Lightsaber Uses Pogo Pins to Make Assembly a Breeze

There was an endless supply of fantastic projects at Supercon this year, but one whose fit and finish really stood out was [Scott]’s lightsaber. If you were walking around and saw someone with a very bright RGB device with a chromed-out handle hanging off their belt it was probably this, though it may have been hard to look at directly. On the outside, the saber looks like a well-polished cosplay prop, and it is! But when Scott quickly broke down the device into component pieces it was apparent that extra care had been put into the assembly of the electronics.

Like any good lightsaber replica the blade is lit, and wow is it bright. The construction is fairly simple, it’s a triplet of WS2812B LED strips back to back on a triangular core, mounted inside a translucent polycarbonate tube with a diffuser. Not especially unusual. But the blade can be popped off the hilt at a moments notice for easy transport and storage, so the strips can’t be soldered in. Connectors would have worked, but who wants flying wires when they’re disconnecting their lightsaber blade. The answer? Pogo pins! Scott runs the power, ground, and data lines out of the strips and into a small board with slip ring-style plated rings. On the hilt, there is a matching array of pogo pins to pass along power and data. The data lines from all the strips are tied together minimizing the number of connections to make, and the outer two power rings have more than one pin for better current-carrying capacity. A handy side effect is that there is nowhere on the blade where there aren’t LEDs; the strips go down to the very end of the blade where it meets the main board inside the hilt.

The hilt is filled with an assembly of 18650’s and a Teensy mounted with a custom shield, all fit inside a printed midframe. The whole build is all about robust design that’s easy to assemble. The main board is book-ended by perpendicular PCBs mounted to the ends, one at the top to connect to the blade and one at the bottom to connect to a speaker. Towards the bottom there is space for an optional Bluetooth radio to allow remote RGB control.

Scott is selling this as a product but also provides detailed instructions and parts lists for each component. Assembly instructions for the blade are here. The hilt is here. And pogo adapters are on OSH Park here. An overview of the firmware with links to GitHub is here. Check out a walkthrough of the handle assembly and blade attachment after the break!

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Rey’s Blaster Shoots Glow-in-the-Dark Bullets

Youtuber and rubber band enthusiast [JoergSprave] is a big fan of Star Wars, and he loved the look of the blaster that Han Solo gave to Rey. He’d seen a few replicas of Rey NN-14 gun, but hadn’t seen any that actually fired anything, so he set out to make one that did.

The build itself is from plywood, with a paint job to make it look like an old blaster. What makes the build really cool is the bullets used: glow sticks! [Joerg] created space in the magazine for three glow sticks, so you’ve got a couple of shots before you have to reload. Crack ’em, load them up and then fire away!

The glow sticks give the blaster fire a great look (especially in the dark!) and it’s really easy to find the shots after you’ve fired them. We’ve featured [Joerg]’s builds a few times on the site, and his build videos are a lot of fun. Check out his compressed air crossbow bolt gatling gun, or his machete shooting slingshot.

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It’s a Spider! It’s a Droideka! It’s Both!

Beware, arachnophobes, the robots are coming for you!

What else would you be expected to think if you watched a hexapod robot display its best Transformers impression by turning into a wheel and pushing itself in your direction? The BionicWheelBot — developed by [Festo] — should rightly remind you of the cartwheeling Flic-Flac spider, the main inspiration for the robot. Of course, Star Wars fans might justifiably see a Droideka.

The BionicWheelBot can — almost — seamlessly transition between crawling around on six legs, to literally rolling away. To do so, its three pairs of legs sequentially fold up into a shape befitting its namesake and then pauses for a moment — almost for dramatic effect — before the real fun begins.

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A Tabletop Star Wars Themed Lego Racer Game

When it comes to the title of undisputed king of the toy construction kit world, the Danes have it. Lego are ubiquitous in the toybox, and parents worldwide know the joy of stepping barefoot on a stray brick. Aside from the themed sets for youngsters and collectors, we see a lot of Lego in projects that make it to these pages. Sometimes they are from hardware hackers who’ve chosen Lego because they had some to hand or because of its utility, but at other times they come from the Lego community rather than the wider one.

