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!

Add a touchscreen to your oscilloscope


This Maker replaced his oscilloscope’s knobs and buttons with a touch interface. 


Igor, the author of the “More Than User” blog, decided that his unwieldy button and knob interface on his oscilloscope wasn’t good enough. He chose to enhance it with a touchscreen ripped out of a Preistigo 7” tablet, using an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) to convert these signals into something that the scope could understand.

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This stated goal of this project was to “remove keyboard completely, instead add touch screen to control oscilloscope.” As seen in the video below, the project is a success, and Igor can control quite a few scope parameters with the press of an onscreen button or the swipe of a finger. As he puts it, he “managed to emulate keyboard data with ATmega328, then I just mapped all the codes that was used to control DSO [digital storage oscilloscope], and bascially that’s all.”

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Despite his humble description of the project, actually implementing this solution involved quite a bit of work. The COM port wasn’t working correctly, so he had to find and analyze the keyboard interface pins and revers-engineer the protocol for it. He recommends getting a logic analyzer for tasks like this, as the job will be much easier, especially since he was working on the same scope that he was using for analysis!

If that weren’t enough, the touchscreen itself had to be set up, including multiple broken component issues that had to be dealt with. In the end, it now works well, and is mounted on a nice wooden stand. The Nano is displayed proudly on the front, with wires radiating toward the touchscreen, which should be useful for troubleshooting and modification in the future!

An Arduino MPPT solar charger shield


This Maker decided to build his own MPPT (maximum point of power tracking) charge controller.


Lukas was asked by a friend for help on a solar project. Inspired by an Instructables article, this friend wanted to make (or inspire someone else to make) a system to charge a battery to provide power in his garden. Charging a battery might seem like a simple task, but the a panel’s varying voltage output levels present a challenge. If this voltage spikes at too high of a level, there is a risk of damaging the battery.

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If this over-voltage condition were constant, a DC-DC converter, commonly known as a “buck converter” would be well-suited to make the needed voltage conversion. However, since it’s not constant, a “switching converter” would have to be used. Normally a switching converter cycles much faster than an Arduino would be able to handle, but since voltage levels change relatively slowly in this instance, an Arduino’s speed would be quite sufficient. Since this slower speed minimizes switching losses, it would actually be an advantage.

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The project is well-documented here, including available design files. Once this neat converter was built, the second step was to test it out. Lukas reports that it does its job with an efficiency of over 95% in the voltage range of interest. He plans to talk about the software involved next, so hopefully we will get to see the entire charging station come together soon!

The world’s tiniest RGB LED cube


This 4x4x4 cube measures only 2cm on each side.


If you read Atmel’s blog, chances are that you’ve seen a programmable LED cube. Given the amount of soldering involved, adequate space between each light would seem like a necessity. Hari Wiguna, however, decided that he could make a 4x4x4 cube measuring only 2cm on each side. In other words, as seen in the first video below, it would roughly fit on a quarter.

This build took Wiguna “months to build, but it’s finally done,” and, unless he hears differently, it is the smallest 4x4x4 LED cube in existence. Soldering, as shown in the second video, seems that it was quite a nightmare, but at least he had a custom PCB on which to set his LED stacks once they were assembled. For work that small, he needed a fine-tip soldering iron, but had to actually build his own set of jigs to assemble everything correctly.

The circuit, seen in the third video uses an Arduino Nano (ATmega328) to control the 64 RGB LEDs used. It’s a very clever setup, modeled after the Charliecube design found here. The four stacked LEDs are each rotated 90 degrees to each other, allowing its diode property to separate out each light’s signal.

The resulting animations are quite impressive — amazing for something this size! Check out the three clips below for even more background on this tiny wonder.

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.”

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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 JigBuddy.com 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.”

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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.”

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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!

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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.

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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.