Retrotechtacular: DC To DC Conversion, Rotary Style

If you want to convert one voltage to another, what do you do? Well, if you are talking DC voltages today, you’ll probably use a DC to DC converter. Really, these converters generate some sort of AC waveform and then use either an inductor or a transformer to boost or buck the voltage as desired. Then they’ll convert it back to DC. If you are talking AC voltages, you could just use a transformer. But think about this: a transformer has two sides. The primary makes an alternating magnetic field. Just like rotating a shaft with magnets on it could. The secondary converts that alternating magnetic field into electricity just like a generator does. In other words, a transformer is just a generator that takes an AC input instead of a rotating mechanical input.

That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but in the old days, a lot of mobile radios (and other devices) took this idea to its logical conclusion. A M-G (Motor Generator) set was little more than a motor connected to a generator. The motor might take, say, 12V DC and the output could be, for example 300V AC that would get rectified for the plate voltage in a tube radio.

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Softly To Sleep, My Raspberry Pi

For all their capacity, shutting down a Raspberry Pi can be a bothersome routine depending on how you have it set up — historically and abrupt cut to the power risks corrupting the SD card. [madlab5] had to make a few changes to a Pi running in headless mode, requiring them to access it externally to shut it down to prevent any damage from pulling the plug. So, why not take the opportunity to whip up a soft shut-down switch?

This is a great beginner project to get one accustomed to working with a Pi. With this in mind, [madlab5] went through two revisions of this idea: the simple way, and the fun way. For the simple way just press the button and the Pi activates a script which shuts it down in thirty seconds. Job done. But, realizing there may be a few circumstances where they’d need more functionality, [madlab5] decided to take a second swing at this.

[madlab5]’s fun way involves a button with a built-in LED and a speaker to blare an announcement that the Pi will self destruct shut down after a short time. Setting the switch up this way takes a little more doing, but you get to add a little more character to your Pi with a custom shutdown report, as well as the option to cancel an accidental button-press.

For any newbies out there, [madlab5] is kind enough to provide their code and diagrams in their blog post. If remotes are more your thing, we have also featured a similar beginner project to shut down your Pi.

[via /r/Raspberry_Pi_Projects]

We Dig This LEGO Excavator Conversion

[Frank] was lucky enough to score a bucket wheel excavator LEGO set as a birthday present, and we won’t lie – we’re jealous. However, out of the box, the kit is somewhat limited; there is only one motor to animate the entire machine and it can’t be fully remote controlled. But don’t worry — [Frank] set out to change that (Google Translation).

The first part of the build was to add motors to control the different functions of the excavator. One motor was added for each of the two tracks to allow the machine to drive forwards, backwards, and turn. Two more motors were added to raise and lower the digging buckets, and spin the tower. Finally, the original motor was left in place to turn the conveyor.

With that done, [Frank] then used a Raspberry Pi 3 to control all the hardware, being sure to house the new electronics in LEGO for an original look. The Raspberry Pi might be a lot of muscle to simply control a few motors, but it made it quick and easy for [Frank] to implement a Wiimote as a controller over Bluetooth. You can check out a couple demo videos in his most recent update.

It’s a great project, and we’d love to see the Raspberry Pi put to good use by allowing control over the Internet so we can dig in the sand over lunch breaks. We’ve seen some great LEGO hacks before, like this method of modifying cheap gear motors to work with LEGO parts.