Author Archives: Jeremy S Cook

About Jeremy S Cook

Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

Make an automatic ice fishing jig

An automated spin pike decoy for DIY ice fishing.

If you’ve spent most of your life in a relatively warm climate, chances are you think of ice fishing as sitting inside a shack with a line through a hole in the ice, waiting for a fish to bite. Although this type of fishing is certainly done in northern climates, its more violet cousin, spear fishing, is also accomplished using a jig to attract actual fish to the “spearing zone.”


The exciting part of this would seem to be actually “catching” the fish, and making the jig bounce around is likely quite boring. Naturally, this problem is best solved using an Atmel-based development board, an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) in this case, to automatically control the jig via a small hobby servo.

The fishing setup featured on is a relatively simple build, and should cost around $50 for the parts. A potentiometer controls the jig’s speed, while an on/off switch powers the Arduino board directly, saving complication over using it as an input.

Though a relatively easy build, there is some project box cutting involved, so if you care more about catching fish than finishing an interesting project, that’s also an option to buy one for just under $90 plus shipping and handling. Perhaps your machine could also be used as a cat toy during the summer!



Take a trip down ‘Memory Lane’ with this artistic project

A mind-blowing series of sculptures and audio-visual works by Félix Luque Sánchez and Iñigo Bilbao.

According to its creators Félix Luque Sánchez and Iñigo Bilbao, Memory Lane “consists of a series of sculptures and audio-visual works reproducing relevant places to the childhood of the two authors.” Through a process of 3D scanning and rendering, these places are subtly changed; some elements are enhanced, while others seem to fade away. This depiction aims to show that our memories are not “a mere depiction of actual places but of distorted and glorified memories.”


The sand rock and landscape portion of this exhibit consists of a rock that was scanned, then reproduced using a CNC milling machine, as seen in the second video below. This reproduction was then levitated using magnets, and made to traverse in front of two screens, displaying the previously-recorded scan. To complete the experience, noise from the electromagnets holding the “rock” in place is enhanced and played to the audience.

Besides the named artists, several other people helped with this installation, including designer Damien Gernay, Arduino programmer Vincent Evrard, and mechanical designer Julien Maire. The smoothness of the levitation, especially when combined with a lateral movement is quite impressive. For an idea of how something like this could be done, check out this Arduino-powered suspension device!

Rough terrain is no match for this screw-propelled vehicle

Watch this little off-road beast maneuver through sand, even with the occasional obstacle thrown in.

If you want to drive off-road, a 4×4 truck is generally sufficient. This, of course, wasn’t good enough for the early 20th century Russians, who decided to instead build a vehicle based on two giant screws. According to the builder of the modern screw-tank model seen in the video below, the original was “designed to cope with almost all kinds of landforms, such as snow, swamp, water, desert and forest, except normal asphalt road.”


This version’s screw-wheels are reportedly a little short, so it isn’t able to traverse on water. It does, however, show an incredible aptitude for maneuvering through sand, even with the occasional obstacle thrown in.

This machine is controlled by a Me Orion board (ATmega328). Instead of the typical plugs for individual wires, it features eight RJ-25 sockets that simplify wiring when used with compatible parts.

The little off-road beast uses two gear motors which are linked to the (comparitively) massive screw wheels. Besides figuring out how to print the driving screws, this build appears to be relatively simple compared to how cool it looks. If you decide to create your own, you too can use a gamepad to command your little vehicle to cruise around the beach, impressing all who behold your tiny Russian-inspired craft!

Create your own smart heater for $15

Just in time for winter, this Maker added smart temperature control to his infrared heater. 

The IoT refers to the idea that things, in this case an infrared heater, can be connected to the Internet. Although at times this may seem like overkill, in this case, it seems like a very practical solution. As creator Yuvaltz puts it, “Both IR heaters I have at home have only two power levels. Without any control, it’s easy to get to either a too hot or a not hot enough situation.” Naturally the Arduino-compatible and Wi-Fi-enabled Cactus Micro (ATmega32U4) was used to take his heater into the 21st century!


