See If Today’s Air Quality Will Conch You Out

Air quality is one of those problems that is rather invisible and hard to grasp until it gets bad enough to be undeniable. By then, it may be too late to do much about it. But if more people were interested in the problem enough to monitor the air around them, there would be more innovators bringing more ideas to the table. And more attention to a problem usually means more accountability and eventual action.

This solar-powered particulate analyzer made by [rabbitcreek] is a friendly way to take the problem out of the stratosphere of ‘someday’ and bring it down to the average person’s backyard. Its modular nature makes it fairly simple to build, and the conch shell enclosure gives it a natural look. That shell also cleverly hides the electronics, while at the same time allowing air and particulates to reach the sensor. If you don’t like the shell enclosure, we think the right type of bird feeder could protect the electronics while allowing airflow.

[rabbitcreek] attached a sizeable solar panel to the shell on a GoPro mount so it can be adjusted to face the sun. The panel charges a Li-Po battery that gets boosted to 5V. Every two hours, a low-power breakout circuit wakes up the Feather ESP32 and takes a reading from the particulate sensor. [rabbitcreek] can easily see the data on his phone thanks to the Blynk app he created.

Why limit this to your yard? Bare ESP32s are cheap enough that it’s feasible to build a whole network of air quality sensors.

Creepy Halloween Doll Might Make You Betsy Wetsy

If you want to terrify your neighborhood this Halloween, you might go for the old standbys like skeletons or zombies. But you don’t have to go gory to find glory. Consider the talking doll. Those things are creepy enough already, right? Well, [cabuu] says no, the doll should be animated with servos and have remote control. She should still be able to talk, just not when you expect her to.

Forget pushing on her stomach, ’cause Baby’s got a Wemos D1 mini and her own Blynk app now.  A set of sliders in the app control a micro servo that animates her eyes, and another servo that twists her head from side to side. Her head doesn’t go all the way ’round, but that’s probably for the best. There are preset fright modes [cabuu] can set and forget until she springs to life via motion sensor.

We particularly like the bracket [cabuu] designed and printed that joins the eyeballs with the servo, along with his clever use of printed mate brackets to hold the servos in place within the head. If you think you can stomach it, there’s a demo video after the break. Stay tuned for total doll dissection after that as [cabuu] builds and inserts the terrifying tidbits.

We love hacks that combine innocence with insanity. Have you ever seen Thomas the Tank Engine singing Rick Astley?

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WiFi Makes The Heart Glow Fonder

It’s more than a little too late for Valentine’s Day this year, but if you start now, you’re sure to be looking good next February. Print something that truly conveys how you feel, through the magic of wireless communication and RGB LEDs (Youtube, French).

Yes, [Heliox] has built a Valentine’s day project, and the presentation is top notch as always. A heart is 3D printed in white filament, with two chambers separated by a thick wall. Each chamber features five NeoPixel LEDs, controlled by an ESP8266 in the base.  The color of each chamber can be controlled through the Blynk smartphone app, allowing you to choose the exact colors that best represent your relationship.

The 3D printed heart does a good job of diffusing the LEDs, with the device showing a rich and consistent glow without any unattractive hotspots. It’s a fun holiday build, and if you’re quick, you might just have time to print one yourself if you start right away.

[Heliox] has good form when it comes to LED projects – her infinity cube is particularly impressive. Video after the break.

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The Empire Strikes Back With The ESP8266

Like many of us, [Matthew Wentworth] is always looking for a reason to build something. So when he found a 3D model of the “DF.9” laser turret from The Empire Strikes Back intended for Star Wars board games on Thingiverse, he decided it was a perfect excuse opportunity to not only try his hand at remixing an existing 3D design, but adding electronics to it to create something interactive.

As the model was originally intended for a board game, it was obviously quite small. So the first order of business was scaling everything up to twice the original dimensions. As [Matthew] notes, the fact that it still looks so good when expanded by such a large degree is a credit to how detailed the original model is. Once blown up to more useful proportions, he modified the head of the turret as well as the barrel to accept the electronics he planned on grafting into the model.

He created a mount for a standard nine gram servo inside the head of the turret which allows it to rotate, and the barrel got an LED stuck in the end. Both of which are controlled with a NodeMCU ESP8266 development board, allowing [Matthew] to control the direction and intensity of the pew-pew over WiFi. He mentions that in the future he would like to add sound effects that are synchronized to the turret rotation and LED blinking.

For the software side of the project, he used Blynk to quickly build a smartphone interface for the turret. This is the first time he had used Blynk, and reports that outside of a little trial and error, it was some of the easiest code he’s ever written for the Arduino. This is a sentiment we’ve been seeing a lot of recently towards Blynk, and it’s interesting to see how often it shows up in ESP8266 projects now.

