The force is strong with this Christmas tree light show

star-wars-christmas-tree

[Zach] is a huge Star Wars fan, and in addition to the array holiday decorations that adorn his house, he says that his wife is nice enough to let him put up a Christmas tree full of Star Wars ornaments. For the past few years, the tree sat in the corner of the room unlit, but his wife thought that it should have some lights this year.

His wife came home with a small string of battery-operated lights, but [Zach] wanted something with a bit more geek cred. He decided to program the lights to play the Star Wars theme song, translating the tune’s pitch to light intensity.

He dug through his bin of electronics and found an MSP430 along with a small target board that would do the job nicely. He sat down with some sheet music, translating the notes to PWM values, resulting in the light show you see below.

While his wife provided a lovely violin accompaniment to the tree, we think that a small audio module would make a great addition to the tree next year.

[Read more...]

Star Wars Imperial March Played by Dual Floppy Drives

Although many have made some sort of music with improvised electronics, few sound as cool as this Imperial March from Star Wars played by two floppy drives. According to [Pawel], “It’s nothing new” and quite simple. This may be true as we’ve featured an Imperial March-playing floppy drive here before, but it was only one drive. Although it may not be the London Symphony Orchestra, the two drives together sound quite good!

According to him, the FDD has a fairly simple interface. To move the head, one simply needs to pull the DRVSB pin low and then activate the STEP pin on a falling edge.  This will make the head move one direction dependent on the DIR pin state. In this case, an ATMega microcontroller is moving everything. An explanation of the pins used in this hack can be found here.

Although it may look like an intimidating hack on the surface, something like this might be a neat project to try with some old hardware and an Arduino or other controller! [Pawel] did have the idea to hook up a 5 1/4″ and 8″ drive to make a full FDD orchestra, so we can’t wait to see what he comes up with! [Read more...]

Quadruped military vehicles from back in the day

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While Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog is pretty impressive, check out this video of the US Army’s first attempt at a quadruped vehicle. Created in the early 1960s with the help of GE, this Army experiment was the first successful attempt of replicating a four-legged animal with a mechanical machine.

This “Walking Truck” was driven by a single operator who moved each of the vehicle’s legs using force-feedback hydraulic levers. Choreographing the machine’s movement was quite complicated, and during testing the Army found that the operator needed a mental break after only 15 minutes of use. As you can see in the video, the vehicle flexes some serious muscle. It kicks a Jeep out of its way with little effort, but it is still able to gently step on a light bulb without breaking it, due to the level of tactile feedback received by the operator.

If it weren’t for government budget cuts, we could be living out [George Lucas’] dream of AT-AT based combat right this minute!

[via Gizmodo]

CNC-built R2-D2 brings childhood dreams to life

r2d2_build

As a kid, [Wes] always dreamed of building a full-size, functional R2-D2 droid from Star Wars. While most youthful aspirations such as this fall to the wayside amid adult responsibilities and commitments, he did not allow his dreams to disappear along with his childhood.

He began his droid-building journey armed only with his dreams and some assistance from the friendly folks over at R2Builders. The entire replica was built using MDF, wood, and styrene sheeting, along with just one tool: a CNC machine. He walks you through the every step of the construction, stopping to give recommendations on CNC hardware, software, etc. along the way. He also provides Gcode files for each of the pieces he has constructed, which should be a huge help to anyone looking to build a R2-D2 clone of their own.

It looks like he is just getting around to fitting motors into the leg housings of his R2-D2 replica, but we can’t wait to see what it looks like once he has all of the electronics and other details finished.

If you are interested in more R2-D2 coverage, look no further than right here.

R2D2 wannabe lacks lightsaber launcher, autonomy

Is this what the lovable Star Wars droid would look like without its protective skin? This R2D2 inspired robot is another Olin College of Engineering (where that CNC cake decorator came from) build developed by [Nathaniel Ting] and his classmates. Alas, it lacks autonomy, relying on an operator for guidance. But we enjoy it for the build quality. Two motorcycle batteries supply DC motors on the two rear legs of the trike. It can be driven with a wireless Xbox controller or through a Python interface that also randomly plays droid audio clips from the movie. That’s a tilting projector on top, which would be used to show Princess Leia’s pleas for assistance. That is, after the operator plugs in an extension cord to power it up. Oh well, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. See for yourself after the break.

[Read more...]

Lightsaber boasts detachable blade and crystal chamber

[Bradley W. Lewis] continues to amaze us with this Return of the Jedi Lightsaber build. You’ll remember his fine work from his previous Episode IV replica. He’s taken the parts that turned out well for him and expanded upon them. In the demonstration after the break you’ll see the new version has a removable blade (which happens to house 90 LEDs). Just like the last time he’s got a Hasbro sound board and a speaker to add the Jedi-like sound effects. But there’s another trick up his sleeve. Two parts of the grip slide apart on a spring-loaded assembly to reveal the crystal that gives the weapon its sting. And as we found out the last time, [Bradley] really knows how to share his work in the build log.

Oh, and the drawings above? Well, someone who plans this meticulously obviously knows what they’re doing.

[Read more...]

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