STAR TREK DOOR Continues

So, the STAR TREK DOOR has been a slow, “back-burner” project for a while. Recently, I got a little time, so I sat down and figured out how to hook up the air valves to a set of relays, and control those relays with an Arduino.

Here’s a video overview of the physical doors themselves and how we plan to open and close them with air valves.

This is a joint project, working on this with my brother-in-law, Fred. The doors are between his garage and workshop. Fred has been working on the doors themselves, the wall and framing, and mechanical connections. I’ve been working on figuring out the software, controls, and electronic magic that will drive everything.

IMG_6655IMG_6610The physical doors themselves are done, except for paint. Fred has also been making a pretty neat frame for the garage side. He cut alternating widths of wood and then glued them together for the nice light-colored wood on the inset of the planks that will frame out either side of the door. A similar piece will cross the top of the door.

I got all the main components – Arduino, breadboard, relay board, 12V power fuse panel, and air valves themselves all screwed to a piece of plywood. At this point, it’s not pretty, but it is functional.

IMG_6652We have a nice industrial door control with OPEN/CLOSE/STOP buttons on it. Those are momentary on buttons, but through the power of the Arduino, I can make them be whatever I want. I started with a Button Tutorial, and then modified it to suit my purposes, and added a Delay(1500) command after activating the air valve. That way, the valve will stay open long enough to fully open or close the door, even if the button is just pressed for a moment.

I programmed the pin for the STOP button to test out a sequence to open the door, pause (long enough for a person to walk though,) and then close the door. It seemed to work pretty well. If the timing is wrong for the real-world application, all I have to do is simply change the delay times. (It will also need a safety. We don’t want the door closing on a person!)

IMG_6520At this point, the basics of the control panel are working. The STOP button is just wired up as a “stand-in” for a single button we already have installed on the garage side of the door. It’s a capacitive touch button that lights up either blue or white with internal LEDs. It’s a neat looking button, but it’s only a SINGLE button. So, it needs to have functionality to both open AND close the door. I’d also like to explore using a variable in the Arduino that states whether or not the door is open, and then changes the functionality of that button based on whether the door is open or not. The air cylinders themselves also have built-in position sensors, which would be neat to use possibly as both a safety AND a “Is the door open or not?” sensor.

Here’s a video clip showing all the components actually working together. At this point, if the panel was simply mounted above the door, and air connected between the compressor and air cylinders, we would actually have functioning doors.

IMG_6653I don’t like the look of how the air valves and tees are held together right now. I was able to find some not-too-expensive push connectors (similar to PEX Sharkbite style) for air, which might make it a little easier to connect all the air components and look cleaner. Once I really have everything finalized on what’s going on at the breadboard, I also need to decide if I want to pull the breadboard out and replace it with a custom circuit  board. One thing I DO need is a simple way to connect the tiny pin connectors to the larger wires going to the buttons AND provide strain relief. For the moment, I just used staples to nail the 18 ga lamp cord wire to the plywood and then made the electric connection with alligator clips. What would be the BEST/CLEANEST way to do this? Some sort of small screw down terminals?

I also have a rather large fuse panel mounted on the plywood. It was free, and I already had it. It supports many separate circuits, but for this project, a single DC fuse would probably be fine. I’m also using a bit of an overkill 12V power supply. I’ll want to replace that with a simple wall-wart. Lastly, the Arduino is running from USB power. I’ll need to solder up a 12V DC barrel connector so that it can run off the same power as everything else. I think we will make a switched electric outlet, and plug the wall-wart in to that. If the system is ever not working right, just switch off the power and manually open and close the door as needed.

I’ll definitely want to hang out with the guys at the Makerspace sometime soon talking Arduino, specifically how to integrate some more sensors and get feedback used to activate the doors fully automatically.

-Ben Nelson

Easy Star Trek “Red Shirt” Costume

I always have the best of intentions. When getting invited to a costume party, I plan to put lots of time and effort into it to create an EPIC costume. Time after time, I put it off and come up with something at the last minute.

The great thing about a costume is that you DON’T have to spend lots of money on one. In fact, you can create a very good costume, just from clothing and props you already had.

Recently, a friend had been working on a Star Trek prop, which got me thinking about how simple a Star Fleet uniform would be to make. Not a perfect one full of detail, but something fun, simple, and cheap.

To start, I gathered together a red T-shirt, black pants and shoes. I didn’t have a long-sleeved shirt, so I just layered the red short-sleeved over a black long-sleeved T-shirt.

A Federation insignia or communicator badge is an important element to the costume, but is simple to make. I just went to the web and did an image search. When I found one I liked, I downloaded it, scaled to to about 2.5″ tall in my graphics software, and then printed it onto tag-board with my inkjet printer. I cut out the insignia, and put a piece of tape on back. A safety pin glued to the back would work great as well. From just a few feet away, it doesn’t look like paper at all, it just looks like the logo you expect to see on the uniform.

Of course no Star Fleet Officer on an away mission would be without a phaser. I had several to pick from: a TV remote, an infrared thermometer, or my cordless beard trimmer. Basically any dark plastic item that you can point threateningly can be a phaser. I chose a digital tire pressure gauge as my hand-weapon of choice.

Also handy would be a tri-corder. I DID spend a bit of money on this one – $.99 cents. Since I happened to have a smart phone, I downloaded a tri-corder app. It has lots of blinking lights and sound effects that add considerably to the outfit.

I also wanted to point out that I was NOT a main character. Nope, not Kirk or Picard or any of those guys – just a nameless red shirt that’s guaranteed to get killed by the alien/monster of the week. To do so, I created a “Hi, my name is:” badge from a computer-printable address label and a marker. I tried both “Red Shirt” and “Expendable” as name-tags. At the one costume party I went to, people got the joke and had a good chuckle – and then had an urge to kill me…. (Lion-O quickly took me out with the Sword of Omens.)

So, remember, a costume doesn’t have to cost a fortune in time and money – just recycle some clothes and other items into a simple and clever outfit anyone can appreciate.

-Ben

Spin Casting

So we recently got a spin caster in the space.

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Jason H and I are working towards doing our first casts. To that end I’ve milled out a wax Star Trek logo that I hope to cast into a gift for my sister-in-law this holiday season. It will have an EL panel behind it and will be worn as a brouch.

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