Raspberry Pi Zero Drives Tiny RC Truck

We’re not sure which is more fun – putting together a little RC truck with parts laying around on your workbench, or driving it around through a Linux terminal. We’ll take the easy road and say they’re both equally fun. [technodict] had some spare time on his hands and decided to build such a truck.

He started off with a great little chassis that can act as the base for many projects. Powering the four motors is a cheap little dual H bridge motor driver and a couple rechargeable batteries. But the neatest part of this build is that it’s controlled using a little bit of python and driven directly from a terminal, made possible by the Raspberry Pi Zero of course.

With Raspberry Pi Zero now having built in WiFi and Bluetooth – we should see a lot more projects popping up with one at its heart. Be sure to visit [technodict’s] blog for full source and details. And let us know how you could use that little chassis for your next mobile project!

An Indoor Garden? That’s Arduino-licious

Gardening is a rewarding endeavour, and easily automated for the maker with a green thumb. With simplicity at its focus,  Hackaday.io user [MEGA DAS] has whipped up a automated planter to provide the things plants crave: water, air, and light.

[MEGA DAS] is using a TE215 moisture sensor to keep an eye on how thirsty the plant may be, a DHT11 temperature and humidity sensor to check the airflow around the plant, and a BH1750FVI light sensor for its obvious purpose. To deliver on these needs, a 12V DC water pump and a small reservoir will keep things right as rain, a pair of 12V DC fans mimic a gentle breeze, and a row of white LEDs supplement natural light when required.

The custom board is an Arduino Nano platform, with an ESP01 to enable WiFi capacity and a Bluetooth module to monitor the plant’s status while at home or away. Voltage regulators, MOSFETs, resistors, capacitors, fuses — can’t be too careful — screw header connectors, and a few other assorted parts round out the circuit. The planter is made of laser cut pieces with plenty of space to mount the various components and hide away the rest. You can check out [MEGA DAS]’ tutorial video after the break!

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Giving Stranger Things For Christmas

[rudolph] was at a loss on what to get his niece for Christmas. It turns out she’s a huge fan of Stranger Things, so the answer was obvious: make her an alphabet wall she can control!

Downsizing the scale to fit inside a document frame, [rudolph] calls their gift rudLights, and a key parameter of this build was to make it able to display any phrases sent from their niece’s Amazon Fire tablet instead of constantly displaying hard-coded phrases. To do so, it has a HC-05 Bluetooth module to forward the commands to the NeoPixel LEDs running on a 5V DC power supply.

[rudolph] enlisted the help of their son to draw up the alphabet display — printed straight onto thematically decorative wallpaper — and cut out holes in the light bulbs for the LEDs.  Next up was cut some fibre board as a firm backing to mount the electronics inside the frame and drill holes for the NeoPixels. It was a small odyssey to cut and solder all the wires to the LEDs, but once done, [rudolph] divided their rudLight alphabet into three rows and added capacitors to receive power directly.

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This Tiny Motor is Built into a PCB

Mounting a motor on a PCB is nothing new, right? But how about making the PCB itself part of the motor? That’s what [Carl Bugeja] has done with his brushless DC motor in a PCB project, and we think it’s pretty cool.

Details on [Carl]’s Hackaday.io page are a bit sparse at this point, but we’ve been in contact with him and he filled us in a little. The PCB contains the stator of the BLDC and acts as a mechanical support for the rotor’s bearing. There are six spiral coils etched into the PCB, each with about 40 turns. The coils are distributed around the axis; connected in a wye configuration, they drive a 3D-printed rotor that has four magnets pressed into it. You can see a brief test in the video below; it seems to suffer from a little axial wobble due to the single bearing, but that could be handled with a hat board supporting an upper bearing.

We see a lot of potential in this design. [Carl] mentions that the lack of cores in the coil limit it to low-torque applications, but it seems feasible to bore out the center of the coils and press-fit a ferrite slug. Adding SMD Hall sensors to the board for feedback would be feasible, too — in fact, an entire ESC and motor on one PCB could be possible as well. [Carl] has promised to keep the project page updated, and we’re looking forward to more on this one.

For a more traditional approach to printed motors, check out this giant 3D-printed BLDC.

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Road Apology/Gratitude Emitter Car LED Sign

Sometimes, when you’re driving, a simple wave when someone lets you in can go unnoticed and sometimes you make a mistake and a simple wave just isn’t enough. [Noapparentfunction] came up with a nice project to say ‘Thanks’ and ‘My Bad’ to his fellow drivers.

