Turbot is a Beam/Picaxe Hybrid

BeamBot

[James] wanted to build a BEAM turbot. He ran into some problems with the BEAM circuitry though, and ended up with a BEAM/Picaxe hybrid.
Beam robotics are the brainchild of Mark Tilden. The acronym stands for Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, and Mechanics. BEAM based bots were very popular with hobbyists in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but popularity has since died down. BEAM robots tend not to use microcontrollers, instead attempting to simplify things down to the lowest number of elements.

[James’] turbot uses a miller solar engine. The original design used the engine to drive a Solar Turbot Latch. [James’] problem was that the photodiode “eyes” of the robot were not properly enabling the 74AC245 to pass current to the motor. Since the robot was built in a tiny space, debugging the circuit was extremely hard. After struggling with the ‘245 for some time, [James] decided to swich out the BEAM circuit for a Picaxe microcontroller.

The Picaxe can only sink or source about 20ma per pin, which is slightly less than the no load current of [James’] motors. To make up for this, he ganged up four pins per motor. There was some risk in the motors blowing up the Picaxe. However between the lightly loaded gearmotors and low current solar panels it seems to be working just fine.  Overall the bot is a very clean, compact build. Jump past the break to check out its really smooth crablike walking action.

[Read more...]

Award clock put to good use as a bench meter

award-clock-turned-voltage-meter

The motivation industry turns out these type of award trinkets by the millions. Here’s a way to actually put the thing to use. Instead of displaying time, the clock dial serves as the readout of a voltage meter.

When we first saw this post we assumed that the hack used some type of coil injection to drive the hands. But it turns out that this is mechanically driven. The image above shows the stepper motor which is mounted behind the clock. Its drive shaft is coupled with the adjustment knob on the back of the clock. The precision of the motor lets the PICAXE set the clock dial based on the number of motor steps. The hour hand shows the tens value with the minutes serving as ones (base 10, not base 60). This means the top measurable voltage is 12V — when the hour hand is at 12 the measurement is 0 volts plus tenths of a volt from the minute hand. With the dial taken care of the rest of the project focuses on measuring the voltage using the ADC, which has an upper limit of just 5V. This is overcome with a simple voltage divider.

After the break you can see the accuracy of the rig as it performs measurements next to a digital voltmeter.

[Read more...]

Robot has rhythm; carries drum sticks

drumming-robot

This little robot needs to go on the road with the Blue Man Group. The treaded rover carries its own drum sticks and uses random objects as its drum set.

We admit that this is not a fresh hack. It harkens from 2008 but this is the first time we can remember seeing the little guy. After viewing the video embedded after the jump we think you’ll agree the project deserves to be seen by as many aspiring hardware hackers as possible.

Perched atop the pile is a speaker, with a second hidden between the yellow treads. The lower unit lets the PICAX 28 microcontroller produce beeps and pops, while the upper unit provides a background track for the drumming. The two rods extending above the ultrasonic rangefinder are connected to a couple of motors and drum along with a third stick that looks like a tail. Even the servo that sweeps the rangefinder from side to side keeps the beat. The synchronized magic is all in the code, which you can get your hands on in step 11 of this longer build tutorial.

[Read more...]

AM Chiptunes played by a modified antenna analyzer

Believe it or not, this VK5JST aerial analyzer kit is going to rickroll you. [Erich] wanted to see if he could use the device in a different way. His adventure led him to use it to feed different tones to an AM radio, producing the all too familiar [Rick Astley] offering.

There’s a fair bit of math that goes into getting the correct signals to generate a given pitch. But it basically boils down to patching into the hardware early in the RF generation. This way an audio signal can be rolled into the carrier frequency. Since this kit uses a PicAXE microcontroller with available source code it is rather easy to add audio input to tweak what the chip is putting out. But there is also some hardware tinkering to be done. Read more about that at the article linked above, and don’t forget to check out the bottom of that page to hear the final results.

Cat trainer will keep them off the counters

Our cats are not allowed on the kitchen counters, and [Iron Jungle] has the same rule. But he spotted some foot prints on the hood above his range and the addition of a security camera caught this picture of [Kelso] breaking the rules. Since he’s not always around to make the fur-ball behave he built an electronic cat trainer to do it for him.

The functionality needed isn’t very intricate. You need to monitor when the cat is where it shouldn’t be and then chase it away. For the latter he grabbed an infrared range finder. When the cat passes in front of the sensor it will trigger the second part of the system: a high-pitched buzzer that’s extremely loud. Any microcontroller will have no trouble driving the system. In this case it’s a PICAXE 28X1.

You can see the trainer in action after the break. It definitely works, because just playing the video chased our own sleeping kitty out of the room.

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A Simple RF Signal Strength Meter

rf_metr_breadboard

[Scott] wrote in to us with his simple, but well done RF signal strength meter. As he points out in his post, sometimes an Arduino is overkill, so a Picaxe 08M was used instead. Apparently this was a refresh of a high school project that he did. Certainly many of us would have liked to go to that high school!

An interesting part of this project is how he used a laser cutter to produce his PCB traces. This was done by applying black paint to the copper on his board and cutting everywhere he didn’t want copper traces. The results were quite good, and should work well when this project is finalized in an enclosure

Check out the video after the break to see this circuit in action. He explains the build in it, but if you just want to see the signal strength lights come on, fast forward to around 2:25. [Read more...]

Pingbot: adorable and fully documented

After building many functional but somewhat unfinished looking bots, [Tomdf] really wanted to produce something that felt “complete”.  Pingbot is the result and here’s how [Tomdf] describes it:

Pingbot is a very small (38mm diameter), usb rechargeable, programmable, musical, remote control robot designed for maximum fun and danceability.

Though I wasn’t inclined to dance I did find myself smiling watching the video. Pingbot does look finished and has quite a bit of personality too. The brains inside the Pingbot are a Picaxe 08m2. With a 110mAh Li-Po battery, Pingbot can dance happily for a quite a while too. When juice is running low, just plug into your USB port for a recharge. You can find all the info and schematics on the instructible as well as the files to print your own Pingbot shell.

[Read more...]

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