Make Physics Fun with a Trebuchet

What goes up must come down. And what goes way, way up can come down way, way too fast to survive the sudden stop. That’s why [Tom Stanton] built an altitude recording projectile into an oversized golf ball with parachute-controlled descent. Oh, and there’s a trebuchet too.

That’s a lot to unpack, but suffice it to say, all this stems from [Tom]’s obvious appreciation for physics. Where most of us would be satisfied with tossing a ball into the air and estimating the height to solve the classic kinematic equations from Physics 101, [Tom] decided that more extreme means were needed.

Having a compound trebuchet close at hand, a few simple mods were all it took to launch projectiles more or less straight up. The first payload was to be rocket-shaped, but that proved difficult to launch. So [Tom] 3D-printed an upsized golf ball and packed it with electronics to record the details of its brief ballistic flight. Aside from an altimeter, there’s a small servo controlled by an Arduino and an accelerometer. The servo retracts a pin holding the two halves of the ball together, allowing a parachute to deploy and return the package safely to Earth. The video below shows some pretty exciting launches, the best of which reached over 60 meters high.

The skies in the field behind [Tom]’s house are an exciting place. Between flying supercapacitors, reaction wheel drones, and low-altitude ISS flybys, there’s always something going on up there.

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A Ping Pong Ball LED Video Wall

Constrained builds are often the most fun. Throw an artificial limit into the mix, like time limiting your effort or restricting yourself to what’s on hand, and there’s no telling what will happen.

[bitluni] actually chose both of those constraints for this ping pong ball LED video display, and the results are pretty cool, even if the journey was a little rough. It seems like using sheet steel for the support of his 15 x 20 Neopixel display was a mistake, at least in hindsight. A CNC router would probably have made the job of drilling 300 holes quite a bit easier, but when all you have is a hand drill and a time limit, you soldier on. Six strings of Neopixels fill the holes, a largish power supply provides the 18 or so amps needed, and an Arduino knock-off controls the display. The ping pong ball diffusers are a nice touch, even if punching holes in them cost [bitluni] a soldering iron tip or two. The display is shown in action in the video below, mostly with scrolling text. If we may make a modest suggestion, a game of Pong on a ping pong ball display might be fun.

[bitluni] says that the display is on its way to Maker Faire Berlin this weekend, so stop by and say hi. Maybe he’ll have some of his other cool builds too, like his Sony Watchman Game Boy mashup, or the electric scooter of questionable legality.

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Stator Library Makes Your Arduino Code Easier To Read

The readability of your code can make the difference between your project being a joy to work on, or an absolute headache. This goes double when collaborating with others. Having easily parsed code reduces your cognitive load and makes solving problems easier. To try and help with this, [PTS93] developed the Stator library to make certain common tasks simpler to read.

The aim of the library is to get rid of piles of state tracking variables and endless if/else statements – hence the name. It’s designed primarily for the Arduino IDE but doesn’t have any dependencies on the API, so can be used in other C++ environments. It comes with a variety of neat tools for common jobs, such as reading an analog sensor with hysteresis around a trigger point, as well as easy ways to track state changes across multiple variables. By using basic English terms instead of condition checks and mathematical operators, it can make things more readable and easier to follow.

The power of the Arduino platform has always been in its easy to use libraries that make everything easier, from interfacing LCDs to working with Amazon Dash buttons.

Arduino’s Pluggable Discovery Programs With Any Protocol

The first Arduino was serial, and over the decade and a half, this has been the default way to upload code to an Arduino board. In 2008, support for in-circuit programmers was added, and later port detection was added. The latest version of the Arduino IDE adds something new: pluggable discovery. Now any protocol is supported by the Arduino IDE.

This feature is the brainchild of [Paul Stoffregen], creator of the Teensy. If you’ve ever used a Teensy, you’ll remember the Teensyduino application used to upload code to the board. The Teensy uses HID protocol instead of serial for uploading. After working to improve the integration between the Teensy and Arduino IDE, [Paul] stated extending the DiscoveryManager. After some discussion with the Arduino developers, this feature was then added to Arduino 1.8.9, released a month or so ago.

