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You are stuck at home quarantined and you want to do some Arduino projects. The problem is you don’t have all the cool devices you want to use. Sure, you can order them, but the stores are slow shipping things that aren’t essential these days. If you want to get a headstart while you are waiting for the postman, check out Wokwi’s Playground. For example, you can write code to drive a virtual NeoPixel 16×16 matrix. There’s even example code to get you started.

There are quite a few other choices in the playground including Charlieplexed LEDs, a keypad, and an LCD. There are also challenges. For example, in the traffic light challenge, you are given code that uses a task scheduler library to implement a traffic light. You have to add a turn signal to the code.

In addition to LEDs in various configurations, the site has some serial bus components, an LCD, a keypad, and a NeoPixel strip. There are also a few tools including an EasyEDA to KiCad converter and a way to share sourcecode similar to Pastebin.

Of course, simulations only get you so far, but the site is a fun way to play with some different I/O devices. It would be very nice if you could compose for the different components together, but you could work your code in sections, if necessary. You can do similar things with TinkerCad circuits. If you want to install software, there’s a simulator for you, too.

Timepieces are cool no matter how simplistic or granular they are. Sometimes its nice not to know exactly what time it is down to the second, and most of the really beautiful clocks are simple as can be. If you didn’t know this was a clock, it would still be fascinating to watch the bearings race around the face.

This clock takes design cues from the Story clock, a visual revolution in counting down time which uses magnetic levitation to move a single bearing around the face exactly once over a duration of any length as set by the user. As a clock, it’s not very useful, so there’s a digital readout that still doesn’t justify the $800 price tag.

[tomatoskins] designed a DIY version that’s far more elegant. It has two ball bearings that move around the surface against hidden magnets — an hour ball and a minute ball. Inside there’s a pair of 3D-printed ring gears that are each driven by a stepper motor and controlled with an Arduino Nano and a real-time clock module. The body is made of plywood reclaimed from a bed frame, and [tomatoskins] added a walnut veneer for timeless class.

In addition to the code, STLs, and CAD files that birthed the STLs, [tomatoskins] has a juicy 3D-printing tip to offer. The gears had to be printed in interlocked pieces, but these seams can be sealed with a solution of acetone and plastic from supports and failed prints.

If you dig minimalism but think this clock is a bit too vague to read, here’s a huge digital clock made from small analog clocks.

We’ve all seen, and occasionally wrestled with, bill acceptors like the one [Another Maker] recently liberated from an arcade machine. But have you ever had one apart to see how it works? If not, the video after the break is an interesting peak into how this ubiquitous piece of hardware tells the difference between a real bill and a piece of paper.

But [Another Maker] goes a bit farther than just showing the internals of the device. He also went through the trouble of figuring out how to talk to it with an Arduino, which makes all sorts of money-grabbing projects possible. Even if collecting paper money isn’t your kind of thing, it’s still interesting to see how this gadget works on a hardware and software level.

As explained in the video, a set of belts are used to pull the bill past an array of IR LEDs. The hardware uses these to scan the bill and perform some dark magic to determine if it’s a genuine piece of currency. [Another Maker] notes that these readers actually need to receive occasional firmware updates to take into account new bill designs. In fact, the particular unit he has is so out of date that it won’t accept modern $5 bills; which may explain how he got it for free in the first place.

Years ago we saw one of these bill acceptors used to make a DIY Bitcoin ATM. Of course back then, a few bucks would get you a semi-reasonable amount of BTC. These days you would skip the paper currency and do it all digitally.


Awkward silences can be highly uncomfortable. Thankfully, they’re a problem that can be solved by technology. Chatty Coaster aims to do just this, detecting pauses in conversation and interjecting with helpful questions to move things along.

The coaster is built around an Arduino Micro, which uses a microphone to detect audio levels in the room. When it detects an extended silence, it then fires off a sound clip using a Sparkfun audio breakout board. The questions vary from plain to politically sensitive, so there’s a good chance you could get some spicy conversation as a result. Any talking device runs a risk of being more annoying than helpful, and there’s certainly a risk that Chatty Coaster could fall into this category. Choosing the right content seems key here.

