Remote-Controlled LED Room Lighting

This gallery contains 4 photos.

My apartment has sub-par to poor lighting.  Combine that with our lease’s “no painting walls” policy and you’ve got a one-way ticket to Drab-ville.  Many moons ago I planned to replace the over-cabinet lighting in our kitchen with RGB LEDs controlled by Arduino, but I never found the motivation to actually do it.  Then one […]

The Raspberry Pi Challenge!

Raspberry Pi Challenge

Thanks to our friends at Adafruit Industries, we’ve got an awesome Raspberry Pi Starter Pack (and a few other goodies) and we decided that rather than fight over who gets to play with it, we’d issue a challenge to our members: Tell us what you’d build with the kit.

The results are in, and we’ve got a bunch of entries to look at before we decided who will be chosen take on the challenge. Hopefully in the next week or so we can reveal what the winning entry is.

But don’t worry, we’re going to share a bunch of the ideas right here on the blog. We may not get to build them all, but we’ll do our best to highlight some of the ideas that our members have come up with.

(If you’re looking to get into using the Raspberry Pi in your projects, you’d do well to check out the Adafruit Learning System’s category on the topic.)

BrownDogGadgets

BrownDogGadgets

I first came across BrownDogGadgets on Etsy back in 2011, and was excited to see a kit-maker in Milwaukee. Somehow I never managed to connect with the man behind BrownDogGadgets until recently when we somehow became friends on Facebook, and I then realized that Joshua was the driving force behind BrownDogGadgets.

BrownDogGadgets makes a variety of fun electronics kits, many of which center around solar energy, and many of which fit in empty Altoid tins. (There’s also some Arduino-compatible kits which look pretty interesting.)

We’re glad to have Joshua as a new member of Milwaukee Makerspace and look forward to having someone with kit-making skills in the group.

Check out browndoggadgets.com for some awesome kit fun!

Custom Snow Globe

 

Well, I’ve been slaving away on creating a unique X-mas gift for my wife and two-year old daughter, and I think I got it right. They loved it!

I’m talking about a Custom Snow Globe!

A while back, I was working in the driveway on a styrofoam project. Of course, that white stryrofoam dust gets static-charged and STICKS TO EVERYTHING. I also found that the best tool for cutting it was my wife’s kitchen electric carving knife. When I headed inside to take a break and warm up, I was COVERED with styrofoam. My two-year-old girl looked up at me and squeeled “Daddy a Snowman!”.

Indeed I was. I imagined myself inside a snow-globe with styrofoam swirling around me like a snowstorm. But could I actually BUILD a snowglobe that would match my imagination?

I started looking at every snow globe I could find and set to work building one. I looked around and found a glass dome, used for light fixtures. I got two of them, and gave one to my brother-in-law, who is a clay artist, among other things, and commissioned him to make a caricature of me. Since he had one globe, and I had the other, he could make a figure that would fit inside the globe, and I could do the woodworking on the base, and insure that the globe fit that.

I headed to the local cabinet shop and talked to old high-school class-mate Steve about what wood to use for a base. He gave me a maple block, and I grabbed some scrap maple from the bin to practice cuts and routering on. At my Dad’s back-of-the-garage shop, I experimented with routing, until I could get it right, and routed a circle for the base of the glass globe, cut the wood base to length and cut a 45-degree bevel on the top edge, and routed a pocket in the bottom for the electronics.

I wanted to make a “singing” snow-globe, so I bought a singing greeting card at the Hallmark store, and then dissected it for parts. The electronics were then mounted on the bottom of the  wood base, along with a custom switch.

I headed to the Milwaukee Makerspace to use the laser-cutter.

Using the vector graphics program on the laser’s computer, I laid out an inscription for both the top and bottom of the snow globe base. I practiced on a piece of paper, and then when I actually focused the laser properly and had everything else figured out, I wood-burned the maple block, front and back.

