Chicken-powered Pendulum

Every once in a while we get sent a link that’s so cute that we just have to post it. For instance: this video from [Ludic Science]. It’s a wind-up chicken toy that kicks a pendulum back and forth. No more, no less.

But before you start screaming “NOT A HACK!” in the comments below, think for a second about what’s going on here. The bird has a spring inside, and a toothed wheel that is jammed and released by the movement of the bird’s foot (an escapement mechanism). This makes the whole apparatus very similar to a real pendulum clock.

Heck, the chick toy itself is pretty cool. It’s nose-heavy, so that under normal conditions it would tip forward. But when it’s wound up, tipping forward triggers the escapement and makes it hop, tipping it backward in the process and resetting the trigger. The top-heavy chicken is an inverted pendulum!

And have a look, if you will indulge, at the very nice low-tech way he creates the pivot: a bent piece of wire, run through a short aluminum tube, held in place by a couple of beads. Surely other pivots are lower-friction, but the advantage of using a rod and sleeve like this is that the pendulum motion is constrained to a plane so that it never misses the chicken’s feet.

Our only regret is that he misses (by that much) the obvious reference to a “naked chick” at the end of the video.

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The Lightgame Project: A Multiplayer Arduino Game

lightgame_3Summer is upon us. The Lightgame Project is a multiplayer reaction time based game built around the Arduino. It’s a perfect rainy day project for those restless kids (and adults!). Designed by two undergraduate students [Efstathios] and [Thodoris] for a semester long project, all the hard work has already been done for you.

There are tons of reasons we love games that you can build yourself. For one, it’s an amazing way to get children interested in hobby electronics, making, and hacking. Especially when they can play the game with (and show off to) their friends. Another reason is that it is a perfect way to share your project with friends and family, showcasing what you have been learning. The game is based on your reaction time and whether or not you press your button when another players color is shown. The project is built around two Arduinos connected via I2C. The master handles the mechanics of the game, while the slave handles the TFT LCD and playing music through a buzzer.

I2C is a great communication protocol to be familiar with and this is a great project to give it a try. [Efstathios] and [Thodoris] did a great job writing up their post, plus they included all the code and schematics needed to build your own. It would be great to see more university professors foster open source hardware and software with their students. A special thanks goes out to [Dr. Dasygenis] for submitting his student’s work to us!

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Learning letters, particularly R, F, I, & D

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After [yohanes] picked up a toy at a yard sale – a Leap Frog Letter Factory Phonics – he thought he could do better. The toy originally asked a child to find a letter, and after digging one of 26 plastic characters out of a plastic tub and placing them on the Letter Factory’s sensor, would play a short musical ditty. [yohanes]’ version does the same, but because he made it himself it is infinitely more expandable.

The letters for [yohanes]’ version are RFID tagged. This, combined with a cheap RFID module and a bluetooth module means a Raspberry Pi can read RFID cards from across the room. From there, it’s a simple matter of writing up some Python to ask his toddler for a letter, reading the bits coming from a bluetooth, and keeping score.

The build isn’t over by a long shot. [yohanes] still needs to make his build multilingual by adding Indonesian and Thai. There’s also a possibility of adding a spelling game to make it more interesting.

Tickle-Me-Elmo… Frozen In Carbonite

elmo-in-carboniteWe at [HAD] love any hack that combines children’s toys with science-fiction technology, so seeing a Tickle-Me-Elmo “frozen” in [Carbonite] is a definite win in our book. It’s also a great argument for joining your local Hackerspace, or just getting together with some like-minded friends. This idea came out of an impromptu brain-storming, or “talking about crazy ideas session” at the [Baltimore Node] hackerspace.

Fortunately [Todd] had access to all the tools necessary to make this “crazy idea” a reality. A [Shopbot] was used to cut out the box, and the side panels were 3D printed with help from these files on Thingiverse. For processing, an [ATtiny85] programmed using an Arduino was used to power this project.

There’s no mention of whether [Todd] would be willing to part with his creation, however, we would guess that there would be no bargaining with him. He’s not going to give up his favorite decoration easily.

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Building a pirate cannon for fun and plunder

pirate-cannon-build

Our days by the pool are behind us for the year. But playing pirate ship with a 2-year-old does sound like quite a bit of fun. That’s why [The Stone Donkey] built this pirate cannon prop complete with firing sounds.

The simplicity of the design is pretty brilliant. Three segments of PVC and five fittings make for a realistic looking barrel that won’t throw your back out when you pull this one out for playtime. After some cutting and gluing the entire thing was sprayed with matte black paint. The bit of rope wrapped around the barrel is a nice touch. The base was made with some scrap pine, but it’s that little wooden box on top that makes it really special. It is the fuse box, and a tap of the finger gives a burning fuse sound and video followed by an earth-shattering kaboom. [The Stone Donkey] used his old Droid X Android phone and wrote an app for it that puts on the sound and light show. Take a look in the clip after the break.

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Astounding papercraft skills result in this working robot

It would have been very hard to believe this is made from paper if we hadn’t seen all the parts being built. As a still image it looks neat, but the speed at which those paper gears turn in the video after the break will certainly leave you slack-jawed. It really is a walking robot made using papercraft (translated).

These are actually being sold as kits, but there’s not much in the way of materials. You’ll get six sheets of paper, some skewers which act as the axles, and a bit of elastic band which stores potential energy when winding-up the model. The genius is in the design, which is printed on those sheets of paper. The build process involves plenty of delicate work. Dozens of cuts lead into hundreds of folds, and that’s before assembly even starts. We’ve never considered building a ship in a bottle, but this might be right up our alley. If you need to give a gift to a tinkerer this should show up high on the idea list.

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How to Control Your Cheap RC Car with a Computer

[Jon] wrote in to tell us about his programmable RC car, and the Howto guide that he’s made. According to him, this project can be constructed with $9 worth of parts plus an Arduino and a small toy car. So around $50 if you’re starting from scratch.

At it’s core, this project is about using the Arduino to allow your computer to send signals to the toy car. For this, [Jon] has included JAVA code that should be able to run on Mac, Linux, and PC operating systems. The Arduino code is also included.

Most small RC cars like those used in this project switch on at full speed or turn off, but this project allows the PC/Arduino to give the car PWM signals to control the speed. As pointed out in the video after the break, this can be a bit jerky at slow speed, but still a neat effect. A decent amount of soldering is required to get this project working, but it may be a good project especially if you have some of the parts already available! Continue reading “How to Control Your Cheap RC Car with a Computer”