PiSquare Lets You Run Multiple HATs On A Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi’s venerable 40-pin header and associated HAT ecosystem for upgrades has been a boon for the platform. It’s easy to stack extra hardware on to a Pi, even multiple times in some cases. However, if you want to run multiple HATs, and wirelessly at that, the PiSquare might just be the thing for you.

The PiSquare consists of a board featuring both RP2040 and ESP-12E microcontrollers. It interfaces with Raspberry Pi HATs and even lets you run multiple of the same HAT on a single Raspberry Pi, as it’s not actually directly using the UART, SPI, or I2C interfaces on the host Pi itself. Instead, the PiSquare communicates wirelessly with the Pi, handling the IO with the HAT itself.

It’s unclear how this works on a software level. Simply using existing software tools and libraries for a given Raspberry Pi HAT probably won’t work with the wireless PiSquare setup. However, for advanced users, it could serve a useful purpose, allowing one Raspberry Pi to command multiple HATs without the fuss of having to run more single-board computers where just one will do. Boards will be available on Kickstarter for those interested in the device.

We’ve seen other creative things done with the Raspberry Pi and the HAT system, too. If you’ve been cooking up your own neat hacks for the platform, drop us a line!

Reducing Warping In Metal 3D Prints

We are used to dealing with warping when printing with thermoplastics like ABS, but metal printers suffer from this problem, too. The University of Michigan has a new technology, SmartScan, that promises to reduce this problem. You can see a video about the technique, below.

The idea is to develop a thermal model of the printed part before laser sintering and then move the laser in such a way that heat doesn’t accumulate. The video shows how engraving metal in the traditional way causes the metal to warp as the laser heats up areas. Using the SmartScan thermal model, they were able to reduce deformation by almost half.

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Does Your Programmer Know How Fast You Were Going?

News reports were everywhere that an autonomous taxi operated by a company called Cruise was driving through San Francisco with no headlights. The local constabulary tried to stop the vehicle and were a bit thrown that there was no driver. Then the car moved beyond an intersection and pulled over, further bemusing the officers.

The company says the headlights were due to human error and that the car had stopped at a light and then moved to a safe stop by design. This leads to the question of how people including police officers will interact with robot vehicles.

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2022 Sci-Fi Contest: A Hand-Following Robot, Powered By Arduino

If there’s one thing audiences love in sci-fi, it’s a cute robot companion that follows the heroes around. If you want one of your own, starting with this build from [mircemk] could be just the ticket.

The build relies on the classic Arduino Uno microcontroller, which talks to a HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor module and two infrared sensors in order to track a human target and follow it around. Drive is thanks to four DC gear motors, driven by a L293D motor driver, with a two-cell lithium battery providing power for everything onboard.

The robot works in a simple manner, following a hand placed in front of the robot’s sensors. First, the robot checks for the presence of an object in front using the ultrasonic sensor. If something is detected, the twin infrared sensors mounted left and right are used to guide the robot, following the hand.

It’s not a sophisticated algorithm, and it won’t really let your robot follow you down a crowded street. However, it’s a great project to learn on for beginners and could serve as a great entry into more advanced projects using face tracking or other techniques. Video after the break. Continue reading “2022 Sci-Fi Contest: A Hand-Following Robot, Powered By Arduino”

Home Made Stirling Engines From Expedient Materials

Many of us have read about Stirling engines, engines which form mechanical heat pumps and derive motion from the expansion and contraction of a body of air. A very few readers may have built one, but for many they remain one of those projects we’d rather like to try but never quite have the inclination. The YouTube channel of [Geral Na Prática] should provide plenty of vicarious enjoyment then, with the construction of a range of Stirling engines from commonly available materials. We have Coke cans, PVC pipe, and nebuliser cartridges forming pistons and cylinders, with wire wool serving as a regenerative heat store. The latest video is below the break, an amazing 10-cylinder rotary device.

The Stirling engine is perhaps the quintessential example of a device whose time never came, never able to compete in power and efficiency with first steam engines and then internal combustion engines, it has over the years been subject to a variety of attempted revivals. Today it has appeared variously in solar power projects and in NASA’s hypothetical off-world power plants, and will no doubt continue to be promoted as an alternative energy conversion mechanism. We’ve featured many working model Stirling engines in our time and even done a longer investigation of them, but sadly we’ve yet to see a story involving a practical version.

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Noor III Solar Tower of the Ouarzazate Power Station, at dusk. (Credit: Marc Lacoste)

The Future Of Energy Storage On Both Sides Of The Meter

That energy storage is a hot topic is hardly a surprise to anyone these days. Even so, energy storage can take a lot of different forms, some of which are more relevant to the utility provider (like grid-level storage), while others are relevant to business and home owners (e.g. whole-house storage), and yet other technologies live in this tense zone between utility and personal interest, such as (electric) vehicle-to-grid.

For utilities a lot of noise is being made about shiny new technologies, such as hydrogen-based storage, while home- and business owners are pondering on the benefits of relying solely on the utility’s generosity with feed-in tariffs, versus charging a big battery from the solar panels on the roof and using the produced power themselves. Ultimately the questions here are which technologies will indeed live up to their promises, and which a home owner may want to invest in.

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Nixie Spectrum Display Has Seven Bands

A spectrum visualizer is always a fun project, but we really liked [Yannick99]’s take on it since it uses seven IN-13 Nixie tubes for the display. The tubes, of course, need high voltage so part of the project is a high voltage power supply. The spectrum part is a little more ordinary using an op amp and an MSGEQ7 filter IC.

The chip feeds a microcontroller and the microcontroller, with a little help, drives the tubes. The results are great, as you can see in the video below. There are several other videos showing the testing and prototyping, too. The MSGEQ7 is a cute chip that offloads the usual FFT logic from the microcontroller. It does all the work and communicates in a very unusual way. You reset the device and then pulse the strobe input. This causes an analog voltage to appear on the output pin corresponding to the 63 Hz band level. Another strobe pulse selects the next band and you just repeat indefinitely, something the microcontroller is good at.

The only issue, of course, is locating IN-13 tubes. They are around if you look for them, but they may not be cheap. Expect to pay about $20 each for them, more or less. We wondered if you could make an LED look-alike replacement. If you are wondering about the lifespan of these tubes, someone’s already done the testing.

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