I also used a solder station to add the momentary on switch to the greeting card electronics, so that the song would play whenever the globe was picked up to shake up the snow.

Next, was clear-coating the figure and the wood base. I used “Parks Super-Glaze”, a two-part epoxy clear coat used for bars, to completely seal and waterproof both the figure and the base, as well as to permanently attach the figure to the base.

Then, it was a matter to holding the globe upside down, filling it with water, filling the routed circular grove of the base with silicon glue, and flipping the figure and base, upside-down, into the dome of water. Once it was cured, the snow-globe can be flipped right-side-up, gift-wrapped, and put under the tree!

I’m glad to say that the project turned out just great! It was a bit of a stretch to my skill-set, so THANK YOU to the people who gave me a hand with it. Nothing quite like a project that runs the gamut from sculpture to wood-working, electronics, glass, water, laser-engraving, and more! But that’s how we grow… by stretching a little bit more every time!

Merry X-mas

From Ben the Snowman.

Halloween Skull Project

I want to open my first blog post with a statement that continues to impress me: Milwaukee Makerspace is a wonderful place! I mostly show up for the free meetings.  MMS provides an excellent environment to be social, to learn (happens every time I go!), to teach (when I can!), and to get the creative juices flowing.

I had recently started working with Arduino (after a failed run at Microchip’s PIC series of microcontrollers), and was making progress quickly.  I learned how to read infrared remote control codes, how to use an infrared motion sensor, and how to control servos. What I did not have, was a sense of direction as to where to go with all of this!

After listening to the Bay View Neighborhood Associate pitch their idea of MMS helping with the Pumpkin Pavilion, and listening to Royce Pipkins describe his idea of animatronic pumpkins singing along to a song, I was struck with my own idea: an animatronic skull.

Thus, it was born!

http://vimeo.com/55121596 <- Link to the video

I’ll post more details in a following post about how I built this guy. :)

Many thanks to Royce, Tom G., and Ed C. for their help on this project!

SAGA: Semi-Automatic Gmail Assistant

My friend Rob is a smart engineer, and throughout the course of a work week he receives dozens of requests for his assistance on various projects.  He’s such a positive and helpful person that he finds it difficult to say “No.” to any of these requests.  I’ve helped him out by making a USB device that can provide a clear and simple email response to some of these requests.  SAGA, or Semi-Automatic Gmail Assistant, is approximately the size of a mouse, and plugs into a computer just like any mouse or keyboard would.  Here is the first prototype:

SAGA comes complete with a key lockout feature that prevents accidental activation. Once a worthy email request has been received, Rob can calmly make the call whether or not to arm SAGA by inserting the key, and rotating it clockwise 90 degrees.  After rotating the key, an octagon of LEDs lights up around the chrome button, enticing Rob to press it.  The extra illumination from the LEDs also further highlights the artfully coiled wiring that fills the prototype SAGA.  When the button is pressed, SAGA sends the keyboard shortcut to respond to the email and types out “Go F*** Yourself.” at a respectable and slightly humorous 200 wpm.  After waiting a half second for dramatic effect, SAGA automatically sends the email.  Note that there is a 1% chance that SAGA will instead respond “That’s a Great idea, I’ll get right on it!”

SAGAis powered by a Teensy 2.0 and $15 of electronics parts.  SAGA appears to the computer as a standard keyboard, and some helpful startup hints I followed appear on RasterWeb! and here.  One enabling trick was using a 2n2222 NPN transistor to drive 140 mA into the eight LEDs (connected in parallel), as this value exceeds the current available from any one of the Teensy’s outputs.  Note that keyboard shortcuts must be enabled in Gmail settings, and that Yahoo! Mail is also SAGA compatible. Upon moving an internal jumper, SAGA is probably compatible with some versions of Outlook (although installation of service pack 3.0 may be required).