Overall, while this may not be the ultimate solution to boring company, it could get a laugh or two and serves as a good way to learn how to work with audio on microcontrollers. Video after the break.

We’ll admit, when we were reading this one, we thought we had deja vu. But this one’s a lot less blamey.

No matter who you are,  you produce garbage of some kind or another. Two students decided they wanted to create a smart garbage can that could alert them when the can is full or even when it is stinky.

We will go on on the record: we didn’t know that an alcohol sensor could tell if your garbage is stinky, so if that works, that’s a new one on us. However, it makes a certain kind of sense because garbage ferments. We thought garbage smelled because of hydrogen sulfide and methane.

Trash cans have a tough life, so if you really want to duplicate this, you’ll probably want to mount things a bit more securely. The software, however, runs everything through a cloud service and from there can use Blynk for a phone app and IFTTT to ship things to a spreadsheet, should you care to track your garbage history statistics.

You can see in the video this is a small proof of concept can. We almost want to build one just to see if the sensor really knows when the can is smelly.

Granted, the project may not be the most practical, but it is amazing how easy it is now to build devices with a high degree of connectivity thanks to the wealth of inexpensive boards and services available.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Blynk. For that matter, it isn’t even our first smart trash can.

In ridiculous times, it can help to play ridiculous instruments such as the slide whistle to keep your bristles in check. But since spittle is more than a little bit dangerous these days, it pays to come up with alternative ways to play away the days during lockdown life.

Thanks to some clever Arduino-driven automation, [Gurpreet] can maintain a safe distance from his slide whistle while interacting with it. Slide whistles need two things — air coming in from the top, and actuation at the business end. The blowing force now comes from a focused fan like the ones that cool your printed plastic as soon as the hot end extrudes it. A stepper motor moves the slide up and down using a printed rack and pinion.

Here’s a smooth touch — [Gurpreet] added a micro servo to block and unblock the sound hole with a cardboard flap to make the notes more distinct. Check out the build video after the break, which includes a music video for “My Heart Will Go On”, aka the theme from Titanic. It’s almost like the ship herself is playing it on the steam whistles from the great beyond.

Speaking of, did you hear about the effort to raise and restore the remains of her radio room?

Looking to sterilize something? Give it a good blast of the old UV-C. Ultraviolet radiation in the shortest wavelength band breaks down DNA and RNA, so it’s a great way to kill off any nasties that are lurking. But how much UV-C are you using? [Akiba] at Hackerfarm has come up with the NukeMeter, a meter that measures the output of their UV-C sterilizer the NukeBox. It is built around a $2.50 sensor and a $3 Arduino.

The NukeMeter is built around a GUVA-S12SD UV sensor breakout board. This sensor is really designed for UV-A detection, but a quick look at the spec sheet revealed that it is sensitive to UV across all of the bands. So, it can be used as a UV-C sensor if you know how sensitive it is to this particular frequency band.

However, the sensor is not that sensitive to UV-C light, so [Akiba] had to do a bit of minor surgery on the circuitry that surrounds the sensor to tweak the output. The sensor was designed to measure relatively low levels of UV light (such as sunlight), and now they are blasting it with a shedload of radiation, so they have to effectively disable one of the op-amps that normally scales the output up, which involves replacing a couple of resistors. That’s a bit of a pain to do with surface mount components, but it is doable with a steady hand and a small tip soldering iron.

Next, an Arduino takes the voltage output of the sensor and converts it into a light level. The mathematics of how this works are all well detailed in the post, but it isn’t complicated, and the source code is here.

Using this, [Akiba] was able to measure how the lights performed, how quickly they warmed up and how much the light level varies along the length of the fluorescent tube.

One caveat to bear in mind here: [Akiba] designed this to measure the output of the low-pressure mercury vapor lamps they are using at Hackerfarm, which output a very narrow frequency band, peaking at 250 nM. This design would not work for a more broadband output or for one which mixed UV-C with UV-A and UV-B. For that, you would need a more sophisticated design that would probably cost more than $5.

