Another wild Peggy 2 project: Heddatron Robot

The folks at Chibots helped the Sideshow Theatre with building the robots for their 2011 production of Heddatron that was part of the Steppenwolf Garage Rep series. For the character Billy Bot, they used a Peggy 2 as a chest display panel which could be controlled remotely along with the rest of the robot actions and behaviors during the performance.

Don from Chibots wrote:

I got to assemble it (625 LEDs!), and made some modifications to the control circuitry to accommodate needs of the remote controls.  The robots were controlled via X-Bee Pro radio transceivers coupled to BahBot MCU boards. Of course, the solidly-designed Peggy 2 worked perfectly out of the box.

The production won a Jeff Award in the Artistic Specialization category for Outstanding Achievement in Robot Design and Engineering.

Billy Bot was even called on to help with a surprise wedding proposal after one of the shows, and you can see him in action briefly in the video above.

Awesome robot work, Chibots!

Photos courtesy the Sideshow Theatre Company.

Peggy 2 with sockets

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Paul Gerhardt of Lockitron built this awesome Peggy 2 (our LED “pegboard” kit), where instead of directly soldering in all of the LEDs, they’re mounted in sockets so that they can be moved around easily.  Now, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen a Peggy filled with sockets, but— thanks to Paul’s clever trick —it is the first time that we’ve seen it done well.

Usually, when someone fills a Peggy up with sockets, it ends up looking something like this:
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As you may be able to see, the usual problem with installing an array of sockets this large is that it is very difficult to keep the sockets aligned neatly. Corey Menscher made a socketed Peggy for an ITP project, and his photo above demonstrates the problem.

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Once you add the LEDs, small offsets in socket alignment translate into larger angle variation in the LEDs that are put into them.  We’ve usually gotten around this problem by soldering the LEDs directly into the holes, so that the LEDs are flush against the circuit board and stay level and aligned.

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Paul solved the problem by making a laser-cut acrylic overlay that fits around the sockets, holding each one squarely in position, and also providing a level surface to push the LEDs against, so that they all stay level and aligned.

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A second trick that he used is to solder all of the LED sockets into the back side of the PCB, so as to avoid any height interference with other components.  So instead of LEDs, the on the “front” side of the Peggy, you just see the tail ends of the sockets.  Then, the acrylic overlay can be just at the height of the sockets for the entire board, giving the whole thing a clean, sleek look.

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To add just one more layer of awesome, he’s hanging his Peggy on a pegboard.  (Now, we just need to route power up through the holes.)   Thanks, Paul, for sharing your clever hack.

Resistor Color Code Tattoo

resistor tat

Our good friend Jimmie P Rogers— of LoL Shield fame, amongst many of us who love Arduino and LEDs —has a brand new tattoo of the resistor color code: Black, Brown, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet, Gray, White.  I’m pretty sure that Jimmy himself has known this color code since he was in diapers, but now he has an always-present chart that he can use as a visual aid while teaching electronics.  And at five inches across, it doubles as a ruler (albeit one that will grow less accurate with age).

So, that’s pretty neat.  But two things bring this above and beyond the “usual” coolness of a geek tattoo.  First, Jimmie designed it in Processing, and second, as an open source tattoo, you can download the source code on his web site.

And for those of us who may be a little less committed: Our own favorite mnemonic for the resistor color code is “Black Beetles Running On Your Garden Bring Very Good Weather.”

Puzzle Kickstarter is a Puzzle

Roy Leban of Puzzazz, a puzzle company, is running a Kickstarter campaign for a puzzle a month for a year. The unique thing about this campaign is that it is itself a puzzle. The project video includes a whole bunch of clues related to interesting and geeky people like Theodore Gray, Nolan Bushnell, and (gasp) me! The Kickstarter puzzle is free to everyone, whether or not you’re backing the project. However, if you like the puzzle, you may want to help out the project to get the full year of puzzles!

Twitter controlled Eggbotted LED Ornaments

AJ Fisher posted an incredibly thorough write-up about his Twitter/Raspberry Pi/Arduino controlled LED lit Eggbot decorated Christmas tree ornaments. Each ornament would light up when twitter keywords represented by their icons were being used.

In the words of a friend of ours, “It makes me feel as though there are people all over the world celebrating with their family and friends just like we are, and you’ve brought them all into the room with us” – and if that’s not what doing this sort of technology is all about then I don’t know what is.

