THP Semifinalist: Farmbot

Farmbot Progress

The FarmBot team has been pretty busy with their CNC Farming and Gathering machine. The idea is to automate the farming process with precise deployment of tools: plows, seed injection, watering, sensors, etc. An Arduino with an added RAMPS handles the movement, and a Raspi provides internet connectivity. Their prototype has already experienced four major iterations: the first revision addressed bigger issues such as frame/track stability and simplification of parts. Now they’re locking down the specifics on internet-of-things integration and coding for advanced movement functions.

The most recent upgrade provides a significant improvement by overhauling the implementation of the tools. Originally, the team envisioned a single, multi-function tool head design that carried everything around all the time. Problem is, the tool that’s in-use probably works best if it’s lower than the others, and piling them all onto one piece spells trouble. The solution? a universal tool mounting system, of course. You can see them testing their design in a video after the break.

If the FarmBot progress isn’t impressive enough—and admittedly we’d have called project lead [Rory Aronson] crazy for attempting to pull this off…but he did it—the FarmBot crew started and successfully funded an entire sub-project through Kickstarter. OpenFarm is an open-source database set to become the go-to wiki for all things farming and gardening. It’s the result of [Rory] encountering an overwhelming amount of generic, poorly written advice on plant growing, so he just crowdsourced a solution. You know, no sweat.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

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Sweet Stepper of [Jeremy]‘s Rocks Out with its Box Out

Stepper motor MIDI music boxInspired by the floppy drive orchestras of others, [Jeremy] has built a Pi-driven MIDI music box with stepper motor resonators and outlined the build on hackaday.io.

Control for the motors comes from an Iteaduino Mega 2560. The music starts as a MIDI file, gets processed into a text file, and is played over serial by a Raspberry Pi. He’s added percussion using K’NEX instruments and 9g servos, which we think is a nice touch. It can be powered via LiPo or from the wall, and [Jeremy] baked in protection against blowing up the battery. As he explains in the tour video after the break, the box is clamped to a wooden table to provide richer sound.

[Jeremy]‘s favorite part of the build was enclosing the thing as it was his first time using panel-mount components. Stick around to see a walk-through of the guts and a second video demonstrating its musical prowess.

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Hacking a Pogoplug into a $20 PBX

Pogoplug Series 4 Backup Device

The Pogoplug Series 4 is a little network attached device that makes your external drives accessible remotely. Under the hood of this device is an ARM processor running at 800 MHz, which is supported by the Linux kernel. If you’re looking to build your own PBX on the cheap, [Ward] runs us through the process. Since the Pogoplug 4 is currently available for about $20, it’s a cheap way to play with telephony.

Step one is to convert the Pogoplug to Debian, which mostly requires following instructions carefully. After the Pogoplug is booting Debian, the Incredible PBX bundle can be installed. We’ve seen this bundle running on a Raspberry Pi in the past. Incredible PBX’s preconfigured setup based on Asterisk and FreePBX gives a ton of functionality out of the box.

With your $20 PBX running, there’s a lot that can be done. Google’s Voice service allows unlimited free calling to the USA and Canada. With Internet connectivity, you get email notifications for voicemails, and can query WolframAlpha by voice.

LEDs Turn This Paper Map into a Tram Tracker

Subway radar

Public transit can be a wonderful thing. It can also be annoying if the trains are running behind schedule. These days, many public transit systems are connected to the Internet. This means you can check if your train will be on time at any moment using a computer or smart phone. [Christoph] wanted to take this concept one step further for the Devlol hackerspace is Linz, Austria, so he built himself an electronic tracking system (Google translate).

[Christoph] started with a printed paper map of the train system. This was placed inside what began as an ordinary picture frame. Then, [Christoph] strung together a series of BulletPixel2 LEDs in parallel. The BulletPixel2 LEDs are 8mm tri-color LEDs that also contain a small controller chip. This allows them to be controlled serially using just one wire. It’s similar to having an RGB LED strip, minus the actual strip. [Christoph] used 50 LEDs when all was said and done. The LEDs were mounted into the photo frame along the three main train lines; red, green, and blue. The color of the LED obviously corresponds to the color of the train line.

