Happy meal toy scavenging

We’re sometimes shocked at the electronics included in ‘disposable’ items. For some reason (our tech inclinations?) we’ve been getting those audio greeting cards from relatives and it kind of kills us to see the PCB, batteries, and speaker in what would have otherwise been a fully recyclable card. Now we’ve got several sets of those guts waiting around for our next project.

[David Cook] cracked open another disposable item, an Avatar action figure that came as a Happy Meal prize. What he found inside will actually be useful. There’s a battery holder for the three coin-cell batteries, A blue LED (for those blue LED hacks our commenters are so fond of), and a piezo speaker. There are some other discrete components that may be of use to you but the first three are certainly a boon for those that areĀ  junk scavengers like us.

Has anyone else found some goodies inside these types of free toys? We’d love to hear about them in the comments. But for now we’re just glad to see the first good thing to come out of that annoying market saturation that accompanied the movie release.

Incidentally, [David’s] h-bridge writeup is our go-to reference for building quick motor controllers from parts on hand, or that can be purchased locally.

[Thanks Gron]

Scratch built jog wheel


[whatsisface] sent in his scratch built clone of a Griffin PowerMate. The PowerMate… is just a big knob, so it’s easy to see why more than one person has attempted this. [whatsisface] was inspired by a bit-tech post that did nearly the same thing, only they used the head out of a VCR for the knob. All the other components, like the optical encoder, are salvaged from a mouse, which we talked about in our scavenging How-To. He used a RC car tire for the actual knob. While we’re sure it works great in dirt, we’d probably go with the weight and inertia of the VCR head instead. Have a look at the video below to see the knob being used with the Volumouse software.

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How-To: Scavenge a mouse for parts

ps2 mouse opened
Chris Kiick posted about swarm robotics earlier in the week and today publishes his first Hack-A-Day How-To.

Old computer mice are being abandoned in droves. They’re tossed out because of dirt, obsolescence, or for being entirely too beige. Anyone who has a computer usually has more than one mouse and you can get them for pennies, if not free just for asking. Fortunately for the discriminating (read: cheap) hacker, these little widgets are chock-full of project parts. Today’s How-To will dissect a computer mouse, extract the useful parts, and give some ideas about how to use them.

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How-To: Where to find parts for your projects


Hunting down the right parts usually takes more time than soldering everything together. I can’t count the number of projects that I tried to build and couldn’t find some key component that’s no longer made. You can help put together a list of suppliers at the end, but the idea is to have a quick reference to get your projects rolling (saving your money for important things, like espresso). Even if you’re familiar with the usual electronics parts shops, chime in to help me create a list of the best suppliers to fuel those hardware hacking projects.

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