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If everything goes according to plan, Elon Musk says the first generation of SpaceX’s massive Starship will make an orbital flight before the end of 2020. That’s a pretty bold claim, but when you’ve made landing rockets on their tails as in the old science fiction pulp magazines seem routine, we suppose you’ve earned the right to a bit of bravado. We’re excited to see the vehicle evolve over the next several months, but even if the real one stays grounded, we’ll gladly take this “flying” Starship model from [Chris Chimienti] as a consolation prize.

A magnetic levitation module, we’re officially in the future.

Feeling a bit let down by the 3D printable models of the Starship he found online, [Chris] set out to build his own. But it wasn’t enough to just make his bigger, stronger, and more accurate to Starship’s current design; he also wanted to make it a bit more exciting. Some RGB LEDs an Arduino embedded in the “cloud” stand the rocket sits on was a good start, and the landing pad inspired by SpaceX’s real autonomous spaceport drone ship Just Read the Instructions looks great all lit up.

But this is Starship we’re talking about, a vehicle that could literally push humanity towards being a multi-planet species. To do it justice, you’ve really got to knock it out of the park. So [Chris] found a magnetic levitation module online that could support a few hundred grams, and set to work on making his plastic Starship actually hover over the landing pad.

As you might imagine, it was a bit tricky. The first versions of the rocket looked great but came out too heavy, so he switched over to printing the model in so-called “spiral vase mode” which made it entirely hollow. Now far lighter and with a magnetic plate fit into the bottom, it was stable enough to float on its own. For the final touch, [Chris] added some red LEDs and a coin cell battery to the base of the Starship so it looks like the sleek craft is performing a last-second landing burn with its “impossible” full-flow staged combustion engines.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a model rocket with an electronic glowing cloud under it, but it’s certainly the first one we’ve seen that could levitate in mid-air. While this little rocket might not make it all the way to Mars, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it touching down on the desks of other hackers and makers in the near future.

Sorting candy by color is a classic problem that has its roots in the contract riders of rock stars who were just trying to make sure that more important contractual obligations were not being overlooked by concert venues. Through the years, candy sorting has become a classic problem for hobbyists to solve in various ways. After a false start a few years back, [little french kev] was compelled to dust off those plans and make the most compact sorter possible.

This minimalist beauty uses an Arduino Nano and RGB sensor to assess the color. At the top, a small servo rotates an arm inside the hopper that both shakes the Skittles and sets them up single file before the sensor. Another small servo spins the tube rack around to catch the rainbow. There’s an RGB LED in the base that bathes the tube from below in light that matches the Skittles. Check out the series of gifs on [little french kev]’s personal project site that show how each part works, and then watch the build video after the break.

Did you know you can roll your own color sensor from an RGB LED and a photocell? If you don’t think candy is so dandy, you could always color-sort your LEGO.

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that hackers like weird clocks, and they love packing as many multicolored LEDs into a device as is humanly possible. Combine both of those concepts into one project, and you’ve got a perfect storm. So as far as unnecessarily complex timepieces go, we’d say the “Crazy Clock 4” built by [Fearless Night] ranks up there among the all-time greats.

This Arduino Pro Mini powered clock syncs the current time via GPS, with a temperature compensated DS3231 RTC to keep it on the straight and narrow between satellite downlinks. Once the clock has the correct time, how do you read it? Well, at the top you’ve got a basic numerical readout for the normies, and next to that there’s a circular LED display that looks like it could double as a sci-fi movie prop. On the lower level there’s a binary clock for the real show-offs, and as if that wasn’t enough, there’s even dual color-coded analog meters to show the hours and minutes.

[Fearless Night] has provided everything you need to follow along at home, from the Arduino source code to the 3D models of the case and Gerber files for the custom PCB. Personally we think just the top half of the clock would be more than sufficient for our timekeeping needs. If nothing else it should help save some energy, as the clock currently pulls an incredible 20 watts with all those LEDs firing off.

Should you decide to take a walk down memory lane and check out some of the other interesting LED clocks we’ve featured in the past, you’d be busy for quite awhile. But for our money, it’s still hard to beat the impossibly obtuse single-LED clock.

Like pretty much all of us, [Andy Schwarz] loves RGB LEDs. Specifically he likes to put them on RC vehicles, such as navigation lights on airplanes or flashers and headlights on cars. He found himself often rewriting very similar Arduino code for each one of these installations, and eventually decided he could save himself (and all the other hackers in the world) some time by creating a customizable Arduino firmware specifically for driving RGB LEDs.

