A treadmill with a doorbell alert in one of the cup holders.

See Them Knocking With A Doorbell Alert

Picture it: you’re on the treadmill, running through a forest, sweating like a pig, and the doorbell rings because a package is being delivered. Would you even hear it? Chances are, if you’re rocking out to music on headphones and your treadmill is as noisy as [Antonio]’s, you wouldn’t, and you’d once again face the dreaded ‘we’ll try later’ slip.

The guts of the doorbell alert in a pink 3D-printed enclosure.What you need is something that thing listens for the doorbell and flashes a giant 20 mm red LED to alert you. Could this be done with a 555? Yes, in fact, [Antonio] used a pair of them in the form of the 556 on the alert side.

The first 555 is wired up in astable mode to control the tempo of the flashing light, and the second timer is in monostable mode to control the length of time the light flashes. Power comes from the doorbell’s 9V, which is wired up through an existing Ethernet jack.

Now whenever the doorbell rings, [Antonio] has 60 seconds of flashing light in order to react, stop the treadmill, and jump off to answer the door. To conserve power when [Antonio] is relaxing, there’s an on/off switch.

Electronic Etch-A-Sketch, No Microcontroller Required

In a lot of ways, Etch-A-Sketch is the perfect toy; simple, easy to use, creative, endlessly engaging, and as a bonus, it’s completely mechanical. We find that last attribute to be a big part of its charm, but that’s not to say an electronic version of the classic toy can’t be pretty cool, especially when it’s done without the aid of a microcontroller.

This is one of those “because I can” projects that we always find so interesting, and more so because it wasn’t entirely clear to [BigZaphod] that he had the skills to pull it off. While his initial design centered around a bunch of 8×8 LED matrix displays and a 256×4-bit RAM chip, the rest of it was a lot of hand-waving. After a few experiments with addressing the LEDs, [Zaphod] started filling in the blanks with a refresh circuit using a 555 — naturally — and a pair of counters. Properly debounced encoders for the horizontal and vertical controls came next, along with more counters to track the cursor and a host of other circuits that ended up looking like a “one of each” selection from the 7400-series catalog.

While we do wish for a schematic on this one, it’s still a pretty enjoyable video, and the end product seems to work really well. The electronic version has a few features the original lacks, such as wrapping the cursor to the other side of the screen. We’d imagine that the buttons on the encoders could be put to work, too; perhaps a click could make it so you can move the cursor without leaving a trail behind. That might be a challenge to execute in logic, but then again, that was the point of the whole thing.

Still jonesing for that mechanical Etch-A-Sketch experience? Not a problem.

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BikeBeamer Adds POV Display To Bicycle Wheels

Unless you’re living in a bicycle paradise like the Netherlands, most people will choose to add some sort of illumination to their bicycle to help drivers take note that there’s something other than a car using the road. Generally, simple flashing LEDs for both the front and the rear is a pretty good start, but it doesn’t hurt to add a few more lights to the bicycle or increase their brightness. On the other hand, if you want to add some style to your bicycle lighting system then this persistence of vision (POV) display called the BikeBeamer from [locxter] might be just the thing.

The display uses four LED strips, each housed in their own 3D printed case which are installed at 90-degree angles from one another in between the spokes of a standard bicycle wheel. An ESP32 sits at the base of one of the strips and is responsible for storing the image and directing the four displays. This is a little more complex than a standard POV display as it’s also capable of keeping up with the changing rotational speeds of the bicycle wheels when in use. The design also incorporates batteries so that no wires need to route from the bike frame to the spinning wheels.

This is an ongoing project for [locxter] as well, meaning that there are some planned upgrades even to this model that should be in the pipe for the future. Improving the efficiency of the code will hopefully allow for more complex images and even animations to be displayed in the future, and there are also some plans to improve the PCB as well with all surface-mount components. There are a few other ways to upgrade your bike’s lighting as well, and we could recommend this heads-up headlight display to get started.

How To Cram 945 LEDs Into A Teeny Tiny Vegas-Style Sphere

[Carl Bugeja] finds the engineering behind the Las Vegas Sphere fascinating, and made a video all about the experience of designing and building a micro-sized desktop version. [Carl]’s version is about the size of a baseball and crams nearly a thousand RGB pixels across the surface.

A four-layer flexible PCB is the key to routing data and power to so many LEDs.

Putting that many addressable LEDs — even tiny 1 mm x 1 mm ones — across a rounded surface isn’t exactly trivial. [Carl]’s favored approach ended up relying on a flexible four-layer PCB and using clever design and math to lay out an unusual panel shape which covers a small 3D printed geodesic dome.

Much easier said that done, by the way. All kinds of things can and do go wrong, from an un-fixable short in the first version to adhesive and durability issues in later prototypes. In the end, however, it’s a success. Powered over USB-C, his mini “sphere” can display a variety of patterns and reactive emojis.

