Wine-o-Meter Quantifies Your Bachelor Party Bad Behavior


[Phil] had a bunch of Shiftbrite modules set aside for an LED table project, but before he could get around to it, he decided to use them to build a prop for his friend’s bachelor party. Expecting plenty of drunken revelry, he constructed the Arduino Wine-o-Meter – a carnival “Test your strength” style breathalyzer.

The 25 Shiftbrite modules are lined up in a column, which is connected to an Arduino tucked away in a cardboard box. The Arduino takes readings from an MQ-3 Gas/Alcohol sensor was salvaged from another breathalyzer build [Phil] put together. While it has been noted in the past that this sensor is pretty inaccurate, it seems to serve his purposes quite well. Since his game is based on measuring the players’ blood alcohol content in relation to one another rather than obtaining an exact BAC reading, the poor calibration of the device should affect everyone equally.

It looks pretty cool, and we imagine that it will ensure that the party stays lively throughout the wee hours of the night. Check out the video below to see [Phil] walk you through a demo of his Wine-o-Meter.

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Do You Know What You’re Doing When Integrating PC-side Apps With USB Microcontrollers?

The advent of integrated USB peripherals in microprocessors (PIC, AVR, etc.) has certainly taken a lot of the work out of developing USB devices, not to mention reducing the silicon parts in these designs. But do you know what you’re doing when it comes to controlling them with user-friendly applications? [Simon Inns] is lending a hand with this in his recent tutorial. He shows how to use USB capable AVR chips along with your own Windows applications.

After the break you can see the video from which the above screenshot was captured. That’s a development board of his own making which hosts an ATmega32U4, as well as a USB-B port, LEDs, potentiometer, and a few switches. Taking a closer look, we love the breadboard friendly headers he used on the bottom of the board to break out all of the pins.

His demo shows the Windows app turning LEDs on the board on and off, as well as ADC data displaying the current potentiometer position with the onscreen dial. His code package includes the hardware design, firmware, and app software needed to follow along with what he’s doing.

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Salvaged Flight Stick Controls A/V System, Triggers “Emergency Party System”


After seeing a writeup online that demonstrated how to build an “Emergency Party Button”, [spikec] knew that he had to have one of his own. He happened to have a USAF B-8 stick grip from an A-10A aircraft laying around, and figured it would be perfect for controlling the A/V system in his basement.

The control stick was mounted to the top of a cheap cigar humidor, and crammed full of any electronic component he could get his hands on. It contains not one, but two Arduinos. The first is tasked with reading the flight stick’s inputs and the IR control of his various appliances, while another triggers the overhead lighting in his bar along with the X10 controlled Emergency Party System. He contemplated combining all of the functionality into one device, but splitting the tasks in two was easier for this self-declared electronics novice.

The various buttons on the control stick can be used to power all of his A/V appliances on and off, control volume levels, and select which songs stream from his digital jukebox. If the action ever starts to wind down, a quick turn of his “arming” key and the flick of a switch sends his basement into full-on party mode, which includes more lighting and lasers than any one person should be allowed to own.

[spikec] says that his wife’s eyes were rolling like “uncaged gyros” when he unveiled his controller for the first time – a sign of a job well done. Don’t take our word for it though, check out a video of his control stick and Emergency Party System in action after the jump.

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3G Connected Hotspot Hangs Out At Your House

[Drug123] made the most out of this inconspicuous gray box on the gable end of his father’s home. It serves up a 3G Internet connection that was otherwise unavailable..

The project idea was sparked by the absence of wired or fiber optic broadband in the community where his dad lives. He knew some neighbors were using 3G connections, but he couldn’t get it to work inside the house. So he set about developing an external installation that would both communicate with the cellular network, and provide a WiFi connect to it. Hardware for that is relatively expensive; a USB 3G modem and a WiFi router with a USB port.

The box itself is made of plastic, but even without the Faraday cage effect that would have been formed by using a metal housing, the 3G modem’s internal antenna just doesn’t do the job. You can see that [Drug123’s] solution was an external antenna which is mounted at the peak of the roofline. Inside the box there’s an exhaust fan to cool things off when they get too hot, as well as some power resistors which provide a heat source on the coldest nights. The low-cost build certainly fits the bill, and it’s not too hard on the eyes either.

Insanely Kludgy Pen Plotter Actually Works

This pen plotter, held together with structural epoxy, is an amazing piece of engineering, and almost as impressive as a bridge made entirely out of Bondo.

[Brian] at the Rochester, NY hackerspace Interlock needed to build something for the BarCamp geek “unconference.” To lure BarCamp attendees over to the Interlock table, they needed a small tabletop device with whirring motors that was able to make some decent swag. Hacking together a pen plotter sounded like the perfect project.

The mechanics of the build were scavenged from old printers and scanners. [Brian] decided to use pin-feed card stock, so the take-up wheels from an old dot matrix printer was sacrificed as well. This paper feed mechanism serves as the Y axis, and the X axis rides above the paper on precision rods. The pen holder is supported by a tiny solenoid.

Things start getting crazy at the software level. grbl was loaded onto an Arduino with a stepper driver shield, and vector text drawings were printed. After a bit of live-action hackery, [Brian] figured out how to plot captured webcam images. OpenCV captures and does a trace outline. This is converted to vectors with autotrace, and from EPS to HPGL by pstoedit. A Python script then cleans up the HPGL and converts it to G code and sends it to the printer. Confused? So are we, so just check out the video of the plotter in action after the break.

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Automated CD Ripper Build From Lego And Other Parts

[Paul Rea] decided it was finally time to get rid his CD and DVD library by ripping the data onto a hard drive. He has a rather extensive collection of discs and didn’t relish the thought of ripping them one at a time. So he set to work building his own automatic CD ripper/duplicator.

Right off the bat he had several specifications for the build. He wanted it to be platform independent, reliable, and cheap to build. We think he really hit the mark, but he does mention that he’s got a second duplicator build in mind already. This version makes heavy use of Lego parts for the arm and gearing. The base has a stepper motor which swings the arm in an arc which reaches the input pile, the optical drive try, and the output bin. The arm itself has a two-part wooden gripper that is positioned over a CD and uses a limiting switch to sense when the vertical orientation is at the proper point for gripping a disc. We enjoyed reading his log as he discusses the various building challenges he encountered and how each was overcome.

We’ve seen a few other builds like this before. One of our favorites is from way back.

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Preparing For The Zombie Apocalypse

Every reasonable person prepares for the future. Whether it’s matching your employer’s 401k contributions, making sure you have bread and milk before a snow storm, or saving for your kid’s college fund, planning for the future gives you a comfortable life. [Gord] has exceptional foresight; he build an awesome Louisville Decapitron for the upcoming zombie apocalypse.

It’s an urban legend that a bullet to the brain will stop a zombie. Instantaneous trepanation is devastating in the living, but we’re talking about the undead here. A melee weapon is what you’re after, and you’ve got to cut off the head. [Gord] based his project around a Louisville Slugger. The blade is a 20 inch long piece of plasma cut mild steel. It’s just a prototype to get the balance figured out; the final version will be done in carbon steel.

The tang of the blade fits into two notches in the bat. The blade is secured with two custom fabricated spacers that are perpendicular to the blade. We’re not quite sure of the nomenclature of the resulting weapon (it’s some type of battle axe, we’re sure), but we couldn’t think of a better way to decapitate the undead.