Help Needed: No-Soldering ESP8266 IFTTT Button

We all love to see amazing hacks in their finished state and be dazzled by what our peers can do. But that’s just the summit of the hacker’s Everest. We all know that the real work is in getting there. user [stopsendingmejunk] is working on an ESP8266-based IFTTT Button based on a simple breakout board so that anyone could rebuild it without having to do any soldering, and he’s looking for collaboration.

[stopsendingmejunk]’s project takes off from this similar project on different hardware. The board he’s chosen to use is the EZSBC ESP8266-07 breakout, which should have everything he needs, including an on-board button. It should be an easy enough job, but he’s having trouble getting the thing to stay asleep until the button is pressed.

We’ve seen more than a few hacks of the Amazon Dash button, but aside from hacking for hacking’s sake, we’re also happy to see a ground-up open redesign. Besides, this looks like it’ll be a great introductory project, requiring little fiddling around. With a little help. The code is up here on GitHub. Anyone game?

Home Made Half Life 2 Turret Powered By Pi

To help expand his inter-dimensional empire, [Solderchips] has decided to build his own Half Life 2 turret. This, he hopes, will automatically track and shoot anyone who hinders the work of Our Benefactors. He’s documenting the process, and has just published his first step: creating a 3D model of the turret and printing it out. The final project will use a Raspberry Pi and a webcam to track rebels and fire on them automatically, especially those with crowbars.

He’s made a promising start, using a papercraft model of the turret to build the 3D model, then modifying it to accommodate the brains (the Raspberry Pi) and the brawns, a couple of small servos that will move the top of the turret around. The next step will perhaps be to add a tilt switch so that the whole thing falls asleep if it falls over. The thing to learn from this project, is that at some point you just have to stop thinking about it and actually make something. This paper model is a big step toward success compared to carrying around the dream in your head.

We’ve seen a few Portal Turret builds and a very nice Wheatley build, but not a decent Half Life 2 turret build, so hopefully [Solderchips] will see this through to completion and release all of his files.

Arch Reactor Hackerspace Is Moving!

What happens when your hackerspace grows too big for its building? Well — you can either take over the other units in your building — or move to a bigger building altogether!

We toured Arch Reactor almost three years ago, which is located in St. Louis, Missouri. The present facility is 2400sqft, which over the past few years has gotten a bit cramped. They’re moving to a new building at 2215 Scott Avenue, which is over twice the size of the current facility at a whopping 5100sqft!

As you can imagine, it’s not an easy task to move a hackerspace of this size to a new building, but their community is strong and they’re still hacking away, even during the move! If your hackerspace has a move in its not-so-distant-future, you might want to take note and follow along on their blog for some lessons learned.

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Hillbilly Lego Focus Puller

There’s almost nothing you can’t build with the right set of Lego parts. [Rigjob] built up a Lego-based wireless remote follow-focus system that’ll give professional systems a run for their money.

Now [Rigjob] self-identifies as a hillbilly, but he’s not just a redneck with a camera. He’s set up the Lego controller to remember minimum and maximum focus positions as well as mark points along the way. The controller simply won’t turn the lens outside of the focus range, and an interactive graph shows you where you are within the range. For a focus wheel, he uses (drum-roll please!) a Lego off-road wheel. It looks really comfortable, usable, and actually quite professional.

There’s a lot of tech in the Lego controller and motors that make this “simple” hack simple. Under the hood, there’s a Bluetooth connection, a geared stepper motor with a position sensor, a communication protocol, and a whole ton of programming in the Lego controller that makes it all drag-and-drop programmable. But to a long-bearded hillbilly cameraman, it all looks like child’s play. And that’s the hallmark of good design. Kudos, Lego.

If you can’t get enough Lego camera tech, check out this DIY slit-scan stargate rig, or (what else?) a Lego 3D chocolate printer.

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EZ-Spin Motor Spins “Forever”

Now this isn’t a perpetual motion machine, but it’s darn close. What [lasersaber] has done instead is to make the EZ Spin, an incredibly efficient motor that does nothing. Well, nothing except look cool, and influence tons of people to re-build their own versions of it and post them on YouTube.

The motor itself is ridiculously simple: it’s essentially a brushless DC motor with a unique winding pattern. A number of coils — anywhere from six to twenty-four — are wired together with alternating polarity. If one coil is a magnetized north, its two neighbors are magnetized south, and vice-versa. The rotor is a ring with permanent magnets, all arranged so that they have the same polarity. A capacitor is used for the power source, and a reed switch serves as a simplistic commutator, if that’s even the right term.

As the motor turns, a permanent magnet passes by the reed switch and it makes the circuit. All of the electromagnets, which are wound in series, fire and kick the rotor forwards. Then the reed switch opens and the rotor coasts on to the next position. When it gets there the reed switch closes and it gets a magnetic kick again.

The catch? Building the device so that it’s carefully balanced and running on really good (sapphire) bearings, entirely unloaded, and powered with high impedance coils, leads to a current consumption in the microamps. As with most motors, when you spin it by hand, it acts as a generator, giving you a simple way to charge up the capacitor that drives it. In his video [lasersaber] blows on the rotor through a straw to charge up the capacitor, and then lets it run back down. It should run for quite a while on just one spin-up.

The EZ Spin motor is absolutely, positively not perpetual motion or “over-unity” or any of that mumbo-jumbo. It is a cool, simple-to-build generator/motor project that’ll definitely impress your friends and challenge you to see how long you can get it running. Check out [lasersaber]’s website, this forum post, and a 3D model on Thingiverse if you want to make your own.

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Shark with Frickin’ LED Tells People not to Bother you

Everybody is busy these days, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. What with teleconferences being conducted over tiny Bluetooth headphones and Skype meetings where we seem to be dozing in front of the monitor, we’ve lost some of the visual cues that used to advertise our availability. So why not help your colleagues to know when to give you space with this shark themed WiFi-enabled meeting light?

Why a shark and not a mutated intemperate sea bass? Only [falldeaf] can answer that. But the particulars of the build are well-documented and pretty straightforward. A Photon runs the show, looking for an Outlook VFB file to parse. An RGB LED is used to change the color of the translucent 3D printed shark based on whether you’re in a meeting, about to step into one, or free. The case is 3D printed as well, although [falldeaf] farmed the prints out to a commercial printing outfit because of the size and intricacy of the parts. He did fabricate a nice looking wood base for the light, though.

There are plenty of ways to tell people to buzz off, but this is a pretty slick solution. For those in open floor plan workspaces, something like this IoT traffic light for you and your cube-mates might be in order.

Making a Wooden Multi-Mirror Display Device

Do you have 835 servo motors sitting around? Why not build your own binary wood-pixel-display-device?

Using the same basic concept as a DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) — the heart of all DLP projection technology — an artist created this wooden mirror. It features 835 wood “pixels” which are controlled by servo motors. Each pixel or wood chip can flip 30 degrees down, and 30 degrees up. A series of spot lights shining on the mirror provides lighting so shadows form when the pixels are “off”. The result is quite fascinating.

A small camera mounted in the middle of the display takes a black and white image of whoever (or whatever) is standing in front of the mirror. A bit of image processing later, and the mirror displays what it sees.

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