One Micro Bit Accomplishes Its Goal

Like the Raspberry Pi, the BBC Micro Bit had a goal of being foremost an educational device. Such an inexpensive computer works well with the current trend of cutting public school budgets wherever possible while still being able to get kids interested in coding and computers in general. While both computers have been co-opted by hackers for all kinds of projects (the Pi especially), [David]’s latest build keeps at least his grandkids interested in computers by using the Micro Bit to add some cool features to an old toy.

The toy in question is an old Scalextric slot car racetrack – another well-known product of the UK. But what fun is a race if you can’t keep track of laps or lap times? With the BBC Mirco Bit and some hardware, the new-and-improved racetrack can do all of these things. It also implements a drag race-style light system to start the race and can tell if a car false starts. It may be a little difficult to intuit all of the information that the Micro Bit is displaying on its LED array, but it shouldn’t take too much practice.

The project page goes into great detail on how the project was constructed. Be sure to check out the video below for some exciting races! The build is certain to entertain [David]’s grandkids for some time, as well as help them get involved with programming and building anything that they can imagine. Maybe they’ll even get around to building a robot or two.

Thanks to [Mark] for sending in this tip!

Continue reading “One Micro Bit Accomplishes Its Goal”

Replacement controllers for slot car racing

replacement-controllers-for-slot-car-racing

That blur on the right is a car racing into the frame. But look around the rest of the image and you’ll see the area is littered with extra hardware. [Matthew], [Doug], and [Barry] have been hard at work adding extra functionality and replacing the original controllers on this Scalextric slot car setup. So far it looks like their build log has not caught up with all the work they’ve done. We’re hoping to learn more details as they have time to write about them (this is coursework at University so we’re sure there’s a lot on their plates). But for now there are several videos and a gallery of images to drool over.

The cars are controlled by the voltage level in the track. The team replaced the stock controllers with a Raspberry Pi. It manages that voltage using Pulse-Width Modulation via MOSFETs. This allows the races to be automated but also makes it simple for a human operator to use just about any input device imaginable to control the cars. For good measure they also added a lap counter that uses an IR LED and detector to sense when a car passes the finish line.

After viewing several of their videos we think the goal of the project is to log the fasts times without sending the cars flying off the tracks during the turns.

Drop everything and build this go-kart right now!

There are awesome projects, and then there are things that make us drool on the keyboard. We just got done wiping up our mess after seeing this go-kart which uses four hub-motors as direct drive wheels. We’ll admit, this is more artwork than a hack as these guys are mechanical engineers and know what they’re doing. But how could we pass up sharing something like this?

The design is smaller than any of the other go-karts we remember seeing. The low-backed pilot seat is the biggest part, with a cubby-hole beneath it for the batteries and control hardware. Each of the hub-motors was hand wound and reading through the related blog posts it seems this was a huge and painful part of the build.

So it’s pretty fun to watch these guys tear up the hallways of one of the engineering buildings at MIT. But the footage of a two-kart race up a spiraling parking garage in the middle of the night is absolutely delightful. You’ll find both videos embedded after the break.

Continue reading “Drop everything and build this go-kart right now!”

Racing with Dyson’s spare parts

When it comes time to unwind at the Dyson design facility these engineers know how to do it right. Recently, the company challenged their engineers to a grown-up version of the Pinewood Derby in which they raced their own cars powered by a Dyson motor.

The video after the breaks shows a large collection of these time trials on a track made from upturned wooden pallets. Most of the vehicles are made from parts which we don’t recognize. But some of them are very familiar like our favorite hand dryer ever (seen above) and the iconic goldenrod manifold from the Dyson ball vacuum cleaner.

The course ends abruptly, as you can see in the last run of the video. There is one entry that included a human rider and he seems to be going nearly as fast as the riderless carriages are. The video cuts away before he hits the wall, but we can’t image he had the time to include brakes in that design.

Continue reading “Racing with Dyson’s spare parts”

Maze-solving robo mouse

Looking for something to build that will be challenging and interesting to laypersons at the same time? Take some inspiration from this maze-solving robot mouse. It take the idea of a line-following robot, and makes it infinitely more cool. The tiny rover uses sensors to map out a physical maze. Once it figure it out, you put it back at the beginning for a speed run to the finish. We’ve embedded the video below showing the whole process. Looks like the speed-run is completed in just under five seconds.

Now that you’ve enjoyed a virtual mouse in a real maze, check out a real mouse in a virtual maze.

Continue reading “Maze-solving robo mouse”

$500 Craigslist car competes against $400,000 race car…

…and wins. Well, 3rd in class, but still surprisingly well for such a cheap entry. This is truly a show that with enough elbow grease and headlight fluid anything can be accomplished money just makes it a ton easier.

Everything from the roll cage to the 5 minute gas tank fix was fabricated by [Bill Caswell]. Well — fabricated is a rough term for duct tape at that point, but this is still an awe-inspiring and truly motivational story for any hacker and car enthusiast alike.

[Thanks TJ Walker]

USB accelerometer controller

As you can see above, there is no wiimote in that accessory steering wheel. There is, instead, a home-made accelerometer controller that connects to the pc via USB. Based around a PIC 18F2550 and a 2 axis accelerometer, this device is detected by windows as a standard controller. The schematic and source code are available on his website. He says it can also be used as a “motion mouse”. You can see a video of that after the break.

When we first saw the video, we thought it might be the same person as the accelerometer controlled maze project, due to the wiimote steering wheel casing.

Continue reading “USB accelerometer controller”