Rotating Lithophane Box Turns with Time

If you wanted to make a rotating display box, what would you use to make it spin? A servo? A stepper motor? [ChrisN219] didn’t need his to move quickly by any means, and this opened up his options to something we probably wouldn’t have thought to use: a clock movement. Specifically, the hour minute part of the shaft.

Rotating lithophanes of your loved ones makes for a pretty cool project, and there isn’t a whole lot to this build to make it difficult. Much of it is 3D printed, including the tube in the center that the LED strip is wrapped around. The base is just big enough to hold the clock movement and the LED strip controller, so it would fit nicely on a desk or a mantel.

This is version two of [Chris]’ lithophane box, which gave him a chance to perfect the frame and design a thicker center post to withstand the heat from the LED strip. All the files are available if you want to print your own panels and take them for a spin. Since it’s so easy to change them out, you may end up with a big pile to choose from.

Nancy Grace Roman, Mother of the Hubble

When she was four years old, Nancy Grace Roman loved drawing pictures of the Moon. By the time she was forty, she was in charge of convincing the U.S. government to fund a space telescope that would give us the clearest, sharpest pictures of the Moon that anyone had ever seen. Her interest in astronomy was always academic, and she herself never owned a telescope. But without Nancy, there would be no Hubble.

Goodnight, Moon

A view of the Milky Way from Reno, Nevada. Via Lonely Speck

Nancy was born May 16, 1925 in Nashville, Tennessee. Her father was a geophysicist, and the family moved around often. Nancy’s parents influenced her scientific curiosities, but they also satisfied them. Her father handled the hard science questions, and Nancy’s mother, who was quite interested in the natural world, would point out birds, plants, and constellations to her.

For two years, the family lived on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada. The wide expanse of desert and low levels of light pollution made stargazing easy, and Nancy was hooked. She formed an astronomy club with some neighborhood girls, and they met once a week in the Romans’ backyard to study constellations. Nancy would later reminisce that her experience in Reno was the single greatest influence on her future career.

By the time Nancy was ready for high school, she was dead-set on becoming an astronomer despite a near-complete lack of support from her teachers. When she asked her guidance counselor for permission to take a second semester of Algebra instead of a fifth semester of Latin, the counselor was appalled. She looked down her nose at Nancy and sneered, “What lady would take mathematics instead of Latin?”

Continue reading “Nancy Grace Roman, Mother of the Hubble”

From Plastic Bottle to Plastic Brush

We first saw someone turn a plastic bottle into plastic ribbon about four years ago. Since then, we’ve wondered what this abundant, sturdy material could be used for besides just tying things together.

[Waldemar Sha] has answered that question with his excellent brush made from scrap wood and plastic bottle rope. Turning seven 1-litre bottles into curly bristle fodder was easy enough, but they have to be straight to brush effectively. No problem for [Waldemar]. He wound it all up on a  spinning homemade jig that’s anchored in a bench vise. The jig is designed to slide into a small electric sandwich grill he had lying around, and he just flips it after a while so the rope straightens evenly.

We really like the way he secured the bristles into the brush base. After drilling the holes, he sawed lengthwise channels that are deep enough for a bamboo skewer. Each group of bristles is hung over the skewer and down through the hole, and everything is glued in place before the handle is added. Sweep past the break to watch him tidy his workbench, and then learn how to make your own plastic rope.

Is there a better use of recycled plastic than making tools? Check out this joiner’s mallet made from milk jugs. Continue reading “From Plastic Bottle to Plastic Brush”

Reverse Engineering Bottle Threads for Fun and Profit

Recently, one of [Eric]’s clients asked him to design a bottle. Simple enough for a product designer, except that the client needed it to thread into a specific type of cap. And no, they don’t know the specs.

But that’s no problem, thought [Eric] as he turned on the exhaust fan and reached for the secret ingredient that would make casting the negative image of the threads a breeze. He mixed up the foul-smelling body filler with the requisite hardener and some lovely cyan toner powder and packed it into the cap with a tongue depressor. Then he capped off the cast by adding a small PVC collar to lengthen the cast so he has something to grab on to when it’s time to take it out.

Bondo does seem like a good choice for casting threads. You need something workable enough to twist out of there without breaking, but rigid enough that the small detail of the threads isn’t lost. For the release agent, [Eric] used Johnson’s Paste Wax. He notes from experience that it works particularly well with Bondo, and even seems to help it cure.