The Cactus module controls a relay, which turns the heater on when appropriate. The control scheme is based on something called a proportional-integral-derivitave (PID) loop, which allows for several factors to be taken into account when deciding on the appropriate heater state.

Since the Cactus is Wi-Fi-enabled, temperature variation as well as power output can be uploaded to a website. Yuvaltz setup a ThingSpeak channel for this device, and was able to generate two very interesting plots. One comparing the temperature data gleaned from two sensors that he tried, while the other plotted the temperature as well as how much power the heater put out at a certain time.


As Yuvaltz notes, don’t try something like this unless you’re familiar with high-voltage safety. A simple remote control is suggested as an alternative, but perhaps even that could be hacked for PID control! Check out his entire build here.

A 3D printer with fully-auomated bed leveling and tool height adjustment

This Maker will never have to think about leveling or Z height again. 

3D printers are great pieces of Maker equipment, but they don’t work so well if the bed is not level with the extruder. Aligning these two elements together is commonly known as “bed leveling” or “tramming,” and, although simple in theory, needs to be highly accurate. Jeremie Francois decided to combine automating this process with setting the Z-axis offset (important when using multiple extruder heads) using a bed supported by lead screws on three stepper motors.


The motors that Francois used came pre-assembled with a lead screw, and throwing conventional wisdom aside, chose to use the screws to both drive and guide the bed. These “multi-use” lead screws are then independently controlled to touch a force sensitive resistor attached to the extruder head in different positions in order to level the bed. You can see the procedure in the video below, where he manually adjusts the bed into an offset position. The stepper motors then automatically adjust the bed in calibration mode.

Once this is done, the Z-axis can be controlled in “transparent mode” where all three steppers rotate in unison. This allows the calibration motors to act like a normal Z-axis when using the main Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) to control a print. If you’d like to get a better look at the code for this project, be sure to check out Francois’ GitHub page.

Make your own Arduino-powered laser engraver at home

Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars, a 16-year-old decided to build his own professional-looking machine. 

If you don’t have a laser cutter, and would like one (after all, who wouldn’t?) you could buy one for thousands of dollars…. or build one yourself. 16-year-old “MichielD99” decided to do just that, and documented the entire process on Instructables.


Control is handled by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) running the grbl CNC controller software. This, in turn, runs two stepper motors via driver boards, as well as a laser via its own separate driver. It’s noted that this configuration could even be used as a CNC router if a rotary tool and Z-axis was added.

What really sets this project apart is the beautifully-made physical structure. It’s constructed primarily from 18mm and 12mm sheets of MDF, which translates to roughly ¾” and ½” thick material. It’s been 3D-modeled, and the cutouts are available as PDF images and STL files. This means that if you want to replicate it, all you have to do is print the PDFs out, then use a bandsaw to cut out the appropriate pieces. STL makes it possible to replicate with a laser or CNC router. Some work with a Dremel tool will also be needed, though this could possibly be avoided if using a CNC router to make the cuts.


If you’re going to create one of these yourself, this engraver is a great place to start (right after you purchase a pair of safety goggles meant for your laser’s wavelength). For another take on this type of tool, check out this build using similar electronics with a frame made of aluminum extrusion.

Become a DIY pinball machine wizard

This Maker was able to recreate an arcade classic using commercially available parts and an Arduino Mega.

Pinball machines might not be a common sight in America anymore, but if you’re nostalgic about these ancestors of video games, chances are you’ve thought about owning one yourself. Since you’re reading this blog, there’s also a good chance you’ve thought about building one!


Bob Blomquist decided to go from thinking about it to actually constructing his own using commercially available parts, including an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560). As you might suspect, as shown at 9:10 in the video below, even a relatively simple table like this requires a massive amount of wiring.

Blomquist’s project features several interesting techniques, including the use of an off-the-shelf voltage divider too step down the 24 volt power used with the “pop bumpers.” This allowed the bumpers to be powered by 24 volts, while this output is reduced to 5 volts for Arduino input. In this case, the circuit tended to leak current, so an analog input was employed to filter out false signals.


