A blue PCB remote control

The Remoteduino Nano Is A Tiny IR Remote That’s Truly Universal

Universal remotes are extremely convenient if they work correctly. But setting them up can be quite a hassle: often, you need to browse through long lists of TV models, key in the codes on the remote with just a blinking LED as confirmation, and then pray that the manufacturer included the correct codes for all your equipment. IR isn’t a very complicated technology, however, so it’s perfectly possible to roll your own universal remote, as [sjm4306] shows in his latest project, the Remoteduino Nano. It’s a fully programmable IR remote that gives you maximum flexibility when emulating the codes for those obscure A/V systems scattered around your home.

The remote runs on an ATmega328p in a tiny QFN package, which drives a standard 5 mm IR LED through a transistor. Eight buttons are available to the user, which can be freely mapped to any desired code. A five-pin header is included to program the ATmega through its serial port. However, this was mainly done to help debug – a user who only needs to program the device once would typically use a pogo-pin-based adapter instead.

Currently, codes can only be programmed through the serial port, but there’s also an IR receiver present that can be used to copy codes from an existing remote. [sjm4306] hasn’t implemented this feature in software yet, but will probably do so in a future update of the project’s Arduino sketch. If you’re impatient, you can also have a go at it yourself since all code and the board’s Gerber files are freely available for download.

Its tiny size makes the Remoteduino Nano a convenient tool to keep in your drawer if you like to tinker with A/V systems and keep losing those remotes. The Nano is actually an improved version of the original Remoteduino project that [sjm4306] developed a couple of years ago. The problem of a truly universal remote is one that dates back several decades, however.

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All Aboard The Garbage Express

Cog railways are a somewhat unusual way of train locomotion, typically only installed when a train needs to climb steep terrain. Any grade above about 10% needs the extra traction since the friction between the wheels and rails won’t be enough to push the train forward or keep it from falling backwards. Even without a steep hill to climb, sometimes a cog railway is necessary for traction as [Max Maker] discovered while building a train for his garbage cans.

The build started out as a way to avoid having to wheel his seven waste bins to the curb every month. Originally he built a more standard railway with a simple motor to drive the train, but he quickly realized that there wasn’t enough grip even when using plastic wheels, even though this track follows fairly flat terrain. Since the rail is built out of steel he quickly welded up a rack-and-pinion system to one of the rails. The build goes through many iterations before he finally settles on a design that solves the problem, and it includes several other features as well such as remote control and a spring-loaded automatic charger for the train at its station in the back yard.

While we always appreciate the eccentricity of those who would automate a relatively simple task that only happens once a month, [Max Maker] hopes to build this into a commercial product aimed at the elderly or disabled who would really benefit from a reliable, semi-automatic system that takes their trash bins to the curb for them. And, if your system only involves a single trash can, there are other ways of automating the task of taking the garbage to the curb.

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IR Remote tester in use, showing a remote control lighting up an LED and screenshots of the Arduino serial terminal

IR Remote Tester Helps You Crack The Code

Even though some devices now use WiFi and Bluetooth, so much of our home entertainment equipment still relies on its own proprietary infrared remote control. By and large (when you can find them) they work fine, but what happens when they stop working?¬† First port of call is to change the batteries, of course, but once you’ve tried that what do you do next? [Hulk] has your back with this simple but effective IR Remote Tester / Decoder.

IR remote tester schematic showing arduino, receiver, LED and resistor
How to connect the TSOP4838 to an Arduino to read the transmitted codes

By using a cheap integrated IR receiver/decoder device (the venerable TSOP4838), most of the hard work is done for you! For a quick visual check that your remote is sending codes, it can easily drive a visible LED with just a resistor for a current-limit, and a capacitor to make the flickering easier to see.

For an encore, [Hulk] shows how to connect this up to an Arduino and how to use the “IRremote” library to see the actual data being transmitted when the buttons are pressed.

It’s not much of a leap to imagine what else you might be able to do with this information once you’ve received it – controlling your own projects, cloning the IR remote codes, automating remote control sequences etc..

It’s a great way to make the invisible visible and add some helpful debug information into the mix.

We recently covered a more complex IR cloner, and if you need  to put together a truly universal remote control, then this project may be just what you need.

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24 Hours Of Le Airplanes

There’s no more famous road endurance race than the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where teams compete to see how far they can drive in a single 24-hour window. The race presents unique challenges not found in other types of racing. While RC airplanes may not have a similar race, [Daniel] a.k.a. [rctestflight] created a similar challenge for himself by attempting to fly an RC airplane non-stop for as long as he could, and a whole host of interesting situations cropped up before and during flight.

In order for an RC plane to fly for an entire day, it essentially needs to be solar powered. A large amount of strategy goes into a design of this sort. For one, the wing shape needs to be efficient in flight but not reduce the amount of area available for solar panels. For another, the start time of the flight needs to be balanced against the position of the sun in the sky. With these variables more or less fixed, [Daniel] began his flight.

