Today’s Arduino Minute

Sometimes projects are vast, complicated, and complex. Other times projects are a bit more on the simple. Today we thought we would share a couple projects with something in common that may be familiar sounding to the more experienced crowd, but may inspire a few readers new to the world of microcontrollers.

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The CIA’s Amazing Bots

When you have a virtually unlimited budget, you can pull off some amazing things. This has become most evident recently as the CIA has been showing off some of its old tech. That dragonfly you see above is near life-size and actually flies. They hired a watch maker to build a tiny internal combustion engine to run it. That alone is pretty amazing, but this thing was actually flying in the 70’s. Upon further inspection of the wings, we actually have no idea how this sucker is supposed to fly. Despite our skeptical viewpoint, you can see a tiny clip of it flying after the break.  You can also catch a video of “charlie” the robot catfish.

[via Botjunkie]

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RGB “Tilty Cube”

[Ben’s] introduction to microcontrollers was this fun little gift he calls the “tilty cube”. It is an acrylic box with 3 LEDs mounted inside that changes color based off of how you tilt it. Sounds like a fun toy, and a good project to learn with. [Ben] chose the PIC12F615 as the brains and laid it all out on a perfboard.  Since this was his first microcontroller experience he had to learn how to blink the LEDs, then figure out PWM etc. Though there is no video of the project in its finished state, since it was given away as a gift, we assume he figured it out pretty well.  He does state that the LEDs are dimmer than he had hoped and offers some thoughts on how he would do the entire project better next time.

Canon T1i/500d External Microphone Hack


Like most other DSLR cameras that feature video recording, the Canon T1i has a small built-in microphone with limited sound reproduction capabilities. [Robb] wanted better audio performance while taking video, but found the camera’s inability to use an external microphone to be a frustrating limitation. He decided to take matters into his own hands, and disassembled his camera in order to add an external microphone jack. The process is not overly complicated, as it requires little more than the installation of a switching microphone jack. You will however need to get your hands a bit dirty since it involves opening the camera, a bit of drilling, and some epoxy. Doing such things to your camera clearly voids the warranty, and with a $600 camera at stake, this hack is definitely not for the faint of heart. That said, if you desperately want to get better quality audio from your Canon T1i or 500d DSLR, be sure to check out his tutorial.

The Joy Of Forums

[John Park] over at Make posted a short story about coming home from vacation to find his espresso machine non-functional. After beating his head against the wall for a while he joined a forum and posted a video. As has happened so many times, another user had seen this exact issue and was able to send him in the right direction.

We realize that this is just a simple capacitor replacement, though we understand his frustration, the original looks perfectly fine. The point here, is that there is usually someone out there on a forum that has experience with whatever your problem is. So don’t waste any time, go join the most awesome forum on the planet and get hacking!

Talking Joystick Mouse

Instructibles user [Shadowwynd] shows us a great way to build a joystick/mouse device for people with special accessibility needs. When faced with a case that involved a man with very limited mobility as well as a limited budget, [shadowwynd] set out to find a cost effective solution to computer navigation. They found that his client could use a commercial joystick mouse, but the cost was quite high at over $400. So instead of just purchasing that, they bought a USB game pad and built their own version. They managed to reduce the cost to roughly $45.  While extending the buttons and joystick from a gamepad might not be groundbreaking, we feel that this project is the epitome of hacking. Great job [Shadowwynd] keep up the good work.

Backlit Buttons And Panels

“Kick the tyres & light the fires” is a blog by [Ruscool Electronics] that is focused on building a cockpit simulator from scratch, and while the blog is loaded with all sorts of nifty information, reader [Brian] pointed out one entry which explains how to make back-lit control panels out of acrylic sheet, and a CNC machine.

The parts start off as clear acrylic, and cut to shape and size. Next up is a thick, but uniform coat of paint so the panels are opaque , then its back off into the CNC machine for engraving. What is engraved is now a frosty white, ready for leds behind.

The end result looks fantastic and professional, though, we are left thinking of how to pull off the same look, sans CNC.