Field Trips: Atmel Headquarters

Sylvia

Super Awesome Sylvia and I were invited to attend Bring Your Kids to Work Day at Atmel recently. (Atmel, of course, is the company that makes the microcontrollers found inside Arduino products and in many of our own projects and kits.) We were there to help provide tangible, interesting, and playful examples of how Atmel chips can be used. And of course, we weren’t going to miss an opportunity to visit Atmel headquarters!

Photo courtesy of Atmel

The biggest hit with the kids were the Octolively interactive LED modules (sporting the Atmel ATmega164P). When the kids waved their hands over them, the LEDs would light up and ripple. Some of the kids would start out by poking and grabbing at the LEDs until they lit up, but as soon as I told them it would work “even without touching it” their eyes would get big, and they’d wave their hands over the top, enthralled.

Some of the other things we brought were our handheld game, the Meggy Jr RGB (with the ATmega328P); a Bulbdial Clock (Atmega328P again), which points rings of LEDs at different heights down at a central point to create shadow hands of different lengths; our giant Alpha Clock Five (ATMega644A); and the Larson Scanner (ATtiny2313A), which lights up nine red LEDs to make a scanning robot eye.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Another project that captured the kids’ attention was a Keepon by BeatBots. Other demonstrations included a quadcopter and a hacked hexabot.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

We got to have lunch in the bright sun in the courtyard with Avary Kent, who was demonstrating the PuzzleBox, a brain-controlled helicopter.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Sylvia got to give the PuzzleBox a try, triggering it to fly as soon as she concentrated hard enough.

Workbench

After lunch, we got to tour of a couple of labs. This workbench was well stocked with a Metcal soldering iron (our favorite) and lots of tools and supplies.

Workbench

Apparently the poor Pleo on this bench needed some repair.

Chip testing machine

This machine is for inspecting and testing chips after they have been removed from their housing.

We got to go into the RF anechoic chamber, and watch as our cell phones stopped receiving any signals.

Horsing around

We also had some time to hang out and horse around with friends new and old. Our friend Paul Rako seemed to be having as much fun as the kids.

Photo courtesy of Atmel

Thanks to Paul and Atmel for inviting us to visit!

From the mailbag

Michael wrote in to say:

I ordered a Bulbdial Clock kit from your company on Wednesday Feb 7, 2013; it was waiting for me at the door on the 9th. Suffice it to say that I was extremely pleased with the rapid shipment of the product.

Following the html instructions I was able to assemble the project without errors the first time and got a working Bulbdial clock in about 2 hours (my whole family thinks it is cool).

Once again thanks for being there for an old kit builder.

Thanks, Michael!


On the design of the Bulbdial Clock

bulbdial-details - 12

bulbdial-details - 20

One of our favorite projects of the last year is our Bulbdial Clock, an LED shadow clock based on an idea from Ironic Sans. And, while we have written a fair bit about it, we haven’t yet taken the time to describe some of the interesting technical details.
So in what follows here, we discuss some of those details, with an emphasis on a few in particular that we’ve been asked about. First, the process of designing and prototyping “funny shaped” circuit boards, but also charlieplexing LEDs in a mixed array, and (finally) getting that rear-projection scheme to work.
Continue reading

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories: Year 4

Evil

Happy birthday to us! Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has now been around for four years. We’ve collected some interesting projects from this past year to celebrate.

Microcontroller and Electronics Projects:

Tabletop Pong
Tabletop Pong

Breadboard
Moving from breadboard to protoboard

Revenge!
Revenge of the Cherry Tomatoes

drink making unit
Drink making unit

pin 1
Finding pin 1

xmega - 2
Say hello to xmega

Peggydot
Adding a Chronodot to Peggy 2

Meggy Twitter Reader
Meggy Jr RGB Twitter Reader

twisted wire bundle
Twisted Wire Bundles

LED graph
Some thoughts on throwies

rovin pumpkin
Rovin’ pumpkin

ADXL335 - 10
Accelerometer with an AVR (updated)

LEDcalc - 20
Wallet-size LED Resistance Calculator

Science:

seeing magnetic fields
Seeing Magnetic Fields

Ice Spikes
Ice Spikes

opposition effect in clover
Opposition effect

Kitchen Science 18
Litmus Candy

Beans day five
Gibberellic Acid and Giantism in Sprouts

Simple LED Projects:

fake seven segment display
Fake seven segment display

LED-lit sea urchin
LED-lit sea urchins

Edge Lit Cards
Refining edge-lit cards

Food Hacking:

Ice Cream Gyoza -13
Ice Cream Gyoza

Lemon Pickle
Lemon Pickle

The array
Spices

coffee bean cooler
DIY coffee bean cooler

Marmalade 30
Marmalade: easier than it looks

AtomicCookies 7
Atomic Cookies

asteroids cookies
Asteroids (the edible kind)

Crunchy Frogs01
Crunchy Frog

Kit Projects:

tortiseshell
Bulbdial Clock Kit

Peggy2le-end
Peggy 2LE

Scale
LED Hanukkah Menorah Kit

Larson Scanner
Larson Scanner

D12 bag8
Handbag of Holding Kits

Crafty Projects:

arecibo 2
SETI Scarf

scrap acrylic
Scrap acrylic shelf

Tombstone
24 hour tombstones

ipad 3
iPad lap stand

Custom iron ons 10
Custom iron-on techniques

Geek Design:

symmetrisketch
SymmetriSketch

Typographic Coasters
Typgraphical Character Coasters

Ornamental Components 08
Ornamental Components

Cat String 6
Radio controlled string

Bookend - 9
Bookends for physics geeks

Lego business cards-2
Lego Business Cards

Tie Stools2
Portable Stools

And, don’t forget, you can win a Peggy 2 or one of 13 other prizes in our clock
concept contest
, going on this week.

