DIY MIDI Looper Controller Looks Fantastic!

Due to pedalboard size, complicated guitar pedals sometimes reduce the number of buttons to the bare minimum. Many of these pedals are capable of being controlled with an external MIDI controller, however, and necessity being the mother of invention and all, this is a great opportunity to build something and learn some new skills at the same time. In need of a MIDI controller, Reddit user [Earthwin] built an Arduino powered one to control his Boss DD500 Looper pedal and the result is great looking.

Five 16×2 LCD screens, one for each button, show the functionality that that button currently has. They are attached (through some neat wiring) to a custom-built PCB which holds the Arduino that controls everything. The screens are mounted to an acrylic backplate which holds the screens in place while the laser-cut acrylic covers are mounted to the same plate through the chassis. The chassis is a standard Hammond aluminum box that was sanded down, primed and then filler was used to make the corners nice and smooth. Flat-top LEDs and custom 3D printed washers finish off the project.

[Earthwin] admits that this build might be overkill for the looper that he’s using, but he had fun building the controller and learning to use an Arduino. He’s already well on his way to building another, using the lessons learned in this build. If you want to build your own MIDI controller, this article should help you out. And then you’re ready to build your controller into a guitar if you want to.

[Via Reddit]

2D-Scanner Records Surfboard Profiles For Posterity

[Ryan Schenk] had a problem: he built the perfect surfboard. Normally that wouldn’t present a problem, but in this case, it did because [Ryan] had no idea how he carved the gentle curves on the bottom of the board. So he built this homebrew 2D-scanner to make the job of replicating his hand-carved board a bit easier.

Dubbed the Scanbot 69420 – interpretation of the number is left as an exercise for the reader, my dude – the scanner is pretty simple. It’s just an old mouse carrying a digital dial indicator from Harbor Freight. The mouse was gutted, with even the original ball replaced by an RC plane wheel. The optical encoder and buttons were hooked to an Arduino, as was the serial output of the dial indicator. The Arduino consolidates the data from both sensors and sends a stream of X- and Z-axis coordinates up the USB cable as the rig slides across the board on a straightedge. On the PC side, a Node.js program turns the raw data into a vector drawing that represents the profile of the board at that point. Curves are captured at various points along the length of the board, resulting in a series of curves that can be used to replicate the board.

Yes, this could have been done with a straightedge, a ruler, and a pencil and paper – or perhaps with a hacked set of calipers – but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. And we can certainly see applications for this far beyond the surfboard shop.

Upgrading A MIDI Controller With An FPGA

While the “M” in MIDI stands for “musical”, it’s possible to use this standard for other things as well. [s-ol] has been working on a VJ setup (mixing video instead of music) using various potentiometer-based hardware and MIDI to interface everything together. After becoming frustrated with drift in the potentiometers, he set out to outfit the entire rig with custom-built encoders.

[s-ol] designed the rotary-encoder based boards around an FPGA. It monitors the encoder for changes, controls eight RGB LEDs per knob, and even does capacitive touch sensing on the aluminum knob itself. The FPGA communicates via SPI with an Arduino master controller which communicates to a PC using a serial interface. This is [s-ol]’s first time diving into an FPGA project and it looks like he hit it out of the park!.

Even if you’re not mixing video or music, these encoders might be useful to any project where a standard analog potentiometer isn’t accurate or precise enough, or if you just need something that can dial into a specific value quickly. Potentiometers fall short in many different ways, but if you don’t want to replace them you might modify potentiometers to suit your purposes.

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Arduino Wire Bender Probably Won’t Kill All Humans

Do you want to make your own springs? Yeah, that’s what we thought. Well, blow the dust off of that spare Arduino and keep reading. A few months ago, we let you know that renowned circuit sculptor [Jiří Praus] was working on a precision wire-bending machine to help him hone his craft. Now it’s real, it’s spectacular, and it’s completely open source.

Along with that ‘duino you’ll need a CNC shield and a couple of NEMA 17 steppers — one to feed the wire and one to help bend it. Before being bent or coiled into springs, the wire must be super straight, so the wire coming off the spool holder runs through two sets of rollers before being fed into the bender.

