Robotic Laser Keeps Cat Entertained While You Hack

Whether it’s our own cat or a neighbor’s, many of us have experienced the friendly feline keeping us company while we work, often contributing on the keyboard, sticking its head where our hands are for a closer look, or sitting on needed parts. So how to keep the crafty kitty busy elsewhere? This roboticized laser on a pan-tilt mechanism from the [circuit.io team] should do the trick.

The laser is a 650 nm laser diode mounted on a 3D printed pan-tilt system which they found on Thingiverse and modified for attaching the diode’s housing. It’s all pretty lightweight so two 9G Micro Servos do the grunt work just fine. The brain is an Arduino UNO running an open-source VarSpeedServo library for smooth movements. Also included are an HC-05 Bluetooth receiver and an Android app for controlling the laser from your phone. Set it to Autoplay or take a break and use the buttons to direct the laser yourself. See the video below for build instructions and of course their cat, [Pepper], looking like a Flamenco dancer chasing the light.

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Learning The 555 From The Inside

One way to understand how the 555 timer works and how to use it is by learning what the pins mean and what to connect to them. A far more enjoyable, and arguably a more useful way to learn is by looking at what’s going on inside during each of its modes of operation. [Dejan Nedelkovski] has put together just such a video where he walks through how the 555 timer IC works from the inside.

We especially like how he immediately removes the fear factor by first showing a schematic with all the individual components but then grouping them into what they make up: two comparators, a voltage divider, a flip-flop, a discharge transistor, and an output stage. Having lifted the internals to a higher level, he then walks through examples, with external components attached, for each of the three operating modes: bistable, monostable and astable. If you’re already familiar with the 555 then you’ll enjoy the trip down memory lane. If you’re not familiar with it, then you soon will be. Check out his video below.

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Turning A Car Into A Computer Mouse

[William Osman] and [Simone Giertz] have graced our pages before, both with weird, wacky and wonderful hacks so it’s no surprise that when they got together they did so to turn Simone’s car into a computer mouse. It’s trickier than you might think.

They started by replacing the lens of an optical mouse with a lens normally used for a security camera. Surprisingly, when mounted to the car’s front bumper it worked! But it wasn’t ideal. The problem lies in that to move a mouse cursor sideways you have to move the mouse sideways. However, cars don’t move sideways, they turn by going in an arc. Move your mouse in an arc right now without giving it any sideways motion and see what happens. The mouse cursor on the screen moves vertically up or down the screen, but not left or right. So how to tell if the car is turning? For that, they added a magnetometer. The mouse then gives the distance the car moved and the magnetometer gives the heading, or angle. With some simple trigonometry, they calculate the car’s coordinates.

The mouse click is done using the car’s horn, but details are vague there.

And yes, using the carmouse is as fun as it sounds, though we still don’t recommend texting while driving using this technique. Watch them in the videos below as they write an email and drive a self-portrait of the car.

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Repairs You Can Print: Nintendo DS Lite With New Battery And Case

The problem with hanging on to old consumer products is that the original batteries no longer hold a charge. To make matters worse, replacement batteries ordered online have likely been sitting on a warehouse shelf for years and are no better. [Larry G] faced this issue with his old Nintendo DS Lite. Luckily he remembered a hack from his youth where a friend’s Dad had duct-taped a massive alkaline D-cell battery pack to the back of a Gameboy to give it a longer life. And so [Larry] gave new life to his Nintendo DS Lite by designing and 3D printing a case for a battery with an even larger capacity than the original.

He first obtained a 2400 mAh 18650 lithium-ion cell, one with over voltage and under voltage protection. With that as a guide, he designed and 3D printed a case for it made up of four printed parts. The case was needed because the 18650 doesn’t fit in the NDS Lite’s battery compartment. Instead, one of the parts, which he calls the fake battery, fits in the compartment and has copper strips glued to it for connecting to the NDS Lite. From there, wires go to another part wherein sits the 18650. The remaining parts secure it all in place.  Charging is done using the NDS Lite’s built-in charger. Even though the new case adds significant bulk, it actually fits well in the hand.

No doubt many of you have your own old NDS Lite sitting around that can benefit from this repair. The project details and STL files can be found on his Hackaday.io page using the above link.

This is also [Larry]’s entry for our Repairs You Can Print contest which puts him in the running for one of two Prusa i3 Mk3s plus the multi-material upgrade.

Slow Down That Hot Rod Camera Dolly

[Eric Strebel]  uses a small homemade vehicle with his camera mounted on it to get great tracking shots for the intros to his videos. If the movement is slow enough then the effect is quite professional looking. But he wanted it eight times slower. We not only like the simple way he did it, along with how he machined parts for it, but the result makes it look like a hot rod, hence his name for it, the dolly hot rod. He also has an elegant mechanism for disengaging the motor while he repositions the dolly.

Machining Bondo body filler cylinder
Machining Bondo body filler cylinder

The are many ways to slow down a rotation. We’re assuming he was already at the minimum speed for the vehicle’s 8 RPM motor transmission and electronic speed controller. Gears or pulleys would probably be the next options. But [Eric] went even simpler, switching from roller blade wheels to larger diameter scooter wheels.

As simple as that sounds though, it led to that age-old conundrum, how to attach the wheels to the vehicle. The axle is made up of PVC tubes. So he machined square the ends of some PVC plugs and bolted the plugs to the wheel bearings. That left only to push the PVC plugs into the axle’s tubes. There are a number of ways he could have machined the PVC plugs, and the full explanation of the one he chose is best left to his video below. But basically, it involved first machining a Bondo body filler cylinder with a bolt embedded in it and then using the cylinder to hold onto the PVC plug while he machined that.

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Salyut: How We Learned To Make Space Stations

When you think about space stations, which ones come to mind first? You might think Skylab, the International Space Station (ISS), or maybe Russia’s Mir. But before any of those took to the heavens, there was Salyut.

Russia’s Salyut 1 was humankind’s first space station. The ensuing Salyut program lasted fifteen years, from 1971 to 1986, and the lessons learned from this remarkable series of experiments are still in use today in the International Space Station (ISS). The program was so successful at a time when the US manned space program was dormant that one could say that the Russians lost the Moon but won the space race.

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The Furby Organ

Sometimes you have an idea that is so brilliant and so crazy that you just have to make it a reality. In 2011, [Look Mum No Computer] drew up plans in his notebook for a Furby organ, an organ comprised of a keyboard and a choir of Furbies. For those who don’t know what a Furby is, it’s a small, cute, furry robotic toy which speaks Furbish and a large selection of human languages. 40 million were sold during its original production run between 1998 and 2000 and many more since. Life intervened though, and, [LMNK] abandoned the Furby organ only to recently take it up again.

He couldn’t get a stable note out of the unmodified Furbies so he instead came up with what he’s calling the Furby Forman Fusion Synthesis. Each Furby is controlled by a pair of Ardunios. One Arduino sequences parts inside the Furby and the other produces a formant note, making the Furby sing vowels.

We love the label he’s given for what would otherwise be the power switch, namely the Collective Awakening switch. Flicking it causes all 44 (we count 45 but he says 44) Furbies to speak up while moving their ears, eyes, and beaks. Pressing the Loop switch makes them hold whatever sound they happen to be making. The Vowel dial changes the vowel. But you’ll just have to see and hear it for yourself in the videos below. The second video also has construction details.

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