An umbrella stand that tells you the weather forecast

This project takes an umbrella stand and gives it the ability to let you know if you need to take an umbrella when you leave the house. The image above is a concept drawing, but a first prototype was built and seems to work quite well. See for yourself in the video after the break.

The project was put together by openPicus. They sell a prototyping module called the Flyport which provides a WiFi connection to your projects. This board connects to a set of LEDs which are used to illuminate the translucent plastic umbrella stand. But you might not notice the color change if the LEDs were always on. Also designed into the system is a PIR motion sensor. When you walk toward the door to leave for the day it switches on the appropriate color — green for clear, blue for raining, and red for storming — catching your attention in time to grab an umbrella as you pass by.

You don’t need to spend a bundle to pull off a hack like this. You can scavenge for a PIR sensor, use one color of LEDs just to tell you when rain or storms are forecast, and an ENC28J60 is a cheap and easy Ethernet alternative to using WiFi.

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Umbrella-based windmills

[Niklas Roy] is at it again. He’s applying wind power to his projects by using umbrellas. He was inspired by the shape of an anemometer, and umbrellas turned out to be a great choice because they’re cheap and easy to find.

Anemometers measure wind speed by capturing it with egg-shaped sails (in fact, we’ve seen them built from plastic Easter eggs before). The umbrellas have a much larger area and will capture more wind. Still it’s a big jump from measuring wind speed to generating energy. That’s why he’s not trying to generate electricity, but instead using the mechanical force directly. He took a page from one of last year’s projects and used the dual umbrella setup to power a music box, thereby reinventing the wind chime. The triple-umbrella unit seen above serves as a bubble machine, driving a series of plastic rings through a soapy solution and letting the wind do the rest. We’ve embedded his demo video after the break.

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Rain activated light show in an umbrella

In a decision we completely agree with, these industrious young women decided that playing in the rain would only be more fun if it included an interactive light show. They wanted the rain itself to cause LEDs in their umbrella to light up. To achieve this, they put piezo sensors on each of the 8 panels of the umbrella. When that panel gets hit, its LEDs light up. You can see in the video after the break that it was quite effective.

Their next step should be to somehow increase the resolution to be similar to this one, while maintaining interactivity with the rain. How would you sense rain drops with more definition though?

[via Adafruit]

Fake Christmas tree makes it fake snow

Let it snow inside your house this Christmas by building your own snow making tree. [Trey] was inspired by a snowing lamp-post he came across in a story. He looked around the house and came up with all the stuff necessary to make this happen with a Christmas tree. The snow is loose Styrofoam like you’d find in a bean bag chair. At the bottom of the tree there’s an inverted umbrella to collect the snowfall and funnel it into a blower salvaged from an inflatable Halloween yard ornament. The blower shoots the Styrofoam up through a PVC pipe, which also serves as the trunk of the fake tree, and it erupts from the top bringing Christmas cheer to an otherwise quiet room. See for yourself.

Blade Runner umbrella saber

Here’s a Blade Runner umbrella build that is done just a little bit too right. It delivers a double-dose of geekery with its lightsaber-gone-rain-protector look but where we think it crosses the line is at the built-in audio system. When you turn it on it plays recordings of popular lines from Blade Runner, something that might not fly in public. But the quality is in a different galaxy compared to the dollar store illuminated umbrella that we looked at last year.

[Erv' Plecter] replaced the central support rod for the umbrella with a clear polycarbonate tube. An optic cable snakes through the hollow tube, illuminated by a Luxeon LED in the handle. The custom PCB and 900 mAh battery are both housed there as well. Take a look at (and listen to) the demo after the break. We’ll need to add this to our future projects list right after that Lightsaber movie replica build.

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Putting on a show in the rain

Let’s face it, walking around in the rain sucks. [Matth3w] is trying to add a little whimsy to an unpleasant experience by adding an LED matrix to his umbrella. The array contains 80 LEDs that are individually addressable. This is a mutiplexed array that relies on a MIC2981 source driver for the eight rows (or rings in this case), with the ten columns handled by the Arduino. The effect is quite nice as you can see in the video after the break. Now that he’s proven this works, you might want to etch your own PCB in order to get rid of the Arduino board and prototyping shield, making it easier to waterproof the control circuitry. This would make a nice addition to your illuminated umbrella stock.

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Raid the dollar store for an illuminated umbrella

diy-illuminated-umbrella

Here’s a quick and easy illuminated umbrella that [Mikeasaurus] built. How’s this for economical? He found an umbrella that someone left on the bus, and used an LED flashlight and clear poncho from the dollar store for the rest of the parts.

The scavenged LED circuit board is the perfect diameter to fit inside the handle of his umbrella. He removed the middle LED and drilled a hole in the board for the shaft to pass through. Although not well detailed, we gather he managed to shoehorn two CR2032 3v batteries underneath the PCB to power the device. The poncho is wrapped around the shaft to diffuse the light. This is a clever solution as the flexible plastic still allows the telescoping shaft to collapse down to its most compact size.

[Mikasaurus'] umbrella doesn’t make noise or emulate the weather but it is a clever idea. The low difficulty level and availability of parts makes this a great project to do with the young ones who don’t get included in your more intricate hacks.