As elegant and impressive as the engineering is in this dense little display, [Carl] has some mixed feelings about the results. 945 individual pixels on such a small object is a lot, but it also ends up being fairly low-resolution in the end. It isn’t very good at displaying sharp lines or borders, so any familiar shapes (like circles or eyes) come out kind of ragged. It’s also expensive. The tiny LEDs may be only about 5 cents each, but when one needs nearly a thousand of them for one prototype that adds up quickly. The whole bill of materials comes out to roughly $250 USD after adding up the components, PCB, controller, and mechanical parts. It’s certainly a wildly different build than its distant cousin, the RGB cube.

Still, it’s an awfully slick little build. [Carl] doubts there’s much value in pursuing the idea further, but there are plenty of great images and clips from the build. Check out the video, embedded below.

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Play Giant Tetris On Second-Floor Window

Sometimes it seems like ideas for projects spring out of nothingness from a serendipitous set of circumstances. [Maarten] found himself in just such a situation, with a combination of his existing Tetris novelty lamp and an awkwardly-sized window on a second-floor apartment, he was gifted with the perfect platform for a giant playable Tetris game built into that window.

To make the giant Tetris game easily playable by people walking by on the street, [Maarten] is building as much of this as possible in the browser. Starting with the controller, he designed a NES-inspired controller in JavaScript that can be used on anything with a touch screen. A simulator display was also built in the browser so he could verify that everything worked without needing the giant display at first. From there it was on to building the actual window-sized Tetris display which is constructed from addressable LEDs arranged in an array that matches the size of the original game.

There were some issues to iron out, as would be expected for a project with this much complexity, but the main thorn in [Maarten]’s side was getting his controller to work in Safari on iPhones. That seems to be mostly settled and there were some other gameplay issues to solve, but the unit is now working in his window and ready to be played by any passers-by, accessed by a conveniently-located QR code. Tetris has been around long enough that there are plenty of unique takes on the game, like this project from 2011 that uses Dance Dance Revolution pads for controllers.

POV Digital Clock Is The Literal Sands Of Time

Sand has been used to keep track of the passage of time since antiquity. But using sand to make a persistence of vision digital clock (English translation) is something altogether new. And it’s pretty cool, too.

The idea behind the timepiece that [Álvaro Gómez Giménez] built is pretty simple drop a tiny slug of fine sand from a hopper and light it up at just the right point in its fall. Do that rapidly enough and you can build up an image of the digits you want to display. Simple in concept, but the devil is in the details. Sand isn’t the easiest material to control, so most of the work went into designing hoppers with solenoid-controlled gates to dispense well-formed slugs of sand at just the right moment. Each digit of the clock has four of these gates in parallel, and controlling when the 16 gates open and close and when the LEDs are turned on is the work of a PIC18F4550 microcontroller.

The build has a lot of intricate parts, some 3D printed and some machined, but all very carefully crafted. We particularly like the big block of clear plastic that was milled into a mount for the main PCB; the translucent finish on the milled surfaces makes a fantastic diffuser for the 96 white LEDs. The clock actually works a lot better than we expected, with the digits easy to make out against a dark background. Check it out in the video below.

Between the noise of 16 solenoids and the sand getting everywhere, we’d imagine it wouldn’t be a lot of fun to have on a desk or nightstand, but the execution is top-notch, and an interesting and unusual concept we haven’t seen before. Sure, we’ve seen sandwriting, but that’s totally different. Continue reading “POV Digital Clock Is The Literal Sands Of Time”

Boneblocker Is A Big LED Wall That Rocks

[Nick Lombardy] took on a job almost every maker imagines themselves doing at some point. He built a giant LED wall and he did a damn fine job of it, too. Introducing BoneBlocker.

BoneBlocker is an 8 x 14 wall of glass blocks that lives at a bar called The Boneyard. Each block was given a length of WS2812B LED strip. 30 LED/meter strips were chosen, as initial maths on the 60 LED/meter strips indicated the whole wall would end up drawing 1.5 kW. Discretion, and all that.

The glowing game controller.

The whole display is run from a WT32-ETH01 board, which is a fast ESP32-based module that has onboard Ethernet to boot. [Nick] used the WLED library as he’d seen others doing great things with it, performance-wise. He ended up using one board per column to keep things fast, but he reckons this was also probably a little bit of overkill.

His article steps through the construction of the wall, the electronics, and the software required to get some games working on the display. The final result is quite something. Perhaps the best bit is his explanation of the custom controller he built for the game. Dig into it, you won’t be disappointed.

In particular, we love how the glass blocks elevate this display to a higher aesthetic level. We’ve seen other great projects tread this same route, too. Video after the break.

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