ChipKIT Max32, An Arduino Mega Upgrade With A PIC32 Under The Hood

For those of you who are looking to put some power behind your Arduino shields,  Digilent just released their chipKIT Max32 prototyping platform. The board  features a Pic 32 microcontroller, USB programmer and all the things you would typically expect from a development board.

The PIC32MX795F512 is a  32-bit MIPS processor core running at 80Mhz, 512KB flash memory and packs 128KB of SRAM data memory. Digilent also mentions utilizing the Pic’s built in USB 2 controller, 10/100 Ethernet and dual CAN controllers, but these will require shields specific to the chipKIT Max32. The board is also fully compatible with Arduino IDE and libraries as well as MPLAB  and the PICKit3 in-system programmer/debugger.

With a price point just below the Arduino Mega 2560 this looks like a great resource for anyone looking to upgrade their Arduino webserver, or just embarrass their Arduino Arduino shield. Maybe it’ll just spawn some interesting gameduino upgrades. It can certainly cut down on extraneous Arduino usage. Either way we’ll be on the lookout to see what this performance bump can bring to table!

Plastic Plate Capacitors

We have been featuring some home made capacitors this week, and [Mike] wrote in to share his with us. While rolled capacitors are nice, they can be somewhat difficult to construct and grow to unwieldy sizes as capacitance and voltages increase. His solution is to stack the layers up using plastic plates.

In this forum post he explains that using disposable plastic plates and tinfoil you’re able to quickly make a capacitor, that for him was valued at around 12.2nF, using eleven layers . Applying pressure to the stack capacitance grew to about 14nF, though he is having a bit of trouble holding it with just glue.

Testing was conducted with high voltages charging the capacitor up, then its leads were shorted for a nice spark and a good pop. Definitely fun for the next family cook out, though we don’t know how some left over potato salad goo would effect the end results.

Papercraft Flowers Teach Kids About Batteries


[Emily Daniels] has been teaching interactive electronics workshops geared towards children for some time now, recently holding a session that demonstrated how batteries work in a pretty novel fashion.

She wanted to keep things safe and simple due to the class size, so she didn’t want to rely on using soldering irons for the demonstration. Instead, she showed the children how batteries function by building simple voltaic cells with paper flowers, salt water, and LEDs. The paper flowers’ absorbency was used to act as a salt bridge between the wire pairs that adorned each petal. After salt water was applied to each of the flower’s petals, the center-mounted LED came to life, much to the amazement of her class.

The concept is quite simple, and the LED flowers are pretty easy to build, as you can see in her Instructables tutorial.

We think it’s a great way to demonstrate these sorts of simple concepts to kids, and hope to see more like it.

[via Adafruit blog]

Macetech Is Looking For A Few Good Processing Programmers


[Garrett Mace] wrote to us in hopes of finding a few good programmers to help him out with a project he’s been working on for Maker Faire Bay Area 2011.

More specifically, he is looking for Processing programmers who are also pretty decent with graphics. Macetech’s big project for this year’s Maker Faire is a large overhead light matrix constructed from Chinese lanterns. They are using their new Satellite LED modules to light the 128-lantern array, which is laid out in a 16×8 matrix.

It seems that the Macetech crew has been so busy getting the array built and tested that they don’t have much time to program any visualizations for it – that’s where you come in. If you are so inclined, simply download his matrix simulation code, put together some cool displays, and send them his way. [Garrett] says that they will be taking video of the visualizations, so even if you can’t attend Maker Faire, we will all be able to enjoy your hard work (though it would be pretty cool if they sent contributors a Satellite LED module “sample” as well!)

Keep reading to see a quick demo video of the simulation software to get an idea of what they are looking for visualization-wise.

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Adding A Tachometer To The SX2 Mini Mill


[Jeff] recently bought an SX2 mini milling machine with plans to eventually automate it for use as a CNC mill. After paying nearly $700 for the mill, he decided there was no way he was willing to pay for the $125 tachometer add on as well. Instead, he reverse-engineered the mill and constructed a tachometer of his own.

He opened the control box and started looking around. After identifying most of the components, he got sidetracked by a 3-pin header that didn’t seem to have any particular function. That is, until he realized that a lathe by the same manufacturer uses the same components, and figured that the header might be used for reversing the motor. Sure enough he was right, and after adding a reverse switch, he got back to business.

He probed the 7-pin socket with his logic analyzer and quickly picked out the mill’s data line. He hooked the line up to an Arduino and in no time had the RPM displayed on an LCD screen.

[Jeff] says that this little experiment is the first of many, since the mill is so hacker friendly. We definitely look forward to seeing a CNC conversion tutorial in the near future.

Bringing The Game Of Tag Into The Digital Age


How long has it been since you’ve played a game of tag?

[Sylvia Cheng, Kibum Kim, and Roel Vertegaal] from Queen’s University’s human media lab have concocted a fun twist on the classic game that just might compel you to start playing again.

Their game, called TagURIt, arms two players with Lumalive LED t-shirts which sport embedded touch sensors. A third player, known as the “chaser” attempts to touch either of the other players in order to capture the token displayed on the player’s chest-based LED matrix. The game is score-based, awarding points to the chaser for capturing tokens, while giving the other players points for avoiding capture.

If both players wearing the LED shirts are near to one another, the token will jump to the other player in an attempt to thwart the chaser. In this game, each player is a location-tagged URI, and proximity is determined by either tracking the users with cameras indoors, or via RF sensors if the game is played outside.

It is definitely an interesting way of playing tag, and we imagine it could be quite fun in large groups.

Continue reading to see a video demonstration of the TagURIt game being played.

[via Adafruit blog]

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