Octocopter Will Someday Kill Someone

Above you can see Doctor Wily a Chinese hacker starting up one of the propellers on his octocopter. It seems that the man is using a collection of eight motorcycle engines, each with its own wooden propeller to create an eight-bladed helicopter. We were able to locate some video footage of his experiments, which you’ll find embedded after the break. As you can see, this is perfectly capable of flight, but we’re not quite sure if we’d call it controlled flight just yet.

The video starts off showing all kinds of hack-ity activities, like tightening the bolts on the propeller and priming the gas lines by sucking on them like a straw (mmmm….. high-octane!). Coke bottles serve as the gas tanks, and you’ll want to keep your hands inside the vehicle because there’s no cages to keep them out of the hand-started propellers. Although we don’t speak his language, we did understand the demonstration of the controls that the man gives, showing an earlier model with rings of fabric around four of the propellers meant to help direct the downward thrust as a steering mechanism. We don’t think this will be viable until there is some type of PID system that predicts the performance of each motor and makes quick adjustments to keep the craft balanced. None-the-less we were glued to the screen hoping that this turkey would fly.

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USB Stick Propeller Development Board

[Parker Dillmann] is nearing the end of the prototyping process for his Propeller development board. He wanted a tool that let him work on projects without the need for a bunch of equipment, while still maintaining the ability to extend the hardware when necessary. His last dev board used a large piece of protoboard to host through hole components including the Propeller chip, 3.3V and 5V regultors, an SD card reader, and female pin headers. This version migrates to a PCB from a fab house and mostly surface mount components.

He decided to use a USB-stick design having been happy with some of TI’s prototyping tools. The Parallax branded development boards use an FTDI 232RL chip for easy programming and that’s what he’s gone with as well. A P8X32A chip in the QFP package was chosen for easier soldering than the smaller QFN option. There’s also a 64kb EEPROM on board to give you plenty of room for your SPIN programs. All the pins are broken out to DIL female headers and there’s a power header on the end opposite the USB plug. [Parker] plans to do a bit of testing to make sure there’s no problems with signal routing below the 5Mhz crystal footprint. This run of prototypes came from the Seeed Studios Fusion PCB servcie–he got more than 10 boards for a total of $13… that’s almost unbelievable.

Add Some LED Enhancement To Your Netbook Lid

[Mathieu] needed to open up his Acer Aspire One to do a hard drive replacement and decided to add a bit of pizzazz while he was in there. The image above is the lid of the netbook adorned with RGB LEDs and a spray painted stencil.

He previously purchased a set of surface mount RGB packages on eBay and thought that they were perfect for this hack. after removing the case he found that by using a flex PCB he would be able to fit the LEDs inside, and pass the connections through to the main computer housing. The leads connect to a Teensy board, which is held in place with a liberal application of hot glue. [Mathieu] removed the USB connector and soldered jumper wires to one of the computers ports. In the video after the break you can see that he uses the programming software to write some code to the Teensy, driving the LEDs. We’d like to see it set to listen for serial communications and react accordingly. That way you could use it for notifications, as an audio VU meter, to track torrent progress, etc.

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Flip Off Your Alarm Clock!


[Corbin] hates fumbling around in the dark with his alarm blaring, looking for the off switch. He was so annoyed with regular alarm clocks that he decided to build his own simpler timepiece.

The FlipClock resides in a simple black plastic case lacking any buttons whatsoever. When the alarm goes off, all one needs to do is flip the clock over to disable it. The digits automatically right themselves using an accelerometer to detect when the clock has been turned upside down, and an indicator LED lets you know that the alarm has been turned off.

The clock is based around a Propeller chip, which manages all of the clock’s operations. Instead of using a real time clock IC, [Corbin] is using a GPS module to keep accurate time, something we don’t recall seeing in an alarm clock  before. That’s a good thing though, since there are no buttons with which to set the clock. In fact, there are no buttons to set the alarm either – the clock is configured to sound the alarm at the same time each day.

While this clock would certainly be too dangerous for a chronic snooze button abuser like myself, it’s an interesting concept nonetheless!

Check out the video below to see the FlipClock in action.

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Interfacing With A PS/2 Keyboard

Anyone reading this post has undoubtedly used a keyboard. How they work, however, is a bit more complicated than “one button, one input.”  [PyroElectro] has a great tutorial about building a PS/2 keyboard interface with a 7-segment LED display (video after the break). The tutorial also includes quite a bit of theory behind it.

The system displayed below uses a PIC controller to display the letter or number pressed. A schematic of the whole project is given here as well as a detailed bill of materials.

As for how the PS/2 keyboard works, each keystroke is encoded into a binary number or “scan code”. Most of these codes are 8-bit, but some special symbols use a longer code. Although the article doesn’t fully address it, a very similar method can be used to send data back to the keyboard for such purposes as tuning on a “capslock” or “numlock” key. Although turning on a light is fun, we could see this being used as an expedient method to control a relay for automation purposes.

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ATtiny Hacks: Infrared Guidance And Navigation

After [trandi] got his hands on a cheap R/C helicopter he realized the difficulties in actually flying a remote control helicopter. Instead of giving up, he decided to reverse-engineer the infrared protocol and then build a decoder around an ATtiny that would send commands to another microcontroller using a serial connection.

The remote’s communications protocol was decoded with the help of a Freeduino and an IR remote analysis sketch [trandi] found on the Arduino website. After importing the data into Gnuplot, there was enough data to write a sketch in Processing to visualize the infrared pulses.

After figuring out the protocol of his remote control, [trandi] built a tiny circuit to decrypt the IR commands and send them over a serial link to another microcontroller. The ATtiny45-based build doesn’t take up very much space on the perfboard making it very easy to mount on any robot of his choosing. He ended up connecting it to a Lego NTX brick allowing him to use the helicopter remote with any Lego build he can dream up.

[trandi] invested a lot of work around a cheap remote control; if the remote broke, all would be for naught. This was remedied with an IR beacon that replicates the function of the remote. The beacon is based on an ATtiny13 and can serve as a stand-alone beacon for autonomous robots or can accept serial commands from a computer. Not a bad build if you ask us.

Large Scale Tetris Game Controlled With DDR Pads


Even though Tetris came to the US 25 long years ago, it never fails to entertain. Whatever it is that gives the game such lasting power is a mystery to us, but we’re always interested in seeing fresh takes on the classic game.

MIT students [Leah Alpert] and [Russell Cohen] tweaked Tetris a bit to get players off the couch and literally thinking on their feet. The game boards were constructed using RGB LEDs installed in laser-cut acrylic tubes, arranged in a pair of large 6 foot tall floor standing matrices.

Game play progresses as you would expect, with two players battling head to head to achieve the high score, while simultaneously sabotaging their opponent. Instead of controllers however, each player stands on a Dance Dance Revolution mat, manipulating their game pieces with their feet.

While the DDR pads aren’t exactly a Kinect controller, we have no doubt that playing Tetris this way is incredibly fun – we would certainly install a pair of these boards in our game room without a second thought.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in!

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