There are some issues with Pluggable Discovery, most importantly that it doesn’t yet exist in the Arduino Command Line Interface (yeah, that exists too). If you’re looking to contribute to Open Source, that would be a nice project to pick up.

With the right JSON, and configuration, it is now theoretically possible to extend the Arduino IDE to any sort of protocol. This means (again, theoretically), it’s possible to update the firmware in your DIY MIDI synth over SysEx message, or a parallel port, maybe. Someone is going to upload to an Arduino board over PCIe, eventually.

Arduino Leonardo Gets A Lockable Bootloader

Security is something that’s far too often overlooked in embedded devices. One of the main risks is that if the device doesn’t verify the authenticity of incoming firmware updates. [Walter Schreppers] was working on a USB password storage device, so security was paramount. Thus, it was necessary to develop a secure bootloader.

[Walter]’s device was based upon the Arduino Leonardo. Starting with the Caterina bootloader, modifications were made to enable the device to be locked and unlocked for programming. This can be done in a variety of ways, depending on how things are setup. Unlocking can be by using a secret serial string, an onboard jumper, and [Walter] even suspects a SHA1 challenge/response could be used if you were so inclined.

It’s never too soon to start thinking about security in your projects. After all, we must stave off the cyberpunk future in which leather-clad youths flick all your lights on and off before burning your house down in the night by overclocking the water heater. Naturally, we’ve got a primer to get you going in the right direction. Happy hacking!

Insert Coin (Cell) To Play LedCade

In this era of 4K UHD game console graphics and controllers packed full of buttons, triggers, and joysticks, it’s good to occasionally take a step back from the leading edge. Take a breath and remind ourselves that we don’t always need all those pixels and buttons to have some fun. The LedCade is a μ (micro) arcade game cabinet built by [bobricius] for just this kind of minimalist gaming.

Using just three buttons for input and an 8×8 LED matrix for output, the LedCade can nevertheless play ten different games representing classic genres of retro arcade gaming. And in a brilliant implementation of classic hardware hacking humor, a player starts their game by inserting not a monetary coin but a CR2032 coin cell battery.

Behind the screen is a piezo speaker for appropriately vintage game sounds, and an ATmega328 with Arduino code orchestrating the fun. [bobricius] is well practiced at integrating all of these components as a result of developing an earlier project, the single board game console. This time around, the printed circuit board goes beyond being the backbone, the PCB sheet is broken apart and reformed as the enclosure. With classic arcade cabinet proportions, at a far smaller scale.

If single player minimalist gaming isn’t your thing, check out this head-to-head gaming action on 8×8 LED arrays. Or if you prefer your minimalist gaming hardware to be paper-thin, put all the parts on a flexible circuit as the Arduflexboy does.

Play Tetris on a Transistor Tester, Because Why Not?

[Robson] had been using the same multimeter since he was 15. It wasn’t a typical multimeter, either. He had programmed it to also play the Google Chrome jumping dinosaur game, and also used it as a badge at various conferences. But with all that abuse, the ribbon cable broke and he set about on other projects. Like this transistor tester that was just asking to have Tetris programmed onto its tiny screen.

The transistor tester is a GM328A made for various transistor testing applications, but is also an LCR meter. [Robson]’s old meter didn’t even test for capacitance but he was able to get many years of use out of that one, so this device should serve him even better. Once it was delivered he set about adding more features, namely Tetris. It’s based on an ATmega chip, which quite easy to work with (it’s the same chip as you’ll find in the Arduino Uno but [Robson’s] gone the Makefile route instead of spinning up that IDE). Not only did he add more features, but he also found a mistake in the frequency counter circuitry that he fixed on his own through the course of the project.

If you’ve always thought that the lack of games on your multimeter was a total deal breaker, this project is worth a read. Even if you just have a random device lying around that happens to be based on an ATmega chip of some sort, this is a good primer of getting that device to do other things as well. This situation is a fairly common one to be in, too.

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