The Newest Graphing Calculator Game

Certainly everyone remembers passing time in a boring high school class playing games on a graphing calculator. Whether it was a Mario-esque game, Tetris, or BlockDude, there are plenty of games out there for pretty much all of the graphing calculators that exist. [Christopher], [Tim], and their colleagues from Cemetech took their calculator game a little bit farther than we did, and built something that’ll almost surely disrupt whatever class you’re attempting to pay attention in: They built a graphing calculator whac-a-mole game.

This game isn’t the standard whac-a-mole game, though, and it isn’t played on the calculator’s screen. Instead of phyiscal “moles” the game uses LEDs and light sensors enclosed in a box to emulate the function of the moles. In order to whack a mole, the player only needs to interrupt the light beam which can be done with any physical object. The team made extensive use of the ArTICL library which allows graphing calculators to interface with microcontrollers like the MSP432 that they used, and drove the whole thing with a classic TI-84.

This project is a fun way to show what can be done with a graphing calculator and embedded electronics, and it was a big hit at this past year’s World Maker Faire. Calculators are versatile in other ways as well. We’ve seen them built with open hardware and free software, And we’ve even seen them get their own Wi-Fi.

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Sub $300 CNC, If You Have a 3d Printer

[Allted] has designed a CNC machine that you can print yourself; adding conduit, bearings, and the standard vitamins to bring it to life. The CNC machine uses a mechanical design similar to an etch-a-sketch, though instead of the maze of pulleys and cable it uses four stepper motors to do the X and Y translation. The machine looks to be about as accurate as a Shapeoko, and is able to handle light cutting in aluminum.

The coolest part is the extensibility of the printer. For example, [Allted] needed to print a lot of parts to make orders of the kit. So, he built a 4 headed 3D printer by copying blocks of the design, and tying them all to the same belt. The design also seems to be a little more resistant to dust and debris than some homemade rigs. The CNC won the Boca Bearings design competition. If you’d like to build one yourself, [Allted] has all the instructions with print setting recommendations on his website.

Bismuth Crystals Hold Magnet Suspended for 100 Years

[NightHawkInLight] has been playing around with the diamagnetic properties of bismuth. Diamagnetic materials get a lot of attention due to their strange ability to produce the opposite of the magnetic field going through them. In simpler terms, metals like iron are attracted to magnets; metals like bismuth repel them.

[NightHawkInLight] built his own interpretation of a common lab example used to demonstrate this remarkable property, a levitator. A levitator is made by sandwiching a magnet between two plates of diamagnetic material. One of the plates is given a magnetic field opposite of the magnet underneath it by a stronger magnet placed some distance away. When this is done, the magnet in between wants to repel away from the plate above, only to find that as it gets closer to the plate below it is equally repelled, creating a stable system.

Eventually the magnet above will need realignment, but [NightHawkInLight] assures us this is only once every 100 years. Video after the break. Continue reading “Bismuth Crystals Hold Magnet Suspended for 100 Years”

Raspberry Pi Zero Cluster Packs a Punch

If you could actually buy 16 Raspberry Pi Zeros, you might be able to build your very own Raspberry Pi Cluster for only $80! Well… minus the cost of the board to tie them all together…

A Japanese company called Idein is developing a Raspberry Pi module called the Actbulb for computational sensing and data analysis. In order to perform internal testing they decided to make things easier for themselves by developing a board to allow them to plug in not one, not two, but sixteen Raspberry Pi Zeros:

Since we will use Pi’s GPU for image processing, deep learning, etc. We need real Pis but not just Linux machines. Another reason. It can be used for flashing eMMCs of our devices via USB ports when we have to do that by ourselves.

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Homemade Exoskeleton Lifts Mini Cooper with Ease

As some of you may or may not know, I’m interested in everything exoskeleton related. I’ve been messing around with my own designs for the past year or so, and just this past weekend, tested out the latest lower body design. There are a lot of boring (and some would say safe) ways to test this. But that’s no fun. For my test I used the lower-half of the exoskeleton to pick up a Mini Cooper.

exoskeleton-curlYou might remember my original upper-body design which was something I threw together in my garage as a proof of concept. It worked well for what it was, and surprisingly, took the internet by storm — amassing over a million views in a single week for a video of me curling 170lbs in my backyard. The fire had started — I knew I had to make something better. And that was the beginning of my quest to build a full-body powered exoskeleton.

The biggest problem with the original was a lack of back support — it didn’t matter how much weight I could lift, it was still my feeble human skeleton taking the weight. So it was time to go back to the drawing board, and start the design from the ground up. Continue reading “Homemade Exoskeleton Lifts Mini Cooper with Ease”

Bone Up on Your Multiplication Skills

John Napier was a Scottish physicist, mathematician, and astronomer who usually gets the credit for inventing logarithms. But his contributions to simplifying mathematics and building shorthand solutions didn’t end there. In the course of performing the many calculations he needed to practice these subjects in the 1500s, Napier invented a kind of computing mechanism for multiplication. It’s a physical manifestation of an old system known as lattice multiplication or gelosia.

Lattice multiplication makes use of the multiplication table in order to multiply huge numbers together quickly and easily. It is thought to have originated in India and moved west into Europe. When the lattice method reached Italy, the Italians named it gelosia after the trellised window covering it resembled, which was commonly used to keep prying eyes away from one’s possessions and wife.

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Repair and Calibration of Valhalla Programmable Precision Standard

Precision standards are the pinnacle of test and measuring instrumentation. Well engineered, sure, but also beautifully built and a feast to look at, no matter how old they are. [Shahriar] at “The Signal Path” often gives us the skinny on such equipment. In the latest episode, we get a look inside a Valhalla 2701C Programmable Precision DC Voltage Standard.

Even by 1990 standards, it is a fairly basic instrument, capable of producing just DC Voltages from 100nV up to 1200V. But it is a reference standard, so the output is highly stable, accurate and precise.  He snagged it from eBay on the cheap but transport seemed to have caused some damage. It would switch on and relays would click when he pressed buttons, but the 7-segment LED display was blank. Luckily, opening the top cover fixes that problem – just a loose connection between the front display and the main board. Examination also shows that adding a 120mA DC current range would require adding additional components on the main board so his hope of doing a quick firmware upgrade is short lived.

[Shahriar] takes the opportunity to walk us through the various sections of the well built unit. It’s apparently seen some repairs during it’s life. A few capacitors look changed, and a relay housing has seen damage from a soldering iron. The digital section is mainly the 6800 micro controller, an EPROM and a NVRAM, and it generates the PWM signals needed for producing the output voltages. A highly precise reference signal is essential for such equipment, and this one uses the LM299 with a “custom” suffix meaning it was specially screened and binned. He does a quick calibration run, but it’s obviously rushed and doesn’t produce stable results. But that could also be due to the low quality cables he used, or a number of other factors. Calibrating such equipment is a job demanding both time and patience.

While this may not knock your socks off. For that, check out this post where [Shahriar] does a tear down of the one million dollar Labmaster 10-100zi Oscilloscope, or this other one where he plays around with a half a million dollar oscilloscope you’ll probably never use, much less own.

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