The software side of this project, which he’s calling BitsyLED, actually comes in two parts. The first is the firmware itself, which is designed to control common RGB LEDs such as the WS2812 or members of the NeoPixel family. It can run on an Arduino Pro Mini with no problems, but [Andy] has also designed his own open hardware control board based on the ATtiny84 that you can build yourself. Currently you need a USBASP to program it, but he’s working on a second version which will add USB support.

With your controller of choice running the BitsyLED firmware, you need something to configure it. For that, [Andy] has developed a Chrome extension which offers a very slick user interface for setting up colors and patterns. The tool even allows you to create a visual representation of your LEDs so you can get an idea of what it’s going to look like when all the hardware is powered up.

RGB LEDs such as the WS2812 are some of the most common components we see in projects today, mainly because they’re so easy to physically interface with a microcontroller. But even though it only takes a couple of wires to control a large number of LEDs, you still need to write the code for it all. BitsyLED takes a lot of the hassle out of that last part, and we’re very interested to see what the hacker community makes of it.

Hybrid vehicles, which combine an eco-friendly electric motor with a gasoline engine for extended range, are becoming more and more common. They’re a transitional technology that delivers most of the advantages of pure electric vehicles, but without the “scary” elements of electric vehicle ownership which are still foreign to consumers such as installing a charger in their home. But one element which hybrids are still lacking is a good method for informing the driver whether they’re running on petroleum or lithium; a way to check at a glance how “green” their driving really is.

[Ben Kolin] and his daughter [Alyssa] have come up with a clever hack that allows retrofitting existing hybrid vehicles with an extremely easy to understand indicator of real-time vehicle efficiency. No confusing graphics or arcade-style bleeps and bloops, just a color-changing orb which lives in the cup holder. An evolved version which takes the form of a smaller “dome light” that sits on the top of the dashboard could be a compelling aftermarket accessory for the hybrid market.

The device, which they are calling the ecOrb, relies on an interesting quirk of hybrid vehicles. The OBD II interface, which is used for diagnostics on modern vehicles, apparently only shows the RPM for the gasoline engine in a hybrid. So if the car is in motion but the OBD port is reporting 0 RPM, the vehicle must be running under electric power.

With a Bluetooth OBD adapter plugged into the car, all [Ben] and [Alyssa] needed was an Arduino Nano clone with a HC-05 module to read the current propulsion mode in real-time. With some fairly simple conditional logic they’re able to control the color of an RGB LED based on what the vehicle is doing: green for driving on electric power, purple for gas power, and red for when the gas engine is at idle (the worst case scenario for a hybrid).

Check out our previous coverage of OBD hacking on the Cadillac ELR hybrid if you’re looking to learn more about what’s possible with this rapidly developing class of vehicle

What would you get if you crossed a gigantic Christmas tree ornament with an LED strip and Arduino/IMU control? Perhaps you’d come up with something akin to this colorful “RGB LED Ball” by James Bruton.

The device features eight curved supports along with a central hub assembly, forming a structure for APA102 RGB LED strips. Each of these is linked together via wiring that winds through the central hub making them appear to the Arduino Mega controller as one continuous chain of lights. 

Several animations can be selected with a pair of control buttons, and the ball even responds to movement using an MPU6050 IMU onboard. Files for the build are available on GitHub.

If you’ve spent any serious time in libraries, you’ve probably noticed that they attract people who want or need to be alone without being isolated. In this space, a kind of silent community is formed. This phenomenon was the inspiration [MoonAnchor23] needed to build a network of connected house plants for a course on physical interaction and realization. But you won’t find these plants unleashing their dry wit on twitter. They only talk to each other and to nearby humans.

No living plants were harmed during this project—the leaves likely wouldn’t let much light through, anyway. The plants are each equipped with a strip of addressable RGB LEDs and a flex sensor controlled by an Arduino Uno. Both are hot glued to the undersides of the leaves and hidden with green tape. By default, the plants are set to give ambient light. But if someone strokes the leaf with the flex sensor, it sends a secret message to the other plant that induces light patterns.

Right now, the plants communicate over Bluetooth using an OpenFrameworks server on a local PC. Eventually, the plan is use a master-slave configuration so the plants can be farther apart. Stroke that mouse button to see a brief demo video after the break. [MoonAnchor23] also built LED mushroom clusters out of silicone and cling wrap using a structural soldering method by [DIY Perks] that’s also after the break. These work similarly but use force-sensing resistors instead of flex-sensing.

Networking several plants together could get expensive pretty quickly, but DIY flex sensors would help keep the BOM costs down.

