Short Length of Wire Turns STM32 Microcontroller into Good-enough Wireless UART Blaster

Hackaday regular [befinitiv] wrote into the tip line to let us know about a hack you might enjoy, wireless UART output from a bare STM32 microcontroller. Desiring the full printf debugging experience, but constrained both by available space and expense, [befinitiv] was inspired to improvise by a similar hack that used the STM32 to send Morse code over standard FM frequencies.

In this case, [befinitiv]’s solution is both more useful and slightly more legal, as the software uses the 27 MHz ISM band to blast out ASK modulated serial data through a simple wire antenna attached to one of the microcontroller’s pins. The broadcast can then be picked up by an RTL-SDR receiver and interpreted back into a stream of data by GNU Radio.

The software for the STM32 and the GNU Radio Companion graph are both available on Bitbucket. The blog post goes into some detail explaining how the transmitter works and what all the GNU Radio components are doing to claw the serial data back from the ether.

[cover image cc by-sa licensed by Adam Greig, randomskk on Flickr]

New Part Day: ST’s New 3D Printer Motor Driver

ST has released a new evaluation board for a stepper motor driver. It’ll plug right into your 3D printer, and if you’re looking for a chip to build a cheap 3D printer controller board around, this might be the one.

We’ve come a long way in the field of stepper motor drivers in just a few short years. The first popular driver for RepRap electronics was ‘the Pololu’, a stepper motor carrier board using Allegro’s A4988 driver. If you had a big heat sink, this driver could deliver 2 A per coil, operated between 8 and 35 V, and had microstep resolution down to 1/16th. Was it the best stepper driver around? No, but it was cheap, it was everywhere, and RAMPS, the popular RepRap control electronics picked up on its pinout and accidentally created a standard. The DRV8825 motor driver from TI followed next, with microstepping down to 1/32nd, a little more current per coil, and arguably a better thermal design.

Then the wave of Trinamic drivers happened. The Trinamic TMC2100 was a silent stepper motor driver when running a motor at medium or low speeds. With this driver, you could run a motor more efficiently, which means the motor doesn’t get as hot. There are diagnostics via SPI. Tom liked it, and now in every Prusa i3, you’ll find a bunch of Trinamic drivers.

ST’s new offering, the STSPIN820, doesn’t have the fancy-schmancy features the Trinamic driver does, but the chip itself is fantastically cheap, at about 1/5th the price of a Trinamic driver. As far as feature set, you should probably look at this new chip as an upgrade to the A4988, with much higher microstepping and slightly higher current handling.

If you’d like to experiment with the evaluation module, you can grab one from an ST distributor; at the time of this writing, there were seventeen of these modules available worldwide. If you’d just like to play with the STSPIN820 motor driver chip, ten thousand are available between Mouser and Digikey, starting at $2.97 in quantity one. If someone could tell electronics manufacturers to build more than a dozen evaluation boards at a time, that would be great.

Low-cost Autonomous Rover will Drive your Projects

[Miguel] wanted to get more hands-on experience with Python, so he created a small robotic platform as a testbed. But as such things sometimes go, it turns out the robot he created is a worthy enough project in its own right. With a low total cost and highly flexible design, it might be exactly what you’re looking for. Who knows, it might even bootstrap that rover project that’s been wandering around the back of your mind.

The robot makes use of an exceptionally simple 3D printed frame. No complicated suspension to worry about, no fasteners to hold together multiple printed parts. It’s just a single printed “L” shaped piece that has mounts for the motors and front sensor board. As designed it simply drags its tail around, which should work fine on smooth surfaces, but might need a bit of tweaking if you plan on taking your new robotic friend on an outdoor adventure.

There’s a big open area on the “tail” to mount a Raspberry Pi, but you could really put whatever board or microcontroller you wish here. In the nose is an HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor, which [Miguel] is using to perform obstacle avoidance in his Python code. A dual H-Bridge motor driver controls the pair of gear motors in the front to provide propulsion and steering, and a buck converter steps down the 7.4V from the 2S LiPo battery to power the electronics. He’s even included a mini breadboard so you can add circuits or sensors as experimental payloads.