Once the Bondo hardened, [Eric] made sure it screwed in and out of the cap and then moved on to CAD modeling and 3D printing bottle prototypes until he was satisfied. We’ve got the video screwed in after the break to cap things off.

Did you know that you can also use toner powder to tint your epoxy resin? Just remember that it is particulate matter, and take precautions.

Continue reading “Reverse Engineering Bottle Threads for Fun and Profit”

HairIO: An Interactive Extension of the Self

Most of what we see on the wearable tech front is built around traditional textiles, like adding turn signals to a jacket for safer bike riding, or wiring up a scarf with RGB LEDs and a color sensor to make it match any outfit. Although we’ve seen the odd light-up hair accessory here and there, we’ve never seen anything quite like these Bluetooth-enabled, shape-shifting, touch-sensing hair extensions created by UC Berkeley students [Sarah], [Molly], and [Christine].

HairIO is based on the idea that hair is an important part of self-expression, and that it can be a natural platform for sandboxing wearable interactivity. Each hair extension is braided up with nitinol wire, which holds one shape at room temperature and changes to a different shape when heated. The idea is that you could walk around with a straight braid that curls up when you get a text, or lifts up to guide the way when a friend sends directions. You could even use the braid to wrap up your hair in a bun for work, and then literally let it down at 5:00 by sending a signal to straighten out the braid. There’s a slick video after the break that demonstrates the possibilities.

HairIO is controlled with an Arduino Nano and a custom PCB that combines the Nano, a Bluetooth module, and BJTs that drive the braid. Each braid circuit also has a thermistor to keep the heat under control. The team also adapted the swept-frequency capacitive sensing of Disney’s Touché project to make HairIO extensions respond to complex touches. Our favorite part has to be that they chalked some of the artificial tresses with thermochromic pigment powder so they change color with heat. Makes us wish we still had our Hypercolor t-shirt.

Nitinol wire is nifty stuff. You can use it to retract the landing gear on an RC plane, or make a marker dance to Duke Nukem.

Continue reading “HairIO: An Interactive Extension of the Self”

Better Beer Through Gene Editing

As much as today’s American beer drinker seems to like hoppy IPAs and other pale ales, it’s a shame that hops are so expensive to produce and transport. Did you know that it can take 50 pints of water to grow enough hops to produce one pint of craft beer? While hops aren’t critical to beer brewing, they do add essential oils and aromas that turn otherwise flat-tasting beer into delicious suds.

Using UC Berkley’s own simple and affordable CRISPR-CaS9 gene editing system, researchers [Charles Denby] and [Rachel Li] have edited strains of brewer’s yeast to make it taste like hops. These modified strains both ferment the beer and provide the hoppy flavor notes that beer drinkers crave. The notes come from mint and basil genes, which the researchers spliced in to yeast genes along with the CaS9 protein and promoters that help make the edit successful. It was especially challenging because brewer’s yeast has four sets of chromosomes, so they had to do everything four times. Otherwise, the yeast might reject the donor genes.

So, how does it taste? A group of employees from a nearby brewery participated in a blind taste test and agreed that the genetically modified beer tasted even hoppier than the control beer. That’s something to raise a glass to. Call and cab and drive across the break for a quick video.

Have you always wanted to brew your own beer, but don’t know where to start? If you have a sous vide cooker, you’re in luck.

Continue reading “Better Beer Through Gene Editing”

A Bar Graph for Beer Fridge Vitals

[ChrisN219] has an antique Coke machine that used to hold glass bottles. Now it holds around 30 tall boy cans of his favorite post-work suds. The only problem is that [Chris] has no idea how many cans are in it without opening up the door or keeping tally on a nearby slate board. Enter the Arduino.

He wanted to make something completely non-invasive to the machine (phew!) while using as many parts he already had as possible. The result is a simple circuit that uses an ultrasonic sensor mounted inside the machine to ping the depths, and a Nano in a nifty 3D printed box up top to do some math and display the number of cans remaining as a simple bar graph. The sensor reads one bay, and the code multiplies by two to get the total. It was touch and go there for a minute as he wasn’t sure that the HC-SR04s would get a good response from the cylindrical cans. Not only did they give a good reading, the first test was quite accurate.

[Chris] recently finished Mk. II, which replaces the momentary (and the Coke logo) with a second HC-SR04. The first version required the push of a button to do inventory, but now he simply walks up to the machine and knows at a glance if it’s time to make a beer run.

Okay, so maybe you don’t have cool old Coke machine problems. But surely you can find something that needs pinging, like an inconvenient rain barrel.