Home made BlinkM units

[Stephen] wrote in to show us this fun LED wall he constructed in his house. He says he was inspired by this project, but found the cost of the BlinkM units from sparkfun to be out of his price range. He really liked how they worked though, so he downloaded the schematic and firmware and built his own. He was able to fabricate 130 of his own for roughly 250 euros as opposed to the 1,452 euro price tag his sparkfun shopping cart had. That’s not a bad deal at all if you’re willing to invest the time in making your own PCBs and assembling the units. You can follow along on his site to see the entire construction process, as well as some pictures of his glass wall in action. The videos, however, aren’t loading for us. Great job [Stephen]!

According to Pete – new online video series

This is [Pete Dokter], the fourth employee that Sparkfun ever had and currently Director of Engineering there. As you can see, they’re not letting [Peter] come out of his hole. Instead of designing new breakout boards they’ve given him a camera that he’ll be using to record his occasional pontifications. ‘According to Pete’ will become a regularly occuring online show where he answers questions from around the Internets. We’ll admit that the first episode, embedded after the break, is a bit content thin – serving only as an introduction. But we think [Pete] has a pleasant manner and we look forward to what blossoms out of this modest beginning.

We’ve long been fans of engineering-oriented online shows such as [Dave Jones’] EEVBlog, [Bill Hammack’s] The Engineer Guy, A collaboration between [Chris Gammell, Dave Jones, and Jeff Keyzer] call The Amp Hour, [Jeri Ellsworth’s] A-Z Videos and her upcoming series, [Ben Heck’s] The Ben Heck Show…. and we could go on.

With offerings like these you don’t need to wait for traditional TV to transition to IP delivery. Just stop watching crap and start watching these interesting shows.

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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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