Sensor array tries to outdo the other guys

The team over at the Louisville Hackerspace LVL1 is not going to be outdone when it comes to collecting environmental data. They put together this Frankenstein of sensor boards that lets you collect a heap of data showing what is going on around it.

At the center-left a small Arduino clone is responsible for collecting the data. Data storage is not talked about on their write-up, but if that’s an ATmega328 chip you should be able to work out an easy way to store data on the 1k of internal EEPROM. If that’s not enough, there is an I2C bus included on the board making it easy to add a compatible EEPROM.

The sensor on the bottom left should look familiar. It’s a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor we’ve seen popping up in projects lately. But wait, there’s also a TMP102 temperature sensor; but that’s not the end of it. A BMP085 pressure sensor also includes a third temperature sensing option. Want to see when the lights go on in the room? There’s a CdS sensor and a TSL230R Lux sensor for that. An op-amp circuit can measure the sound level in the room via one of the Arduino’s ADC pins. And finally, an RTC board is used for time stamping the data.

Obviously this is overkill, and we’re sure it’s meant as a test platform for various sensors. All of them have been mounted on the protoboard and wired up using the point-to-point soldering method.

Logging bubble frequency and pressure in your fermenter

In an attempt to add technology to his brewing process [hpux735] build a sensor rig that monitors bubbles and pressure during fermentation. What does this have to do with brewing great beer? We’re not sure and neither is [hpux735], but he’s got some preliminary readings to spark your imagination.

The bubble sensor itself was inspired by a SparkFun Tutorial where fermenting wine was monitored with a data logger. It uses an optical gate to detect the passage of air. But the goal here was to combine bubble frequency with internal pressure measurements to calculate how much CO2 is being vented. Perhaps it would be possible to get an idea of how close the batch is to completion based on those calculations. A hole was drilled into the fermenter side of an airlock to take these pressure readings.

This actually works quite well during secondary fermentation when the bubble frequency is quite slow. The hardware is able to discern a pressure difference before and after a bubble has passed the lock. Unfortunately the system breaks down during the vigorous bubbling that takes place soon after pitching yeast. See a few bubble-counting clips in the video after the break.

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Improving a cheap espresso machine

For those of us that would like a good cup of coffee but don’t want to put up with the ‘burnt butt’ taste of Starbucks and don’t have a decent coffee shop nearby, we’ve had very few options. Most of us have been made to suffer with an el-cheapo espresso machine. [Joe] sent in a great build that improves these el-cheapo models and brings them up to the quality we would expect from their more expensive brethren.

For the best pull from an espresso machine, the great [Alton Brown] says 200° F water must be forced through the grind at around 10 PSI atm. [Joe]’s espresso machine can’t build up pressure because the heating element is only active when the lever is in the ‘brew’ or ‘froth’ position. To build up pressure in the water reservoir, [Joe] simply added a pressure gauge to the frothing attachment. When the gauge reads the necessary 10 atmospheres, just move the lever over to the ‘brew’ position and enjoy a nice cup of espresso.

[Joe] has already tested the pressure relief valve of his espresso machine. With the gauge in the way, [Joe] can’t make use of his frother, but a secondary valve could easily remedy that. [Joe] hasn’t published his espresso hack anywhere, but he did email us some pics of his build. We’ve embedded them as a slideshow after the break. Check out the pressure gauge on the frothing attachment and the pressure relief valve below.

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Pressure mapping sensor mat

[imsolidstate] built his own pressure sensitive mat. It utilizes two discs of copper clad board with a piece of foam in between for each of 64 sensors. As the foam gets compressed, the capacitance between the two pieces of copper changes, a measurement that is fairly easy to make with an analog to digital converter. The mat is being used to measure how well a horse saddle fits the animal. Data is read in through a serial port and then mapped using Excel. This prototype proves that the concept works but [imsolidstate] mentions that there’s room to improve the sensitivity and that there could be more noise filtering incorporated into the design.

Snapping pics at the right moment with a pressure plate

[BiOzZ] built a pressure sensitive camera accessory to snap pictures at just the right moment. Before turning out all the lights the camera is set up with a twenty-second timer and a three-second exposure. The pressure plate doesn’t take the photo, but fires the flash to catch an image in the middle of the action.

The hack uses a piece of acrylic as the base of the pressure plate. A switch is constructed by placing aluminum tape on the base, and attaching a thin metal strip that is bent to add just a bit of spring. When an object is place on the plate the thin metal contacts the aluminum tape completing the circuit, a change in the weight breaks it. A simple circuit connects to this, using a relay to actuate the flash from a disposable camera. This is perfect for documenting the moment when you exercise that fruit-induced rage that has been consuming you lately.

Printing with pressure

The video of [Thibault Brevet’s] printer makes it look like he’s actually designed a vinyl cutter (watch it after the break). But at the end of the printing process you see that the top layer was actually a piece of carbon copy paper and the magic was happening underneath. The print head applies enough pressure to transfer the blue-ish printing ink onto the paper giving the result seen above. He’s driving this with an Arduino and feeding data using Processing.

[Thibault] left this link in the comments from the LEGO printer post. Shame on him for not tipping us off as soon as he posted info on this hack. Don’t underestimate yourselves, if you hack it we want to hear about it!

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Theo Jansen: like the professor from Gilligan

[Theo Jansen] is building lifeforms that will live and thrive on the beach. He calls them StrandBeest and uses PVC electrical conduit, plastic tubing, and lemonade bottles as building material. The many-legged creations are amazingly advanced, able to count steps, sense and flee from the water’s edge, and protect themselves from high wind. He gave a TED talk back in 2007 that we’ve embedded after the break; it’s uncanny. See examples of his creations using fans and sails to store wind energy as compressed air in the lemonade bottles, then use that pressure for locomotion. He also demonstrates a binary step counter and water sensor. Continue reading “Theo Jansen: like the professor from Gilligan”