Stop Traffic In This 7-Mode LED Running Jacket

[Miria] was tired of tangling with bicyclists on her nighttime runs. It was obvious to her to illuminate herself, but she thought it would be really cool if the lights responded to her heart rate. The short summary that tipped us off is over at NYC Resistor, and [Miria] gives the gory details on her blog. The LEDs operate in seven different light modes that increase in speed proportionate to her heart rate.

She started the build around an Arduino but found that the compatible heart rate sensors were mostly optical and gave inaccurate readings. Since she was already using a Garmin GPS watch and heart rate monitor band, she decided to hack into the conversation between the two. Garmin uses the ANT protocol for this. While [Miria] found the documentation to be an effective sleeping pill, she also found that SparkFun has an ANT transceiver breakout board. Unfortunately, it’s been discontinued.

[Miria] continued undeterred, using the SparkFun board for prototyping. Her final version uses a Teensy 2.0 and this ANT transceiver in place of the ill-fated SparkFun board. She found an Energizer power pack that plugs directly into the Teensy and can power both Adafruit weatherproof LED strips for about an hour. Look both ways, and check out her demo after the break.

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Retrotechtacular: Upgrading Train Signaling Before the Information Age

retrotechtacular-british-railway-signaling

What’s surprising about the subject of this week’s Retrotechtacular is that the subject is not from that long ago. But looking at the way in which the work was done makes it feel so far in the past. In 1974 the British Railways Board set out to modernize and interconnect the signaling system. What you see above is one of hundreds of old signal control houses slated to be replaced by an interconnected system.

These days we take this sort of thing for granted. But from the start of the project it’s clear how the technology available at the time limited the efficiency of the development process. We’re not talking about all of the electro-mechanical parts shown during the manufacturing part of the video. Nope, right off the bat the volumes of large-format paper schematics and logic diagrams seem daunting. Rooms full of engineers with stacks of bound planning documents feel alien to us since these days even having to print out a boarding pass seems antiquated.

With fantastic half-hour videos like this one available who needs television? We’d recommend adding this to your watch list so you can properly enjoy it. They show off everything; manufacturing the cables, stringing them between the signal towers, assembling the control panels, testing, and much more.

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Retrofitting a 60-year old electric heater

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[John] found an old Kenmore electric heater at a junk store one day, and thought it would look great in his bathroom. The only problem with the unit is that it was built back in the 1940s/1950s, so it lacked any sort of modern safeguards that you would expect from an indoor heater. There was no on/off switch, no fuse, no thermostat, and no tip switch – though it did have a nice, flammable cloth-covered power cord.

Since [John] wasn’t too keen on burning his house down in the name of staying warm, he decided to retrofit the old unit’s shell with a new ceramic heater. He found a $20 unit that looked like it would fit, so he disassembled both heaters and got to work. The Kenmore’s innards were scrapped, then he gave the unit a nice fresh coat of high-temp paint. The new heater was cut to fit inside the old unit’s shell, controls and safety features intact.

He says that it works very well, and that it looks great in his bathroom. If you’re considering doing something similar, be sure to check out his writeup – it is very thorough and has plenty of details that will help you along the way.

Light up biking vest shows impatient drivers how fast you are going

nighttime_bike_speed_vest

[Mykle Hansen] is an avid cyclist, and safety is a big concern for him. He says that bicyclists often receive a lot of honks and grief from passing motorists because they perceive them as moving far slower than they really are. According to [Mykle], this misjudgment can result in “right hook” collisions, which kill several bicyclists each year. To increase his nighttime visibility and to give drivers a better idea of how fast he’s traveling, he constructed a bicycling vest that displays his current speed in large 7-inch tall numbers.

He uses an off-the-shelf speedometer to get his current speed, feeding that data to an Arduino tucked inside his vest. The Arduino then lights the appropriate EL wire digits to relay his speed to motorists behind him.

It seems to work pretty well if the video below is any indication, and there’s no denying that it will catch a driver’s attention at night. If you’re thinking of making one for yourself, check out his Make:Projects page for a complete look at how it was put together.

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AM/FM SOS beacon saves your bacon

bacon_beacon_breadboard

[BadWolf] sent us a device called the “Bacon Beacon“, which is his 555 Design Contest entry. In short, it’s a life-saving device that emits an S.O.S. signal in Morse code over both the AM and FM bands. The device uses five 555 timers to get the job done, each of them dedicated to a specific task. Three of the timers are used for clocking and Morse generation, while the remaining two are used to produce and transmit an audible signal over the air waves. Currently, the signal can be received about a mile away from the source, which would theoretically allow for a search and rescue team to locate you with a simple radio and directional antenna.

The current design is still a bit rough around the edges, but the final plans would have the circuit built into a flashlight-like device equipped with red and green signaling LEDs. It’s a clever project and would make for a great tool if you got lost while hiking, or in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Stick around for a quick video of the Bacon Beacon in action, and swing by [BadWolf’s] site if you want to know why his project has such a strange moniker (hint: it’s not because it can “save your bacon”).

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Quiet Dust Extractor from Scavenged Materials

As with many of the projects covered on hackaday, [bongodrummer]‘s Dust Sniper came about because of a lack of effective commercial solutions, in this case to the problem of quiet dust extraction.

Workshops are generally full of dust and noise, both of which take their toll on the human body. This is why safety regulations exist for noisy and dusty workplaces and–as [bongodrummer] rightly points out–we have to take precautions in our own home and community workshops. Hearing protectors, dust masks and safety goggles are integral, but reducing the amount of dust and noise in the fist place is paramount.

Using mostly scavenged materials [bongodrummer] did a quality job building the Dust Sniper–and all for a bill of materials totaling £20. It has an integrated work surface, automatic switches on 2 vacuum lines to sync up with power tools, a cyclonic air filter that prevents clogging the HEPA filter and reducing suction power, inlet and outlet soundproofing, and a plain old power outlet for good measure.

Whether or not you’re interested in building an integrated workbench/extractor system like this one, we recommend you check out the details of the cyclone filter and the sound reducing components. Not only are they an interesting read, but they could be useful to apply in other projects, for example a soldering station with fume hood.

We think it would be really neat to include more cyclones in our projects. Stick around after the break to see [bongodrummer]‘s prototype cyclone filter in action.

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Coded safety for diy laser

Finally we see a hack that is focuses on safety when it comes to high-power laser hacks. A safety switch has been added to the butt of the flashlight body which houses the laser diode. When the safety is flipped on an LED blinks to prompt the user for a security code. If you enter the correct code on a momentary push switch, electrical access to the laser is enabled. There are also a couple of nice features such as continuous on and auto shutoff.

This would be hard to implement if you’re working on a watertight package but we like the fact that an unsuspecting house guest won’t go blind if searching for a flashlight during a storm. One last thing, the code entry system is PIC based which reminds us of [Alan Parekh's] one-button system.

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