Zoom Out Of The Classroom With A Mushroom Button

Considering the state of well, everything, we can’t tell you how glad we are to be out of school. That goes double for not being a teacher these days. [Elena] had some awesome light-up tactile buttons set aside for a killer Kerbal Space Program controller, but it’s funny how a pandemic will change your priorities. Instead, those buttons found a good home in this colorful and enticing Zoom control panel.

[Elena]’s ready pile of Arduinos yielded no Leonardos or Pro Micros, but that’s okay because there’s a handy bootloader out there that allows you to reprogram the USB interface chip of an Uno or a Mega and use it as a keyboard. After setting that up, it was mostly a matter of wiring all those latching and momentary buttons and LEDs to the Mega and making them look fantastic with a set of icons. (We all know the big red mushroom button is for aborting the call; so does it really need an icon?)

[Elena] was inspired by the Zoom call-terminating pull chain we saw a month or so ago as well as the pink control box that launched a thousand or so macro keyboards. Have you made your own sanity-saving solution for our times? Let us know!

Greeking Out With Arduinos

Learning a new language is hard work, but they say that the best way to learn something is to teach it. [Angeliki Beyko] is learning Greek, and what better way to teach than to build a vocabulary flash-card game from Arduinos, color screens, 1602 text screens, and arcade buttons? After the break, we have a video from the creator talking about how to play, the hardware she chose, and what to expect in the next version.

Pegboard holds most of the hardware except the color screens, which are finicky when it comes to their power source. The project is like someone raided our collective junk drawers and picked out the coolest bits to make a game. Around the perimeter are over one hundred NeoPixels to display the game progress and draw people like a midway game. Once invested, you select a category on the four colored arcade buttons by looking at the adjacent LCD screens’ titles. An onboard MP3 shield reads a pseudo-random Greek word and displays it on the top-right 1602 screen in English phonetics. After that, it is multiple choice with your options displaying in full-color on four TFT monitors. A correct choice awards you a point and moves to the next word, but any excuse to mash on arcade buttons is good enough for us.

[Angeliki] does something we see more often than before, she’s covering what she learned, struggled with, would do differently, and how she wants to improve. We think this is a vital sign that the hacker community is showcasing what we already knew; hackers love to share their knowledge and improve themselves.

Typing Greek with a modern keyboard will have you reaching for an alt-code table unless you make a shortcut keyboard, and if you learn Greek, maybe you can figure out what armor they wore to battle.

Continue reading “Greeking Out With Arduinos”

Arduino Takes Control Of Dead Business Card Cutter

It’s a common enough situation, that when an older piece of equipment dies, and nobody wants to spend the money to repair it. Why fix the old one, when the newer version with all the latest bells and whistles isn’t much more expensive? We all understand the decision from a business standpoint, but as hackers, it always feels a bit wrong.

Which is exactly why [tommycoolman] decided to rebuild the office’s recently deceased Duplo CC-330 heavy duty business card cutter. It sounds like nobody really knows what happened to the machine in the first place, but since the majority of the internals were cooked, some kind of power surge seems likely. Whatever the reason, almost none of the original electronics were reused. From the buttons on the front panel to the motor drivers, everything has been implemented from scratch.

An Arduino Mega 2560 clone is used to control four TB6600 stepper motor drivers, with a common OLED display module installed where the original display went. The keypad next to the screen has been replaced with 10 arcade-style buttons soldered to a scrap of perfboard, though in the end [tommycoolman] covers them with a very professional looking printed vinyl sheet. There’s also a 24 V power supply onboard, with the expected assortment of step up and step down converters necessary to feed the various electronics their intended voltages.

In the end, [tommycoolman] estimates it took about $200 and 30 hours of work to get the card cutter up and running again. The argument could be made that the value of his time needs to be factored into the repair bill as well, but even still, it sounds like a bargain to us; these machines have a four-figure price tag on them when new.

Stories like this one are important reminders of the all wondrous things you can find hiding in the trash. Any time a machine like this can be rescued from the junkyard, it’s an accomplishment worthy of praise in our book.

A Z80 Board With Very Few Parts

The Z80 is one of those old CPUs that is both obtainable and easy to work with — at least in some versions. [Doctor Volt] put together what may be the simplest possible setups to get a working Z80 system. He has the processor, of course. But everything else — clock, memory, and power — are from an Arduino Mega 2560. You could argue that’s two chips, but the board actually has several chips on it. On the other hand, you could probably pull off the same stunt with a bare ATMega 2560.

