Click Your Heels Thrice, Hail a Cab Home

If Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz were to wake up in 2017, with her magic Ruby Slippers on her feet, she’d probably believe she had woken up in a magical world. But modern folks will need a little more magic to impress them. Like Clicking your heels thrice to get home with these Uber ruby slippers. [Hannah Joshua] was tasked by her employer to build a quirky maker project. She got an idea when a friend complained about having trouble hailing a cab at the end of a hard day at work.

[Hannah] started with ruby colored slippers with a platform toe and high heels to allow space to stuff in all the magic dust, err, electronic bits. The initial plan was to use an Arduino with a GSM/GPS shield but that would have needed a separate SIM card and data plan for the shoes. Instead, she opted for the 1Sheeld which connects to a smart phone over Bluetooth. The 1Sheeld gets access to all of the smart phone’s sensors including the GPS as well as the data connection. The Arduino and 1Sheeld are put in a cavity carved out in the toe section. The 9 V battery goes inside another cavity in the heel, where an activation switch is also installed. Three LED’s indicate when the shoe is active, the cab request is accepted, and when the cab is on its way.

The code is basic since this one of her first Arduino projects, but it gets the job done. It sends an http request to Uber’s API to request a cab. The destination is hard-coded, so the slippers only allow you to get from your current location to whatever destination is programmed. The GitHub repository provides code, as well as some additional information on construction. [Hannah] has also added notes explaining some of the design choices and things to take care about if you plan to build one of these magic slippers.

We covered the 1Sheeld when it was introduced several years back, and if you get your hands on one, try building this Hand Waving Door Unlocker.

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TeensyStep – Fast Stepper Library for Teensy

The Teensy platform is very popular with hackers — and rightly so. Teensys are available in 8-bit and 32-bit versions, the hardware has a bread-board friendly footprint, there are a ton of Teensy libraries available, and they can also run standard Arduino libraries. Want to blink a lot of LED’s? At very fast update rates? How about MIDI? Or USB-HID devices? The Teensy can handle just about anything you throw at it. Driving motors is easy using the standard Arduino libraries such as Stepper, AccelStepper or Arduino Stepper Library.

But if you want to move multiple motors at high micro-stepping speeds, either independently or synchronously and without step loss, these standard libraries become bottlenecks. [Lutz Niggl]’s new TeensyStep fast stepper control library offers a great improvement in performance when driving steppers at high speed. It works with all of the Teensy 3.x boards, and is able to handle accelerated synchronous and independent moves of multiple motors at the high pulse rates required for micro-stepping drivers.

The library can be used to turn motors at up to 300,000 steps/sec which works out to an incredible 5625 rpm at 1/16 th micro-stepping. In the demo video below, you can see him push two motors at 160,000 steps/sec — that’s 3000 rpm — without the two arms colliding. Motors can be moved either independently or synchronously. Synchronous movement uses Bresenham’s line algorithm to plan motor movements based on start and end positions. While doing a synchronous move, it can also run other motors independently. The TeensyStep library uses two class objects. The Stepper class does not require any system resources other than 56 bytes of memory. The StepControl class requires one IntervallTimer and two channels of a FTM  (FlexTimer Module) timer. Since all supported Teensys implement four PIT timers and a FTM0 module with eight timer channels, the usage is limited to four StepControl objects existing at the same time. Check out [Lutz]’s project page for some performance figures.

As a comparison, check out Better Stepping with 8-bit Micros — this approach uses DMA channels as high-speed counters, with each count sending a pulse to the motor.

Thanks to [Paul Stoffregen] for tipping us off about this new library. Continue reading “TeensyStep – Fast Stepper Library for Teensy”

“The Cow Jumped Over The Moon”

[Ash] built Moo-Bot, a robot cow scarecrow to enter the competition at a local scarecrow festival. We’re not sure if Moo-bot will win the competition, but it sure is a winning hack for us. [Ash]’s blog is peppered with delightful prose and tons of pictures, making this an easy to build project for anyone with access to basic carpentry and electronics tools. One of the festival’s theme was “Out of this World” for space and sci-fi scarecrows. When [Ash] heard his 3-year old son sing “hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle…”, he immediately thought of building a cow jumping over the moon scarecrow. And since he had not seen any interactive scarecrows at earlier festivals, he decided to give his jumping cow a lively character.

