Awesome Custom Disco Basement


[Evan] is one of those neighbors you only wish you had.

His neighbors were renovating their basement for use as home theater, and he stopped by to check out how things were coming along. While there, he suggested they add some LED lighting to their shelving unit to make them pop. His neighbors were game, so he sourced some cheap RGB LEDs online and began working on the circuits and firmware needed to control the lights. His neighbors wrote some custom software that interfaces with iTunes to create a neat visualization in the shelving unit whenever music is played.

Once everything was complete, his neighbors informed him that they wanted an additional 20 overhead can lights and a set of 4 wall sconces wired up as well. Needless to say he was pretty excited, so he got busy wiring up the remainder of the basement.

He pushed the installation’s PIC microcontroller about as far as he possibly could, resulting in the awesome show seen in the video below.

Needless to say, it’s pretty impressive, though we wish we could have a peek at the code used to run everything. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

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Bluetooth Super Nintendo Controller For Android Gaming


[Rich] needed to come up with a senior design project and decided to combine two things he loved: his Android phone and Super Nintendo.

While touchscreen phones are great, he felt that nothing beats the tactile feedback of a physical controller when it comes to gaming. He figured out how the controller’s signaling works, then wired it up to an Arduino Pro Mini 328. The Arduino interprets the SNES controller’s signals, sending them to his Android phone via a BlueSMiRF Bluetooth module.

He originally had all of the components crammed in a cardboard box, but much like we pointed out yesterday, he realized that a project really comes together when housed in a proper enclosure. He managed to squeeze all of his components into the SNES controller’s shell aside from the battery pack he used to power the remote. After a little bit of Bondo and a few coats of paint were applied, the controller is looking quite sharp.

Stick around to see a quick demo video of his controller in action, and check out this tutorial he put together explaining some of the principles he used to construct it.

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RFID Smart Card Reader

[Navic] wrote in to show us his latest project. This is a portable smart card reader with a nice LCD display. he just happened to have a Basic Stamp 2px, smart card reader, and smart card reader/writer sitting around waiting to be used. What better use than a hand held smart card reader?  Tossing the bits together in a nice project enclosure, [Navic] scoured the code available to him and pieced together what he needed. Now, when you slide in a card, you get a nice readout of the data on that pretty blue screen. Unfortunately, if you pull the card before the read is finished, everything just freezes.

You can see the final video after the break, and you can also see some in-progress videos linked in youtube. He asks if he should add the ability to write, and we say YES. Store that data, then write (duplicate) to another device.

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Electro-static See-saw

Many of you may have seen these fun little toys in museums or possibly even in school. Instructibles user [brazilero2008] takes us through the process of constructing one on our own.

Most of this toy are constructed from fairly household materials like foil, paper, straws etc. The fun part comes when you find the power supply. [brazilero2008] is using an air ionizer that he found at a rummage sale, though any high voltage DC source should work. He shares some tips on how to save time and effort creating the balls on the end by telling us how he did it the difficult way.

We admit this isn’t the most attention grabbing project, but we think it would be a fun educational weekend project.

Last Mile WiFi Over TV White Space


What do you do when you can’t afford broadband and no-cost WiFi is just out of reach?

That was the problem Rice University grad student [Ryan Guerra] was tasked with solving. A local Houston resident could barely tap into the free service offered in her area, so [Ryan] set out to extend the signal’s range using white space previously occupied by TV signals.

Using channel 29 which operates at 563MHz, his “Super WiFi” project utilizes standard WiFi protocols and can extend the signal’s reach up to a mile. The WiFi signals at the closest tower are piped through a prototype frequency translator, shifting the signal from 2.4GHz down to 563MHz, which is far better suited for long(er)-haul transmissions. The system does not use channel bonding just yet, so it is limited to using about 25% of WiFi’s maximum bandwidth, which is far better than no signal at all.

While the widespread practical use of TV white space will take some time to come to fruition, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

[Thanks Chris]

Transforming Robot Is More Than Meets The Eye


Let’s face it – building robust robots isn’t exactly easy. When designing them, builders often focus on a single method of locomotion in attempts to create a robust, reliable means of transportation. Whether it moves on the ground or in the air, there are always compromises to be made when designing a robot with the ability to travel over variable terrain. Looking to change that, researchers at the Center for Distributed Robotics have recently unveiled a robot that can travel on the ground with ease, then take to the skies in a matter of seconds.

The robot is rolls along the ground on a set of wheels mounted at either end. When it is time to fly, it pushes itself up onto one end before extending its rotors. As you can see in the video below, the transition occurs pretty quickly.

The current prototype is pretty fragile and carries quite the hefty price tag . More robust revisions are already in the works, so expect to see more in the coming months.

[Thanks Sandeep]

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Hardware Handshaking For AVR

Serial communication is still an important part of our embedded world. Typically we use a 3 wire setup (RX TX and GROUND) and hope that everything goes according to plan. Though this works for most experimenters, sometimes its not the most ideal situation.  This is where [simmonmt’s] handiwork comes in adding hardware handshaking to a AVR.

The hardware setup is pretty typical, an Atmega644 sits on one end of the connection, passes through a SP3232EB level shifter and out to a PC. 5 lines are used, again one for RX, TX and GROUND, but also RTS and CTS. When the PC is ready to transmit data it inverts the line (normally held high), the micro controller notices this it pulls CTS low and transmission can commence whenever it darn well feels like it. Handy!