DIY HEPA Fan Clears The Stale Office Air

Although it would be nice, we can’t all work from home. If you have to spend the day in close quarters with other people, you might want more protection than just a mask and sanitizer. Check out [jshanna]’s DIY HEPA filtering fan — it looks like a breeze to build and uses commonly-available parts plus a few 3D-printed pieces to put it all together.

The basis of this attractive and useful office must-have is a muffin fan from Amazon that has an optional variable speed controller. A long threaded rod runs up the center of the HEPA filter, so it attaches kind of like a lampshade. The fan draws up air from underneath and blows it upward through the filter and out into the room. Whenever the HEPA filter gets dirty, just take it out and wash it.

Are you still buying disposable masks? You might save money in the long run by making your own.

On-Air Sign Helps Keep Your Broadcasts G-Rated

Like many of us, [Michael] needed a way to let the family know whether pants are required to enter the room — in other words, whenever a videoconference is in progress. Sure he could hang a do not disturb sign, but those are easy to forget. There’s no need to worry about forgetting to change status because this beautiful wall-mounted sign can be controlled with Alexa.

Inside the gorgeous box made from walnut, curly maple, and oak is an ESP32, some RGB LEDs, and three MOSFETs. [Michael] is using the fauxmoESP library to interface the ESP32 with Alexa, which emulates a Phillips Hue bulb for the sake of using a protocol she already knows. [Michael] can change the color and brightness percentage with voice commands.

The sign is set up as four different devices — one default, and one for each color. Since talking to Alexa isn’t always appropriate, [Michael] can also change the color of the LEDs using sliders on a website that’s served up by the ESP. Check out the full build video after the break.

Need something quick and dirty that works just as well? Our own [Bob Baddeley] made a status indicator that’s simple and effective.

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FISHBOT Reels Them In So You Don’t Have To

Fishing is generally thought of as a relaxing and laid-back activity, but it still requires a certain amount of physical strength and dexterity. This can be a problem for older anglers or those with physical disabilities. To bring back the simple joy of fishing to those who may no longer be able to hold a rod on their own, [Ozz] has been working on the FISHBOT.

The FISHBOT looks like a miniature crane, complete with an electric motor and winch to pull in the line. But there’s a bit more going on here than meets the eye. Anyone who’s tried to land a large fish knows you have to be cautious of snapping the line, so [Ozz] has added a load cell to the system that can tell when its being pulled too tightly. In the future he hopes to make this feature a bit smarter by taking into account additional variables, but for now it should at least keep the more energetic of your quarry from getting away.

[Ozz] is controlling the beefy 400 watt motor with an IBT-2 H-bridge module connected to an Arduino Mega. The electronics can communicate with the user’s smartphone over a HM-10 Bluetooth module, which allows for more advanced features such as gesture controls that utilize the accelerometer in the phone. Long term, it sounds like he hopes to use the microcontroller in conjunction with the load cell to pull off more advanced tricks like weighing the fish and sending the data off to the user’s fishing buddies to show off.

In the past we’ve seen a drone used to get a lure out where the fish are, but catching one and reeling it back in is a very different challenge. It looks like [Ozz] still has some work to do on this project, but so far it seems things are going well. Being able to return a simple pleasure like this to those who thought their fishing days were behind them will surely prove worthy of the effort.

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The Last Component Storage System You’d Ever Need

Think you’ve seen the best component storage system? This system could only be better if you could walk up and talk to it. [APTechnologies] was tired of using a hodgepodge of drawers and boxen for storing their components. What they needed was an all-purpose solution for storing all kinds of small-to-medium-sized goodies, be they through hole or SMT.

This one happens to have a software interface as well that is searchable with short, crisp expressions that find parts by ID or with parameters. It’s a Python 3 script running on a Raspberry Pi 4B that’s hiding behind the HDMI display. [APTechnologies] printed a special arm for that, and you can find all the files on GitHub. Not only does the LED above the corresponding drawer light up, it lights up in a color that represents the inventory levels. We assume green/yellow/red, but [APTechnologies] doesn’t specify.

Don’t know what to do with some of your components? If they’re really old, they may be no good anymore. It just depends.

Dog Bowls Show The Versatility Of Ceramic Slip Casting

Here at Hackaday, we feature projects that are built of just about every material imaginable. Silicon-spangled fiber-reinforced epoxy resin is our primary medium, but we see plastic, wood, steel, aluminum, and even textiles from time to time. It’s not often we see slip-cast ceramic molding, though, and when it pops up, it’s always good to take a look at this versatile manufacturing method.

The back-story on this one is that [thoughtfulocean], a mechanical engineer idled by COVID lockdowns, wanted custom water bowls for his dogs, one of whom is clearly a grumpy Ewok. The design started with a 3D-print of the final vessel, printed in sections and glued together. These were used to create a two-piece plaster mold into which a watery slurry of clay, or slip, was poured. The plaster mold dehydrates the slip, leaving behind a semi-solid layer of clay of the desired thickness once the excess slip is poured off. The resulting casting is then fired in a kiln and glazed.

Of course, [thoughtfulocean] ran into a few problems along the way. The first mold was warped thanks to the mold box bowing under pressure from the plaster, so the whole molding process had to be revamped. The finished bowl also shrunk less than expected after firing, which led to some more revisions. But the finished bowl look really nice, and the included pump and filter keeps the Ewok’s water free from the yuck a dog’s face can introduce. As a bonus, it sounds like [thoughtfulocean] might have created a marketable product from all this. Take that, COVID!

Slip-casting ceramic may not be all that common around here, but ceramic as a material isn’t exactly a stranger. And who says slip casting is limited to ceramic? After all, we’ve seen a similar method used with plastic resin.

[via r/engineering]

A Pull Chain To End Your Zoom Pain

Yay! Another videoconference call is in the books, so that must mean that it’s time to fumble around awkwardly for the hang-up button with a fading smile. [lanewinfield] knew there had to be a better way, and looked to the pull chain switch for salvation. Sure, this could just as easily be a button, but what’s the fun in that? Besides, few buttons would be as satisfying as pulling a chain to a Zoom call.

The pull chain switch is connected to an Adafruit Feather nRF52840 Express that’s emulating a Bluetooth keyboard. Firmware-wise it sends command + F6, which triggers an AppleScript that manually exits and and all Zoom calls and kills Chrome tabs pointed to meet.google.com. He’s using Apple’s hotkey wizard Alfred, but this could be handled just as easily with something like AutoHotKey.

Pull chain switches are neat little mechanisms. The chain is connected to a cam that engages a wheel with copper contacts on half the outside. When you pull the chain, the wheel moves 90° and the wheel contacts connect up with the fixed contacts inside the housing to make a connection. Pulling the chain again moves the wheel which slides to the half without the contacts. Check it out in the video below.

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Status Display Lets Them Know You Can’t Play

All this ongoing forced togetherness is great, but sometimes you just need to be able to pretend you’re alone so you can get some work done. So, how do you keep family members out of your home office? Our own [Bob Baddeley]’s free/busy indicator is about as simple as it gets.

The best part is that the status can been seen on both sides of the door so you don’t forget to keep it updated. Or maybe it’s the super-low part count. There’s no BLE, LoRa, or Wi-Fi, just two sets of red and green LEDs, a three-way switch, and a power source. Well, and current-limiting resistors of course.

[Bob] already had all the components on hand, including the nifty enclosure, which is another great thing about this build. Like [Bob] says, you could house the control side of this circuit in just about anything you’ve got lying around.

Young children might abuse this one, but this status indicator that lets the family request your presence with the push of a button.