shown there’s room for improvement when it comes to the motor driver. We can’t really tell if the Kinect data translation is working as intended or not. But we say load it up and bring to a conference. We’re sure it’ll attract a lot of attention just like this giant version did.

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Toy helicopter charging fix

[Onefivefour] was surprised that his E-flite Blade MCX radio controlled helicopter came with a charger that used AA batteries to recharge the lithium batteries in the flying unit. Yeah, that’s a bit crazy. He set out to modify the base unit to work with AC power. There are four batteries inside this base unit, one of them powers the charge detector circuit and the others are used to juice-up the chopper’s rechargeable cells. He took a 5V regulated charger from a Motorola cellphone and modified it to interface with the contacts for the three AA cells. Like the Magic Trackpad hack, he did this without altering the holder by cutting a couple of pencils to length and attaching the positive and negative contacts from the AC charger to them. Check out the video after the break for a walk though, noting how he still has the option to go back to battery power if he so chooses.

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Pencil balancer a bit noisy for desk use

Who wouldn’t want to install this little bot as your newest pencil holder? Place a pencil tip-down and it will keep it from falling using two motors. There is a Dynamic Vision Sensor for each axis that provides feedback, but it’s not the same as using a camera. These sensors pick up changes in pixel contrast, outputting a positive or negative number based on the direction the pencil is beginning to fall. An NXP2103 running at 64 MHz reads in the values and drives the pair of servo motors accordingly.

If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty the full paper is available from the page linked above. It goes into great detail about the algorithm used, and includes plots and histograms showing the data capture during a balancing session. Or you can skip the eggheaded exercises and watch the video after the break.

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Paper touchpad

If you don’t mind getting your fingers a little dirty you can replace your mouse with a piece of paper. [Dr. West] made this touchpad himself, which measures signals at the corners of the paper using four voltage dividers. The paper has been completely covered with graphite from a pencil (which we see in hacks from time to time), making it conductive. The user wears an anti-static strap that grounds their hand, allowing an Arduino to calculate contact points on two axes when a finger completes the circuit. See this controlling a cursor in the video after the break.

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Solderless Drawdio Terminally Implemented

So you’re stuck in a boring class and you can’t fight off the urge to hack something, even your pencil, to pass the time. Maybe you are performing a live electronics show and you drop your synth down a flight of stairs and all that you are left with is a handful of components, a screw terminal block and a pencil. There are thousands, perhaps millions of these kinds of situations and for each one the answer is the solderless drawdio clone by [Martin].

You may have seen the original Drawdio here before, a fun piece of technology that is simple enough to recreate. This latest approach would make an excellent introductory project for a hacking workshop seeing as the guide is straightforward and the lack of soldering would make logistics so much easier. The results are very similar to the original–check the video after the break. Continue reading “Solderless Drawdio Terminally Implemented”