If you’re looking for a slightly more advanced 3D printed robotics platform, we’ve seen our fair share. From the nearly fully printed Watney to a tank that looks like it’s ready for front-line combat.

Prototype Proves Wii was Two Gamecubes Taped Together All Along

Say what you will about Nintendo’s little purple lunchbox, the Gamecube, but it was home to many delightful experiences from Super Smash Bros. Melee to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. We now know it was also home to one of the very first Nintendo Wii remotes as well thanks to the recent listing from [Kuriaisu1122] on Yahoo Auctions.

The prototype Wii remote is a wired design and features a proprietary Gamecube controller cable. Notable differences include the two buttons toward the bottom are labeled ‘B’ and ‘A’ respectively. This shows that Nintendo always intended to have players hold the remote sideways in order to play Virtual console games. The large white button next to the directional pad is unlabeled, and along the middle are the traditional ‘Start’ and ‘Select’ labels on either side of ‘Home’. However, these all would go through multiple revisions on the way to the final design. Interestingly there is an Ethernet jack at the base used to connect accessories. That connector would eventually become the often maligned “Nunchuk interface”, but what modder wouldn’t have loved it if that Ethernet port had carried on to the final design?

Much like the “invaluable” Mario Party 6 microphone, the prototype’s IR sensor bar communicates via the Gamecube memory card port. The auction listing featured a photo size comparison of the prototype sensor bar is around four inches wider than the final design. Missing from the prototype Wii remote is the small tinny speaker, but that always seemed like an after thought anyway.

Credence as to the controller’s validity was given in a tweet from WayForward’s James Montagna who said on Twitter, “Wow, it’s the prototype Wii Remote & Nunchuk! I remember seeing these back when it was still known as the Nintendo Revolution!”. Montagna would go on to post photos of the Wii remote from E3 2006 that featured ‘Back’ and ‘Pause’ buttons where the plus and minus buttons would ultimately reside on the final design. These photos of the missing links in the evolution of the Wii remote help fill in the design process at Nintendo. They also further the idea that Nintendo always wanted players to measure each of their new consoles’ processing power in “X number of Gamecubes duct taped together”.

[via Nintendo Life]

For more on the console formerly known as the Nintendo Revolution, check out this incredible Wii console mod in an Altoids tin featured on Hackaday.

The Incredible Judges Of The Hackaday Prize

The time to enter The Hackaday Prize has ended, but that doesn’t mean we’re done with the world’s greatest hardware competition just yet. Over the past few months, we’ve gotten a sneak peek at over a thousand amazing projects, from Open Hardware to Human Computer Interfaces. This is a contest, though, and to decide the winner, we’re tapping some of the greats in the hardware world to judge these astonishing projects.

Below are just a preview of the judges in this year’s Hackaday Prize. They’ve been busy looking over all of the finalists and on Saturday we’ll announce the winners of the Hackaday Prize at the Hackaday Superconference in Pasadena. This is not an event to be missed — not only are we going to hear some fantastic technical talks from the hardware greats, but we’re also going to see who will walk away with the Grand Prize of $50,000.


Quinn Dunki

The mighty Quinn has been making games for 36 years on platforms ranging from the Apple II to all manner of newfangled things. She currently manages engineering for mobile games at Scopely, and pursues consulting, independent development, mixed-media engineering projects, and writing. Quinn is best known to the Hackaday crowd for Veronica, the 6502 system with everything and the kitchen sink on a backplane. It’s got PS/2, VGA, and Pong in ROM. The build log for Veronica has been an inspiration to many, and served as the basis for numerous homebrew systems. She continues to inspire with her blog, her YouTube Channel, and of course her Hackaday articles.