SAFETY NOTE: Don’t mess with UV-C light sources unless you have a good idea of what you are doing and are sure that the light is contained, e.g. in a sealed box, maybe with interlocks. Remember that you also rely on DNA, and inadvertently zapping your own DNA can cause all sorts of unpleasantness.  

We once saw a Romeo and Juliet production where the two families were modern-day mob families with 3-piece suits and pistols. If they made King Richard III set in this week, the famous line might be: “Hand sanitizer, hand sanitizer, my kingdom for hand sanitizer!” Even if you have a supply stashed in your prepper cache, you have to touch the bottle so you could cross-contaminate with other users. Public places often have automatic dispensers to combat this, and now you can too. [Just Barran] shows the device in a video, you can see below.

Sourcing parts for projects is sometimes a problem, but right now we are betting the hand sanitizer will be the hardest component. Of course, the Internet is ripe with homemade brews that may or may not be effective based on beer, grain alcohol, or a variety of other base materials.

[Barran] has a big junk box. so he snagged an Arduino and an ultrasonic sensor. The part that is a little tricky is pulling down the pump. The basic idea is to use a servo motor to pull some fishing line. To engage the bottle, there is a small bit of plastic from a notebook cover and the fishing line goes to both sides of it. One side of the fishing line is fixed and the other is what the servo pulls.

We might have used a solenoid to push the button, but we like the servo method for its simplicity. In the end, it does look like it works well. Changing the bottle out probably requires a little surgery since there is a screw holding the plastic bracket in and you might have to update the fishing line lengths. That might be an impediment for a commercial project, but for your own use, it doesn’t seem like it would be a problem.

Fishing line is more useful than you might think. We’ve even seen it used as belts in 3D printers.

Economy of scale is a wonderful thing, take the switch-mode power supply as an example. Before the rise of the PC, a decent multi-voltage, high current power supply would be pretty expensive. But PCs have meant cheap supplies and sometimes even free as you gut old PCs found in the dumpster. [OneMarcFifty] decided to make a pretty setup for a PC supply that includes a very nice color display with bargraphs and other niceties. You can see the power supply in action in the video below.

The display is a nice TFT driven by an Arduino Nano. The project uses ACS712 current sensor modules, which are nice Hall effect devices that produce a linear output for current and have over 2 KV of voltage isolation.

There are three current sensors, one for each output. Really what makes this impressive compared to many similar projects is the very nice graphical output. The GitHub has all the software as well as PCB layouts. Of course, you’ll have to adapt the enclosure to your specific power supply, but it should be pretty easy to arrange an enclosure.

With only a few buttons, the user interface is a little clunky, but no more so than a lot of other projects. You essentially only use the buttons to change the speed, scale, and resolution of the bar graphs. The output voltages are fixed and there are no current limits.

Another answer is to find a higher voltage supply and mate it with a cheap power supply module. We’ve also seen non-PC power supplies put in a PC case.

[Sofia] spent a lot of time looking around for the perfect LEGO clock. Eventually, she realized that the perfect LEGO clock is, of course, the one you build yourself. So if you find yourself staring at the same old boring clock, contemplating time and the meaning of time itself, why not spend some time making a new timepiece?

You probably already had the LEGO out (no judgment here). This build doesn’t take a whole lot of building blocks — just a microcontroller, a real-time clock module, some LED matrices to display the digits, shift registers if they’re not already built into the matrices, and a pair of buttons for control. [Sofia] used an Arduino Nano, but any microcontroller with enough I/O ought to work. Everybody needs a colorful new way to block out their time.

We love the way this clock looks, especially the transparent panels in front of the LED panels. Given the countless custom pieces out there from all the special sets over the years, we bet you could come up with some really interesting builds.

If your kid is too young to tell time, try building a kid-friendly clock to give them segmented structure.

Via r/duino

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