In the past, you might very well have started programming in Basic. It wasn’t very powerful language and it was difficult to build big projects with, but it was simple to learn, easy to use, and the interpreter made it easy to try things out without a big investment of time. Today you are more likely to get started using something like an Arduino, but it is easy to miss the accessible language and immediate feedback when you are doing simple projects. Annex WiFi RDS (Rapid Development Suite) is a scripting language for the ESP8266 that isn’t quite Basic, but it shares a lot of the same attributes. One example project from [cicciocb] is a scrolling dot matrix LED clock.
We’ve seen countless different robot kits promoted for STEM education, every one of which can perform the robotic “Hello World” task of line following. Many were in attendance at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 toiling in their endless loops. Walking past one such display by Microduino, Inc. our attention was caught by a demonstration of their mCookie modules in action: installing a peripheral module took less than a second with a “click” of magnets finding each other.
Many Arduino projects draw from an ecosystem of Arduino shields. Following that established path, Microduino had offered tiny Arduino-compatible boards and peripherals which connected with pins and headers just like their full-sized counterparts. Unfortunately their tiny size also meant their risk of pin misalignment and corresponding damage would be higher as well. mCookie addresses this challenge by using pogo pins for electrical contacts, and magnets to ensure proper alignment. Now even children with not-quite-there-yet dexterity can assemble these modules, opening up a market to a younger audience.
Spring loaded electric connections are a popular choice for programming jigs, and we’ve seen them combined with magnets for ideas like modular keyboards, and there are also LittleBits for building simple circuits. When packaged with bright colorful LEGO-compatible plastic mounts, we have the foundation of an interesting option for introductory electronics and programming. Microduino’s focus at Maker Faire was promoting their Itty Bitty Buggy, which at $60 USD is a significantly more affordable entry point to intelligent LEGO creations than LEGO’s own $300 USD Mindstorm EV3. It’ll be interesting to see if these nifty mCookie modules will help Microduino differentiate themselves from other LEGO compatible electronic kits following a similar playbook.
Have you been watching Chernobyl? Well, so has everyone else. Right now it seems the whole Internet is comprised of armchair dosimetrists counting roentgens in their sleep, but [Mark Wright] doesn’t need a high-budget TV show to tell him about the challenges of wrangling the atom with 1980s technology. He’s done it for real. His memories of working at a Westinghouse Pressurized Water Reactor over 30 years ago are so sharp that he’s been building a nuclear reactor “simulator” running on the Raspberry Pi that looks nearly as stressful as sitting in control room of the real thing.
The simulator software is written in Python, and is responsible for displaying a simplified overview of the reactor and ancillary systems on the screen. Here all the information required to operate the “nuclear plant” can be seen at a glance, from the utilization of individual pumps to the position of the control rods.
Rub two pieces of metal against each other hard enough, and it won’t be long before they heat up sufficiently to cause problems. That’s especially true when one is a workpiece and one is a tool edge, and the problems that arise from failing to manage the heat produced by friction can cost you dearly.
The traditional way of dealing with this is by pumping heavy streams of liquid coolant at the workpiece, but while that works, it creates problems of its own. That’s where minimum quantity lubrication comes in. MQL uses a fine mist of lubricant atomized in a stream of compressed air, which saves on lube and keeps swarf cleaner for easier recycling. The gear needed for MQL can be pricey though, so [brockard] decided to add homebrew MQL to his CNC router, with great results.
The video below shows the whole process, from raw metal to finished system – skip ahead to about 12 minutes if you just want to see final testing, but be warned that you’ll be missing some high-quality machining. The finished pump is a double-piston design, with each side driven by a cam rotated by a servo. An Arduino controls the speed of the motor based on the current settings; the pump is turned on and off through G-code control of a relay.
The lubricant stream is barely visible in the video, as opposed to the sloshing mess of traditional flood coolants, and seems much more suitable for a hobbyist-grade CNC setup. Need to build a CNC router before you build this? You can do much worse than this one.
Some of the first Sony Discmans included rechargeable batteries. These batteries were nickel metal hydride batteries (because of the technology of the time) and are now well past their service life. The new hotness in battery technology is lithium — it offers greater power density, lighter weight, and a multitude of ready-to-go, off the shelf cells. What if someone were to create a new battery pack for an old Sony Discman using lithium cells? That’s exactly what [sjm4306] did for their entry into this year’s Hackaday Prize.
The Discman [sjm] is working with uses a custom, Sony-branded battery based on NiMH technology with a capacity of around 500 mAH. After carefully measuring the dimensions of this battery, it was replicated in plastic with a 3D printer. This enclosure was then stuffed with a small lithium cell scavenged from a USB power bank.
The only tripping points for this build were the battery contacts. The originally battery had two contacts on the end that fit the Discman exactly; these were replicated with a small PCB wired up to the guts of the USB powerbank. The end result is a direct, drop-in replacement for the original Discman battery with a higher capacity, that’s also rechargeable via USB. It’s a fantastic project, with the entire build video available below.
There was a time when microprocessors were slow and expensive devices that needed piles of support chips to run, so engineers came up with ingenious tricks using extra hardware preprocessing inputs to avoid having to create more code. It would be common to find a few logic gates, a comparator, or even the ubiquitous 555 timer doing a little bit of work to take some load away from the computer, and engineers learned to use these components as a matter of course.
The nice thing is that many of these great hardware hacks have been built into modern microcontrollers through the years. The problem is you know to know about them. Brett Smith’s newly published Hackaday Superconference talk, “Why Do It The Hard Way?”, aims to demystify the helpful hardware lurking in microcontrollers.
Join us below for a deeper dive and the embedded video of this talk. Supercon is the Ultimate Hardware con — don’t miss your chance to attend this year, November 15-17 in Pasadena, CA.
These days, brushless motors are the go-to for applications requiring high power in a compact package. It’s possible to buy motors in all manner of different configurations off the shelf, and the range available is only getting better. However, sometimes getting something truly optimal requires a bit of customization. With motors, this can involve swapping magnets or hand-winding coils. In these cases, it can be useful to test the modified motor to determine its performance. [JyeSmith]’s ESC tester is capable of just that.
Fundamentally, the ESC tester is a simple piece of hardware. It uses a microcontroller to speak the Dshot protocol. This protocol is typically used to communicate between multi-rotor flight controllers and ESCs. In this case, the Dshot telemetry is instead displayed on a small OLED screen. This enables the user to read off KV values, as well as other useful data such as current draw and RPM. This can help quantify the effects of any modifications made to a motor, as well as prove useful for learning about parts of spurious origins.
It’s a device that should prove useful to those trying to eke out every last drop of performance from their multi-rotor builds. We expect to see more similar projects emerge as drone racing continues to increase in popularity. If you’re still trying to learn the theory behind the technology, you can always build your own brushless motor. Video after the break.
[Thanks to Keegan for the tip!]