We’ve seen this done before, but usually with a few more support chips. If you are a purist, [Doctor Volt] also has some Z80 and CP/M experiments where the Arduino only acts as a disk drive for the computer and there are only two support chips. There are three videos for both projects that you can see below.

Continue reading “A Z80 Board With Very Few Parts”

It’s Time For Watch Clocks To Make A Comeback

Along with all the colorful, geometric influence of Memphis design everywhere, giant wristwatch clocks were one of our favorite things about the 80s. We always wanted one, and frankly, we still do. Evidently, so did [Kothe]. But instead of some splashy Swatch-esque style, [Kothe] went the nerdy route by building a giant Casio F-91W to hang on the wall.

Not only does it look fantastic, it has the full functionality of the original from the alarm to the stopwatch to the backlit screen. Well, everything but the water resistance. The case is 3D-printed, as are the buckle and the buttons. [Kothe] might have printed the straps, but they were too big for the bed. Instead, they are made of laser-cut foam and engraved with all the details.

Inside there’s a 7″ touch display, a real-time clock module, and an Arduino Mega to make everything tick. To make each of the printed buttons work, [Kothe] cleverly extended a touch sensor module’s input pad with some copper tape. We think this could only be more awesome if it were modeled after one of Casio’s calculator watches, but that might be asking too much. Take a few seconds to watch the demo after the break.

Prefer your clocks less clock-like? Get a handle on the inner workings of this slot machine-based stunner.

Continue reading “It’s Time For Watch Clocks To Make A Comeback”

3D Print Your Way To A Glass Cockpit Simulator

Today’s commercial aircraft are packed to the elevators with sensors, computers, and miles and miles of wiring. Inside the cockpit you’re more than likely to see banks of LCDs and push buttons than analog gauges. So what’s that mean for the intrepid home simulator builder? Modern problems require modern solutions, and this 3D printed simulator is about as modern as it gets.

Published to Thingiverse by the aptly named [FlightSimMaker], this project consists of a dizzying number of 3D-printed components that combine into a full-featured desktop simulator for the Garmin G1000 avionics system. Everything from the parking brake lever to the push buttons in the display bezels was designed and printed: over 200 individual parts in all. Everything in this X-Plane 11 compatible simulator is controlled by an Arduino Mega 2560 with the SimVim firmware.

To help with connecting dozens of buttons, toggle switches, and rotary encoders to the Arduino, [FlightSimMaker] uses five CD74HC4067 16-channel multiplexers. The display is a 12.1 inch 1024 x 768 LCD panel with integrated driver, and comes in at the second most expensive part of the build behind the rotary encoders. All told, the estimated cost per display is around $250 USD.

Even if you aren’t looking to build yourself a high-tech flight simulator, there’s plenty of ideas and tips here that could be useful for building front panels. We particularly like the technique used for doing 3D-printed lettering: the part is printed in white, spray painted a darker color, and then the paint is sanded off the faces of the letters to reveal the plastic. Even with a standard 0.4 mm nozzle, this results in clean high-contrast labels on the panel with minimal fuss.

Of course, while impressive, these panels are just the beginning. There’s still plenty more work to do if you want to build an immersive simulation experience. Including, in the most extreme cases, buying a Boeing 737 cockpit.

Perfect Cheese Every Time With This Temperature Controller

Anyone who is from a background in which cheesemaking is a feature will tell you that it is an exact science in which small differences in parameters can make a huge difference in the resulting cheese, to the extent that entire batches can be rendered inedible. In particular the temperature at which the milk is held can be crucial to the production of individual styles of cheese. A friend of [William Dudley]’s had this problem, as a dairy farmer and artisinal cheesemaker they had to carefully control their vat with a set of profiles depending upon the recipe in use. This was achieved using an Arduino Mega 2650 and a thermocouple to control the heat source for the hot water in the outer wall of the vat.

A cheap K-type thermocouple amplifier proved unsatisfactory, so a Sparkfun item was substituted. A relay, Ethernet adaptor, and LCD display provided power control, access to a web interface, and user feedback respectively. Four buttons to select programs were added, and the whole was neatly boxed up to survive the dairy and put to work. In tests with a saucepan it was configured as a PID controller, but the real vat proved to have a much greater thermal inertia so a simpler bang-bang home thermostat style approach was used. Temperatures are logged in an eeprom for later retrieval via the web interface.

We don’t see the cheeses produced, but we’re sure they must be worth the effort. Blessed may be the cheesemakers, but doubly blessed are they who have a little help from an Arduino.