Temp-Sensitive Automatic Blinds


Any opportunity to shave a few bucks off your power bill is probably worth considering, especially if it’s a device like [Steve Hoefer's] Mini Blind Minder. This little guy staves off (or welcomes) the sun by monitoring the room with a temperature sensor and checking against a setpoint. If the room is too warm or too cool, the top-mounted servo will spin the wand and close or open the blinds, respectively.

[Steve] started by building a homemade Arduino shield from some perfboard to which he added a handful of discrete components: some current-limiting resistors for the RGB LED indicator light and a 10k trim pot for fine-tuning the temp sensor. Although this build forgoes an LCD readout to display precise information, it does provide feedback by stepping the RGB LED’s color through a spectrum of blue to red to indicate how the current room temperature compares to your setpoint. The two momentary pushbuttons beneath the light allow the user to adjust the setpoint up or down.

See the video below for a detailed guide to building your own, and take a look at a similar automatic blinds build from earlier this year that opens and closes in response to ambient light.

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Remote Servo-controlled Lightswitch


We frequently get home automation tips, many of which have simple circuit-based on/off control for lights. [Paulo Borges] has created something quite different, however, with his in-the-wall servo-controlled light switch. This build forgoes the need of any relay to switch mains power, and because it’s physically flipping your switch, provides a distinct advantage over other builds that require a phone or tablet interface: you can use your switches as you normally would.

[Paulo] picked up a rocker-type switch at the local hardware store and carefully pried off the large, flat switch plate to notch out a small hole at its fulcrum. He then carefully shaped a piece of 12 gauge wire to provide a pivot point for the servo. His choice to use wire here seems to be entirely to provide a sturdy yet bendable component that functions mechanically rather than electrically. A small 9G servo fits to the back of the switch’s housing, and the servo’s arm connects up to the previously attached 12 gauge wire. He pieced together the remote control feature with an RF link kit with an inexpensive 433mhz Code duplicator from eBay.

[Paulo] explains that his Instructable is simply an overview rather than a step-by-step guide, so if you’re eager to reproduce this hack you’ll have to work out the code and the remote control portion yourself. He also acknowledges the biggest remaining hurdle: finding space in the wall to shove all the microcontroller guts. Check out a couple of videos of the switch after the break, and remember, there’s always the option of doing away with all light switches.

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Twitter Knitter combines 40 year old hardware with modern social media

When presented with a vintage Empisal Knitmaster knitting machine, members of the TOG Dublin Hackerspace worked together to not only bring it back from the dead but to also add some custom hardware that allows for computer generated patterns.

At first the Knitmaster was in fairly bad shape requiring a few custom machined parts just to function.  It was originally designed to feed in special punch cards that mechanically directed the many moving parts of the machine (called “dibblers”) to knit patterns in yarn.  Using an Arduino, a number of servos, and a microswitch to detect when the knitting carriage is pulled across, this card-read system was replaced with a computer controlled mechanism that can direct the machine to print out images one row at a time.

Of course, you don’t get too many opportunities to name your project something as cute as “The Twitter Knitter”, so once the system was working, it was only a matter of writing some code to snatch tweets from the web and generate images out of the text.  Visitors of the Dublin Mini Maker Faire got to watch it in action as they posted tweets with a particular hashtag which the machine happily printed in yarn (as long as they weren’t too long).

Video demo after the jump.

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An elegant timepiece from paper and a fistful of servos


Segments rise from a sheer white surface to reveal the time in this papercraft digital / analog clock build by [Jacky Mok].

New York-based designer [Alvin Aronson] is responsible for the original, titled “D/A Clock,” which he built as a student at RISD using Corian instead of paper. [Aronson]‘s design is also massive in comparison. It measures one meter wide by a half meter tall. Without access to either a 3D printer or to a laser cutter, [Jacky] instead reduces the scale of his interpretation and relies on cardstock as the primary construction material. His experience with papercraft typography leads to a design that anyone with an Exacto knife and a slice of patience should find manageable. [Jacky] ignores the Exacto option, however, and cuts his pieces with a tool we saw earlier this year: the Silhouette Portrait.

The clock’s electronics include an Arduino Uno, a servo motor controller, twenty-eight servos and an RTC breakout board that handles timekeeping. Each servo drives its own segment by sliding a paperclip forward or backward inside a small, hollow aluminum rod. Though we’re still holding out for a video of the finished papercraft build, you can watch a video of Aronson’s original clock after the break and see what inspired [Jacky's] design.

Need another clock to envy? Last month’s build by [ebrithil] uses twenty-two servos to individually spin the segments. If you prefer that your clocks light up, [Aaron's] o-scope transformation has you covered.

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Twenty two servos and an awesome clock


We can never get enough interesting clock builds, and [ebrithil]‘s servo clock (Deutsche, Google translation) is up there with the best of them. There’s twenty-two servos in this clock, moving time forward with the mechanistic precision only an Arduino project can.

The digits in [ebrithil]‘s clock are constructed like seven-segment displays, only instead of lighting up LEDs, servos turn small bits of paper that are light on one side and dark on the other. Turing the servo 180 degrees changes each segment from one shade to the other, making for an electromechanical seven-segment display.

The servos are controlled by an Arduino Mega connected to a DS1302 real-time clock. One problem [ebrithil] had with this project is having the segments rotate slightly every time someone turned on a light attached to the same circuit. He solved this problem by running the circuit off a perpetually charging cell phone battery, allowing him to take this clock on the go without losing time.

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Hardware store robot hand


Here’s a robot hand which can be built using mostly hardware store items. It doesn’t have the strongest of grips, but it does have lifelike movement. The demonstration video shows it picking up small objects like a metal nut.

The image above shows the ring and pinky fingers of the hand beginning to flex. These are controlled by the servo motors mounted in the palm area. The skeletal structure of each digit begins with the links of a bicycle chain. The links are first separated by removing the friction fit rods. Each rod is replaced with a screw and a nut, which also allows the springs (which open the digits) to be anchored at each ‘knuckle’.

[Aaron Thomen] didn’t stop the design process once the hand was finished. He went on to build a controller which lets you pull some rings with your fingers to affect movement. This movement is measured by a set of potentiometers and translated into electrical signals to position the hand’s servo motors. The demo, as well as two how-to videos are embedded below.

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Vine app hack on iPhone makes time-lapse movies


The Vine app is all the rage these days. It lets you shoot six-second videos on your iPhone and easily post them on the Internet. The problem is that [Sean Hodgins] doesn’t find the time limit to be useful for traditional video. But you can cram a lot more info into a half-dozen seconds if you make it a time-lapse video. The rig above is his solution to making the Vine app act as a time-lapse recorder.

The trick is in how the app itself works. It only records video when you’re touching the screen. So you record one second of video, then remove your finger and it ‘pauses’ the recording until you’re ready for the next scene. [Sean] automated this by adding a servo motor and a stylus. An Arduino drives the servo, making quick taps on the screen to get as many different frames into the six seconds as possible. He had a bit of trouble registering quick taps at first. His solution was to inject 3.3V into the stylus he gutted for the project. Click through the link above to see some example videos, or watch this embedded video to see the hardware at work:

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