The display uses four Max 7219 LED matrix displays, so the total resolution is 32 by 8. [Noapparentfunction] came up with an inspired idea: using a glasses case to hold the LED matrices and Raspberry Pi. It’s easy to get into if necessary, stays closed, and provides a nice finished look. Having little knowledge of electronics and no programming skills, [Noapparentfunction] had to rely on cutting and pasting Python code as well as connecting a mess of wires together, but the end result works, and that’s what matters.

A network cable runs from the glasses case suction cupped to the rear window to another project box under the dashboard. There, the network cable is connected to two buttons and the power. No network information is passed, the cable is just a convenient collection of wires with which to send signals. Each of the buttons shows a different message on the display.

Depending on where you live, this might not be legal, and we’re sure many of our readers (as well as your author) could come up with some different messages to display. However, this is a cool idea and despite [Noapparentfunction]’s admitted limitations, is a nice looking finished product. Also, its name is Road Apology Gratitude Emitter. Here are some other car mod articles: This one adds some lighting to the foot well and glove compartment and this one on the heinousness of aftermarket car alarms.

Quantum Weirdness in Your Browser

I’ll be brutally honest. When I set out to write this post, I was going to talk about IBM’s Q Experience — the website where you can run real code on some older IBM quantum computing hardware. I am going to get to that — I promise — but that’s going to have to wait for another time. It turns out that quantum computing is mindbending and — to make matters worse — there are a lot of oversimplifications floating around that make it even harder to understand than it ought to be. Because the IBM system matches up with real hardware, it is has a lot more limitations than a simulator — think of programming a microcontroller with on debugging versus using a software emulator. You can zoom into any level of detail with the emulator but with the bare micro you can toggle a line, use a scope, and hope things don’t go too far wrong.

So before we get to the real quantum hardware, I am going to show you a simulator written by [Craig Gidney]. He wrote it and promptly got a job with Google, who took over the project. Sort of. Even if you don’t like working in a browser, [Craig’s] simulator is easy enough, you don’t need an account, and a bookmark will save your work.

It isn’t the only available simulator, but as [Craig] immodestly (but correctly) points out, his simulator is much better than IBM’s. Starting with the simulator avoids tripping on the hardware limitations. For example, IBM’s devices are not fully connected, like a CPU where only some registers can get to other registers. In addition, real devices have to deal with noise and the quantum states not lasting very long. If your algorithm is too slow, your program will collapse and invalidate your results. These aren’t issues on a simulator. You can find a list of other simulators, but I’m focusing on Quirk.

What Quantum Computing Is

As I mentioned, there is a lot of misinformation about quantum computing (QC) floating around. I think part of it revolves around the word computing. If you are old enough to remember analog computers, QC is much more like that. You build “circuits” to create results. There’s also a lot of difficult math — mostly linear algebra — that I’m going to try to avoid as much as possible. However, if you can dig into the math, it is worth your time to do so. However, just like you can design a resonant circuit without solving differential equations about inductors, I think you can do QC without some of the bigger math by just using results. We’ll see how well that holds up in practice.

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Friday Hack Chat: Becoming Cyborg

What is it like to be a cyborg? What does it mean to have augmented hearing, improved vision, and coprocessors for your brain that enhance your memory? We could ask people with hearing aids, glasses, and a smartphone strapped to their wrist, but that’s boring. We’re looking to the future and the cool type of cyborgation, and that’s what this week’s Hack Chat is all about.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat will be Lindy Wilkins, and they’re here to discuss what it takes to be a cyborg. Right now, they’re sporting a magnetic implant, an NFC implant and will soon have a North Sense, an exo-sensory device that tells your brain where North is.

Lindy is currently based in Toronto as a PhD student at the University of Toronto, and director at the Site 3 coLaboratory. They spend free time making robots, playing with lasers, and thinking about how body modification and where the intersection of bio-hacking and wearable technology will meet in the near future.

During this Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking about what it means to be a cyborg. Is it simply a matter of wearing contacts, getting a replacement hip or heart valve, or is it something even cooler? Do RFID tags count? Do insulin pumps? We’re going to be digging deep into what it means to be a cyborg, and what future technologies will enable the human body to do. You are, of course, encouraged to ask your own questions; leave those on the Hack Chat event page.

join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, January 26th at noon, Pacific time. Time Zones got you down? Here’s a handy countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the left, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.