Construction of the Moo-Bot is broken up in to three parts. The skeleton is built from lumber slabs and planks. The insides are then gutted with all of the electronics. Finally, the whole cow is skinned using sheet metal and finished off with greebles to add detailing such as ears, legs, spots and nostrils. And since it is installed in the open, its skin also doubles up to help Moo-bot stay dry on the insides when it rains. To make Moo-Bot easy to transport from barn to launchpad, it’s broken up in to three modules — the body, the head and the mounting post with the moon.

Moo-Bot has an Arduino brain which wakes up when the push button on its mouth is pressed. Its two OLED screen eyes open up, and the MP3 player sends bovine sounding audio clips to a large sound box. The Arduino also triggers some lights around the Moon. Juice for running the whole show comes from a bank of eight, large type “D” cells wired to provide 6 V — enough to keep Moo-Bot fed for at least a couple of months.

Check out the video after the break to hear Moo-bot tell some cow jokes – it’s pretty funny. We’re rooting for it to win the competition — Go Moo-bot.

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Over-Engineered Mailbox Flag machined using Under-Engineered Mini-Lathe

[Tim Nummy] used his cheap, Chinese, bench mini-lathe to make a non-terrible mailbox flag holder (YouTube video, embedded below). Tim posts videos on his channel about garage hobby projects, many of which are built using his mini-lathe, often based on suggestions from his followers. One such suggestion was to do something about his terrible mailbox flag – we’re guessing he receives a lot of old-school fan mail.

He starts off by planning the build around 1 ¼ inch aluminum bar stock, a 688 bearing, three neodymium magnets and some screws. The rest of it is a “think and plan as you go along” project, but essentially, the new holder is in three pieces. An inner piece goes inside the mail box and holds the assembly to the mail box. The middle piece holds the two magnets which act as end-stops or limits for the flags raised and lowered positions. The final, outer piece holds the flag itself, and the bearing which allows it to rotate freely.

This part also has the third magnet embedded in it to work with the other two magnets for the limits. The use of magnets is cool, but a ball catch with two detents would have worked just as well. It’s a great simple project to follow for those who want to wet their feet on lathe work. [Tim] has also posted links to all of the tools and equipment seen in the video, so check that out if anything catches your fancy.

But workshop veterans will almost certainly cringe at several places along the video. The main one that caught our eye is obviously the shaky lathe itself. It could do with a heavier workbench, proper leveling, foundation bolts or anti-vibration mounts. And from the looks of it, the tail stock isn’t any rock steady too. Although the lathe is variable speed, the chuck rpm is set too high for aluminum, and the lack of cutting fluid makes it even more troublesome. Using oil, or even some cutting fluid, while tapping would have been wise too.

We’re not sure if it’s the shaky foundation or poor feed control, but the step cut for mounting the bearing is over-sized by a whole lot more and requires a big goop of retaining compound to glue the bearing in place. But the end result works quite well, including the magnetic catches – a complex solution for a simple problem.

We’re sure our keen-eyed readers will likely spot some more issues in [Tim]’s methods, so go at it in the comments below, but please make sure to rein in the snark and keep your feedback positive.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Dynamometer for Post Stroke Rehabilitation

For those who have suffered a stroke, recovery is a long and slow process that requires rehabilitation to start as early as possible. Quite often, secondary stroke attacks complicate matters. Spasticity — muscle contraction and paresis — muscular weakness, are two of the many common after-effects of stroke. Recovery involves doing repeated exercises to strengthen the muscles and bring back muscle memory. Benchmarking progress becomes difficult when caregivers are only able to use qualitative means such as squeezing tennis balls to monitor improvement. To help provide quantitative measurements in such cases, [Sergei V. Bogdanov] is building a Dynamometer for Post-Stroke Rehabilitation. It is an Open Source, 4-channel differential force gauge for measuring and logging the progress of the patient. The device measures, graphs, and logs the force exerted by the four fingers when they push down on the four force gauges.

