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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Head-mounted memory catcher

A picture’s worth a thousand words so what is a hat that can take 360 degree pictures worth? Just make sure you put it on whenever leaving the house and capturing that next memorable moment will be just one click of a button away.

[Mikeasaurus] recently put together this… special… headgear. He used film-based disposable cameras and this choice presented a few interesting challenges. But the choice is not necessarily a bad one, as you can get six of these without really blowing your budget. He cut the top off of a plastic garbage can to serve as a headband on which to mount the hardware (zip-ties to the rescue). But things get hairy when it comes to triggering all of the shutters at once. These are spring-loaded shutter releases and you can’t just patch into them electrically like you could a digital camera. His solution is a group of six servo motors which do the button pushing for him.

A thirty-six exposure trial run turned out okay. Several times the shots didn’t come out, but at the end of his post he shares a few of the good ones that did. We’re going to stear clear of this one as we can’t abide manually winding all six cameras between each shot. But it does give us an idea for a single-camera hat that uses a 45-degree mirror which swivels. We’ll just put that one in the growing pile of ideas we need to make time for.

Low-voltage wind turbine lighting


Instructables user [Dustyn] recently constructed a wind-based lantern to provide a bit of free, renewable light in urban settings. The project is based around a vertical-axis wind turbine, which she says are better suited to these environments since wind often comes from all different directions. Despite their lower efficiency compared their horizontal-axis brethren, this style of turbine seems to fit her needs quite well.

She provided a complete bill of materials, down to the last screw and washer you would need to replicate her work. The wind sails were constructed from thin aluminum flashing, and inserted between two acrylic sheets. These were then mounted to the central aluminum shaft of the turbine, which drives the stepper motor built into the base.

The current from the stepper motor is rectified and run through a pair of capacitors before being used to light the attached LED. This allows the bipolar motor to provide current regardless of the direction the turbine is turning, and the caps smooth things out so that the LEDs don’t flicker wildly under varying wind conditions. The turbine is not going to light up a full city block, but it is definitely a nice alternative to sun jars.

Stick around to see a video of the turbine mechanism in action.

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Build your own vertical axis wind turbine

You can build a copy of this vertical wind turbine in a weekend and it won’t cost you all that much. Applied Sciences developed the hardware and they’re sharing all for the build details. You will be taken through every part of the build starting with the fin assembly which is made from stove-pipe material. This is a perfect raw material because it is already curved and suited for aerodynamic use in much the same way that PVC pipe is for making fins and we would expect it to be a bit lighter in weight. You will also need to turn your own coils when assembling the stator. This particular build process uses nine coils embedded in fiberglass. They remain stationary while two different discs, each containing a dozen rare earth magnets, rotate in close proximity to induce a current. It outputs three-phase AC current which can be turned to DC using a bridge rectifier and then further regulated for storage in batteries.

[Thanks Miguel]

Sluggy Wind Speed Sensor

Sometimes when we look at a hack, its to see how someone chose those parts for the project. In this case, it would have been hard to see it coming. [Janne Jansson] decided to combine a set of measuring cups, a hacked Linksys NSLU2 NAS, and a PS/2 Mouse together to make a self-contained Wind Speed Sensor for his roof. The measuring cups act as wind catchers, which in turns drives the rotation of one of the mouse ball sensors. This data is then logged and transmitted by the NSLU2. The NSLU2 is running a custom Linux based firmware, similar to how OpenWRT works for wireless routers.

To calibrate the device, he also made the best logical choice: to duct tape it to the hood of his car along with a much more expensive wind sensor and use that data to make his own device as accurate as possible. When placed atop his house with a 1500VA 220V UPS, the device managed 250 days of uptime before meeting its demise. Those 250 days also included 5 days of being frozen solid, yet still transmitting (somewhat meaningless) data. All of the relevant code and build instructions are available, for those of you with similar parts to spare.

Wifi hotspot powered by wind turbine and solar panel

Students at the Rochester Institute of technology have put together this WiFi hotspot that is powered by a wind turbine and a solar panel. It gets its signal through a parabolic antenna pointed at a near by building and repeats it for use in the vicinity. They are using a 30W solar panel, along with a 1/4 horse power 90V DC motor to charge two 6V batteries in series. On a windy day, the turbine has yielded 120W. Something interesting to note is a comment they made about blades. Though the ultimately decided to mimic a commercial design for wind turbines, they found the most efficient to be a single wood prop. Unfortunately, that prop was destroyed.

[via HackedGadgets]

Power drill solder spooler

[Scott] over at has posted an instructable detailing how to use an Arduino and a power drill to spool solder. The Arduino senses the speed that the drill is going via an opto interrupter and a laser and adjusts with a servo hooked to the trigger. While we don’t think many people will be dying to spool some solder, this system might be useful for all kinds of things, like winding yarn or making coils.