Morse code flower is trying to tell you something

morse-code-flower

To the casual observer this flower looks nice as its illuminated center fades in and out. But there’s hidden meaning to that light. Some of the blinks are longer than others; this flower is using Morse Code.

[Renaud Schleck] wanted to try a few different things with his MSP430 microcontroller. He decided on an LED that looks like a flower as it will be a nice piece of decor to set around the home. To add the Morse Code message he wanted something a bit more eloquent (and less distracting) than purely digital flashing. So he took the dots and dashes of the hard-coded message and turned them into fading signals by using Pulse-Width Modulation.

He free-formed the circuit so that it, and the coin cell that powers it, would fit in the flower pot. A reed switch is responsible for turning the juice on and off. When placed near a magnet the flower begins its gentle playback.

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Adding task lighting inside a desk

storage-task-lighting

[Mahesh Venkitachalam] wanted to light up the dark recesses of his desk. What good is all that storage if you can’t see a darn thing in there? His solution was to add LED strips which turn on automatically when the door is opened.

The design is quite simple. A 2N2222 NPN transistor is responsible for connecting the ground rail of the LED strips mounted under each shelf. The base of that transistor is held high with a pull-up resistor. But a reed switch always connects the base to ground when the door is shut. Opening the door removes the magnet that keeps that reed switch closed. This allows current to flow from the pull-up to the base, connecting the ground rail to the LED strips and turning them on. You can see the video demo after the break.

One problem that we see with the design is that these are driven by a 9V battery. Over a long period of time that pull-up resistor will drain the cell. You can pick up a magnetic reed switch at the hardware or electronics store that is rated for 500 mA. If you can stay under that with the LED strips, and get one that is open when the magnet is present you will have zero power drain when the lights aren’t being used.

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Revolight clone

[Fabian.E] wanted to light up the rims on his bike, but didn’t want to shell out a bunch of clams to get it done. He came up with this system which uses magnets and reed switches to light up one arc or each bicycle wheel.

He calls it the lightrider and it’s based on the revolights concept. That design uses a microcontroller which is capable of animating patterns when the wheels aren’t spinning. [Fabian’s] version can’t do that, but the effect while moving is basically the same. The ring of LEDs around the rim is connected to a battery via a set of reed switches. When these switches move past a magnet on the fork it completes the circuit and switches on that segment of LEDs. The clip after the break gives a demonstration of the finished product, and includes a fast-motion video of the fabrication process.

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An inside look on how reed switches are manufactured

reed-switch

[York] wrote in to share a video he stumbled across while researching reed switches and relays, which documents the tightly controlled process through which they are produced. Like many other electronic components out there, we usually don’t give a lot of thought to how they are made, especially when the final cost is relatively small.

For something often taken for granted, the process is an incredibly precise one, requiring a clean room environment the entire way through. The video follows the production line from beginning to end, including the soft annealing of the contacts to remove magnetic remanence, the sputtering process that applies sub-micron thick conductive coatings to the contacts, through the laser cutting and sealing of the glass tubes that make up the body of the switch.

At the end of the day, the video is little more than a manufacturer’s promotional video, but it’s worth the 8 minutes it takes to watch it, if only to satisfy your curiosity as to how they are made.

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Easy workout logging with Ethernet-enabled exercise bike

It will be easy to keep your exercise routine on track if you don’t have to do anything at all to log your workouts. [Reefab] developed this add-on hardware for his exercise bike that automatically logs his workout on the Internet.

He’s using RunKeeper to store and display the workout data. They offer a token-based API which [Reefab] implemented in his Arduino sketch. The hardware to grab data from the exercise bike is quite simple to set up. A rare-earth magnet was added to the fly-wheel with a reed switch positioned next it in order to measure the number and speed of rotations. This is exactly how a consumer bicycle computer works, needing just one accurate measurement corresponding to how far the bike travels with each revolution of that wheel.

In addition to the networked-logging feature [Reefab] included a character display so you can follow your speed and distance data during the workout.

Semaphore signal replica perfect for the train buff in your life

semaphore-signal

[John Philip’s] brother has a sizable room set aside for his model railroad setup, and he was looking for something interesting to add to his brother’s collection. Rather than construct something for the railroad itself, he decided that an early 1900’s-style semaphore railroad signal would make a great novelty item for the room.

The project started with [John] scouring the Internet for colored signal lenses. Once he found a set that worked for him, he crunched some numbers to ensure that the rest of the semaphore box stayed true to original scale. Inside the signal’s case you will find a small regulator board for his light source, an Arduino, and a motor controller board to actuate the arm.

To ensure that the signal arm is always perfectly positioned, he installed a pair of reed switches on either side of the case, enabling the Arduino to auto-calibrate the signal’s position each time it is powered on. At first, this control scheme might strike you as a bit over the top, but we really like the fact that the signal can always configure itself to function perfectly, even if someone tinkers with/bumps into/moves the arm at any point.

Be sure to stick around to see a short video of the semaphore signal in action.

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Motorized coop door lets the chickens out for you

[Larry] and [Carol] just upgraded the coop to make their lives easier, and to help keep the chickens happy. The image above is a chicken’s-eye-view of the newly installed automatic door. It’s a guillotine design that uses the weight of the aluminum plate door to make sure predators can’t get in at night. This is much easier to fabricate than a locking coop door would have been. Some leftover aluminum channel guides the door on either side, with a spool above it to wind up some rope, thereby lifting the door.

You can see the belt-drive motor is also mounted inside, out of the element. To the right of the image you can just make out a plastic food container. This protects the electronics from the elements. Inside you’ll find an H-bridge to drive the motor, a real-time-clock to make sure the schedule is well-timed, and an Arduino. There are a couple of reed switches which let the microcontroller sense the position of the door.

After the break you can see a demonstration video, as well as a slide show with build details. The motor is pretty quiet and, although it spooks the chicken in the demo just a bit, we’d be they’ll be used to it in no time.

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