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that here at Hackaday, we’re about as geeky as they come. Having said that, even we were surprised to hear that there are people out there who collect elements. Far be it from us to knock how anyone else wishes to fill their days, but telling somebody at a party that you collect chemical elements is like one step up from saying you’ve got a mold and fungus collection at home. Even then, at least a completed mold and fungus collection won’t be radioactive.

But if you’re going to spend your spare time working on a nerdy and potentially deadly collection, you might as well put it into an appropriate display case. You can’t just leave your Polonium sitting around on the kitchen counter. That’s the idea behind the interactive periodic table built by [Maclsk], and we’ve got to admit, if we get to put it in a case this awesome we might have to start our own collection.

A large portion of this project is building the wooden display case itself as, strangely enough, IKEA doesn’t currently stock a shelving unit that’s in the shape of the periodic table. The individual cells and edge molding are made of pine, the back panel is MDF, and the front of the display is faced off with thin strips of balsa to cover up all the joints. Holes were then drilled into the back of each cell for the LED wiring, and finally the entire frame was painted white.

Each cell contains an WS2812B RGB LED, which at maximum brightness draws 60mA. Given the 90 cells of the display case, [Maclsk] calculated a 5.4A power supply would be needed to keep everything lit up. However, he found a 4A power supply that made his budget happier, which he reasons will be fine as long as he doesn’t try to crank every cell up to maximum at the same time. Control for the display is provided by an Arduino Nano and HC05 Bluetooth module.

The final piece of the project was the Android application that allows the user to control the lighting. But it doesn’t just change colors and brightness, it’s actually a way to visualize information about the elements themselves. The user can do things like highlight certain groups of elements (say, only the radioactive ones), or light up individual cells in order of the year each element was discovered. Some of the information visualizations are demonstrated in the video below, and honestly, we’ve seen museum displays that weren’t this well done.

We last caught up with [Maclsk] when he created a very slick robotic wire cutting machine, which we can only assume was put to work for this particular project. Too bad he didn’t have a robot to handle the nearly 540 soldering joints it took to wire up all these LEDs.

[via /r/DIY]

If there’s one thing that Hollywood knows about hackers, it’s that they absolutely love data visualizations. Sometimes it’s projected on a big wall (Hackers, WarGames), other times it’s gibberish until the plot says otherwise (Sneakers, The Matrix). But no matter what, it has to look cool. No hacker worth his or her salt can possibly work unless they’ve got an evolving Venn diagram or spectral waterfall running somewhere in the background.

Inspired by Hollywood portrayals, specifically one featured in Avengers: Age of Ultron, [Zack Akil] decided it was time to secure his place in the pantheon of hacker wall visualizations. But not content to just show meaningless nonsense on his wall, he set out to create something that was at least showing actual data.

[Zack] created a neural network to work through multi-label classification data in Python using the scikit-learn machine learning suite. The code takes the values from the neutral network training algorithm and converts them to RGB colors by way of an Arduino. Each “node” in the neutral network is 3D printed in translucent filament, and fitted with an RGB LED module. These modules are then connected to each other via side-glow fiber optic tubes, so that the colors within the tubes are mixed depending on the colors of the nodes they are attached to. This allows for a very organic “growing” effect, as colors move through the network node-by-node.

In the end this particular visualization doesn’t really mean anything; the data it’s working on only exists for the purposes of the visualization itself. But [Zack] succeeded in creating a practical visualization of machine learning, and if you’re the kind of person who needs to keep tabs on learning algorithms, some variation of this design may be just what you’re looking for.

If AI isn’t your thing but you still want a wall of RGB LEDs, maybe you can use this phased array antenna visualizer instead. If you’re really hip, maybe you’ll go the analog route and put a big gauge on the wall.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, led hacks

Want to control the colors in your home? Sure, you could just buy a Philips Hue bulb, but where’s the hacking fun in that? [Dario] agrees: he has written a tutorial on building an Arduino-controlled RGB light system that plugs into a standard light socket.

[Dario] is using a bulb from Automethion in Italy, an Arduino, and an ESP8266 shield that sends signals to the bulb. The Arduino and shield are running the Souliss framework that provides smart home features and runs on a number of platforms, so it is a good open platform for creating your own smart home apps, and would be easy to expand. We have also seen a few other projects that use the ESP8266 to control an RGB strip, but this is the first one that uses a bulb that plugs into a standard light socket.

At the moment, Automethion is the only company selling this light, but I hope that others will sell similar products soon.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

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