Day Clock Monitors Air Quality Of The Great Indoors

As the world settles into this pandemic, some things are still difficult to mentally reckon, such as the day of the week. We featured a printed day clock a few months ago that used a large pointer to provide this basic psyche-grounding information. In the years since then, [Jeff Thieleke] whipped up a feature-rich remix that adds indoor air quality readings and a lot more.

Like [phreakmonkey]’s original day tripper, an ESP32 takes care of figuring out what day it is and moves a 9 g servo accordingly. [Jeff] wanted a little more visual action, so the pointer moves a tad bit every hour. A temperature/humidity sensor and a separate CO₂ sensor output their readings to an LCD screen mounted under the pointer. Since [Jeff] is keeping this across the basement workshop from the bench, the data is also available from a web server running on the ESP32 via XML and JSON, and the day clock can get OTA updates.

Need a little more specificity than just eyeballing a pointer? Here’s a New Times clock that gives slightly more detail.

Used Soda Stream Cylinder Becomes DIY Canned Air

Soda Stream machines use a cylinder of compressed CO2 to carbonate beverages, and cylinders that are “empty” for the machine’s purposes in fact still have a small amount of gas left in them. User [Graldur] shared a clever design for using up those last gasps from a cylinder by turning it into a makeshift compressed air gun, the kind that can blow crumbs or dust out of inconvenient spots like the inside of a keyboard. It’s 3D printed in PETG with a single seal printed in Ninjaflex.

[Graldur]’s 3D printed assembly screws onto the top of an “empty” cylinder and when the bottom ring is depressed like a trigger, the valve is opened slightly and the escaping gas is diverted through a narrow hole in the front. As a result, it can be used just as you would a can of compressed air. The gas outlet even accommodates the narrow plastic tubes from WD-40 cans (or disposable compressed air cans, for that matter) if more precision is required.

The design is intended for use with nearly-empty cylinders, but even so, [Graldur] also points out that it has been designed such that it can never fully actuate the cylinder’s release valve no matter how hard one presses, so don’t modify things carelessly. We also notice the design keeps the user’s hand and fingers well away from the business end of things.

This device also reminds of somewhat of a past experiment which used 3D printing to create serviceable (albeit low pressure) 3D printed compressed air tanks in custom shapes.

Giant Analog CO2 Meter Sweeps Away Doubt

Most of us are aware that trees turn CO₂ into oxygen, but we’d venture to guess that many people’s knowledge of this gas ends there. Is it feast or famine out there for the trees? Who can say? We admire [rabbitcreek]’s commitment to citizen science because he’s so focused on making it easy for people to understand their environment. His latest offering, a giant analog CO₂ meter, might be our favorite so far.

The brains of the operation is an Adafruit Feather Adalogger. It reads the CO₂ sensor that’s mounted close to the business end of the nautilus, and becomes the quill that writes the CO₂ value to a FeatherWing e-ink screen. For the giant needle, this lovely meter uses one of those fiberglass poles you mark your driveway with so you can find it under a blanket of snow. The needle is counter-balanced with washers encased in printed plastic.

As you can see in the GIF, there’s a decent delay between the CO₂ blast and the needle response — we like to imagine the CO₂ spiraling slowly through the nautilus like a heavy, ill wind on its way to gravely move the needle.

Want a way to monitor air quality that’s a bit more discreet? Slip this portable meter into your pocket.

Picking The Right Sensors For Home Automation

Imagine that you’re starting a project where you need to measure temperature and humidity. That sounds easy in the abstract, but choosing a real device out of many involves digging into seemingly infinite details and trade-offs that come with them. If it’s a low-stakes monitoring project, picking the first sensor that comes to mind might suffice. But when the project aims to control an AC system in an office of temperature-sensitive coders, it pays to take a hard look at the source of all information: the sensor.

Continuing a previous article I would like to use that same BMaC project from that article as a way to illustrate how even a couple of greenhorns can figure out how to pick everything from environmental sensors to various actuators, integrating it into a coherent system that in the end actually does what it should.