The voltage divider is a very useful concept in electronics, and more information on building one of these yourself can be found here.

Besides showing off a few electronics tricks, this detailed video also reveals all kinds of interesting components used in a standard pinball table. They are quite interesting in their normal use, and for that matter, some of them could certainly be repurposed for other Maker projects!

Creating a new LEGO TECHNIC interface

This hackerspace swapped out the Apple II for an Arduino and a touchscreen.

Readers that were born in the 1980s or early 1990s may remember something called “LEGO TECHNIC.” These were advanced LEGO components that, along with other interesting mechanical parts, could be electrically driven and even controlled with an Apple II computer.


The LVL1 Hackerspace in Louisville was fortunate enough to receive a set as a donation, including the 70455 interface module. Unfortunately, the space did not have a working Apple II to interface with it, so a member decided to “simply” make an Arduino interface for the device instead.


Going from donation to interface completion took several years, but the first step was to open up the box. Although looking inside things is generally a good thing to try when hacking unknown equipment, this proved unnecessary since it was already documented and available online. Based on research, an Arduino shield was then created to interface the Arduino outputs with the LEGO control box.

After everything was wired, code was written to control it, and thus the TECHNIC components. A touchscreen was added to complete the build as seen in the video below.

Although certainly an interesting exercise in resurrecting “ancient” technology, another alternative would likely have been to directly power the light and motor using a motor shield. Then again, what fun would that be?

Watch-a got for today’s weather forecast? 

The Weather Watch monitors air pressure and temperature to provide its wearer with the forecast. 

If you want to know the weather, but care more about geeky style than accuracy, this wrist-mounted watch might be a good project for you. As creator “AgentMess” puts it, “It is obvious that the device cannot obtain the accuracy of established forecast services, but what it lacks in precision it makes up for in style.” He also notes that if you’re not interested in its weather prediction capabilities, “You can use it when you are going for a walk at night to be seen by cars and other road users.”


The display is made using a 16 x 8 LED matrix with a “backpack” to control the display, and its “predictive power” is accomplished using an Adafruit FLORA (ATmega32U4) with a GPS module and barometric pressure sensor. The idea is that the air pressure outside can be used to roughly predict upcoming weather. Since air pressure varies by altitude, the GPS module is employed to compensate for pressure changes due to movement.


As you might suspect, the accuracy of this gadget can be thrown off when indoors, but hopefully its not as important there anyway. Of course, there are all kinds of other things one could do with a GPS-enabled wrist display. This project, though very cool in its current form, is just begging for improvement. If you have any ideas, the original Maker invites you to leave them in his original article!

It’s never been so easy to build your own Arduino-based quadcopter

The YMFC-3D V2 flight controller enables everyone to create their own Arduino drone. 

Quadcopters, or “drones” as they are sometimes inaccurately known, seem to be getting a lot of attention currently. There are, of course, many off-the-shelf components to control your flying contraption, but if a stock flight controller (FC) isn’t geeky enough, you can always turn an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) into one.


That’s exactly what Joop Brokking has done. As the creator puts it, “I made the YMFC-3D [Your Multicopter Flight Controller] V2 flight controller software so everybody can build their own Arduino quadcopter and having a great learning experience.”

The video below explains things nicely, but to summarize, his Arduino software is divided into three sketches that attempt to automate much of the configuration procedure. First, a setup program is loaded into the Uno, which outputs specific steps for the user to go through to set up the transmitter and gyroscope. Next, a separate program is employed to help calibrate the electronic speed controllers, commonly known as ESCs, that directly power the motors. Finally, the actual FC program is loaded into the Arduino, so you can actually test out and fly your ‘copter.


For more information, as well as source code, you’ll want to check out Brokking’s website. He also has information there on his earlier version, which is meant for those already experienced with radio controlled flight and the Arduino.

One neat thing about a build like this is that, in theory, one could program the Uno to do all kinds of tricks, like control an LED strip while in flight or turn a servo. This concept could, it would seem, even be expanded to maneuver other kinds of RC vehicles. On the other hand, one would need to be careful not to tie up too much processing power and quite literally “crash” your system!