July 27th, 2009

Arduino LCD Backpack

Arduino LCD Backpack

Also entitled Arduino LCD Backpack ‘Sandwich’ by its illustrious creator, this is a simple do-it-yourself project using an Arduino microcontroller and a small LCD display. The MCU runs at 16Mhz thanks to the ceramic resonator (the light-brown one, located near the microcontroller). The LCD is an alphanumeric one with two lines of 16 characters (the color used is amber/orange, which gives it a nice, old-school feeling). The contrast of the LCD can be adjusted using a potentiometer.

The Backpack has an IR input receiver module connected (the small silver box on the left side) and a 6 pin FTDI style serial header soldered directly to the wires, which is used for software download and also for the 5V DC power supply. The project is free, for non-commercial use only. More details, pictures and source code available in the link below.

Arduino LCD Backpack: [Link][via]

alphanumeric LCD, with two lines of 16 characteralphanumeric LCD, with two lines of 16 characters.s.
July 18th, 2009

New TV-B-Gone Case Style

TV Disabler

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wanted to talk about something important or just simply wanted some peace and quiet while enjoying your drink and a damn TV wouldn’t shut up? Chances are you have. But from now on, you can use this little gadget to silence those TV sets that bother you with loud, uninteresting stuff. You can carry it in your pocket and you can surely have a laugh using it.

Humorously named TV-B-Gone, this TV Disabler can make some annoying situations quite entertaining. The TV-B-Gone can turn off most of the TV sets available, while having about the same size as a universal remote control. It is a nifty little kit made by Adafruit and it is available for purchase for $19.50. It possesses an Atmel ATTINY85V-10-PU programmed microcontroller, 4 IR LEDs used as emitters and a double AAA battery holder (you can find a complete parts list in the link).

The TV Disabler must be pointed at the TV you wish to quiet down. It has a single button that must be pressed and then it starts to transmit its signal using codes that are stored in its memory for all major TV brands. It takes about 2 minutes to send all the codes, but most TV sets will turn off. The TV Disabler also has a green LED that starts glowing once the device is transmitting.

Since the original kit from Adafruit doesn’t have a case, you can make one like the one in the picture above. This project uses a modified Miniature General Purpose ABS Box 1551 Series from Maplin Electronics Ltd. You will have to make 2 holes, one for the button, and the other for the LED. Putting it all inside the box may be tricky, but once you get it right you will have the TV-B-Gone ready and waiting. And you can say goodbye to those noisy TVs disturbing you.

don’t forget to check youritronics custom version of tv-b-gone.

New TV-B-Gone Case Style: [Link]

Optical Mouse Sensor with Arduino

Connecting an optical mouse sensor with an Arduino microcontroller is a fairly simple task that can help you read horizontal and vertical movements. Any Arduino can be used to perform this operation and you will also need an optical mouse, of course. This tutorial is made for PAN3101, ADNS-2610, ADNS-2083 or ADNS-2051 optical sensors, but the library available is pretty extensive, so you might be able to use other kinds of optical sensors as well (the OptiMouse library for Arduino is available in the link).

Care must be taken when disassembling the mouse to take the optical sensor. It is important to know exactly what type of optical sensor you have, so you’ll have to do some digging to find out. The sensor will use 4 pins of the microncontroller, 2 for power supply and 2 for data. The data communication is serial and bi-directional, but depending on your optical sensor, the pins used from the Arduino may be different.

You may encounter interferences from sensor’s own controller used in the mouse, so disconnect it might be a good idea (the SDIO and SCLK wires). These two wires should be soldered to pins 3 and 4 respectively and pins 6 and 7 will be used for GND and 5v respectively. You will need to download the library mentioned above (the link provides a .zip with the library and example sketches that you can upload to the Arduino for verifications).

A very simple project that can come in handy in certain situations.

Optical Mouse Sensor with Arduino: [Link][via]

July 6th, 2009

Minuscule Gripper Robot

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One important parameter in robotics, one that can raise serious problems when trying to make things smaller,  is the size of the parts you are using in building your robot. Because some indispensable pieces of hardware, like motors or batteries, have their sizes and even the smallest ones can be too big to use effectively, it is difficult to build a really small robot that incorporates all of these necesary elements. One solution to the problem could be to place these components outside of the robot.

This tiny robot uses an 18x Picaxe microcontroller from Sparkfun, a micro serial servo controller, 2 high torque servos and 2 standard servos from Polulu and 2- 1/8″ x 1/16″ and 1- 1″x1″x1″ neodymium magnets (a detailed parts list is available in the link). The case of the robot is built from 3 metal cases made of .oo5″ thick phosphor bronze sheet metal and the volume of the robot measures less than 1/20 of a cubic inch. The robot only uses non-magnetic materials in its construction, including the glass bead wheels which are attached to brass pins on the bottom of the robot.

The reason for this is that the robot is activated using a rotating and spinning magnetic field. Two magnets are attached to an internal vertical pole that is bent to form one arm of the gripper. The robot can move forward and back, turn left or right, move the gripper, open or close it. The magnetic field is mounted on a CNC type machine and it can be moved and rotated horizontally or vertically. The four servo motors actuate the magnet which the robot follows. The serial servo controller receives commands from the Picaxe microcontroller and sets the speed and direction of the motors.

Additional upgrades to the robot can include all kinds of sensors, like temperature or light sensors. An ingenious solution to a difficult problem, the Minuscule Gripper Robot could prove to be one step to microscopic robots of the future.

Minuscule Gripper Robot: [Link][via]

Twinkling LED Heart of Love

“Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs,

Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes,

Being vexed, a sea nourished with lovers’ tears.

What is it else? A madness most discreet,

A choking gall and a preserving sweet.” (William Shakespeare)

When in love it can be important to find the right gifts for the right occasions. You know, the kind of thing that would bring a big smile to her face (followed by a wet kiss). It can be difficult to even remember to buy a present, let alone come up with something that will be appreciated. But fear not! I have found the solution to the problem and next Valentine’s Day you will be ready to really impress your sweetheart.

The Twinkling LED Heart of Love is a wonderful DIY project that will melt her heart and turn the next 14th of February into an unforgettable event. The Heart of Love is based on an Atmel AVR ATmega168 microcontroller coupled with 20 red LEDs that… blink randomly! The heart itself can be made of cardboard and, although red is the usual color for love-related objects, you can show your creativity and paint it something meaningful to you and your damsel. Like orange, if you’re both Netherlands soccer fans. Or black, if you’re black metal fans (pentagram is optional). Originality is usually appreciated, so go for it!

Tips and tricks: your Heart of Love is awesome and will surely knock her socks off, but don’t start explaining how it’s made, how the microcontroller works and so on, because she might start yawning and eventually fall asleep.

As for me… I think I’ll settle for a big bouquet of red roses, thank you very much.

Twinkling LED Heart of Love: [Link]

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