It started off well enough, with the plane in an autonomous “return to home” mode which allowed it to continually circle overhead without direct human control. But after taking a break to fly it in FPV mode, [Daniel] noticed that the voltage on his battery was extremely high. It turned out that the solar charge controller wasn’t operating as expected and was shunting a large amount of solar energy directly into the battery. He landed and immediately removed the “spicy pillow” to avoid any sort of nonlinear event. With a new battery in the plane he began the flight again.

Even after all of that, [Daniel] still had some issues stemming from the aerodynamic nature of this plane specifically. There were some issues with wind, and with the flight controller not recognizing the correct “home” position, but all in all it seems like a fun day of flying a plane. If your idea of “fun” is sitting around and occasionally looking up for eight and a half hours. For more of [Daniel]’s long-term autonomous piloting, be sure to take a look at his solar tugboat as well.

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Scroll Through ESPHome With IPod-style Click Wheel

While you’d be hard pressed to find a Hackaday writer that feels any nostalgia for the DRM nonsense the iPod helped to introduce, we’ve got to admit that we miss that click wheel. Spinning your way through long lists was a breeze, and the tactile response made it easy to stop exactly where you wanted. These days, we’re stuck fumbling our way through touch screen interfaces that make simple tasks like seeking to a particular spot in a song or video all but impossible to do with any kind of accuracy.

If you too yearn to once again feel that subtle thumping under your thumb, then check out this project from [landonr]. Technically the handheld gadget is intended to be used as a wireless remote for a home automation system powered by ESPHome, but that’s only one possible application for this particular combination of off-the-shelf components.

If you must, there’s a version with buttons.

Building your own version of the handheld device is a simple as mounting a LILYGO ESP32 T-Display TTGO, an ANO Rotary Navigation Encoder from Adafruit, and a battery pack to a scrap of perfboard. We’d probably look into 3D printing a case to make it a bit less…pokey, but that’s up to you. The result actually bears quite a resemblance to Apple’s iconic media player, but without that pesky walled garden to hold you back.

As mentioned previously, [landonr] wrote the firmware with the intention of controlling a home automation system. So there’s a lot of stuff in there about turning on lights and such. But there are also functions for media playback that look very promising. Whatever software you end up running on it, one thing is for sure: running through the menus is going to feel like a dream.

We’ve covered several other home automation remotes over the years. This handsome wooden model kept things simple with just a few physical buttons, while this somewhat more whimsical approach repurposed Nintendo’s Zapper light gun.

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Saving Birds With 3D Printed Boats

Montana, rightfully nicknamed the big sky country, is a beautiful state with abundant wide open landscapes, mountains, and wildlife. It’s a fantastic place to visit or live, but if you happen to reside in the city of Butte, that amazing Montana landscape is marred by the remnants of an enormous open pit mine. Not only is it an eyesore, but the water that has filled the pit is deadly to any bird that lands there. As a result, a group of people have taken to some ingenious methods to deter birds from landing in the man-made toxic lake for too long.

When they first started, the only tool they had available was a rifle. Scaring birds this way is not the most effective way for all species, though, so lately they have been turning to other tools. One of which is a custom boat built on a foam bodyboard which uses a plethora of 3D printed parts and sensors to allow the operator to remotely pilot the boat on the toxic lake. The team also has a drone to scare birds away, plus an array of other tools like high-powered lasers, propane cannons, and various scopes in order to put together the most effective response to help save wildlife.

While this strategy runs the gamut of the tools most commonly featured here, from 3D printers to drones to lasers, the only thing that’s missing is some automation like we have seen with other drone boat builds we’ve featured in the past. It takes quite a bit of time to continually scare birds off this lake, even through the winter, so every bit of help the team can get could go even further.

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Tracked RC Vehicle Is (Mostly) 3D Printed

While wheels might seem like a foundational technology, they do have one major flaw: they typically need maintained roads in order to work. Anyone who has experience driving a Jeep or truck off-road likely knows this first-hand. For those with extreme off-road needs the track is often employed. [Let’s Print] is working on perfecting his RC tracked vehicle to take advantage of these perks using little more than 3D printed parts and aluminum stock.

This vehicle doesn’t just include the 3D printed tracks, but an entire 3D printed gearbox and drivetrain to drive them. Each track is driven by its own DC motor coupled to a planetary gearbox to give each plenty of torque to operate in snow or mud. The gearbox is mated to a differential which currently shares a shaft, which means that steering is currently not possible. The original plan was to have each motor drive the tracks independently but a small mistake in the build meant that the shaft needed to be tied together. [Let’s Print] has several options to eventually include steering, including an articulating body or redesigning the drivetrain to be able to separate the shaft.

While this vehicle currently has no wheels in order to improve traction, [Let’s Print] does point out that a pair of wheels could complement this vehicle when he finished the back half of it since wheels have a major advantage over tracks when it comes to steering. A vehicle with both could have the advantages of both, so we’re interested to see where this build eventually goes.

Thanks to [Joonas] for the tip!

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