Take the Star Racer from [Alexis Dos Santos] as an example of the former. It’s a table top racing game made entirely from Lego, and with control courtesy of Lego Mindstorms. It’s a real rolling road game, with a track made from five continuous belts of grey Lego sections, with obstacles attached to them. The Podracer slides from side to side at the front under user control, and the object is to avoid them as they come towards you at varying speed.

It’s a beautiful piece of work, and as well as the linked Flickr photographs it can be seen in the YouTube video below the break. The sticker says it’s a highly addictive game, and we’d be inclined not to disagree.

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AT-ST High Chair Elevates Lucky Jedi Youngling

As a new parent, there’s lots you have to do. You have to buy a car seat, get the baby’s room ready, figure out daycare; all the boring but unavoidable minutiae of shepherding a tiny human. But for the more creative types, that list might include warming up the 3D printer or putting a fresh bit in the CNC, as there’s no better way to welcome a little one into the world than giving them some custom gear to get started with.

That’s certainly been the plan for [Matthew Regonini], who’s been showering his son with DIY playthings. He recently wrote in to tell us about his awesome AT-ST high chair build that manages to turn the drudgery of getting a baby to eat into an epic worthy of a John Williams score.

This isn’t the first time [Matthew] has turned dead trees into Imperial hardware. Last year we covered his fantastic AT-AT rocker which utilized the same construction techniques. The parts are cut out of plywood with his CNC, separated, cleaned up on a spindle sander, and finally assembled with wood glue and a few strategic fasteners. The depth and level of detail he’s able to achieve when the individual pieces are stacked up is exceptionally impressive. If builds like these don’t get you thinking about adding a CNC to your workshop, nothing will.

As with the AT-AT, the finish on the high chair is simply a healthy application of polyurethane. This keeps the wood from being porous (important as this build will be seeing its fair share of food and liquids) while retaining a natural look. Some might be tempted to paint it up in appropriate Imperial colors, but that might be a bit imposing considering its intended occupant.

Really, the only downside with this build is how quickly his son will outgrow it. The obvious solution to the problem is a constant supply of fresh babies to pilot it, but that’s one type of creation that we don’t generally detail here on Hackaday. If you have questions, ask your parents.

Incidentally, it’s starting to look like we’ve got a plywood arms-race going on. We’re excited to see somebody take it to the next level. A little scared, but mainly excited.

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AI Prosthesis Is Music To Our Ears

Prostheses are a great help to those who have lost limbs, or who never had them in the first place. Over the past few decades there has been a great deal of research done to make these essential devices more useful, creating prostheses that are capable of movement and more accurately recreating the functions of human body parts. At Georgia Tech, they’re working on just that, with the help of AI.

[Jason Barnes] lost his arm in a work accident, which prevented him from playing the piano the way he used to. The researchers at Georgia Tech worked with him, eventually producing a prosthetic arm that, unlike most, actually has individual finger control. This is achieved through the use of an ultrasound probe, which is used to detect muscle movements elsewhere on his body, with enough detail to allow the control of individual fingers. This is done through a TensorFlow-based neural network which analyses the ultrasound data to determine which finger the user is trying to move. The use of ultrasound was the major breakthrough which made this possible; previous projects have often relied on electromyogram sensors to read muscle impulses but these lack the resolution required.

The prosthesis is nicknamed the “Skywalker arm”, after its similarities to the prostheses seen in the Star Wars films. It’s not [Jason]’s first advanced prosthetic, either – Georgia Tech has also equipped him with an advanced drumming prosthesis. This allows him to use two sticks with a single arm, the second stick using advanced AI routines to drum along with the music in the room.

It’s great to see music being used as a driver to create high-performance prosthetics and push the state of the art forward. We’re sure [Jason] enjoys performing with the new hardware, too. But perhaps you’d like to try something similar, even though you’ve got two hands already? Try this on for size.

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How The Hero Droid BB-8 Rolls

By now we’ve come to expect a bountiful harvest of licensed merchandise to follow every Star Wars film. This year’s crop included many flavors of BB-8 so every fan can find something to suit their taste. At the top of this food chain is a mobile interactive “Hero Droid BB-8”. For those who want to see how it works, [TheMikeSenna] cracked open his unit to feed our curiosity.

Also called “Spin Master BB-8” for the manufacturer, this toy is impressively sophisticated for its price point. The video surveyed the mechanical components inside the ball. Showing how the droid travels, and how the head articulates.

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