Thrashed, Damaged NES Controller Gets Brought Back To Life

Electronics might as well be a magical black box to some people. Where some would see a broken NES controller destined for the bin, [Taylor] saw the opportunity for a repair. Thus, the damaged hardware was brought back into useful service.

The controller was bought as part of a job lot, and was heavily damaged when it entered [Taylor]’s ownership. Nintendo built its hardware tough in those days, but the controller had nevertheless been smashed apart, with the case cracked and split and the PCB itself snapped in two.

For someone with basic electronics skills, though, repair was simple. The broken PCB was glued back together with epoxy. The broken traces had solder mask scraped back so that jumper wires could bridge the damaged area and return the circuit to functionality.

From there, it was a simple matter of 3D printing a new case, and the controller was back in service. The case in question was designed by [Alexander Myrman], and has a neat little inset Mario design that’s made visible by paint-filling the inlay.

While it was an easy fix, to the uninitiated in the electronic arts, it might as well be magic. It pays to remember that there are always new people joining the electronics hobby, and projects like these are a great way to learn. It’s also important to note that bringing back old retro hardware is often of great value, as in many cases, they’re not making any more! We see some great restorations around these parts, too. Video after the break.

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Materials For Self Learners

[João Nuno Carvalho] is a passionate learner. Software engineer by day, he studies all different branches of science and engineering in his spare time. He has organized an impressive list of study / reference materials on a wide variety of subjects that interest him, from aeronautical engineering to quantum mechanics and dozens more in between. In fact, his study lists themselves became so numerous that he collected them into a list of lists, which can be found here on his GitHub repository. These include categories on “How to learn…”

  • Modern Electronics
  • Modern Linux
  • Modern Embedded Systems
  • Mathematics from the ground up
  • Physics from the ground up
  • Modern Compressive Sensing
  • Modern [C, C++, Rust, Python]
  • Modern Machine Learning
  • Modern Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Guitar on a budget

Another interesting thing we found in his repo was a list of common electrical components. If you can’t remember off the top of your head the part number of common 100 V PNP bipolar transistor, [João]’s list will point you towards a BD136.

It’s quite an impressive list of resources, and we can’t help but wonder how large [Joã0]’s personal library is if it contains even half of the materials from these lists. Check these out if you want to brush up on a topic — they include not only text books and reference volumes, but forums, blogs, YouTube links, etc. On the topic of learning, we wrote a piece back in 2017 on how learning differs between hobbyists and students. Do you have a favorite list-of-lists that you turn to when you want to brush up or learn about a new subject? Let us know in the comments below.

Wireless Earbuds Charge Themselves

As more and more ports are removed from our smart devices, it seems that we have one of two options available for using peripherals: either buy a dongle to continue to use wired devices, or switch to Bluetooth and deal with perpetually maintaining batteries. If neither of these options suits you, though, there’s a third option available as [befinitiv] shows us in this build where he integrates a tiny solar panel to his earbud case to allow them to automatically charge themselves.

To start, he begins by taking apart the earbud case. For those who still haven’t tried out a set of these, they typically charge only when placed inside of their carrying case, which in his case also contains a small battery itself. Soldering wires directly to the battery allow for the battery to charge without as much electrical loss as he would have had if he had connected to the USB pins on the circuit board. Even then, the cell only generates a single volt so he needs a 5V boost converter to properly charge the battery. That came with its own problem, though, as it wouldn’t fit into the case properly. To solve that issue, he desoldered all of the components and deadbugged them together in order to fit the converter into a much smaller space without having to modify the case in any other way.

With all of that done and the small solar cell attached to the case, [befinitiv] has a smart solution to keep his wireless earbuds topped up without having to carry cables or dongles around every day. We’ve seen plenty of interesting solutions to the problem of various electronics manufacturers removing the ubiquitous 3.5 mm headphone jack too, and not all of them have dealt with this problem without certain other quirks arising as a result.

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3D Printing Steel Parts At Home Via Special Filaments

Rocket engines are great for producing thrust from fire and fury, but they’re also difficult to make. They require high-strength materials that can withstand the high temperatures involved. [Integza], however, has tried for a long time to 3D print himself a working rocket engine. His latest attempt involves printing an aerospike design out of metal.

Even steel couldn’t hold up to the fury of the rocket exhaust!

The project relies on special metal-impregnated 3D printer filaments. The part can be printed with a regular 3D printer and then fired to leave just the metal behind. The filament can be harsh, so [Integza] uses a ruby nozzle to handle the metal-impregnated material. Processing the material requires a medium-temperature “debinding” stage in a kiln which removes the plastic, before a high-temperature sintering process that bonds the remaining metal particles into a hopefully-contiguous whole. The process worked well for bronze, though was a little trickier for steel.

