Self-Playing Kalimba V2 Thanks To Readers Like You

Would you like to know the great thing about this community we have here? All the spitballing that goes on every day in the comments, the IO chat rooms, and in the discussion threads of thousands of projects. One of our favorite things about the Hackaday universe is that we help each other out, and because of that, our collective curiosity pushes so many designs forward.

[Gurpreet] knows what we’re talking about. He’s back with version two of his self-playing kalimba, driven as strongly as ever by the dulcet tones of the Avatar theme. Now the robo-kalimba is rocking two full octaves, and thanks to your comments and suggestions, has relocated the servos where they can’t be picked up by the soundboard.

We gasped when we saw the new mechanism — a total of 15 rack and pinion linear actuators that make the kalimba look like a tiny mechanical pipe organ. Now the servos float, fixed into a three-part frame that straddles the sound box. [Gurpreet] melted servo horns to down to their hubs rather than trying to print something that fits the servos’ sockets.

Thumb your way past the break to check out the build video. [Gurpreet] doesn’t shy away from showing what went wrong and how he fixed it, or from sharing the 3D printering sanity checks along the way that kept him going.

Plucking kalimba tines is a difficult problem to solve because they’re stiff, but with timbre sensitive to many degrees of pressure. A slightly easier alternative? Make a toy player piano.

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Origami Butterfly: A Flex PCB Adventure Unfolds

Flexible circuits have been around longer than you might expect, although they only recently rounded the bend and bounced into the hobbyist’s toolbox. When Boldport fanatic [Laura Lindzey] found out about them, her immediate dream project was to make an origami butterfly that does something cool, though she wasn’t sure what.

The idea she landed on is this: when the butterfly alights on a power-providing flower, it draws electrical nectar through its diode legs and lights up the LEDs on its wings. As long as one leg touches a ground petal and another touches a VIN petal, there will be light.

Though the idea may be simple, it’s the execution that’s mind-bending. After meticulous planning and a lot of paper prototyping, she sent off the gerbers and got version one back. The circuit worked, but assembly was tedious — not what you want when you’re trying to stay friendly with the other people in your PCB exchange club.

We imagine that hard creases are probably not what the flexible PCB purveyors have in mind, but this origami butterfly is an awesome exercise in what can be done with flexible PCBs. Not only that, it’s a great insight into some design rules where almost none exist, learned through firsthand experience. Every technology can benefit from trailblazers like [Laura].

If you want to do some flexible prototyping at home, just print your own pliable PCBs.

New Part Day: Ooh, The Things You Can Do With A CLUE

There’s a new development board in town from Adafruit, and it’s called the CLUE. This tiny board can be programmed in Arduino or CircuitPython, and it is absolutely stuffed with sensors and functionality, including Bluetooth. It’s essentially a BBC Micro:bit with more sensors, a screen, and a much beefier processor. Sound interesting? Let’s get out the magnifying glass and take a look, shall we?

(Editor’s note: Adafruit ran out of the first alpha run of the hardware. While we didn’t run into any bugs, the next versions will presumably have even fewer, but will also cost $40 instead of $30. That said, they’re giving out 3,000 of them to attendants of PyCon in April, so you might also get your hands on one that way.)

And Bit:Bot takes the checkered flag! Image via Seeed Studio

First and foremost, there’s the form factor — if that bottom edge looks familiar, that’s because the CLUE is designed to work with micro:bit robot kits and anything else with that edge connector, like the CRICKIT for micro:bit, or the Bit:Bot from Seeed Studios. This is big news for the micro:bit ecosystem, and not just because the CLUE brings tons of sensors and a screen to the scene, although a 1.3″ screen at 240×240 resolution is nothing to sneeze at.

The main brain is a Nordic nRF52840, so you can pair it to your phone and stream your collected data. Or, use it to get two CLUE boards talking to each other. This is a major upgrade from the micro:bit’s nRF51822 — the CLUE is four times faster, has four times the flash memory, and has sixteen times as much RAM. We hope someone can find a way to make them into short-range messaging machines with Q10 keyboards.

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DJ Hero Controller Gets A New Gig

Fans of the Guitar Hero etc. franchise may be interested to hear about Spin Rhythm XD, a similar rhythm game which uses a jog wheel for much of the chase-down-the-notes action. Although it can be played with a keyboard and mouse, the ideal input is a professional DJ MIDI controller — imagine two capacitive “turntables” the size of 45s, and a lot of buttons, knobs, and sliders.