Due to popular request by the few folks who have seen SAGA in action, I’ve built up a few, and they are for sale now on Etsy.  Check out the aesthetically pleasing, high gloss powder coated aluminum enclosure! Here is SAGA in high-speed yellow:

Alternate colors are available too – Just follow this link to Etsy!  

Bay View Gallery Night September 28th, 2012

Several Makers packed up some tools, samples and some very raw materials and set up shop in the Alterra parking lot for the September 28th Bay View Gallery Night.

We rolled in with Matt N’s CNC router and a bunch of his foam architectural pieces, the Makerbot and a few dozen 3d printed samples and after a while had the Replicator fired up cranking out Tardis models (Tardii???). Those were accompanied by a robot from Matt W, some proximity switch-controlled LED strands from Brant, Pete’s Egg Bot and Laser Kaleidoscope and a bunch of Shane’s intricate boxes and laser cut images. Whew! We came with a full crew and more stuff than would fit on our tables. :) We also may have blown the power briefly, but it was an accident, we swear. Even if we did, the sun was still shining for quite a while after that incident.

The surprise hit of our table was the Fruit Synthesizer i put together at, umm, literally the last minute. I was still tweaking it 15 minutes into the event! I used a Makey Makey connected to 2 halves of a watermelon, 2 pickles, a horned melon, a pair of bananas, Max MSP and GarageBand to make a really goofy synthesizer. The Makey Makey is a great little board that operates as a USB keyboard and mouse and lets you alligator clip to any conductive material to make a weird ad-hoc controller. I had intended to have it trigger guitar sounds, but it was way more satisfying as a drum kit, so we kept it set up as a drumkit for most of the night. I loved seeing people jump when they touched the banana and loud bass drum boomed out at them. We had some people coming back several times and bringing more people over to play with the kit. We did a lot of demos where I would high-five someone already connected to the Makey Makey to trigger the drums and one of my favorite uses was the couple that kissed to trigger the instrument. This simple project really engaged people in a fun and quirky way. Not bad for a project i threw out on a lark! We all had so much fun with the Fruit Synth that i am positive it will be making a comeback at future events.

Fruit Synth with Tiny Banana Drumsticks

Aside from goofy fun, we had a couple hundred people rolled through over the course of the night and heard from a lot of people who were interested in the space and have heard about us. We’ve been really focused on getting the word out Makerspace and finding out that a lot of folks are hearing about and interested in Maker/Hackerspaces was really gratifying. We hope to see a lot of new faces at the space in the next couple of weeks!

We learned a few things, too. The first is that the interactive displays were a big hit. The second is that we should bring some stuff to sell next time! There were several families that wrote down “sparkfun” and “makey makey” and many kids who wanted to use a Makey Makey for a science fair project at school. We could have sold a half dozen of them if we had more than the one used for the Fruit Synth. The 3d prints were a hit, too, and we should probably have a bunch of Milwaukee-themed prints on hand to sell to folks for our next event.

Big thanks to Pete for organizing our presence at BVGN, the other artists that showed at the event and the folks at the new Bay View Alterra for hosting us all!

For a few more photos, check out the set Brant posted on Flickr.

Arduino-Powered Surround Sound Synthesizer

The Makerspace Eight Speaker Super Surround Sound System(MESSSSS) has been supplying music to the Makerspace for quite a while now, but I identified a problem even before the system was fully installed.  Stereo recordings played back on two speakers are great if you’re in the “sweet spot.” If not, traditional approaches to 5.1 audio improve things, but all rely on there being a single “front of the room.” Unfortunately, it’s not clear which side of the 3000 square foot Makerspace shop is the front, and with four pairs of speakers in the room, even stereo imaging is difficult.

Fortunately, I’ve just completed the Makerspace Eight Speaker Super Surround Sound System’s Enveloping Surround Sound Synthesizer (MESSSSSESSS).  The MESSSSSESSS takes stereo recordings and distributes sound to the eight speakers in an entirely fair and user configurable way, thereby eliminating the need for a “front of the room.” Now listeners can be arbitrary distributed throughout a room, and can even be oriented in random directions, while still receiving an enveloping surround sound experience!

