Ryobi Power Packs As Ebike Batteries

By now, the process of creating custom lithium-ion battery packs is well-known enough to be within the reach of most makers. But it’s not a path without hazard, and mistakes with battery protection and management can be costly. Happily for those who are apprehensive on the battery front there’s a solution courtesy of a group of engineering students from the University of Pittsburgh. Their project was to convert a pedal bicycle to electric assisted power, and in doing so they didn’t make their own pack but instead used off-the-shelf 40V Ryobi power tool packs.

The bike conversion is relatively conventional with the crank replaced by a crank and motor assembly, and a pair of the Ryobi packs in 3D-printed holders on the frame. The value in this is in its reminder that these packs have evolved to the point at which they make a viable alternative to a much more expensive bike-specific pack, and that their inclusion of all the balancing and protection circuitry make them also a much safer option than building your own pack. The benefits of this are immense as they bring a good-quality conversion within reach of many more bicycle owners, with all parts being only a simple online order away. Take a look at the video below the break for more details.

Those Ryobi cells certainly seem to have carved themselves a niche in our community!

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Sailing Faster Than The Wind Itself

If you search the outer reaches of the internet you will find all sorts of web sites and videos purporting to answer to free energy in the form of perpetual motion machines and other fantastical structures that bend the laws of physics to breaking point. We’d love them to be true but we have [Émilie du Châtelet] and her law of conservation of energy to thank for dashing those hopes. So when along comes a machine that appears to violate a fundamental Law of Physics, it’s reasonably met with skepticism. But the wind-powered vehicle built by [Rick Cavallaro] looks as though it might just achieve that which was previously thought impossible. It’s a machine that can move with the wind at a speed faster than the wind itself.

A fundamental law of sailing boats is that when they are sailing with the wind, i.e. in the same direction as the wind, they can’t sail faster than the wind itself. Sailing boats can go faster than the wind powering them by sailing across it at an angle to create lift from their sails, but this effect doesn’t work as the angle tends towards that of the wind.

The vehicle in the video below the break is a sleek and lightweight machine with a large propeller above it, which we are told is not the windmill power source we might imagine it to be. Instead it mimics the effect of a pair of sailing boats sailing across the wind in a spiral around a long cylinder, and thus becomes in effect a fan when turned by the motoin in the craft’s wheels. The drive comes from the wind working on the craft itself, and thus as can be seen from the motion of a streamer on its front, it can overtake the wind. It seems too good to be true at first sight but the explanation holds water. Now we want a ride too!

For fairly obvious reasons, the fantastical world of pseudo-physics isn’t our bag here at Hackaday. But if something might hold promise we’ll at least give it a look. Not all such things we cover turn out to change those Laws of Physics, though.

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Do Wristwatches Get Any Better Than A Cuckoo Clock?

There are few better ways of asserting your independent spirit as a hardware hacker than by creating your own special timepiece. Even more so if the timepiece is a watch, particularly in this era of smartwatches. Few home-made timepieces though have come as near to wristwatch Nirvana as the cuckoo clock wristwatch from [Kiyotaka Akasaka], which we would venture to name as having won wristwatches. Nobody will top this one in the field of home-made clocks!

Superlatives aside, this is an electronic cuckoo clock on the wrist, with an LED ring dial and a motorised cuckoo, all clothed in an authentically rustic tiny wooden cuckoo clock case. It communicates via BLE with a smartphone, and even has a sound channel for a cuckoo sound. Frustratingly there’s little in the way of detail about the electronics themselves, but we’re guessing that almost Bluetooth-capable microcontroller could be pressed into service. Take a look at the video below the break.

So we’ve established that it’s a cuckoo clock wristwatch, and that we like it, a lot. It is however not the only novelty cuckoo clock we’ve brought you.

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A Commodore 64 As You Have Never Seen One Before: Game Boy Form Factor!

It’s now nearly four decades since the iconic Commodore 64 8-bit computer saw the light of day, and the vintage format shows no sign of dying. Enthusiasts have produced all kinds of new takes on the platform, but it’s fair to say that most of them have concentrated on the original style keyboard console form factors. A completely different take on a Commodore 64 comes from [UNI64] in the form of the Handheld 64, a complete Commodore 64 in a Game Boy style form factor that uses the original 64 chipset.

