This Coin Cell Can Move That Train!

[Mike Rigsby] has moved a train with a coin cell. A CR2477 cell to be exact, which is to say one of the slightly more chunky examples, and the train in question isn’t the full size variety but a model railroad surrounding a Christmas tree, but nevertheless, the train moved.

A coin cell on its own will not move a model locomotive designed to run on twelve volts. So [Mark] used a boost converter to turn three volts into twelve. The coin cell has a high internal resistance, though, so first the coin cell was discharged into a couple of supercapacitors which would feed the boost converter. As his supercaps were charging, he meticulously logged the voltage over time, and found that the first one took 18 hours to charge while the second required 51 hours.

This is important and useful data for entrants to our Coin Cell Challenge, several of whom are also going for a supercap approach to provide a one-off power boost. We suspect though that he might have drawn a little more from the cell, had he selected a dedicated supercap charger circuit.

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Making Rubber Stamps with OpenSCAD

There’s an old saying that goes “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”, but around these parts a better version might be “If you can’t buy ’em, make ’em”. A rather large portion of the projects that have graced these pages have been the product of a hacker or maker not being able to find a commercial product to fit their needs. Or at the very least, not being able to find one that fit their budget.

GitHub user [harout] was in the market for some rubber stamps to help children learn the Armenian alphabet, but couldn’t track down a commercially available set. With a 3D printer and some OpenSCAD code, [harout] was able to turn this commercial shortcoming into a DIY success story.

Filling the molds with urethane rubber.

Rather than having to manually render each stamp, he was able to come up with a simple Bash script that calls OpenSCAD with the “-D” option. When this option is passed to OpenSCAD, it allows you to override a particular variable in the .scad file. A single OpenSCAD file is therefore able to create a stamp of any letter passed to it on the command line. The Bash script uses this option to change the variable holding the letter, renders the STL to a unique file name, and then moves on to the next letter and repeats the process.

This procedural generation of STLs is a fantastic use of OpenSCAD, and is certainly not limited to simple children’s stamps. With some improvements to the code, the script could take any given string and font and spit out a ready to print mold.

With a full set of letter molds generated, they could then be printed out and sealed with a spray acrylic lacquer. A mold release was applied to each sealed mold, and finally they were filled with approximately 200ml of Simpact urethane rubber from Smooth-On. Once the rubber cures, he popped them out of the molds and glued them onto wooden blocks. The end result looks just as good as anything you’d get from an arts and crafts store.

The process used here is very similar to the 3D printed cookie molds we’ve covered recently, though we have to assume these little morsels would not be nearly as tasty. Of course, if you had access to a small CNC machine you could cut the stamps out of the rubber directly and skip the mold step entirely.

DIY Wooden Building Blocks

If you have access to a drill press, saw, and sander, and are looking for a great present for smaller children this holiday season, [Jonny] may have you covered. He’s come up with a pretty good how to on making some simple block and dowel building blocks similar to the Tinkertoy building sets.

This is a fairly simple build if you have the shop tools, and if you only have hand tools available, is still quite doable. The blocks consist of square wooden blocks with holes drilled into them and a bunch of wooden dowels cut to size. [Jonny] adds a wooden box with a hinged lid for storing the blocks in as an added feature of the build,.

There are no LEDs lighting up, no Arduino-powered microcontroller involved, and they don’t connect to the internet, but that doesn’t make them any less of a great toy. Even without the shop tools, these could be made pretty quickly even by someone without prior experience with woodworking. If you’re interested in building block toys, check out this write-up about a way to combine different types of building blocks together, or check out this write-up about creating the frame of a DIY CNC mill with a metal building set.

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Classic Tomy Toy Gets AIY Makover

A few months ago the Raspberry Pi magazine The MagPi gave away a piece of hardware, the Google AIY voice control kit. Subscribers all received one, but as always the eBay scalpers cleaned up all the in-store copies and very few lucky enthusiasts scored a kit of their own.