The article includes techniques he used, links to his code, source vector art, and so much more.

From the mailbag: Choosing a soldering iron

Iron

Michael wrote in with a great question:

I currently have a cheapo soldering iron from radio shack. It’s great for making speaker wire and stuff like that. I am concerned that dealing with these delicate boards if it is the right tool. Do you guys have a certain one that you might recommend? If I accidentally break a board I’d like it to be for something cooler than I used a bad soldering iron.

The iron that you use makes a big difference in how long it will take you to build a kit. Using an ultra-low-end soldering iron can make it take much longer to assemble a kit, and will make mistakes easier to make.

Our favorite soldering irons are made by Metcal, but they start at a few hundred dollars, so they aren’t practical for everyone. If you’re lucky enough to live near an electronics surplus shop, they sometimes have used medium-high end workhorses like our backup and travel soldering iron shown above. Replacement parts are available for these, and they last nearly forever.

For a relatively inexpensive, but still reliable soldering iron for electronics, we recommend the WLC100 by Weller, which is about $40 new. Whatever one you end up getting, we recommend one of this design— a “pencil shape” soldering iron (not gun!) with a reasonably fine point tip, and a base that holds the iron and a wet sponge.

Happy soldering!

Open Source Pumpkin PCB

The Great Pumpkin PCB on a pumpkin!

Eric over at Low Voltage Labs has posted up his design for a simple PCB ideal for putting an LED into a pumpkin. This is very much like our simple LED pumpkin project but in a neat, reusable format. And it makes a mighty cute little jack-o-lantern all on its own.

KiCAD - pumpkin PCB layout

He has made it available as a kit with PCB, switch, resistor, battery holder and the same candle flicker LEDs which we love so much. Unfortunately, the kit is currently sold out. Hopefully he’ll make more, if not in time for this Halloween, then at least for next year.

Lady Ada Lovelace Day

OHS 2012

For Lady Ada Lovelace Day, we would like to celebrate an area of success for women in science and technology: the open source hardware community. This vibrant community has many strong women it holds up as role models. The newly formed Open Source Hardware Association is well represented with board members Alicia Gibb (president), Danese CooperCatarina Mota, and Wendy Seltzer. In addition, the Open Hardware Summit has been organized by women from the start: Alicia Gibb and Ayah Bdeir in 2010 and 2011, followed by Catarina Mota and Dustyn Roberts this year.

The 2012 lineup of speakers included women from all over the world and from an amazing variety of disciplines, including Leah Buechley, Ayah Bdeir, Shannon Doesmagen and Liz Barry, Katherine Moriwaki, Louisa Campbell, Liza Stark, Sylvia Todd, Erin Kennedy, Myriam Ayass, Amanda Wozniak, Meg Pirrung, Valérie Lamontagne, and Hannah Perner-Wilson.

In addition to the speakers, there were even more women presenting posters and demos, including Amelia Marzec, Cindy Harnett, Gabrialla Levine, Jennifer Jacobs, Joanna Cheung, Tesia Kosmalski, Analisa Russo and Jennifer Lewis, Margarita Benitez, Maki Komuro, and Sophi Kravitz.

All of these presenters build on the past two years of excellent content at the summit, and we look forward to the inspiring speakers of years to come.

Photo of OSHWA board members Windell Oskay, Nathan Seidle, Wendy Seltzer, Alicia Gibb and Catarina Mota at the 2012 Open Hardware Summit by Jacob Gibb.

Art Controller for Aquaponics

Control box

Logan wrote in to let us know how he is using our Art Controllers for his aquaponics project:

The system has two 140 gallon fish tanks and three 4×8 grow beds filled with grow stones. The beds water flow control is metered with Arduinos with data from Adafruit flow sensors on each bed. The important part is the bed water control, that is controlled by Art Controllers. We have almost 100 fat Talipia fish to fertilize the plants. The room is red because of all the high power LED grow lights.

grow beds under red light

The grow beds fill until a float switch trips the Art Controller that then opens a big 24 V solenoid valve draining the grow beds to a sump that pumps the cleaned water back to the fish tanks. The controller lets me program how long the beds stay drained so the plant roots get some O2 and not rot.

Thanks for sharing your project and pictures, Logan!