It achieves this improbable feat by sandwiching together several PCBs, with a tactile switch keyboard and LCD display at the top. It appears to bring the 64 ports out to headers, and the ROM cartridge port to an edge connector socket at the top of the device. A departure from the 1980s comes in using a Raspberry Pi Zero to emulate a 1541 floppy drive though.

Sadly unlike a Game Boy there’s no onboard battery, but don’t let that take away from the quality of this feat. A forum post from [3D-vice] has a set of decent-quality pictures, and even if you don’t have a handy 64 chipset lying about we’re sure you’ll still appreciate them. If home made 64s are your thing, take a look at how you can build one without Commodore parts.

Thanks [pbuyle] for the tip!

An Open-source Scientific RPN Calculator

Why reach for a bland, commercially available calculator when you be using a model that employs RPN (Reverse Polish Notation) in its calculations and be a custom build all at the same time? The kids may have colour TFTs and graphing functions, but your keyboard has no equals sign, and that means something.

Unfortunately for RPN enthusiasts, the RPN calculator is a little on the rare side. Since classic models from the 1970s and ’80s are rather pricey, [Anton Poluektov]’s just build his own called the OpenCalc. This glorious specimen is an open hardware RPN calculator with more than a nod to the venerable Hewlett Packard HP42 in its design.

At its heart is an STM32L476 low-power ARM processor and a Sharp Memory LCD, all on a PCB clad in a 3D-printed case you’d have been proud to own in the 1980s. It runs from a CR2032 which is more than can be said for some modern styles of calculator, and it gives the user everything you could wish for in a scientific calculator. The key legends are a set of printable stickers, which when printed on self-adhesive laser film prove durable enough to last. All the resources can be found in a GitHub repository, so if RPN is your thing there’s nothing to stop you building one for yourself.

If RPN interests you, it’s a subject we’ve looked at in greater detail in the past.

Know Audio: Start At The Very Beginning

A lot of our projects make noise. It can be something as simple as a microcontroller driving a small speaker or a truly ambitious Hi-Fi project, but common to all of them is the desire to get that sound out in as audible and high-quality a manner as possible. We’ve been known to make fun of the more preposterous side of the Hi-Fi world at times, but behind it all there’s a basis of solid and provable audio engineering that can be brought to bear on almost any project involving sound and electronics. Perhaps it’s time to devote some time to a series exploring the topic, and what better place to start than the ultimate destination for all that sound. Any Hi-Fi is only as good as the ears of the person listening to it, so in out journey through the world of audio that’s where we’ll start. Continue reading “Know Audio: Start At The Very Beginning”

New Part Day: RP2040 Chips In Single Unit Quantities

Since the launch of the Raspberry Pi Pico back in January the little board with its newly-designed RP2040 microcontroller has really caught the imagination of makers everywhere, and we have seen an extremely impressive array of projects using it. So far the RP2040 has only been available on a ready-made PCB module, but we have news today direct from Eben Upton himself that with around 600k units already shipped, single-unit sales of the chip are commencing via the network of Raspberry Pi Approved Resellers.

This news will doubtless result in a fresh explosion of clever projects using the chip, but perhaps more intriguingly it will inevitably result in its appearance at the heart of a new crop of niche products that go beyond simple clones of the Pico in different form factors. The special ingredient of those two PIO programmable state machines to take the load of repetitive tasks away from the cores raises it above being merely yet another microcontroller chip, and we look forward to that feature being at their heart.

The Broadcom systems-on-chip that power Raspberry Pi’s existing range of Linux-capable boards have famously remained unavailable on their own, meaning that this move to being a chip vendor breaks further new ground for the Cambridge-based company. It’s best not to think of it in terms of their entering into competition with the giants of the microcontroller market though, because a relative minnow such as the RP2040 will be of little immediate concern to the likes of Microchip, ST, or TI. A better comparison when evaluating the RP2040’s chances in the market is probably Parallax with their Propeller chip, in that here is a company with a very solid existing presence in the education and maker markets seeking to capitalise on that experience by providing a microcontroller with that niche in mind. We look forward to seeing where this will take them, and we’d hope to eventually see a family of RP2040-like chips with different package and on-board peripheral options.