A breakout board for your Android phone

[sparkfun] announced a new board called the IOIO (pronounced “yo-yo”) this week that allows communication from your Android devices to your upcoming projects.

The board hasn’t been released yet; [sparkfun] is still pulling together documentation and waiting on their first production run. We do know that the board contains a PIC24F MCU, and will give your phone analog input,  and Digital I/O, PWM, I2C, SPI, and UART control. Communication with the board is over the USB port on your phone.

The brilliant thing about this board is that an external programmer isn’t required. Everything you connect to this board can be controlled from within Android apps. We covered Android development in a hackaday tutorial series before, so now it’s possible to put these skills to give your projects a touch screen, internet and bluetooth connections, a camera, or your phone’s accelerometers. Very slick.

Video of some basic functions demonstrating what possible with this board after the jump, but feel free to comment and tell us what you’d like to see done with this board.

Retake on a Wii remote controlled balancing robot

[Tijmen Verhulsdonck] built his own version of a Wii remote-controlled balancing robot. He drew his inspiration from the SegWii, which was built by [Ara Kourchians].

The body is built using one of our preferred fabrication methods; threaded rod makes up a rail system, with three sheets of hard board serving as a mounting structure for the motors, electronics, and battery. This does away with the 9V batteries used on the original SegWii, opting for a very powerful lithium battery perched on the highest part of the assembly. It uses an Arduino as the main microcontroller. That detects roll, pitch, and tilt of the body by reading data from a Sparkfun IMU 5 board (we’re pretty sure it’s this one). Check out the videos after the break. The first demonstrates the robot balancing on its own, then a Wii remote is connected via Bluetooth and [Tijmen] drives it around the room by tilting the controller. The second video covers the components that went into the build.

This is impressive work for a 17-year-old. [Tijmen] lists his material cost at $800 but since he’s Dutch this might not be a USD currency.

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Portable bench supply carries around 10 amp-hours of juice

[Punish3r] wanted to have power for prototyping on the go. What he came up with is this little thing above. Inside you’ll find common components that let the unit provide 10 amp hours of current with a 12V 500mA output.

The storage capacity is provided by a dozen Lithium batteries. These 3.7V cheapies are wired in parallel behind a protection board. For charging and discharging, a Sparkfun LiPo charger board was used, taking care of all the work necessary to top off the batteries using a wall-wort. The final piece in the puzzle is a boost converter that provides the regulated 12v connected to the red and black banana plug receivers on the bottom of the case.

This is very much a plug-and-play design… just make sure you hook the parts up correctly and you’re up and running. We would love to see a roll-your-own boost converter circuit that include a switch or dial that lets you select common PSU voltage levels. If you’re going to the trouble to make your own board you might as well incorporate the charging circuit at the same time.

[Thanks Paul]

Sparkfun free day recap

It looks like the dust has finally settled with sparkfun’s free day. They managed to give away $150,541 to users and $22,988 to charity.  The general idea is you could ether take $10/year you’ve been a sparkfun customer, or take a 10 question quiz and earn $10/correct answer plus some money for charity. It looks like some technical difficulties prevented people from taking the quiz until free day had been under way for a couple of hours. Once they managed to fix the problem the money went pretty fast, eating up the last $40,000 in about 5 minutes. So did anyone manage to get anything good? Be sure to checkout sparkfun’s recap video after the break for more details.

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SparkFun free day 2011: now with gambling

SparkFun has just announced a Free Day for 2011. Last year was the first time they decided to give away $100,000 in the form of $100 credits that melted down their servers and made the rest of the world (you know, the non-geek sort) ask what SparkFun was when it started trending on Twitter, Google, and every other form of digital communication.

Well, they’re doing it again this year, albeit quite differently. Mark your calendar for Thursday, January 13th at 9am Mountain Standard Time. But it’s not as simple as having your cart pre-filled and trying to bum rush the checkout pages. Now you’ve got options; take a loyalty payout of $10 for each year that has passed since you registered an account with them, or gamble for a $100 credit. The latter involves answering ten questions, rewarded with $10 for each correct answer and penalized $3 for each wrong answer. If you don’t finish all ten before the money runs out you get zip.

There’s several bits of good news here. First, they just picked up a new rack of servers which should help keep the website from crashing. Secondly, the prize money has been ramped up by %50 to a total of $150,000. And finally, if you choose to answer the trivia questions, $2 is being donated to charity for each correct answer. So study up on your electronic theory and you can help others while trying to help yourself.

[Thanks Diego]

Project enclosures the right way

[Stephen Eaton] created an enclosure and shared his process in a pair of blog post. We thought is was amusing that he remarks on how rarely his projects get the to point that you’d want to make an enclosure for them. We’ve certainly got a lot of bare-PCB creations lying around. But when it does come time, we think his fabrication method is a good way to go.

First of all, he didn’t start from scratch. He already had a SparkFun project case sitting around. The problem is figuring how to make it work for your situation. We’ve used a drill, a Dremel, and a file in the past and that yields passable results but nothing that would be mistaken for anything other than a carefully mangled project box. [Stephen] decided to mill the openings he needed from the box, which yielded professional looking results. He started by emailing SparkFun and asking if they could give him a 3D model of the project box and the obliged. He then modeled the LCD screen, LED light pipes, button, USB port, and SD socket. From there it was off to the mill with a custom jig and a few tricks we think you’ll appreciate. The end result is just another reason to build the CNC mill you’ve had on your mind for so long.