Hackaday Links: October 6, 2013


The iBeacon has been all over the interwebs lately. Here’s a riff on the Arduino Pro MIni that adds a BLE module. It can be used to make an iBeacon clone. You can also hack a VTag keyfinder to operate in much the same way.

Remember that post about pulling a QR Code generator into Google Docs? One could argue that the best use of this functionality is to add labels to your parts storage that lead back to the product page for the component. [Thanks Nicholas]

[Michael] wrote in to share his crowd funding campaign. He is a school teacher and wants to publish a detective story that gets kids excited about STEM.

Our own [James Hobson] made the first cut to be [Adam Savage's] new assistant. He’s the [TheHacksmith] (read our staff page if you don’t believe us) and is the third entry featured in this vignette. Apparently they’ve got something against Canadians because they say he’s ineligible due to his nationality!?

If you’ve ever been confused about the features of different Xbee modules this comparison chart may be of assistance.

A couple of weeks ago we learned about a contest put on by TheControllerProject. [TouchStone936] gets credit for quick, easy, and functional. His solution to making shoulder buttons more accessible includes hot-glue, a golf tee, and a binder clip. Pretty clever!

Wanting a better color of backlight for his eReader, [Vivek Gani] cracked it open and applied Kapton Tape as a gel to soften the hue.

And finally something very silly. If you put a strong enough prop on the front, you can get just about anything to fly. This instance involves a flying pizza box which to us looks particularly un-flight-worthy. [via Gizmodo]

Obstacle avoiding LEGO rover uses CDs for wheels


This rover built by [Sath02] is a great example that you don’t have to be a mechanical engineering wizard to get into robotics. He used LEGO pieces to help ease the difficulty of getting a rover up and running.

In this case the use of LEGO is strictly structural. The electronics are not the NXT parts you would expect to see when working with these popular toy blocks. Instead he’s put the Arduino Palm Plus into service. It’s an Arduino board that has rows of holes at either end to make it LEGO compatible. It also carries an LM293D motor controller and [Sath02] added an XBee module for wireless control.

At the top of the assembly is an IR distance sensor which is used for obstacle avoidance. You may not be interested in building and exact replica, but the techniques he uses for attaching the distance sensor, CD wheels,  and fabricating the rest of the rover are good examples if you take on a LEGO build in the future.

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Turning anyone into a casuality


EMTs and other first responders don’t just sit around waiting for a disaster to happen. If they need to train for a disaster – environmental, terrorist, or otherwise – they put together a mass injury simulation, or their version of a war game. As you can imagine, coordinating one of these simulations is a nightmare, but [David] came up with a way to simulate a casualty with a few XBees, a Parallax Propeller, and a few RFID cards.

This triage training simulator consists of an ‘acting coach’ on each simulated victim that includes a speech-to-text module that speaks instructions into the actors ear, a pulse simulator and a readout for vital signs that correspond to twelve major injuries. When an EMT triages a victim, they swipe an RFID card for each medical procedure they perform – intubating is one card, while a bandage is another – and all this is sent back to the coordinator’s tablet.

The coordinator has direct control over each of the actors through a two-way radio link, and can initiate changes in each victim, monitor a paramedic’s responses, and “escalate” the situation by setting off another simulated bomb.

All this is created with off-the-shelf hardware, vastly reducing the cost of this type of training device. An amazing application of what we usually consider to be just robot parts, and we’re happy for [David] to share it with us.

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Long distance PS3 controller


Sony’s DualShock 3 controller can be seen in a number of projects here on Hackaday. There’s a reason for this: it’s easy to sniff the Bluetooth signals coming out of this controller and make any electronics project do your remote control bidding. Bluetooth has a fairly limited range, though, so what happens if you’d like to use this very comfortable and very functional controller over a mile or so? Just replace the mainboard of the controller with a new design using an Xbee radio. It’s a great project from the workbench of [Marcel] and looks to be just the solution for an awesome Xbee remote control.

The Sony DualShock 3 controller is designed around a single main board for the bulk of the electronics and analog sticks with three daughterboards used for every other button on the controller. [Marcel] took the main board out of his controller and stated to reverse engineer the thing, keeping the USB charging, PC communication, force feedback and LED indicators. Instead of Bluetooth as in the original circuit, [Marcel] used a 60mW XBee radio, allowing him to control just anything connected to another XBee radio with a range of up to a mile.

[Marcel]‘s new main board is a direct drop in replacement for the original DualShock 3 mainboard, and the only modification to the controller is drilling a small hole for the new antenna. It’s a great piece of kit for RC vehicles of any kind, and it’s fully programmable for whatever robotics project you might have in mind.

Thanks {Roel] for sending this one in.

Quadruped walks of four legs, rolls on four treads


This robot doesn’t know if it’s a walker or a tank. It’s the brain-child of [Marc Hamende] who works as a mechanical engineer by day and mad roboticist at night. The best place to find full details is by digging into the long thread he’s been posting to for about six weeks. It will give you a pretty good snapshot of his approach, starting with SolidWorks renderings of the project, and adding in assembled components as he brings the project together.

The mechanism for each foot is fascinating. He milled the white pieces which stack together to encapsulate the motor that runs the treads. These assemblies pivot to bring the metal rod serving as a walking foot in contact with the ground. But they also make it possible to adjust the treads to deal with rough terrain. A Propeller chip drives the device, with an Xbee module to communicate with the controller.

Don’t miss the video after the break. You’ll hear some skidding as it makes turns, but [Marc] plans to add code to adjust motor speed in order to compensate for the inside/outside differential issues. He’s also posted an image album over at Flickr.

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Quadcopter brain


This project is the warm center of [Alan Kharsansky's] thesis in Electronic Engineering. It’s an all-in-one control board for a quadcopter. This is the second iteration of the board, the first version he actually etched himself. As you can see after the break the firmware is not quite ready for prime-time. But that doesn’t stop us from appreciating the design choices he’s made.

You can see the effort he made to keep the board symmetrical which will help when it comes time to balance the aircraft. At the center of the PCB is the jewel of the sensor array, a combination accelerometer and gyroscope. This location will help easy the trouble of designing PID algorithms to drive the four propellers. Also included in the sensor array is a magnetometer for navigation, and a barometric pressure sensor which can be used as an altimeter. There are four multipurpose connectors used to drive the motors and provide feedback to the boards. He also included two more sets of pads on the board (without their own connectors) in case he wants to add more motors in the future. The quadcopter can be controlled from a base station via the XBee module.

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Webmote: control anything with web-based remote


We’ve seen a lot of projects that let you control all of your devices from a smartphone. But this universal web-based remote control system looks like the most versatile we’ve seen yet. The project is called Webmote as the controls are served up as a web interface so that you’re not limited to say an Android device. The UI can be customized by choosing what buttons you will use and where to place them on the display. You can get a good feel for this by viewing this G+ album. Setup is made a bit easier thanks to an add-on system that has predefined layouts for common things like controlling XBMC.

The hardware seen above is the business end of Webmote. It’s an Arduino with an IR receiver, IR LED, and an XBee module. For your common home entertainment devices you can teach the system your codes using the IR receiver. The IR LED is used to transmit those codes back, and the Xbee gives you the ability to control X10 (home automation) devices. Right now the setup requires the hardware be connected to a server via USB, but it shouldn’t be hard to set up some type of wireless alternative.


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