Related:

ComBots Cup IV this weekend!

ComBots

Come join us at the ComBots Cup at the San Mateo Fairgrounds on Saturday, December 19 and Sunday, December 20 from 2-7 pm. (Get tickets here.) And if taking your loved ones to see combat robotics wasn’t gift enough, you can do a little last minute holiday shopping without having to brave the mall! We’ll have a selection of kits (and a few robot repair parts) on hand. You can try out Meggy Jr RGB and see the new Bulbdial Clock in person.

Read more about the event at Suicide Bots. Special treat for our readers who attend: mention this post and we’ll give you an RGB LED in your choice of style. Hope to see you there!

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories: Year 3

Evil Meggies

Happy birthday to us! Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories is now three years old.

To celebrate, we’re rounding up our most interesting projects from this past year.

Quick projects and observations:

Magnet tricks
17 cool magnet tricks

moneyDensity.kopi
The monetary density of things

Cheap calendar 2
Cheap Perpetual Calendar

Parts Tray-14
Contact Lens Case Small Parts Tray

Simple LED Projects:

lanterns - 11
Quick, easy, temporary, and beautiful LED garden lights

RoboGames Awards (on)
RoboGames Awards

LED Ghostie
LED Ghosties for Halloween

Food Hacking:

Dry Ice Martini
The Hungry Scientist Handbook

Decoder 2
South Indian Restaurant Menu Decoder

 

"That's no melon!"
“That’s no melon!”

Grillin 2
Hot Dog Bun Grilling Jig

LOLHearts - 34
Improved Custom Message Hearts

Apple Pie
Now that’s an Apple Pie!

Caprese - 16
Eyeball Caprese

Fractal Snowflake Cupcakes - 24
Fractal Snowflake Cupcakes

 

CandyFab

CF6k
The CandyFab 6000

Papercraft

Harley Sleeps
Cardboard Cat Chaise

EdgeLitCard - 49
Edge-Lit Holiday Cards

Hex Boxes5
Hexagonal Stacking Boxes

frabjous - 01
Making a Frabjous

Electronics Projects

Interactive LED Dining table
Interactive LED Dining Table Circuit

 

Color distortion
Giant seven segment displays

DarkPumpkin - 11
Dark detecting jack-o’-lantern

SolarCircuits - 06
Simple Solar Circuits

Soft Circuit Merit Badge14
Soft Circuit Merit Badge

Kit Projects

Meggy Rainbow
Meggy Jr RGB

VideoPeggy - 09
Video Peggy in action

Peggy 2 RGB
Peggy 2 RGB

2313Card - 1
ATtiny2313 breakout boards

Card1.1Top
Revised ATmegaXX8 boards

Crafty Projects

d12 Bag
DIY d12 Handbag (of Holding)

Meggy Jr RGB Cozy-21
Meggy Cozy

no-sew iPhone cozy14
No-sew iPhone Cozy

fabric klein bottle
Fabric Klein Bottle

Seat recovery
Reupholstery with Used Denim

Missile Command Skirt 24
Missile Command Circle Skirt

Fishbowl cat quilt29
Fishbowl Cat Quilt

Maulie-25
Turning Mollie into Maulie

Bicycle lunch bag
Bicycle Frame Lunch Bag

Acrylic Nesting Bracelets-1
Sinusoidal Bracelet Design

Microcontroller Projects

Time exposure
Tennis for Two, a video game from 1958

stockpumpkin - 11
Scariest Jack-o’-Lantern of 2008

mignonette - 09
70 bits of gaming goodness

Serial Port Added
AVR Serial Communication

lissajous-dark - 07
POV Lissajous figures

Mobius Circuit - 21
Single sided circuit board

bulbdial_1
A Bulbdial Clock

Geek Design

Snowflake generator
Vector Snowflake Application

Kindling
The Amazon Kindling

Pi (squared) trivet - 9
Pi Pie Trivet

lego - 2
Lego Kitchen Crafts

Binary Birthday
Binary Birthday

(Whew!)

A Bulbdial Clock

bulbdial_1

Last year David Friedman published on his blog Ironic Sans an interesting design concept for something that he called The Bulbdial Clock.

That’s like a sundial, but with better resolution– not just an hour hand, but a minute and second hand as well, each given as a shadow from moving artificial light sources (bulbs).
We’ve recently put together a working bulbdial clock, with an implementation somewhat different from that of the original concept.

Bulbdial - 12
Rather than using three physically moving light sources at different heights, we use three rings of LEDs at different heights. Within each ring, we only turn on one LED at a time, so that we only have a single effective light source– it can light up at different places from within the ring. The three rings are located above one another so that they each project light onto the rod in the middle, making shadows of different lengths.

Additionally, for fun and clarity, we used red, green, and blue LEDs for the three rings, making each shadow hand of the clock a different color. Each ring has 12 LEDs, and the 36 LEDs are efficiently multiplexed by an AVR microcontroller that also handles the timekeeping part of the project. Continue reading