Armed with a steel aerospike rocket nozzle, [Integza] attempts using the parts with his 3D printed rocket fuel we’ve seen before. The configuration does generate some thrust, and lasts longer than most of [Integza]’s previous efforts, though still succumbs to the intense heat of the rocket exhaust.

Overall, though, it’s a great example of what it takes to print steel parts at home. You’ll need a quality 3D printer, ruby nozzles and a controllable kiln, but it can be done. If you manage to print something awesome, be sure to drop us a line. Video after the break.

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A Stress Monitor Designed Specifically To Help You Work From Home

There are quite a bit of mixed emotions regarding working from home. Some people love it and are thriving like they haven’t before, but others are having a bit of a hard time with it all. [Brandon] has been working from home for the last 12 years, but even after so many years of managing this type of work culture, he admits that it can still be a little stressful. He says he doesn’t take enough time in between tasks to simply relax and to breathe a little and the day-to-day minutia of his work can drive his stress level up if he doesn’t take some time to calm himself. He figured he could make something to monitor his stress level and remind himself to take a break and the results are pretty impressive.

He develops a system to monitor his heart rate and the ambient noise level in his room and uses these metrics as a measure of stress. If his heart rate or the ambient noise level goes above a certain threshold, then he sends himself a text message reminding himself to relax and take a break. You’ve probably seen people use heart rate as a measure of stress already, but you’re probably less familiar with using sound. [Brandon] basically thought the sound sensor would detect if he starts ranting for prolonged periods of time or if he’s in a Zoom meeting that gets too heated. We thought that was pretty neat.

[Brandon] used an off-the-shelf chest strap heart rate monitor to save himself a bit of time in trying to build his own. The device sends heart rate data to an nRF52840 over Bluetooth and then pushes the data to the cloud using a Blues Wireless Notecard. The Notecard also offers data encryption which gave [Brandon] some added peace of mind knowing his biometric data wasn’t floating around in the cloud without any sort of protection. This certainly isn’t medical-grade encryption, but it gave him a bit of comfort, nonetheless. All that data is processed in his custom-designed web app and when the appropriate thresholds are reached, he sends a text message to himself using Twilio reminding him to relax and unwind for a bit.

For his next iteration, [Brandon] might try making his own heart rate monitor. But until then, stay safe everybody, and remember to take a break whenever you need it.

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Figuring Out Earth’s Past Climate Through Paleoclimatology And Its Lessons For Today

Roughly 4.6 billion years ago, Earth would gain its first atmosphere, yet this was an atmosphere that was completely unlike the atmosphere we know today. Today’s oxygen-rich atmosphere we’re familiar with didn’t form until the Proterozoic, between 2,500 and 541 million years ago, when oxygen-producing bacteria killed off much of the previously thriving life from the preceding Archean.

This, along with studies of massive insects such as the 75 cm wingspan Meganeuropsis permiana dragonflies from the Permian, and reconstructed temperature, oxygen, and carbon dioxide levels via paleoclimatology show periods during which Earth’s atmosphere and accompanying climate would be unrecognizable to us humans.

Human history covers only a minuscule fraction of Earth’s history during arguably one of the latter’s coolest, least eventful periods, and yet anthropogenic (man-made) climate change now threatens to rapidly change this. But wait, how do we know what the climate was like over such vast time scales?  Let’s take a look into how we managed to reconstruct the Earth’s ancient climate, and what these findings mean for our prospects as a species today.

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Xbox Flexure Joystick Puts You In The Pilot’s Seat

With the recent release of Microsoft Flight Simulator on the Xbox Series X|S there’s never been a better time to get a flight stick for the console, and as you might imagine, there are a number of third party manufacturers who would love to sell you one. But where’s the fun in that?

If you’ve got a fairly well tuned 3D printer, you can print out and assemble this joystick by [Akaki Kuumeri] that snaps right onto the Xbox’s controller. Brilliantly designed to leverage the ability of 3D printers to produce compliant mechanisms, or flextures, you don’t even need any springs or fasteners to complete assembly.

The flexture gimbal works without traditional springs.

The free version of Thingiverse only lets you move the controller’s right analog stick, but if you’re willing to drop $30 USD on the complete version, the joystick includes additional levers that connect to the controller’s face and shoulder buttons for more immersive control. There’s even a throttle that snaps onto the left side of the controller, though it’s optional if you’d rather save the print time.

If you want to learn more about the idea behind the joystick, [Akaki] is all too happy to walk you through the finer parts of the design in the video below. But the short version is the use of a flextures in the base of the joystick opened up the space he needed to run the mechanical linkages for all the other buttons.

This isn’t the first time [Akaki] has used 3D printed parts to adapt a console controller for flight simulator use. A simplified version of this concept used ball-and-socket joints to move the Xbox’s analog sticks, and he even turned a PlayStation DualShock into an impressive flight yoke you could clamp to your desk.

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