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We all have our new and interesting challenges in lockdown life. If you’ve had to relocate to ride it out, the chances are good that even your challenges have challenges. Lockdown left [Kanoah]’s sister in the lurch when it came to feeding her recently-adopted pet rat, so he came up with a temporary solution to ensure that the rat never misses a meal.

Most of the automated pet feeders we see around here use an auger to move the food. That’s all fine and good, but if you just need to move a singular mass, the screw seems like overkill. [Kanoah]’s feeder is more akin to a pellet-pushing piston. It runs on a Metro Mini, but an Arduino Nano or anything with enough I/O pins would work just fine. The microcontroller starts counting the hours as soon as it has power, and delivers pellets four times a day with a servo-driven piston arm. [Kanoah] has all the files up on Thingiverse if you need a similar solution.

There many ways of solving the problem of dry pet food delivery. Wet food is a completely different animal, but as it turns out, not impossible to automate.

[Harrison] has been busy finding the sweeter side of quarantine by building a voice-controlled, face-tracking M&M launcher. Not only does this carefully-designed candy launcher have control over the angle, direction, and velocity of its ammunition, it also locates and locks on to targets by itself.

Here comes the science: [Harrison] tricked Alexa into thinking the Raspberry Pi inside the machine is a smart TV named [Chocolate]. He just tells an Echo to increase the volume by however many candy-colored projectiles he wants launched at his face. Simply knowing the secret language isn’t enough, though. Thanks to a little face-based security, you pretty much have to be [Harrison] or his doppelgänger to get any candy.

The Pi takes a picture, looks for faces, and rotates the turret base in that direction using three servos driven by Arduino Nanos. Then the Pi does facial landmark detection to find the target’s mouth hole before calculating the perfect parabola and firing. As [Harrison] notes in the excellent build video below, this machine uses a flywheel driven by a DC motor instead of being spring-loaded. M&Ms travel a short distance from the chute and hit a flexible, spinning disc that flings them like a pitching machine.

We would understand if you didn’t want your face involved in a build with Alexa. It’s okay — you can still have a voice-controlled candy cannon.

[a-RN-au-D] was looking for something fun to do with his son and dreamed up a laser blaster game that ought to put him in the running for father of the year. It was originally just going to be made of cardboard, but you know how these things go. We’re happy the design went this far, because that blaster looks fantastic.

Both the blaster and the target run on Arduino Nanos. There’s a 5mW laser module in the blaster, and a speaker for playing the pew pew-related sounds of your choice. Fire away on the blaster button, and the laser hits a light-dependent resistor mounted in the middle of the target. When the target registers a hit, it swings backward on a 9g servo and then returns quickly to vertical for the next shot.

There are some less obvious features that really make this game a hit. The blaster can run in 10-shooter mode (or 6, or whatever you change it to in the code) with a built-in reload delay, or it can be set to fully automatic. If you’re short on space or just get sick of moving the target to different flat surfaces, it can be mounted on the wall instead — the target moves forward when hit and then resets back to flat. Check out the demo video we loaded up after the break.

No printer? No problem — here’s a Node-RED shooting gallery that uses simple wooden targets.

Unless you’re particularly fond of looking at the back of 88 individual WS2812B LEDs, these “RGB Goggles” from [Mukesh Sankhla] won’t offer you much of a view. But from an outsider’s perspective, the smartphone-controlled glasses certainly make a statement. Just don’t try to operate any heavy machinery while wearing them.

The build starts off with a pair of shades dark enough that the lights won’t be obvious until they’re powered up. [Mukesh] then carefully aligned the LEDs into a grid pattern on a piece of clear tape so they could be soldered together with the fewest number of jumper wires possible. Even if you’re not in the market for some technicolor eyewear, this clever arrangement of WS2812B modules could come in handy if you’re looking to make impromptu LED panels.

To control the LEDs, [Mukesh] is using an Arduino Nano and an HC-06 Bluetooth module that’s linked to an application running on an Android smartphone. The software, developed with the MIT App Inventor, allows the user to easily switch between various patterns and animations on the fly. With such an easy-to-use interface, the RGB Goggles don’t look far off from a commercial product; other than the whole not being able to actually see through the thing.

We’ve actually seen a number of custom glasses projects over the years, as it seems that a cheap pair of shades make an ideal platform for head-mounted hacks. We’ve even found what may be the ideal power source for them.

Sundials, one of humanity’s oldest ways of telling time, are typically permanent installations. The very good reason for this is that telling time by the sun with any degree of accuracy requires two-dimensional calibration — once for cardinal direction, and the other for local latitude.

[poblocki1982] is an amateur astronomer and semi-professional sundial enthusiast who took the time to make a self-calibrating equatorial ‘dial that can be used anywhere the sun shines. All this solar beauty needs is a level surface and a few seconds to find its bearings.