Looking ahead [Matthew] says he wants to paint and detail the turret, as the bright orange color scheme probably wouldn’t do terribly well on Hoth. If he can manage the time, he’d also like to add it to the long list of OpenCV-powered turrets that hackers love harassing their friends and family with.

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Tired Of Killing Houseplants? Try Using WiFi.

Here at Hackaday, we have to admit to neglecting a few houseplants in our time. Let’s face it… a cold, hard, thinking machine can care for our green friends better than you can. Why not team up? [cabuu]’s WiFi-enabled soil moisture sensor will do the trick in case you, too, want happy plants.

This is one of those projects which would have been much more difficult even five years ago, and really shows how lucky we are to have accessible technology at our fingertips. It’s conveniently constructed from off-the-shelf electronics modules, and nestled inside a 3D-printed case. The design is attractive as well as functional, showing the status LED and allowing access to the USB charging port.

The brain is a WeMos D1 mini, while a D1 battery shield and 14500 Li-ion battery supplies power. A key point of this build is the use of a capacitive moisture sensor, which doesn’t suffer the same long-term corrosion problems that destroy cheaper resistive probes. And no project is complete without an LED, so a WS2812 shows green for good, red for dry and blue for too wet. To extend battery life, the sensor supports a sleep mode, which tests the soil periodically, and presumably disables the LED.

Of course, if you’re a habitual plant-neglector, simply having a moisture probe won’t help; those can be as easy to ignore as the plant itself. That’s where WiFi comes in. [cabuu] wrote a Blynk app to monitor the sensor on a smartphone. The app shows current moisture levels and allows you to change the wet and dry warning thresholds. When the reading exceeds these levels, the app notifies you — this feature is the one that will keep your plants around.

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Photon Door Lock Swaps Keys For A POST Request

At this point we’re all well aware of the fact that there is some inherent danger involved when bringing “things” onto the Internet. Nobody wants to come home to a smoldering pile of ruble because their Internet connected toaster oven decided to get stuck on “Hades.” But even with the risks, occasionally we see projects that prove at least some intrepid hackers are managing to navigate the Internet of Things to solve real-world problems.

[Daniel Andrade] writes in to tell us about the Internet controlled entry system he’s setup at his new apartment, and while we imagine it’s not for everyone, we can’t deny it seems like it has improved his quality of life. Rather than giving all of his friends a copy of his key, he’s setup a system where anyone who has the appropriate link can “buzz” themselves in through the building’s existing intercom system.

Thanks to the old-school intercom setup, the hardware for this project is simple in the extreme. All [Daniel] needed was a relay to close the circuit on the door buzzer, and a way to fire it off. For his controller he chose the Photon from Particle, which is perhaps a bit overkill, but we all tend to work with what we’re personally comfortable with.

Most of the work went into the software, as [Daniel] ended up coming with two distinct ways to control the door lock over the Internet. The first method uses Blynk, which allows you to create slick visual interfaces for mobile devices. His second version is controlled with a POST request to a specific URL, which he likes because it gives him more flexibility as to how he can interact with the lock. Currently he has a simple web page setup that lets friends and family open the door by just clicking a button.

We’ve seen a similar setup using the Photon to open a garage door, and plenty of people have taken to using Blynk to control their home automation setups. All the tools are available for you to roll your own IoT gadgets, you just need to figure out what to do with the things…

Simple ESP8266 Weather Station Using Blynk

Today’s hacker finds themself in a very interesting moment in time. The availability of powerful microcontrollers and standardized sensor modules is such that assembling the hardware for something like an Internet-connected environmental monitor is about as complex as building with LEGO. Hardware has become elementary in many cases, leaving software as the weak link. It’s easy to build the sensor node to collect the data, but how do you display it in a useful and appealing way?

This simple indoor temperature and humidity sensor put together by [Shyam Ravi] shows one possible solution to the problem using Blynk. In the video after the break, he first walks you through wiring the demonstration hardware, and then moves on to creating the Blynk interface. While it might not be the ideal solution for all applications, it does show you how quickly you can go from a handful of components on the bench to displaying useful data.

In addition to the NodeMCU board, [Shyam] adds a DHT11 sensor and SSD1306 OLED display. He’s provided a wiring diagram in the repository along with the Arduino code for the ESP8266, but the hardware side of this demonstration really isn’t that important. You could omit the OLED or switch over to something like a BME280 sensor if you wanted to. The real trick is in the software.

For readers who haven’t played with it before, Blynk is a service that allows you to create GUIs to interact with microcontrollers from anywhere in the world. The code provided by [Shyam] reads the humidity and temperature data from the DHT11 sensor, and “writes” it to the Blynk service. From within the application, you can then visualize that data in a number of ways using the simple drag-and-drop interface.

We’ve seen Blynk and ESP8266 used to control everything from mood lighting to clearance-rack robotic toys. It’s a powerful combination, and something to keep in mind next time you need to knock something together in short order.

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