This week is Maker Week in New York, and on Friday, September 20, Windell will be moderating the Atmel Analyst Panel: The Maker Community and Education. Panelists will include Massimo Banzi of Arduino, Quinn of QTechKnow, Reza Kazerounian, Bob Martin and Sylvie Barak of Atmel, Brian Jepson of Make Books and AnnMarie Thomas of the University of St. Thomas. The event will be at the Hilton Manhattan East at 11:00 am, and walk-ins are welcome. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about attending.
From the complete overkill department, evilandy posted in the forums about his project which hooks up an Alpha Clock Five to a GPS module, a WiFi module, a WWVB Atomic radio receiver, two TXCO RTC modules and two microcontrollers because, well, we’ll let him tell you:
I wanted a clock that would display precision time and date in “all” worst case scenarios. If this clock does not show the precise time then it’s time to gather up food, water, ammunition, and the family and head for the underground bunker!
The keyswitch, fire button, and covered toggle are nice touches. Thanks for sharing your project, evilandy!
Our friends John Baichtal of Make Magazine, and Adam Wolf and Matthew Beckler of Wayne and Layne have recently released their collaboration, Make: Lego and Arduino Projects, with a forward by our other friend, Erin RobotGrrl Kennedy.
If that all-star cast isn’t reason enough to check it out, the book is about combining Lego and Arduino, key gateway drugs into engineering and electronics. To accompany the book, they’ve created Bricktronics, a library for use with Arduino and Lego and a set of accessories to help with the physical interfaces, including a shield that allows you to plug your Lego NXT accessories into your Arduino. In an article over at Make, John points out that models and code from some of the projects from the book are up on github, so you can already get started playing. Neat stuff!
William Phelps recently wrote to us with alternative firmware for Alpha Clock Five, our oversized alphanumeric LED clock/data display kit. His firmware adds two very welcome features: Automatic daylight saving time (DST) correction, and automatic time setting via a GPS module. It works remarkably well.
Here, we’ll show you how to hook it all up and how to use it.
Continue reading GPS time on the Alpha Clock Five
Our friend Jonathan Foote, after a disappointing experience with a commercially available timed cat feeder, hooked up one of our Art Controller relay boards to an automated candy machine and posted about the project.
Jonathan says, “The resulting hack will reliably and elegantly deliver meals to my favorite pet.”
Today we’re releasing a new open source kit: A stand-alone, microcontroller-driven relay module called the Art Controller.
The Art Controller project was originally suggested by our friends (and Maker Faire regulars), San Francisco Bay Area kinetic artists Christopher T. Palmer and Nemo Gould. Amongst other things that they build are amazing mechanical sculptures that need to run for a little while after a visitor presses a button or inserts a coin into the slot.
The long-established solution for driving electronic artwork (along with many similar endeavors) is to use a timer relay module; a little stand-alone board with a relay controlled by a timer. There are several types of these: fancy programmable modules, bulletproof industrial types, and simple low-cost boards with a 555 timer and a pot that you turn to adjust the delay. As we understand it, Christopher and Nemo go through the latter type like jellybeans. But, what they realized that they really wanted was something just like that, except that you could reprogram it if you wanted to.
Hence the Art Controller. It’s a low cost stand-alone relay module, with an on-board AVR microcontroller, an ATtiny2313, that manages the timing and I/O.
It can be used as a replacement for one of those basic 555-based relay boards, but it’s considerably more flexible in terms of timing range and functionality:
- The timing is adjusted with an 8-position DIP switch, rather than a knob. This cuts down on guess-and-check, but also gives a huge range. With those 8 little switches, you can select times from 1 second to 31 hours. (The ranges are 1-31 seconds, minutes, or hours, plus a few intermediate ranges.)
- It can work as a one-shot timer or a continuously repeating timer.
- There’s an option to trigger automatically upon turn-on (reset).
- There’s a separate cancel input, so you can build a “STOP” button.
- There’s an option to cancel a trigger if you push the “START” button a second time.
It comes preprogrammed, and all of those adjustments can be done with switches and wiring— handy if solder is your favorite programming language —so no computer or programming are actually required to get that far.
But, when that’s not enough, the on-board microcontroller can be reprogrammed in situ (using the board’s AVR ISP programming header) to handle the most specialized applications, potentially taking advantage of up to 16 free digital I/O pins.
And that’s pretty neat.
Beyond the obvious applications in DIY projects, automation, and controlling art projects, we think that this is also going to be a fantastic relay board for education. It starts out as a (well-designed) simple function timer relay board, but can optionally transition to a full-on microcontroller development board when you’re ready for it.
So that’s the Art Controller in a nutshell: a versatile, easy to use, low-cost relay board that you can reprogram if you want to.
There’s plenty more detail on our product page: The Art Controller at Evil Mad Science.
And, special thanks to Christopher T. Palmer and Nemo Gould for a great project idea!
This post is included in our Halloween Project Archive, where you can find ideas for props, decor, and more.
The Great Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories Halloween Project Archive!
Halloween is one of our favorite holidays, and our collection of Halloween projects continues to grow. Every fall we update it to include our latest projects for the season. In the list that follows, we’ve organized dozens of our Halloween projects into categories: costumes, pumpkins, decor and food.
Well, almost— With a breath of new firmware, our Larson Scanner kit takes us on a trip to the late 1970’s.
In the old videos of electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk performing their classic The Robots, a prominent prop is the animated LED necktie worn by each member of the band. If you haven’t seen this, or it’s been a while, you can see it right here at YouTube. (Additional viewing, if you’re so inclined: Die Roboter, the German version.)
The Kraftwerk tie has nine red LEDs in a vertical row, and one lights up after the one above it in a simple descending pattern. And what does it say to the world? One thing only, loud and clear: “We are the robots.” Now, if you’re anything like us, the most important question going through your head at this point is something along the lines of “why am I not wearing a tie like that right now?”
The good news is that it’s actually easy to make one. And the starting point? A circuit with nine red LEDs and just the right spacing: our open-source Larson Scanner kit. With minor modifications– a software change and dumping the heavy 2xAA battery pack–it makes a pretty awesome tie. In what follows, we’ll show you how to build your own, complete with video.