Hack a Whiteboard and Never Lose Screws Again

If you are reading this, it is a fair bet you like to take things apart. Sometimes, you even put them back together. There are two bad moments that can occur when you do this. First, when you get done and there is some stuff left over. That’s usually not good. The other problem is when you are trying to find some little tiny bolt and a washer and you can’t find it. SMD parts are especially easy to lose.

A few months ago, I was browsing through a local store and I saw a  neat idea. It was basically a small whiteboard with lines dividing it into cells. It was magnetic and the idea is you’d put your small loose (and ferrous) parts like screws, bolts, nuts, and resistors on the board. Since it was a marker board, you could make notes about what each cell contained. Great idea! But the thing was about $20 and I thought I could do better than that. As you might guess from the picture, I was successful. I spent about $5, although I had some rare-earth magnets hanging around. If you don’t, strong magnets aren’t that expensive and you can often raid them out of hard drives.

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Whiteboard Clock Draws the Time

[Maurice] recently built a clock that draws the time (Google Doc) on a white board. We’ve seen plenty of clock hacks in the past, and even a very similar one. It’s always fun to see the different creative solutions people can come up with to solve the same problem.

This device runs on a PIC16F1454 microcontroller. The code for the project is available on GitHub. The micro is also connected to a 433MHz receiver. This allows a PC to keep track of the time, instead of having to include a real-time clock in the circuit. The USB connector is only used for power. All of the mounting pieces were designed in OpenSCAD and printed on a 3D printer. Two servos control the drawing arms. A third servo can raise and lower the marker to the whiteboard. This also has the added benefit of being able to place the marker tip inside of an eraser head. That way the same two servos can also erase the writing.

The communication protocol for this systems is interesting. The transmitter shows up on [Maurice’s] PC as a modem. All he needs to do to update the time is “echo 12:00 > /dev/whiteboard”. In this case, the command is run by a cron job every 5 minutes. This makes it easy to tweak the rate at which the time updates on the whiteboard. All communication is done one-way. The drawing circuit will verify the checksum each time it receives a message. If the check fails, the circuit simply waits for another message. The computer transmits the message multiple times, just in case there is a problem during transmission.

Augmented Reality Pinball

Pinball machines are fascinating pieces of mechanical and electrical engineering, and now [Yair Moshe] and his students at the Israel Institute of Technology has taken the classic game one step further.  Using computer vision and a projector, this group of engineers has created an augmented reality pinball game that takes pinball to a whole new level.

Once the laptop, webcam, and projector are set up, a course is drawn on a whiteboard which the computer “sees” to determine the rules of the game. Any course you can imagine can be drawn on the whiteboard too, with an interesting set of rules that no regular pinball game could take advantage of. Most notably, the ball can change size when it hits certain types of objects, which makes for a very interesting and unconventional style of play.

The player uses their hands to control the flippers as well, but not with buttons. The computer watches the position of the player’s hands and flips the flippers when it sees a hand in the right position. [Yair] and his students recently showed this project off at DLD Tel Aviv and even got [Shimon Perez], former President of Israel, to play some pinball at the conference!

In-N-Out Boards Sans Hamburgers

board Before this project, [David]’s office had a fairly terrible system to tell everyone who was in the office, who was out, and who wasn’t coming in today. Velcro and whiteboards will do the job, but arcade buttons and LEDs called to [David], leading him to create this In/Out Status Board.

The old system consisted of a whiteboard on the side of each partition, with velcroed labels indicating if a particular person was in the office today, out, sick, or on holiday. Inconvenient to change, and there was no single place everyone could look to see if a particular person was in or not. The new system consists of a four-person pod with four arcade buttons and WS2811 LEDs, an Arduino Nano, and a 433 MHz radio. The main panel is just a bigger version of the four-person pod, keeping track of everyone in the office.

A single button switch will change a person from being in to being out, with longer presses necessary for ‘sick’ and ‘vacation’. It’s interesting to note what’s not included in this build: A fingerprint scanner was out of the question, because that would effectively eliminate anyone ever being marked as ‘sick’. An RFID tag reader was out for the same reason. Also not included is a display. That’s just fine, really – [David] won’t be changing the labels very often, anyway, and that would just add to the cost and complexity of the project.

Building a Crystal Clear Whiteboard

[Michael Peshkin] teaches mechanical engineering at Northwestern University. He likes to use diagrams to illustrate his point, but he also likes to face his students when doing so. His solution was to develop this clear whiteboard which ends up unlocking a lot more than just some hand-drawn schematics.

It’s a bit hard to see what he’s written on the board in the image above but squint and see if you can figure out what’s wrong with this style of teaching? Everything he’s writing is backwards. That’s not actually a problem in this case as [Michael] uses flip teaching. He records and posts all of his lectures online. Classroom time is then used for question and answer on the lecture subjects. In order to get the text to read the correct way he just bounces the camera off of a mirror.

The board itself is a huge sheet of tempered glass attached to the metal frame using bolts through holes in the pane. This leave the edges free. He added extruded rail to the top and bottom to embed strips of LEDs. They light the inside of the glass, and excite the fluorescent dry erase marker ink making it much more visible. [Michael] didn’t stop with the board, he  also rigged up a lighting system that gives him a lot of options, and uses a monitor for dealing with digital overlays. He can put up a diagram on the computer, watching the monitor to see where his marker is making annotations. All this happens in real-time which means no post production! See a demo of these features after the break.

This could all be done without the glass at all, but that would make it quite a bit more difficult for the person doing the writing.

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3D whiteboard without the whiteboard

This one is so simple, and works so well, we’d call it a hoax if April 1st hadn’t already passed us by. But we’re confident that what [William Myers] and [Guo Jie Chin] came up with exists, and we want one of our own. The project is a method of drawing in 3 dimensions using ultrasonic sensors.

They call it 3D Paint, and that’s fitting since the software interface is much like the original MS Paint. It can show you the movements of the stylus in three axes, but it can also assemble an anaglyph — the kind of 3D that uses those red and blue filter glasses — so that the artists can see the 3D rendering as it is being drawn.

The hardware depends on a trio of sensors and a stylus that are all controlled by an ATmega644. That’s it for hardware (to be fair, there are a few trivial amplifier circuits too), making this an incredibly affordable setup. The real work, and the reason the input is so smooth and accurate, comes in the MATLAB code which does the trilateration. If you like to get elbow deep in the math the article linked above has plenty to interest you. If you’re more of a visual learner just skip down after the break for the demo video.

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Robotic whiteboard writes your wall on the wall

[Dave’s] drawbot writes his Facebook wall messages on a whiteboard. The setup is pretty simple, depending on a pair of stepper motors and common household goods. As you can see in the image, the stylus is a plain old dry-erase marker held by a big spring clip (the kind that holds a stack of papers together). What you can’t see is that there’s a kick stand to hold the writing head away from the board when moving to the next plot point.

In this example a cursive font is being used, but [Dave] included two other fonts in the code. Those require the felt tip to be frequently lifted from the board, and a servo motor does this by pressing a cotton swab against the surface. This does erase any marker lines it slides past, but it’s a pretty small area that is lost. To control the motors [Dave] is using the EiBotBoard which was originally designed for the EggBot. It’s got a USB mini-b connector which lets a computer push messages scraped from the Internet. Don’t miss the video demonstration embedded after the break.

A small modification would make this into a pretty nifty light painting rig.

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