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Continuous Seltzer Deployment System Solves Our Bubbly-Water Sourcing Problems

Seltzer water – that bubbly, carbonated water that disappoints sugar-craving children everywhere – has experienced a steady rise in popularity over the past few years. This is perhaps partly fueled by the availability of countertop carbonators such as the SodaStream.

Not satisfied with the tedious and pedestrian process of manually carbonating individual bottles of water, [piyoman] has instead built a tidy little tap of unlimited cold, filtered seltzer. It’s no easy gag. The build uses a commercial carbonator pump, reverse osmosis water filter, bulk tank, and a standard CO2 cylinder to create a constant source of carbonated water. Most of this setup is stuffed into a dorm-sized fridge (tetris-style) and topped with a fancy beer faucet to dispense the resulting bubblewater.

At roughly $800 for the documented system, you need to have a great reason to build your own. But [piyoman] provides detailed instructions, a parts list, and suggestions for cost savings and future improvements if you do take on a system like this for your seltzer needs.

Cheaper Carbonation Options

While looking at how DIY carbonation has been done in the past we found [Richard Kinch’s] Carbonating at Home with Improvised Equipment and Soda Fountains page which dives into many other options. His site – a wonderful, dense demonstration of the beauty of “web 1.0” – walks through the basics of carbonated water, discusses CO2 tanks and gauges, and shows how to build a simple carbonation cap for making seltzer in standard PET soda bottles.

Algae On Your Plate

For those of us who grow up around natural swimming holes, algae are the reason we have to wash after taking a dip. Swimmer’s itch* or just being covered in green goop is not an attractive way to spend an afternoon. Lumping all algae together is not fair, some of it is nasty but some of it is delicious and humans have been eating it for generations.

If you are thinking that cases of algae cuisine are not widespread and that algae does not sound appealing, you are not alone. It is a tough sell, like convincing someone to try dandelions for the first time. It may not warrant a refrigerator section in the grocery store yet, but algae can produce protein-rich food which doesn’t require a lot of processing.

Currently, there is a lot of work to be done to bring up the efficiency of algae farms, and Qualitas has already started. The leaps they are making signify just how much room we have for improvement. The circulating paddle wheels, which can be seen in the video below the break, use one-third of the energy from their previous version. Their harvester uses one-thirtieth! Right now, their biggest cost comes from tanks of carbon dioxide, which seems off given that places such as power plants pay to get rid of the stuff. That should give some food for thought.

The 2018 Hackaday prize could use some algal submissions and you could take that to the bank. Ready to start growing your own algae, automate the process. It may also keep you from tripping while walking to the grocery store, or you can print with it.

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Monitoring Air Quality, One Sleepy Meeting At A Time

To those of us in the corporate world, the conference room is where hope goes to die. Crammed into a space too small for the number of invitees, the room soon glows with radiated body heat and the aromas of humans as the time from their last shower gradually increases. To say it’s not a recipe for productivity is an understatement at best.

Having suffered through too many of these soporific situations, [Charles Ouweland] took matters into his own hands and built this portable air quality meter for meetings. With an OLED display on top and sensors inside, it displays not only the temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure, but also the CO₂ concentration and the levels of volatile organic compounds (VOC), noxious substances sometimes off-gassed from building materials, furniture upholstery, and coworkers alike.

The monitor quantifies his meeting misery, which we’re sure wins him points with his colleagues. For our part, though, what we find interesting is his design process. He started where many of us would, with an Arduino Uno. The sensor modules, a CCS811 for VOC and CO₂ as well as a BME280 for temperature, humidity, and pressure, both needed 3.3 volts, so he added a regulator to knock the Arduino’s 5-volt supply into range and some MOSFETs for level matching. Things were getting bulky, though, so he set about reducing the component count. The Uno went by stripping out its already programmed MCU. That killed the need for the regulator and MOSFETs, since everything would be happy with 3.3 volts. A few more rounds of optimization led to the final product, compact enough to run on a pair of AA batteries.

This is a great lesson in going from prototype to product. And it’s so compact, it could even ride on top of a Roomba to map the conference room’s floor-level air quality.