The MESSSSSESSS user interface is somewhat simpler than most surround sound processers, as it consists of only four switches and one knob.  Somewhat inspired by StrobeTV, the simplest mode references questionable quadraphonic recordings, in that the music travels sequentially from speaker to speaker, chasing around the room either clockwise or counterclockwise at a rate selected by the knob. With the flip of a switch, sound emanates from the eight speakers in a random order. Things get considerably less deterministic after flipping the Chaos Switch, adjusting the Chaos Knob, and entering Turbo Mode:  Its best to visit Milwaukee Makerspace to experience the madness for yourself.  I’m legally obligated to recommend first time listeners be seated for the experience.

The MESSSSSESSS is powered entirely by an Arduino Uno’s ATmega328 that was programmed with an Arduino and then plugged into a socket in a small, custom board that I designed and etched at the Makerspace.  The ATmega328 outputs can energize relays that either do or don’t pass the audio signal to the four stereo output jacks.  Care was taken to use diodes to clamp any voltage spikes that may be created as the relays switch, thus preventing damage to the ATmega328 outputs.

As shown by the minimal part count above, using the ATmega328 “off the Arduino” is quite easy:  Just connect pins 1 (The square one), 7 and 20 to 5 volts, and connect pins 8 and 22 to ground.  Then, add a 22uF cap and small bypass cap between power and ground, and a ceramic resonator to pins 19 and 20.  You can even use an old cellphone charger as the power supply.  Boom.  That’s it.  The real benefits of making your own boards are having a well integrated system, and cost, as the Atmel chip is $4.50 while a whole Arduino is $30.  Also visible in the photo are a programming header and the two ribbon cables that route all the signals to and from the board.

RN-42 Carrier V2

Some time back I posted about my RN-42 Carrier Board. The RN-42 is an inexpensive surface mount bluetooth modem. I made a board that converts it to through-hold and exposes a number of the features of the RN-42 that other carrier boards do not.

There was a small error in the original boards: the status LEDs were connected to ground when in was the intent of the RN-42 designers that I connect the LEDs to Vdd. In response to some inquiries about the board, I’ve made a revision of the board that addresses this problem. Here are the updated Gerbers, NC Drill and original Diptrace design files.

Random Find: The Avago/HP HDLG-2416

Anyone who’s ever visited Makerspace knows that the ‘Library’ is home to tons and tons of stuff.  Component parts, IC chips, belts, pulleys, batteries, etc.  Occasionally I lose myself in there for a few hours and just explore the shelves.  This is a post about one of my more interesting discoveries.


I came across a whole bag of these in the LED bins.  They’re 1″ wide, four-digit alphanumeric displays.  Each character consists of a 5 mm tall, 5×7 LED dot matrix display.  The device comes complete with on-board RAM and an ASCII decoder capable of displaying up to 128 different characters.  It’s even possible to dim the brightness.  I’m also partial to the color green.

The major drawback I’ve found is the number of pins required for use.  The thing has seven data pins and the extended features for writing/reading/displaying require a ton of connections.  I used all but four of my Arduino Uno’s I/O pins while tinkering with it.  You’re probably better off using a LCD display or something with serial data support, but these are still small and numerous in our ‘Space so they’re worth toying with.  Also there’s been a few other people who played with these and posted their findings online. I’m seriously considering building a small desk clock around one or two of these in the future.

If you’re interested in using one of these displays on your next project, I’d suggest reading the blogs by these fine folks here:

http://buzzdavidson.com/?p=148

http://dorkbotpdx.org/blog/wardcunningham/yow_revisited_in_txtzyme

http://gorgusgfx.se/?page_id=62 (I think this is in Swedish, but the code still works!)