Wireless Luge Timer Levels The Playing Field


In Colorado, amateur luge competitions are serious business.

Every winter, [Ryan’s] friends dig a long luge track through the many feet of snow that occupies their yard, and have competitive sled races to see who can make it down the giant hill in the least time. They call it the Mario Cup, after one of the participants, not the Nintendo mascot, and they were in desperate need of some timing equipment.

You see, the luge track is several hundred feet long, and they decided that a human armed with a stopwatch is not a good enough means of picking a conclusive winner. A set of three Arduino sensors packed inside plastic food containers were used along with light sensors to track when the luger passed the start, midpoint, and finish lines of the race. XBee radios then transmitted the timing data back to the base station for recording.

The system worked quite well according to the participants, and they look forward to using the system again in the future. Of course, improvements have been planned, including dual timers at each checkpoint to gauge the luger’s speed, as well as a Christmas-tree starting signal like you see at drag races.

Continue reading to see a video below of the luger’s in action, as well as the timer system undergoing some tests.

[via Make]

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Propeller-Android Communications Using Debug Mode

Here’s a new way to connect an Android phone and a Propeller microcontroller. It’s called the PropBridge and uses a very simple circuit with a voltage regulator, a couple of transistors, and a few resistors. The trick to this method lies in creative use of software features that already exist on Android hardware, the Android Debug Bridge (ADB). The ADB was added with development in mind, but since it provides low-level control of certain parts of these devices it was just waiting to be incorporated into a hack.

The Propeller itself uses firmware to make Android think it is one of two different externally connected hardware devices. It can act like a PC running the ADB client or it can mimic a TCP connection. There’s still plenty of room on the uC to add your own firmware, and the majority of the I/O pins are unneeded for the basic connection. Check out the video after the break for a quick overview of the system.

If you need a little help with Android programming before you’re able to use this in your own projects, check out our Android development series.

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CFL Breakdown

Reader [Jay] was inspired by one of our earlier articles and started digging around the web for some more information, and found a handy web page with tear downs and schematics of popular compact florescent lamps.

Schematics are provided to 15 fairly common models including bigluz, isotronic, luxtek, maway, maxilux, polaris, brownie, Phillips, Ikea, Osram, and eurolight. Also, just in case you were ever interested in these little packages but did not want to open them due to sharp glass, mercury vapor, or phosphorus powders, photos are provided as well.

So if you need a few hundred extra volts to pack a little spark in your next project, need a 63rd way to cook your goose you should check this page out.

Quadcopter Pair Plays Table Tennis Without The Table

This pair of quad-rotor helicopters does a better job of keeping a ping-pong ball in the air than we could. The two flying drones are performing inside of the flying machine arena, a 1000 cubic meter indoor space surrounded by nets with a foam-padded floor. This makes for a prototype-friendly space, protecting the copters from hard landings and the experimenters from the maiming that might accompany a runaway robot.

This project is headed by researcher [Raffaello D’Andrea]. Previously, we’ve seen his work on a distributed flight array. This time around he’s not working with configurable modules, but completely separate units. Don’t miss the video after the break to see several iterations used to keep a ball in the air. Each bot has the head of a tennis racket mounted at its center. Throw a ball at them and they’ll to what they can to prevent it touching the ground.

While we’re on the topic, we caught a story on NPR about hobby drones. Sounds like their growing popularity has caught the attention of the non-hacker community and restrictions might be on the way. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your own flyer while it’s still the wild-west of personal drones.

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Printable Gripping Rover Is Wristwatch Controlled

[Lars Kristian Roland] is using a wristwatch to control this rover. The bot itself is a utilitarian build with a gripper based on this Thingiverse project. As you can see in the video after the break, it’s got variable speed control based on accelerometer data from a TI ez430 Chronos wristwatch.

The watch connects to the bot wirelessly thanks to a CC1110 development board which relays communications to the on-board Arduino through a serial connection. It looks like it’s a bit of a bother to make slow and precise movements using this setup, but this can probably be changed by tweaking how accelerometer values are interpreted (using a non-linear equation would allow you more control at low speeds without sacrificing top speed for the motors).

Because this is using the same RF hardware that the IM-ME does, we can’t help but wonder if the CC1110 development board could be swapped out for an unused IM-ME dongle?

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Propeller Proto Board Has You Flying In No Time


[Parker] was in need of a Propeller development board to make working on his projects easier. More often than not, when he needed to prototype something, he would pull the only one he had on hand from his home made pinball machine, and replace it when finished. This was time consuming and cumbersome, so he decided he needed a better way of doing things.

He looked into purchasing a Gadget Gangster proto board which allows you to use a Propeller much like an Arduino, complete with support for shields and the like. Unfortunately, they were sold out and he was in a hurry to finish up a project. Rather than wait, he decided to build his own proto board, which would be more flexible than the COTS version – allowing him to add things like an Analog to Digital converter without having to use a shield.

He looked around online and found some schematics to follow, and had his proto board constructed in no time. It gets the job done and looks quite clean, considering it was put together using perf board.

Keep reading to see a video walkthrough of the Propeller development board construction.

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Super Pong Table Doubles The Fun


While Pong has traditionally been a game played between two individuals, Instructables user [Brad] has put together a variation that doubles the fun.  His Pong coffee table has the ability to support up to four users at once, and makes for quite the living room centerpiece.

The table is made from sheets of MDF and incorporates a grid of 900 LEDs, all controlled by a PIC18 micro controller. The MCU is installed on a control board he designed, along with the other additional bits required to drive the LED array. A set of old Atari paddle controllers were disassembled and installed around the table, making this a true retro Pong experience.

As you can see in the video, the action is pretty frantic. It’s hard to tell who is winning until the game is over, but [Brad] says that a scoreboard will come in a future revision.

4-way Pong is a really cool idea! , but it looks like there are no open source schematics or code for the control board. We’re hoping someone sees this project and puts together a version for all to use, free of charge.

We were mistaken about the status of this project in relation to whether or not it was open source. [Brad] wrote to us letting us know that his code was not originally included with the Instructable as a result of a late night omission. As always, his projects are open source, and you can now download all of the source code and schematics at the page linked above (and in the first step of the Instructable, no less). Mea culpas all around, thanks for the update, [Brad]!

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