Nerf Turret controlled by Slack

What happens when you give a former Navy weapons engineer some development boards and ask him to build “something cool”? What happens when you give a kid finger paints? [Seb] obviously built an IoT Nerf Turret Gun controlled via a team communication app.

The weapon was a Nerf Stampede which was hacked so it could be fired electronically. The safety switch was bypassed and a relay provided the firing signal. The electronics stack consists of an Intel Galileo, a motor shield and a relay shield. The turret assembly was built using off the shelf structural parts from Actobotics. Stepper motors provide motion to the turret. The fun begins with how the software is implemented. An iBeacon network detects where people sit at in the office. So when you type in the name of your target in a messaging app, it knows where they’re sitting, aims at them, and pops a nerf dart at them.

The lessons learned are what makes such projects worth their while. For example, USB is a standard. And the standard says that USB cables be not more than 1.8 m long. [Seb] was reminded of this when his electronics worked on his workbench, but refused to work when placed in-situ and connected via a 3m long cable – the serial link just wouldn’t work.

Mounting the gun such that it was nicely balanced was another challenge. Eventually, he had to use a couple of AA cells taped to the front of the gun to get it right. This could be useful though, since he plans to replace the dead weights with a sighting camera. One last hack was to zip tie heat sinks to the motor drivers, and he had a good reason to do that. Read more about it in his blog. And check out the video as someone takes aim and shoots a target via SLACK, the team messaging application.

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Alarm Notifies the Office When the Coffee is Ready

[Stian] thought it would be nice if his coworkers could be electronically notified when the latest batch of coffee is ready. He ended up building an inexpensive coffee alarm system to do exactly that. When the coffee is done, the brewer can press a giant button to notify the rest of the office that it’s time for a cuppa joe.

[Stian’s] first project requirement was to activate the system using a big physical button. He chose a button from Sparkfun, although he ended up modifying it to better suit his needs. The original button came with a single LED built-in. This wasn’t enough for [Stian], so he added two more LEDs. All three LEDs are driven by a ULN2003A NPN transistor array. Now he can flash them in sequence to make a simple animation.

This momentary push button supplies power to a ESP8266 microcontroller using a soft latch power switch. When the momentary switch is pressed, it supplies power to the latch. The latch then powers up the main circuit and continues supplying power even when the push button is released. The reason for this power trickery is to conserve power from the 18650 li-on battery.

The core functionality of the alarm uses a combination of physical hardware and two cloud-based services. The ESP8266 was chosen because it includes a built-in WiFi chip and it only costs five dollars. The microcontroller is configured to connect to the WiFi network with the push of a button. The device also monitors the giant alarm button.

When the button is pressed, it sends an HTTP request to a custom clojure app running on a cloud service called Heroku. The clojure app then stores brewing information in a database and sends a notification to the Slack cloud service. Slack is a sort of project management app that allows multiple users to work on projects and communicate easier over the internet. [Stian] has tapped into it in order to send the actual text notification to his coworkers to let them know that the coffee is ready. Be sure to watch the demo video below. Continue reading “Alarm Notifies the Office When the Coffee is Ready”