Hacking the Crayola Digital Light Designer

[Harry] wrote in with his hack of the Crayola Light Designer. The Light Designer is a pretty unique toy that lets kids write on a cone-shaped POV display with an infrared light pen. [Harry] cracked one open and discovered it has a spinning assembly with a strip of 32 RGB LEDs for the display and a strip of photodiodes to detect pen position. These were ripe for the hacking.

The spinning assembly uses several slip ring connections to send power and data to the spinning assembly. [Harry] connected a logic analyzer to several of the connections to determine which lines were clock, data, and frame select (the strip is split into 2 16-led “frames”). He went on to reverse-engineer the serial protocol so he could drive the strips himself.

Instead of reverse-engineering the microcontroller on the product’s PCB, [Harry] decided to use a Leostick (Arduino Leonardo clone) to control the LEDs and spinner. He mounted the Leostick on the shaft of the spinning assembly, and powered it over the slip ring connections. After adding some capacitance to make up for noisy power from the slip rings, [Harry] had the POV display up and running with his own controller. Check out the video after the break to see the hacked POV display in action.

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This Is Not Your Father’s Power Wheel

If you had a Power Wheel vehicle as a kid you may have been the envy of the neighborhood. Even as fun as they were you probably out grew them. Lucky for a few youngsters, [Bob] hasn’t. Not only does he have several Power Wheels for his children to use, he does some pretty cool mods to make them even more fun.

Changing the stock motor out for a cordless drill is one of the first things that gets done. A few brands have been used but the  Ryobi 18v Cordless Drill is the favorite. The entire drill is used, including the reduction gearbox. The gearbox is switched to LOW gearing so that the drill has enough torque to move the combined weight of the vehicle and child. As much as it may sound odd to use a drill in this manner, the Power Wheel can get up to about 15 mph. A stock Power Wheels maxes out at 5 mph

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Hacking the Elefun

In a move reminiscent of many episodes of Home Improvement, [Xenon] decided to soup up one of his children’s toys. The Elefun is a toy the shape of an elephant that uses a built in fan to blow little butterflies into the air. They are notoriously weak and eat batteries like crazy. They don’t even have a plug for a wall adapter for power.

[Xenon] dug out a 7.5 V wall adapter from an old DSL modem. Since the Elefun normally ran on 6V, he figured this would give the toy a much needed boost. He began to open things up and prepare the soldering iron when he realized that he could just jam the wires into the terminals. The battery compartment screws shut, providing nice safety against electric shock.

He ended up with a much more pleasant experience for his little boy. The Elefun now jumps to life, spewing the butterflies out with ease. It actually shoots them out so quickly, he had to make some more just so the game would last longer.

This may not be the most complex hack or the most impressive execution. [Xenon] deserves some credit though, He recognized the design problems and made his own fixes for them. There’s at least one Elefun in the households of the Hack A Day staff that will be getting this treatment.
[thanks Chris]