Candy Blaster Lets You Shoot PEZ At Your Friends

Nerf Blasters are great fun to play with, but you really shouldn’t eat the foam darts. Conversely, Pez dispensers are fussy and kind of boring, but the candy is a tasty treat. [Soloprototype] has presented us the best of both worlds, in the form of a 3D-printed Pez blaster, with a firm note that this toy is for grown-ups only.

Overall, the design is very similar to the Pez Shooter, a long-discontinued Pez dispenser design. It uses a basic pistol form factor, and accepts a magazine of Pez pellets loaded into the grip. The magazine itself is cut out of a regular Pez dispenser, to avoid reinventing the wheel. Pulling the trigger fires the Pez pellets with spring power, launching candy into the air.

We all love candy propelled at speed, though [Soloprototype] notes that some safety precautions should be observed. To avoid choking risks, it’s not recommended to allow children to play with the toy. Nor should it be fired at the face or mouth. The full list of safety measures is available on the project’s Cults3D page.

The Pez blaster is cool, but we’d love to see more work in this space. The world needs a Twinkie Trebuchet, or a Cadbury Catapult, to say nothing of the Butterfingers Balista. If you can think of other Age of Empires siege weapons that would be ideal for candy delivery, drop them in the comments below. Alternatively, consider the M&M launcher we’ve shared previously!

Scratch Your Itch To Program A Microcontroller

One of the fun things about “old school” computers is that it was fairly easy to get kids into programming them. The old Basic interpreters were pretty forgiving, and you could do some clever things easily with very little theory or setup. These days, you are more likely to sneak kids into programming via Scratch — a system for setting up programs via blocks in a GUI. Again, you can get simple results simply. With Scratch or Basic, complex things have a way of turning out complex, but that’s to be expected. If you want to try a Scratch-inspired take on microcontroller programming, check out MicroBlocks. It will work with several common boards, including the micro:bit and the Raspberry Pi Pico. You can use it in a browser or download versions for Linux, Windows, Mac, or even Chromebooks.

You can see a video below about the micro:bit version from a year ago. The tool is advancing, so you’ll find many new features compared to the video, but it will still give you an idea of what’s happening.

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Levitating Banana Is An Excellent Conversation Starter

“I really like your floating banana.” If that’s something you’ve always wanted your guests to say when visiting your living room, this levitating banana project from [ElectroBing] is for you.

The design is simple. It relies on a electromagnet to lift the banana into the air. As bananas aren’t usually ferromagnetic, a simple bar magnet is fitted to the banana to allow it to be attracted to the electromagnet. One could insert the magnets more stealthily inside the banana, though this would come with the risk that someone may accidentally consume them, which can be deadly.

Of course, typically, the magnet would either be too weak to lift the banana, or so strong that it simply attracted the banana until it made contact. To get the non-contact levitating effect, some circuitry is required. A hall effect sensor is installed directly under the electromagnet. As the banana’s magnet gets closer to the electromagnet, the hall effect sensor’s output voltage goes down. Once it drops below a certain threshold, a control circuit cuts power to the electromagnet. As the banana falls away, power is restored, pulling the banana back up. By carefully controlling the power to the electromagnet on a continuous basis, the banana can be made to float a short distance away in mid-air.

It’s a fun build, and one that teaches many useful lessons in both physics and electronics. Other levitation techniques exist, too, such as through the use of ultrasound. Video after the break.

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Dad Builds Frickin’ Tank For His Son

We gotta love hacker Dads and Moms for being so awesome. Sooner or later, their kids get to play with some amazing toy that every other kid on the block is jealous of. [Meanwhile in the Garage aka MWiG] is one of those super hacker Dads who built a frickin’ Tank for his son (video, embedded below.). But it’s so much fun driving that beast around that we suspect Dad is going to be piloting it a lot more than the kid. The tank features metal tracks, differential steering, a rotating turret, periscopes and a functional paintball gun with camera targeting.

Building a tank, even if it’s a mini replica, needs an engine with a decent amount of torque. [MWiG] first tried reviving an old ATV engine, but it did nothing more than sputter and die. It went to the scrap heap after donating its rear transmission and axle. [MWiG] managed to get an old Piaggio scooter with a 250cc / 22 hp engine. The scooter gave up its engine, electricals and the instrument cluster before being scrapped. Looking at the final build, and the amount of metal used, we are left wondering how the puny 22 hp engine manages to drive the tank. We guess it’s the right amount of gearing for the win.

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Building A Fake Printer To Grab Screenshots Off The Parallel Port

[Tom Verbeure] recently found himself lamenting the need to take screen grabs from an Advantest R3273 spectrum analyzer with a phone camera, as the older gear requires you to either grab tables of data over an expensive GPIB interface card, or print them to paper. Then he realized, why not make a simple printer port add-on that looks like a printer, but sends the data over USB as a serial stream?

On the hardware side, the custom PCB (KiCAD project) is based on the Raspberry Pi Pico. Obvious form factor issues aside ([Tom] did revise the PCB to make it smaller) this is a shrewd move, as this is not a critical-path gadget so using the Pico as a USB-to-thing solution is a cost-effective way to get something working with minimal risk. One interesting design point was the use of the 74LVC161284 special function bus interface that handles the 5 V tolerance that the RP2040 lacks, whilst making the project compliant with IEEE-1284 — useful for the fussier instruments.

Using the service manual of the Sharp AP-PK11 copier/printer as a reference, [Tom] again, shows how to correctly use the chip, minimizing the design effort and scope for error. The complete project, with preliminary firmware and everything needed to build this thing, can be found on the project GitHub page. [Tom] does add a warning however that this project is still being worked on so adopters might wish to bear that in mind.

If you don’t own such fancy bench instrumentation, but grabbing screenshots from devices that don’t normally support it, is more your thing, then how about a tool to grab Game Boy screenshots?

Smart Ovens Are Doing Dumb Checks For Internet Connectivity

If you’ve ever worked in IT support, you’ll be familiar with users calling in to check if the Internet is up every few hours or so. Often a quick refresh of the browser is enough to see if a machine is actually online. Alternatively, a simple ping or browsing to a known-working website will tell you what you need to know. The one I use is, incidentally.

When it comes to engineers coding firmware for smart devices, you would assume they have more straightforward and rigorous ways of determining connectivity. In the case of certain smart ovens, it turns out they’re making the same dumb checks as everyone else.

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Hackaday Podcast 204: Cesium, Colorful Cast Buttons, And CNC Pizza

This week, Editor-in-Chief Elliot Williams and Assignments Editor Kristina Panos met up over thousands of miles to discuss the hottest hacks of the past seven days. There’s a whole lot of news this week, and the really good part is the the small radioactive source that went missing in Australia has been found. Phew!

Kristina is still striking out on What’s That Sound, but we’re sure you’ll fare better. If you think you know what it is, fill out the form and you’ll be entered to win a coveted Hackaday Podcast t-shirt!

Finally, we get on to the hacks with an atomic pendulum clock that’s accurate enough for CERN, safecracking the rough-and-ready way, and plenty of hacks that are non-destructive to nice, old things. We’ll gush over a tiny DIY adjustable wrench, drool over CNC pizza, and rock out to the sounds of a LEGO guitar/synthesizer thing.

Check out the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in  the comments!

And/or download it and listen offline.

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