DIY Hot Wheels Drag Race Timer

[Apachexmd] wanted to do something fun for his three-year-old son’s birthday party. Knowing how cool race cars are, he opted to build his own Hot Wheels drag race timer. He didn’t take the easy way out either. He put both his electronics and 3D printing skills to the test with this project.

The system has two main components. First, there’s the starting gate. The cars all have to leave the gate at the same time for a fair race, so [Apachexmd] needed a way to make this electronically controlled. His solution was to use a servo connected to a hinge. The hinge has four machine screws, one for each car. When the servo is rotated in one direction, the hinge pushes the screws out through holes in the track. This keeps the cars from moving on the downward slope. When the start button is pressed, the screws are pulled back and the cars are free to let gravity take over.

The second component is the finish line. Underneath the track are four laser diodes. These shine upwards through holes drilled into the track. Four phototransistors are mounted up above. These act as sensors to detect when the laser beam is broken by a car. It works similarly to a laser trip wire alarm system. The sensors are aimed downwards and covered in black tape to block out extra light noise.

Also above the track are eight 7-segment displays; two for each car. The system is able to keep track of the order in which the cars cross the finish line. When the race ends, it displays which place each car came in above the corresponding track. The system also keeps track of the winning car’s time in seconds and displays this on the display as well.

The system runs on an Arduino and is built almost exclusively out of custom designed 3D printed components. Since all of the components are designed to fit perfectly, the end result is a very slick race timer. Maybe next [Apachexmd] can add in a radar gun to clock top speed. Check out the video below to see it in action. Continue reading “DIY Hot Wheels Drag Race Timer”

Microcontroller communications using flashing lights

phototransistor_pc_microcontroller_communications

[Scott] was driving in the pouring rain behind a car with its blinkers on when inspiration struck. He had previously created a simple communications system using his sound card that allowed him to send data to a microcontroller from his PC, but he thought that doing the same thing with light would be an interesting exercise.

He decided that the best way to go about building such a system would be to use a phototransistor along with his computer monitor to send data to his microcontroller. While he couldn’t really think of any practical application for the project, that didn’t stop him from putting it together just for grins.

[Scott] says the circuit is dead-simple, and includes a pair of phototransistors along with their required resistors. The receiver was tied into the ADC of his microcontroller, where he was easily able to pick up some simple light patterns. His ultimate goal is to put together a javascript application that sends data to his microcontroller, though he’s looking for a bit of assistance on the programming side of things – any takers?

While [Scott] couldn’t come up with any applications off the top of his head, we know of at least one. Anyone familiar with the Bloomberg financial application will likely have come across their “B-Unit”. This piece of hardware is about the size of a credit card, but thicker. Armed with a fingerprint scanner and a photodiode, it reads a series of flashing lights from your computer screen in order to ‘synchronize’ the unit for each login session that is not initiated with an official Bloomberg keyboard. So there’s one for you!

Continue reading to see a video of the system in action.

Continue reading “Microcontroller communications using flashing lights”