[Brett] has had Nixie tubes on the brain ever since being introduced to them by a good friend of his. He decided that building a Nixie-based key chain would be the best way to familiarize himself with the technology, while also giving him a project to enter in the 555 Design Contest. He dug up the smallest Nixie tube he could find that displayed digits, and got down to business.
The biggest obstacle he ran into was figuring out how he would provide the high voltage required to light the Nixie tube. He eventually built a transformer circuit driven by a 555 timer, using a small 12v battery as his power source. Once everything was up and running on a breadboard, he designed and etched some PCBs, then soldered everything together.
The end result is a nifty little key chain that flashes the number 5 when a button is pressed – pretty appropriate for the 555 contest. It’s a great looking project, though we’re still not 100% sure what we think about a naked high voltage circuit residing in our pocket.
Keep reading for a pair of videos documenting the key chain’s construction and operation.
Continue reading “Pint-sized Nixie display fits neatly in your pocket”
Toppling dominoes is great fun for about 30 seconds at a time, when you are not busy setting them up for another run. [Randy] thought it was about time they got an electronic makeover to allow for constant, immediate gratification. Armed with a few simple electronic components, he has created Le Dominoux.
These LED-based electronic dominoes are actually quite simple to build. Each basic Le Dominoux is constructed on a small square of protoboard and consists of either a photo cell or phototransistor, a 555 timer, and an LED, all powered by a coin cell battery. The 555 timer, which is configured as a one-shot, is triggered when the photosensitive component on the back side of the domino is exposed to a bright enough light. The LED on the front end of the domino is then illuminated one time. This process is the electronic equivalent of a single domino toppling over.
He has constructed several variants of the Le Dominoux to act as flashing triggers, for outputting sound, as well as for turning tight corners. These variants allow the dominoes to be configured in many different ways, creating self-sustaining light shows. If anyone is looking for a fun project to introduce kids to electronics, this would definitely be it. Stick around to see a video of Le Dominoux in action – we bet you can’t stop watching it.
This is of course [Randy’s] entry in the 555 Design Contest, which ends tonight at midnight EST.
Continue reading “Endless fun with LED dominoes”
[Jeri Ellsworth] sent us a video walkthrough of a hack she did a few years ago using a toy chicken with a motor operated mouth. She wired up a Bluetooth headset’s audio output to a LM386 audio amplifier, which drives the speaker she added to the chicken. The output of the audio amplifier was also connected to a 555 timer in bistable mode to activate the motorized mouth. The motor simply opens the mouth when activated, allowing the built-in spring to snap it shut when the 555 is reset.
Obviously Jeri didn’t send us an old project just for kicks, she wanted to remind all of our readers that the 555 Design Contest comes to a close tomorrow night, March 1st at 11:59 EST. If you haven’t submitted an entry yet, get something started while there is still time!
Keep reading to see Jeri give a quick video overview of her talking Bluetooth chicken.
Continue reading “Bluetooth-enabled talking chicken”
[Dino] recently sent us some info on his latest project, a 555 timer-based slider synthesizer. The synth was built to emulate the sound made by playing a slide whistle, and also as an entry into the 555 Design Contest, which is quickly coming to a close. If you’re not familiar with a slide whistle, just spend a few minutes on YouTube looking for clips of Sideshow Bob – it’s ok, we’ll wait.
The circuit is pretty simple, though the implementation is quite clever. While traditional slide whistles require the user to blow in one end, this electronic version operates using a LED and photo cell. When the main switch is closed, the 555 timer is activated, and a tone is produced. The pitch of the tone is controlled by the LED as it slides in and out of the tube. The more light that hits the photo cell, the higher the pitch, and vice versa.
Continue reading to see a quick demonstration of [Dino’s] slide synth, and be sure to check out his other 555 contest entry we featured a short while back.
Continue reading “Fun slide whistle synth toy”
[Bob] has been busy lately putting the finishing touches on three different projects that he plans on entering into the 555 Design Contest.
His first entry is a low-power H-bridge, which can be used to drive small servos. While he admits that it is a bit odd to build use a 555 timer to construct an H-bridge, they are cheap and plentiful enough to justify their use. Check out the video below to see the simple H-bridge controlling a servo.
[Bob’s] second entry is quite a bit more complex than his H-bridge. His secret knock detector listens for a pattern of knocks, triggering a relay if the proper cadence is detected. If a knock is heard, the first 555 timer starts, listening for another knock within a specific time range. If a knock is heard during this period, the next timer is triggered, and the process is repeated. Subsequent knocks must be timed correctly, or the circuit halts, waiting for a reset timer to expire before listening is resumed. It’s a bit hard to get the knocks just right, but that should be fixable with a few small tweaks.
The third entry he sent us is a project that is pretty common, though with a somewhat uncommon implementation. Class D amplifiers are often built as low-power headphone amps for personal audio applications. He liked the idea of a Class D amplifier, but wanted to build something with enough power to listen to his music in a small room. To accomplish this task, he looked over the internal block schematics of a 555 timer and constructed a pair of high-power 555 timers himself, using discrete components to mimic those usually found in the 555 package. His results were decent, though admittedly not of the highest quality, and could be tweaked a bit to provide better sound fidelity.
Continue reading to see videos of each project in action.
Continue reading “A trio of last-minute 555 timer projects”
We were sent [Dr. Offset’s] most recent project, a kid’s toy that is half sculpture/half noisemaker, but 100% cool. The device uses several 555 Timers and is his entry into the 555 Design Contest, which wraps up in just a few days. To really enjoy his creation, you need to suspend disbelief for a moment, and indulge the space fantasy he creates. In other words, let yourself be a kid again, if only for a few minutes.
What he has built is a containment unit for an alien life form found during an outer space exploratory mission. The creature has fused its organic bits with electronic components in order to survive in the stark, empty world it used to call home. The containment unit allows you to zap the “bug” with various frequencies to see how it reacts. The “bug” is light sensitive, so it always offers a varying experience, day or night.
It’s definitely one of the most artistically creative entries into the 555 Design Contest we have seen yet. Continue reading to see a thorough walkthrough and demonstration of his project.
[Thanks Rich Decibels]
Continue reading “Alien life form synth toy”
[BadWolf] sent us a device called the “Bacon Beacon“, which is his 555 Design Contest entry. In short, it’s a life-saving device that emits an S.O.S. signal in Morse code over both the AM and FM bands. The device uses five 555 timers to get the job done, each of them dedicated to a specific task. Three of the timers are used for clocking and Morse generation, while the remaining two are used to produce and transmit an audible signal over the air waves. Currently, the signal can be received about a mile away from the source, which would theoretically allow for a search and rescue team to locate you with a simple radio and directional antenna.
The current design is still a bit rough around the edges, but the final plans would have the circuit built into a flashlight-like device equipped with red and green signaling LEDs. It’s a clever project and would make for a great tool if you got lost while hiking, or in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
Stick around for a quick video of the Bacon Beacon in action, and swing by [BadWolf’s] site if you want to know why his project has such a strange moniker (hint: it’s not because it can “save your bacon”).
Continue reading “AM/FM SOS beacon saves your bacon”