The train location data is pulled from the Internet using a Raspberry Pi. The information must be pulled constantly in order to keep the map accurate and up to date. The Raspberry Pi then communicates with an Arduino Uno, which is used to actually control the string of LEDs. The electronics can all be hidden behind the photo frame, out of sight. The final product is a slick “radar” for the local train system.

Raspberry Pi Gets VGA, Dual Screen Support

VGA

The Broadcom SOC in the Raspberry Pi is actually surprisingly powerful, it turns out. It’s actually capable of driving a VGA monitor through the GPIO pins using a handful of resistors.

[Gert van Loo], Raspberry Pi chip architect, wizard, and creator of a number of interesting expansion boards showed off a VGA adapter for the new B+ model at the recent Raspberry Pi Jam in Cambridge this week. Apparently, there is a parallel interface on the SoC that can be used to drive VGA with hardware using a resistor ladder DAC. That’s native VGA at 1080p at 60 fps in addition to HDMI for the Raspberry Pi. Only the new Model B+ has enough pins to do this, but it’s an intriguing little board.

The prospect of having two displays for a Raspberry Pi is very interesting, and the remaining four GPIOs available mean a touch screen could be added to one display, effectively making a gigantic Nintendo DS. Of course there are more practical problems a dual display Raspi solves, like driving a projector for the current crop of DSP/resin 3D printers, while still allowing for a usable interface during a print.

The VGA expansion board, “is likely to have issues with EMC,” which means this probably won’t be a product. Getting a PCB made and soldering SMD resistors isn’t that hard, though, and we’ll post an update when the board files are released.

Thanks [Uhrheber] for sending this one in.

HackerSpace Monitor Monitors Hackerspace Environment

Hackerspace Monitor

What’s going on at the Hackerspace? If you can’t answer that, maybe your ‘space needs a HackerSpace Monitor. [Tayken] over at the Tokyo Hackerspace has come up with a way to remotely monitor all the stuff you’d want to know about the ‘space.

His project is based on a Raspberry Pi with a webcam connected to the Pi’s USB port by way of a hub. The webcam is set up to stream 2 frames per second, which is plenty to be able to judge the activity at the ‘space. A WiFi dongle is also plugged into the USB hub in order to gain internet access, send out the video and allow the ability to SSH into the Pi.

What if you’re on the fence about heading over to work on your favorite project but the current weather leaves you wondering what the temperature is going to be like at the hackerspace? Well, this project has that covered too. An off the shelf temperature and humidity sensor plugs directly into the Pi’s GPIO pins. [Tayken] used the Python-based package, RPi.GPIO, to manage the temperature and humidity sensor readings as well as a toggle switch that monitors if the main door is open or closed.

To get everything all the above information to be displayed on a webpage, [Tayken] had to do some fancy programming. Luckily for us, he has made all his code available for download. Not only is this a great convenience for members, but it can also show non-members when it is or isn’t a good time to show up to check the ‘space out.

Adding I/O to the Rasberry Pi Models A & B

PiMagic RaspPi to Arduino Shield Interface

The Raspberry Pi has been the basis for many cool projects. Even so, Models A and B have been criticized for having only a handful of GPIO pins available. Sure, the new Model B+ has a 40-pin GPIO header but what if you want to use your old RaspPi with a bunch of in and outputs? [Steve] is one of those guys and has done something about it by creating a pretty neat solution he calls the PiMagic. It’s a Pi Plate that has an on board ATMEGA328 running an Arduino bootloader. The RaspPi and the Arduino communicate via UART as [Steve] felt it was a bit simpler than going the SPI or I2C route.

The RaspPi GPIO’s run on 3.3v and the ATMEGA328’s like 5v. To solve this, the PiMagic has a Level Shifter that keeps the I/O of the two boards happy. Older Pi’s had a problem burning out PCB traces when supplying too much current on the 5v supply line. [Steve] threw in a fuse that will burn out before the Pi does to ensure that no Pi’s were harmed in the making of this project.

Now that a bunch of I/O are available, how do you physically access them? Well, the PiMagic has female headers in the typical Arduino layout. This way any Arduino Shield will plug right in. [Steve] made all his source files available for those who want to make one themselves. Find an assembly video after the break.

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