Like most of us, [Dave] doesn’t have one of those. But what he does have is an old DJ Hero controller made for the Wii. It’s a lot like the big boy version of a DJ MIDI controller as far as the inputs go, except that the turntable isn’t capacitive.

Since the Wii brain is just sending I²C over a funny-looking connector, [Dave] was able to replace the Wiimote with a Teensy LC, and write new firmware for the controller inputs using a breakout board built for another project.

[Dave] tried to use as many of the DJ Hero controller’s inputs as he could, so in addition to mapping the wheel and wheel buttons to the main game controls, he wired up the joystick, effects knob, and buttons to navigate through the game menus. The game’s designers had the forethought to map these to keyboard keys, so it was pretty easy to do. He can even use dual turntables and mix or isolate them with the crossfader. Slide past the break to check out the build video, and stick around for a full-length song demo.

Are these games a little too frantic for you? Turn those ‘tables into an Etch-A-Sketch instead.

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Make A Vintage-Looking Clock In A Flash

Now that everyone has a phone with a camera, we would bet that fewer people than ever are in the market for a nice vintage flash unit such as the one [lonesoulsurfer] chose for this cool clock build. But here’s something that never goes out of style — a clock that doubles as a conversation piece.

At the heart of this build is a dirt cheap clock unit meant for cars. It also displays the ambient temperature and has a voltage testing mode(!), which could come in handy someday. Although [lonesoulsurfer] didn’t connect a pair of probes, he did cut a wee hole for the temperature sensor to stick out of. He also cut off the SMD buttons and wired new momentaries to the outside of the case.

Although we really like the look of the textured plastic lens over the 7-segments, our favorite part might be the stand and the way [lonesoulsurfer] implemented it. He made a threaded rod by pounding a hex nut into the end of a piece of aluminium tubing, and then dropped a bolt through the bottom of the flash body before closing it up, so it screws on like a camera to a tripod. Take a second and check out the build video after the break.

We love a good clock so much that we just had a contest to find the coolest ways to tell time. In case you missed it, here are the best of the best.

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Espresso Machine Now Powers Plants

This thing has what plants crave! No, not electrolytes exactly — just water, light, and moisture polling every 30 minutes. We think it’s fitting to take something that once manufactured liquid liveliness for humans and turn it into a smart garden that does the same thing for plants.

So let’s just get this out of the way: the espresso machine was abandoned because it was leaking water from a gasket. [The Plant Bot] cleaned it up, replaced the gasket, and got it brewing, and then it started leaking hot water again from the same gasket. We might have gone Office Space on this beautiful machine at that point, but not [The Plant Bot].

Down in the dirt, there’s a soil moisture sensor that’s polling every 30 minutes. If the moisture level falls below the threshold set appropriately at a life-sustaining 42%, the Arduino is triggered to water the plant through a relay board using the espresso machine’s original pump. If the plant is dry, the machine will pump water for two seconds every minute until the threshold is met. [The Plant Bot] tied it all together with a nice web interface that shows plant data and allows for changes over Bluetooth.

[The Plant Bot] started by disconnecting the heating element, because plants don’t tend to like hot steam. But if the cup warming tray along the top has a separate heating element, it might be neat to reuse it for something like growing mushrooms, or maintaining a sourdough starter if the temperature is right.

Via r/duino

ATtiny Name Badges Are Hugely Creative

We’re not sure exactly why [Justin Garrison] decided to make these awesome name badges for himself and his coworkers at Disney+ streaming, but it’s fun to imagine them all lighting up a team-building ride down Space Mountain, isn’t it? Whatever the reason, they sure do look good.

Each badge has an ATtiny85 that drives the ten individually-addressable RGB LEDs, and both the wire and the LEDs are powered by the EL power inverter. [Justin] bought the thinnest EL wire he could find, which is conveniently also the brightest and probably the easiest to manipulate.

Nevertheless, we can’t get over how good the names look, and wonder if [Justin] missed his calling as a neon artist. He cleverly stuck wires through the protoboard to help form the letters, and then used superglue to hold them in place. [Justin] has the code up on GitHub and an album full of build pictures if you want to give this a go.

If this has made you want to give EL bending another go, try using a 3D printed frame to help get it into shape.