Switch it on, set it down, and the sundial spins around on a continuous-rotation servo until the HMC5883L compass module finds the north-south orientation. Then the GPS module determines the latitude, and a 180° servo pans the plate until it finds the ideal position. Everything is controlled with an Arduino Nano and runs on a 9V battery, although we’d love to see it run on solar power someday. Or would that be flying too close to the sun? Check out how fast this thing calibrates itself in the short demo after the break.

Not quite portable enough for you? Here’s a reverse sundial you wear on your wrist.

Is your heaving pile of electronic parts shrinking by the day as you finish old back-burnered projects and come up with new ones? Try an old pastime that never gets old: rolling your own sensors using household objects. [Nematic!] needs a way to sense vibration for an upcoming project. Instead of spending $1 plus shipping and waiting who knows how long for a spring vibration sensor to come in the mail, they made one in a matter of minutes.

A spring vibration sensor is a simple device that can be used as a poor man’s accelerometer, or simply to detect vibration. All you need is a length of conductive wire, a 10 kΩ resistor, and a way to pick up those good vibrations. For the purposes of demonstration, [Nematic!] is using an Arduino Nano in the short build video after the break.

The wire is wound around the threads of a bolt to form a coil that’s just large enough for a resistor to fit inside. One end of the coil is connected to 5 V, and one leg of the resistor connects to an input pin. Together, they form a normally-open switch. When vibrations force the free ends of both to touch, the circuit is complete and the pin is pulled high.

If you make one of these and find the sensitivity is off, just twist up a new coil with stiffer or softer wire depending on the problem. Iterating doesn’t get much cheaper than wrapping wire around a bolt. We can’t wait to see how [Nematic!] will use this sensor. In the meantime, we’re planning to use one to detect when the dryer stops running and send a text.

Speaking of bargain basement sensors, did you know you can detect water leaks with two pennies, an aspirin, and a clothespin? These projects demonstrate the kind of ingenuity that can win you a pile of toys in our new Making Tech At Home contest, running now through July 28th, 2020.

If we asked you to rattle off all the tools at your own personal disposal, you’d probably leave your timepieces off the list. But we say clocks are definitely tools — cool tools that come in countless forms and give meaning to endless days.

A clock form we hadn’t considered was that of an actual tool. So we were immeasurably delighted to see [scealux]’s clock made from a measuring tape. At least, the time-telling part of the clock is made from a measuring tape. The case isn’t really from a tape measure — it’s entirely printed, Bondo’d, sanded, and painted so well that it’s quite easy to mistake it for the real thing.

Tightly packed inside this piece of functional art is an Arduino Nano and a DS3231 precision RTC module, which we think is fitting for a tool-based clock. The Nano fetches the time and drives a stepper motor that just barely fits inside. There’s just enough tape wound around the printed hub to measure out the time in increments of one hour per inch. Take 1/16″ or so and watch the demo and brief walk-through video after the break.

Not all tools are sharp, and not all clocks are meant to be precise. Here’s a clock for the times that gives you the gist.

Some projects are all-around simple, such as the lemon battery or the potato clock. Other projects are rooted in simple ideas, but their design and execution elevates them to another level. [Sharathnaik]’s heart visualizer may not be all that electronically complex, but the execution is pulse-pounding.

The closest that most of us will get to seeing our own heartbeat is watching the skin twitch in our neck or wrist. You know that your heart doing the work of keeping you alive, but it’s hard to appreciate how it exerts itself. With just a few components and printed parts, the heart’s pumping action comes to life as your pulse drives single-x scissor mechanisms to push and pull the plastic plates.

This heart visualizer isn’t nearly as complex as the organ it models, and it’s an easy build for anyone just starting out in electronics. Put your finger on the heart rate sensor in the base, and an Arduino Nano actuates a single servo to your own personal beat. We’d love to see it work overtime while someone gets worked up. For now, there’s an even-tempered demo after the break, followed by an assembly video.

Heartbeat sensing can be romantic, too. Here’s a lovely circuit sculpture that runs at the rate of the receiver.

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.

[Lewis] of [DIY Machines] was always on the lookout for that perfect something to hang above the couch. After spending a lot of time fruitlessly searching, he designed and built this awesome shelving unit with recessed lighting that doubles as a huge 7-segment clock.

The clock part works as you probably expect — an Elegoo Nano fetches the time from a real-time clock module and displays it on the WS2812B LED strips arranged in 7-segment formations. There’s a photocell module to detect the ambient light level in the room, so the display is never brighter than it needs to be.

Don’t have a 3D printer yet? Then you may need to pass on this one. Aside from the wood back plane and the electronics, the rest of this build is done with printed plastic, starting with 31 carefully-designed supports for the shelves. There are also the LED strip holders, and the sleeve pieces that hide all the wires and give this project its beautifully finished look.

You may have noticed that the far left digit isn’t a full seven segments. If you’re committed to 24-hour time, you’d have to adjust everything to allow for that, but you’d end up with two more shelves. Given the fantastic build video after the break, it probably wouldn’t take too long to figure all that out.

We like big clocks and we cannot lie. If you have room for it, build something like this blinkenlit beauty.



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