Eben Upton

In his earlier life, Eben founded two successful mobile game and middleware companies, but right now he’s most famous for founding the Raspberry Pi foundation and serving as the CEO of Raspberry Pi (Trading) LTD. Under his leadership, the Raspberry Pi has grown from some weird looking board with a USB port on one end, HDMI on the other, and a camera stuck in the middle. After months of work, hopes this computer might not be vaporware grew, and now the Raspberry Pi is the best-selling computer ever made (with apologies to the engineers behind the best selling home computer ever made).

Lauren McCarthy

Lauren McCarthy is an artist based in Los Angles and Brooklyn whose work explores systems for being a person and interacting with other people. She is an Assistant Professor at UCLA Design Media Arts, a Sundance Institute Fellow, and was previously a resident at CMU STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Eyebeam, Autodesk, and more. Lauren’s work has been exhibited internationally, at places such as Ars Electronica, Fotomuseum Winterthur, SIGGRAPH, Onassis Cultural Center, IDFA DocLab, and the Japan Media Arts Festival. She is the creator of p5.js, an open source platform for learning creative expression through code online.

Chris Anderson

From 2001 through 2012, Chris was the Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine, but now he’s the CEO of 3DR and founder of DIY Drones and DIY Robotcars. These Robocar races are held monthly-ish, and have so far proven an ideal platform to teach kids STEM, and have become something like the next generation of BattleBots, only with a few more computer vision algorithms and a few less RC transmitters. In addition to Robocars, Chris is one of the greatest advocates for flying drones, including those of the fixed-wing variety.

 

These are just a few of the amazingly accomplished judges we have lined up to determine the winner of this year’s Hackaday Prize. The winner will be announced on November 3rd at the Hackaday Superconference. If you can’t join us in person, don’t worry. We’re going to be live streaming everything, including the prize ceremony, where one team will walk away with the grand prize of $50,000. It’s not an event to miss.

History of White LEDs

Compared to incandescent lightbulbs, LEDs produce a lot more lumens per watt of input power — they’re more efficient at producing light.  Of course, that means that incandescent light bulbs are more efficient at producing heat, and as the days get shorter, and the nights get colder, somewhere, someone who took the leap to LED lighting has a furnace that’s working overtime. And that someone might also wonder how we got here: a world lit by esoteric inorganic semiconductors illuminating phosphors.

The fact that diodes emit light under certain conditions has been known for over 100 years; the first light-emitting diode was discovered at Marconi Labs in 1907 in a cat’s whisker detector, the first kind of diode. This discovery was simply a scientific curiosity until another discovery at Texas Instruments revealed infrared light emissions from a tunnel diode constructed from a gallium arsenide substrate. This infrared LED was then patented by TI, and a project began to manufacture these infrared light emitting diodes.

Continue reading “History of White LEDs”

Supercon is Sold Out, Join Us On the Live Streams and Chat Rooms

Over the weekend, the last available tickets to the Hackaday Superconference vanished. This will be the fullest, most exciting, hack-packed Supercon ever.

We’ve always had a stunning slate of speakers. It’s hard to objectively say we will top previous years, but yes this collection of talks is an insane concentration of hardware speakers that tops anything we’ve seen before. You can’t look at the schedule without feeling an electric jolt of excitement. The good news is you can still get in on those talks. Bookmark this Hackaday Superconference Live-Stream which begins at 10 am PDT on Saturday, November 3rd.

Of course, talks are only one component of Supercon. The secret sauce has always been the people at the con. If you’re not joining us, we still need you to take part. There is a conference chat on Hackaday.io and all are welcome. Pop in and visit with people at the con, and others around the globe who wish they could have made it in person.

Make sure you’re on the live stream Saturday evening to watch as the Grand Prize is presented on stage during the Hackaday Prize Ceremony. Follow along throughout the weekend on social media with the #Supercon tag. Pop into the chat and ask for updates on badge hacking, the SMD Soldering Challenge, and all of the other shenanigans that make Supercon super. We look forward to seeing hundreds of you in Pasadena starting this Friday, and thousands of you online through out the weekend!