Among these frustrated Pi owners was [Circuitbeard], who decided instead to make his own kit. And since a cardboard case lacked style, he decided to do so in the shell of a 1980s Tomy Mr. Money toy novelty bank. Into it went a Raspberry Pi Zero W and an audio pHat, with a servo to operate the head and a microswitch connected to the toy’s arm as a trigger.

The Python code to run everything is all included in the write-up, and he’s posted a video of the device in operation which we’ve placed below the break.

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Lego Go-Kart Scores Radio Control

LEGO has always been an excellent toy for both play and learning, and the Technic sets are a great starting point for any budding engineer. Not content to rest on their plastic, blocky laurels, LEGO introduced more advanced parts over the years, such as motors and battery packs to allow builders to propel their creations. Combine this mechanical philosophy with [Matt]’s Giant Lego Go-Kart and you have one heck of a project.

It all started months ago, when [Matt] built his original Giant Lego Go-Kart, a 5-times scaled up model of the original kit #1972-1. Achieved through the wonder of 3D printing, he had sized it up based off the largest parts he could fit on his printer. The Youtube video led to commenters asking – could it be driven?

He decided that radio control was definitely a possibility. Not content to simply bolt on a series of motors to control the drive and steering, he took the effort to build scaled up replica LEGO motors, even taking care to emulate the old-school connectors as well. A particularly nice touch was the LEGO antenna, concealing the Orange RX radio receiver.

There were some hiccups – at this scale & with [Matt]’s parts, the LEGO force just isn’t strong enough to hold everything together. With a handful of zipties and a few squirts of glue, however, the giant ‘kart was drifting around the carpark with ease and hitting up to 26km/h.

In the end, the build is impressive not just for its performance but the attention to detail in faithfully recreating the LEGO aesthetic. As for the next step, we’d like to know what you think – how could this be scaled up to take a human driver? Is it possible? You decide.

Classic Furby plus Alexa Equals… Furlexa

[Zach Levine] wrote in to share a project just completed: a classic Furby packing a Raspberry Pi running Alexa: he calls it Furlexa.

The original Furby product wowed consumers of the 90s. In addition to animatronic movements, it also packed simulated voice learning technology that seemed to allow the Furby to learn to speak. It wasn’t like anything else on the market, and even got the toy banned from NSA’s facilities in case it could spy on them. Elegantly, the robot uses only one motor to move all of its parts, using a variety of plastic gears, levers, and cams to control all of the robot’s body parts and to make it dance.

Over the past twenty years the Furby has earned the reputation as one of the most hackable toys ever — despite its mystery microcontroller, which was sealed in plastic to keep the manufacturer’s IP secret. [Zach] replaced the control board with a Pi Zero. He also replaced the crappy mic and pizeo speaker that came with toy with a Pimoroni Speaker pHat and a better mic.

While classic Furbys have a reputation for hackability, the new ones aren’t immune: this Infiltrating Furby is based on a recent model of the toy. Continue reading “Classic Furby plus Alexa Equals… Furlexa”

Mission Impossible: Infiltrating Furby

Long before things “went viral” there was always a few “must have” toys each year that were in high demand. Cabbage Patch Kids, Transformers, or Teddy Ruxpin would cause virtual hysteria in parents trying to score a toy for a holiday gift. In 1998, that toy was a Furby — a sort of talking robot pet. You can still buy Furby, and as you might expect a modern one — a Furby Connect — is Internet-enabled and much smarter than previous versions. While the Furby has always been a target for good hacking, anything Internet-enabled can be a target for malicious hacking, as well. [Context Information Security] decided to see if they could take control of your kid’s robotic pet.

Thet Furby Connect’s path to the Internet is via BLE to a companion phone device. The phone, in turn, talks back to Hasbro’s (the toy’s maker) Amazon Web Service servers. The company sends out new songs, games, and dances. Because BLE is slow, the transfers occur in the background during normal toy operation.

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