Last summer I came across a collection of car parts at a garage sale; instrument clusters, lights, gauges, and some digital clock displays. For $5, I became the proud owner of a JECO Japan, vacuum fluorescent clock display. The plastic housing held all the clock electronics, membrane buttons for setting the time, and a four-pin connector. After powering it up, I realized one of the pins could be used to dim the display, which is a pretty nice feature to have.
I’ve worked on it off and on for a few months, but finally decided to finish it this weekend. On Saturday, I tweaked some dimensions and laser-cut the final enclosure. I wasn’t happy with the button holes and text I had on the front of the first iteration, so I got rid of them for the final. You can adjust the time by slipping a jeweler’s screwdriver or a paper clip through a gap in between the plexiglass sides and pressing the buttons to add hours or minutes.
I added a small single-pole, double-throw toggle to switch between bright and dim, then soldered the connections before closing it up. The whole thing is clamped together by a single #10-32 machine screw and a wingnut. The final result doesn’t look half bad.
In an effort to make the lighting control system more user-friendly, the original board-mounted switches have been replaced with a laser-cut zone map! Instead of looking up which zone number corresponds to a particular bank of lights, each location is now identified by a green LED pushbutton. You can read more about the lighting control system and how it’s been evolving on our wiki: http://wiki.milwaukeemakerspace.org/projects/mmlc
He originally had a goal of $5,000 but the backers showed up in force to support his Folding USB Solar Cell project, and even though it’s been cloudy and raining all week here in Milwaukee, it’s all sunshine and smiles at the success of the campaign so far.
My line following robot is another step closer to being completed. I finished soldering all of the components and connected the battery to test the circuit. The next and hopefully last steps are to attach the circuit board and motors to the body.
Today I stopped by the makerspace to etch the circuit board for my second robot. The robot is a very simple line follower that uses a LM393 dual comparator IC. The complete design and build instructions can be found in the book Robot Building for Beginners by David Cook.
In addition to the usual hackery and makers working on their electric cars, Bret fired up the forge again last night. Rich turned some horseshoes into hangers, Adam flattened a steel rod, and Royce folded a metal bar.
In preparation for BarCampMilwaukee6 (this weekend!) Royce and I have been mass producing circuit boards for a “learn to solder” class we’ll be holding. The boards are 1.5″x1.5″ square and include a battery, two resistors, traces in the shape of our logo, and two red LEDs for eyes. The copper traces were tinned using “Tin It” to prevent oxidation and make it easier to solder. We’ve made 65 of the “tie pins” so far and the project gave us an opportunity to tweak our methods for PCB etching. We prefer etching with ferric chloride, but muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide are looking more attractive as they’re cheaper chemicals, can be obtained locally, and etch much faster without heating. Also, red Sharpie markers seem to work really well at cleaning up traces with the muriatic acid solution. Specifically red, not sure why.
September 27-28 at Wisconsin State Fair Park, the same weekend as Harvest Fair. Admission is free. Maker Faire Milwaukee's Call for Makers is now open.
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