The device consists of four strain gauges obtained from cheap kitchen scales. The analog outputs from these are fed to HX-711 24-bit ADC boards. An Arduino Nano processes the data and displays it on two banks of eight-digit LED modules. [Sergei] also experimented with a 20×4 character LCD in place of the LED display. In the standalone mode, the device can only indicate the measured forces on the LED (or LCD) display which is calibrated to display either numerical values or a logarithmic scale. When connected to a serial port and using the (Windows only) program, it is possible to not only view the same information but also save it at regular, set intervals. The data can also be viewed in graphical form.

The project page provides links to their Arduino code, Windows monitor program as well as build instructions. Check out the related assistive technology project that [Sergei] is working on — A Post Stroke Spasticity Rehab Helper.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: TooWheels, The Open Source Wheelchair

The Assistive Technology challenge of the Hackaday Prize received a large number of projects addressing many socially relevant problems. Mobility and transportation needs are a big challenge for those with limb disabilities. Not every country has proper, state-subsidised health care systems, and for many people in third world countries, devices such as wheel chairs are just not affordable. [Alessio Fabrizio] and his team developed TooWheels — an Open Source DIY wheelchair which can be customized and built using low-cost, local materials around the world and is one of the winners of the Assistive Technologies challenge round.

Originally conceived as a sport wheelchair, it has now evolved to answer different needs, due to feedback from the users and the community involved in the project. [Alessio] designed the project to be built from materials and resources easily available to any DIY maker at today’s Fab Labs and Makerspaces. The team have provided a detailed BOM to help procure all the required materials, instruction manual and drawings for assembly, and all the CAD files with customization instructions. Already, teams in Ecuador, India and Italy have replicated and built their own version of the TooWheel wheelchair. This confirms that the project is well documented and allows anyone around the world to download the plans and follow instructions to build their own wheelchair.

The wheelchair is built from CNC cut plywood sheets, aluminum pipes and bicycle parts and wheels. This makes it substantially cheaper compared to commercial wheelchairs, making it especially relevant for people in third world areas or where health care is not subsidised. The ease of customization allows fabrication of different wheelchair designs for sports, off-road or city use. The team is looking to bring this low-cost design to people around the world and are keen to collaborate with teams around the world to make it happen.

Cheap DIY MIDI to USB Adapter

[Joonas] became frustrated with cheap but crappy MIDI to USB converters, and the better commercial ones were beyond his budget. He used a Teensy LC to build one for himself and it did the job quite well. But he needed several converters, and using the Teensy LC was going to cost him a lot more than he was willing to spend. With some tinkering, he was able to build one using an Adafruit Pro Trinket which has onboard hardware UART (but no USB). This lack of USB support was a deal killer for him, so after hunting some more he settled on a clone of the Sparkfun Pro Micro. Based on the ATmega32U4, these clones were just right for his application, and the cheapest to boot. He reckons it cost him about $5 to build each of his cheap USB MIDI adapters which receive notes and pedal data from the keyboard’s MIDI OUT and transmit them to a computer

Besides the Pro Micro clone, the only other parts he used are a generic opto-coupler, a couple of resistors and a MIDI connector. After testing his simple circuit on a bread board, he managed to squeeze it all inside an old USB dongle housing, stuffing it in dead-bug style.

The heavy lifting is all done in the firmware, for which [Joonas] used LUFA — the Lightweight USB Framework for AVR’s. He wrote his own code to handle MIDI (UART) to USB MIDI messages conversion. The interesting part is his use of a 32.15 kbps baud rate even though the MIDI specification requires 31.25 kbps. He found that a slightly higher baud rate fixes a problem in the AVR USART implementation which tends to miss consecutive bytes due to the START edge not being detected. Besides this, his code is limited in functionality to only handle a few messages, mainly for playing a piano, and does not have full-fledged MIDI capabilities.

We’ve featured several of [Joonas]’s hacks here over the years, the most recent being the Beaglebone Pin-Toggling Torture Test and from earlier, How to Turn A PC On With a Knock And An ATTiny.