[Jiří]’s main goal for this build was precision, which we can totally get behind. If you’re going to build a machine to do something for you, ideally, it should also do a better job than you alone. It’s his secondary goal that makes this build so extraordinary. [Jiří] wanted it to be easy to build with commonly-available hardware and a 3D printer. Every part is designed to be printed without supports. Bounce past the break to watch the build video.

You can also make your own springs on a lathe, or print them with hacked g-code.

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Review: OSEPP STEM Kit 1, A Beginner’s All-in-One Board Found In The Discount Aisle

As the name implies, the OSEP STEM board is an embedded project board primarily aimed at education. You use jumper wires to connect components and a visual block coding language to make it go.

I have fond memories of kits from companies like Radio Shack that had dozens of parts on a board, with spring terminals to connect them with jumper wires. Advertised with clickbait titles like “200 in 1”, you’d get a book showing how to wire the parts to make a radio, or an alarm, or a light blinker, or whatever.

The STEM Kit 1 is sort of a modern arduino-powered version of these kits. The board hosts a stand-alone Arduino UNO clone (included with the kit) and also has a host of things you might want to hook to it. Things like the speakers and stepper motors have drivers on board so you can easily drive them from the arduino. You get a bunch of jumper wires to make the connections, too. Most things that need to be connected to something permanently (like ground) are prewired on the PCB. The other connections use a single pin. You can see this arrangement with the three rotary pots which have a single pin next to the label (“POT1”, etc.).

I’m a sucker for a sale, so when I saw a local store had OSEPP’s STEM board for about $30, I had to pick one up. The suggested price for these boards is $150, but most of the time I see them listed for about $100. At the deeply discounted price I couldn’t resist checking it out.

So does an embedded many-in-one project kit like this one live up to that legacy? I spent some time with the board. Bottom line, if you can find a deal on the price I think it’s worth it. At full price, perhaps not. Join me after the break as I walk through what the OSEPP has to offer.

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IoT Safe Keeps Latchkey Kids’ Phones On Lockdown

Phones are pretty great. Used as telephones, they can save us from bad situations and let us communicate while roaming freely, for the most part. Used as computers, they often become time-sucking black holes that can twist our sense of self and reality. Assuming they pick up when you call, phones are arguably a good thing for kids to have, especially since you can hardly find a payphone these days. But how do you teach kids to use them responsibly, so they can still become functioning adults and move out someday? [Jaychouu] believes the answer is inside of a specialized lockbox.

This slick-looking box has a solenoid lock inside that can be unlocked via a keypad, or remotely via the OBLOQ IoT module. [Jaychouu] added a few features that drive it out of Arduino lockbox territory. To prevent latchkey children from cheating the system and putting rocks (or nothing at all) in the box, there’s a digital weight sensor and an ultrasonic sensor that validate the credentials of the contents and compare them with known values.

Want a basic lockbox to keep your phone out of reach while you work? Here’s one with a countdown timer.

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Custom Game Pad Can Reprogram Itself

In the heat of the moment, gamers live and die by the speed and user-friendliness of their input mechanisms. If you’re team PC, you have two controllers to worry about. Lots of times, players will choose a separate gaming keyboard over the all-purpose 104-banger type.

When [John Silvia]’s beloved Fang game pad went to that LAN party in the sky, he saw the opportunity to create a custom replacement exactly as he wanted it. Also, he couldn’t find one with his desired layout. Mechanical switches were a must, and he went with those Cherry MX-like Gaterons we keep seeing lately.

This 37-key game pad, which [John] named Eyetooth in homage to the Fang, has a couple of standout features. For one, any key can be reprogrammed key directly from the keypad itself, thanks to built-in macro commands. It’s keyboard-ception!

One of the macros toggles an optional auto-repeat feature. [John] says this is not for cheating, though you could totally use it for that if you were so inclined. He is physically unable to spam keys fast enough to satisfy some single-player games, so he designed this as a workaround. The auto-repeat’s frequency is adjustable in 5-millisecond increments using the up /down macros. There’s a lot more information about the macros on the project’s GitHub.

Eyetooth runs on an Arduino Pro Micro, so you can either use [John]’s code or something like QMK firmware. This baby is so open source that [John] even has a hot tip for getting quality grippy feet on the cheap: go to the dollar store and look for rubber heel grippers meant to keep feet from sliding around inside shoes.

If [John] finds himself doing a lot of reprogramming, adding a screen with a layout map could help him keep track of the key assignments.