Category Archives: Uncategorized

This STEM kit will inspire the next generation of inventors


Tio is a new way for kids to play, learn and explore their imagination. 


What do you get when you combine plastic blocks, magnetic wheels and a mobile app? A car that can drive and race around your living room, a merry-go-round that can revolve and flash coded messages, a robot that can lift and carry objects, and a butterfly that can flap its wings, among countless other creations that Tio makes possible

With hopes of “inspiring tomorrow’s inventors,” Tio is a DIY kit that people of all ages can use to build smartphone-controlled gizmos and gadgets out of everyday objects, like recycled and craft materials, old LEGO bricks, obsolete toys and even 3D-printed parts.

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The set includes a pair of motorized building blocks with built-in LEDs, magnetic mounts, two wheels, two pulleys, two adapters, four adhesive tabs, 30 stickers and a personalized storybook that will introduce children to the “imaginary worlds and guide them through their first creations.” It even includes nine pop-and-fold invention templates — a helicopter, a crawler and a windmill, to name a few — to help the youngsters get their feet wet before exploring more advanced materials.

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What’s cool is that you can customize and program your projects wirelessly via Tio’s accompanying iOS/Android app. This app has several modes, each of which enable you to control features like speed, direction, LED colors, rotation and patterns. With a simple tap or swipe of your screen, Makers can configure their project to record and play back movements. Although more experienced users can code their devices, those just starting out will take comfort in knowing that this skill is not required to join in on the fun.

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So whether you’re looking to unleash your creativity with 3D prints, build your own LEGO robot or breathe new life into old toys, Tio may be the connected platform for you. Help inspire the next generation of inventors and head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where the team is currently seeking $69,255. The first batch of units is expected to ship in September 2016.

You may need a magnifying glass for this mini ATtiny10 breakout board


“I lost one in the carpet and I’m hoping to find it before the vacuum does.”


The super small ATtiny10 is a high-performance, low-power 8-bit MCU that combines 1KB of Flash memory, 32B SRAM, four general purpose I/O lines, 16 general purpose working registers, a 16-bit timer/counter with two PWM channels, internal and external interrupts, a programmable watchdog timer with internal oscillator, an internal calibrated oscillator, a four-channel A/D converter, and four software selectable power saving modes. The device operates between 1.8-5.5V.

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But what really makes this chip stand out is its minuscule size. Because of this, the ATtiny10 doesn’t use the normal in-system programming port like its much larger siblings. Instead, this particular AVR employs a Tiny Programming Interface (TPI), which only requires power, ground, data, clock and a reset pin. Connecting these pins to the proper programming header is fairly straightforward, and with the right layout, you can cram everything into a breakout board that’s tinier than a typical 8-pin DIP.

Well, this is exactly what Dan Watson has done. The Maker has created a mini breakout board for the ATtiny10 that’s so small, you’ll lose it. “Literally,” he adds, “I lost one in the carpet and I’m hoping to find it before the vacuum does.”

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The PCB itself is 0.25” x 0.325″ and uses 0.050″ header pins. The breakout could actually be made smaller, but turns out, Watson ran into the minimum PCB size limit on OSHPark. Despite its form factor, he was able to include a 100nF bypass capacitor, a power LED and a user LED on pin PB1 — that pin is also the clock pin for the programming interface, so it flashes when the board is being programmed.

Admittedly the board was a bit difficult to use and program, and is “certainly not breadboard compatible due to the small pitch headers.” To overcome this issue, Watson built a small landing pad for it, which adapts the 0.050″ headers to 0.1” headers. The landing pad has a 6-pin TPI programming connector, which enables the ATtiny10 to be configured using the Atmel-ICE development tool.

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In any case, Watson is now the proud owner of a shrunken-down board that can fit pretty much anywhere. And since you can do plenty of things with 1KB, it’ll be interesting to see what the Maker comes up with. Some possible ideas include designing a pint-sized drone, building a swarm of cybernetic bats, showing off your fine soldering skills to friends, making digital fireflies, or simply incorporating it into a project’s PCB by adding 0.050” male headers to the board. Intrigued? Head over to the project’s page here.

This 3D-printed, Arduino-powered robotic mower will take care of your lawn for you


Build your own Ardumower for less than $300.


Mowing the lawn; it’s a nice slice of solitude and exercise for some, and an arduous task for others, to be avoided at all costs. If you fall into that second category, then the Ardumower might be for you. According to its description,“With this download project you can build your own robotic lawn mower at a fraction of the cost that one would have to apply for a commercial one.”

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The mower itself is an interesting build, with a nicely sloped canopy and driving wheels that resemble something found inside of a clock. Housed inside is an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and a motor driver board for control. Two 12V electrical motors are used for locomotion around a yard, while another motor turns the cutting blade.

The robo-mower is kept within your yard using a boundary wire fence to tell it when it has reached the limits of its domain. As seen in the video below, it also has some obstacle avoidance capability, though it would likely be best to keep it in an area free from animals, children, and irresponsible adults!

If you want to assemble one yourself, you can do so for about $250-$300 — a fraction of the cost of its commercial counterparts. A manual, which is available for $12.16, claims to give step-by-step directions to build your own Ardumower (or maybe two for larger lawns!), as well as info on how to create the boundary fence.

The Ski Buddy is a FLORA-powered coat that teaches you to ski


A DIY wearable system that can make learning to ski fun for kids.


As anyone who has ever hit the slopes will tell you, learning to ski can be quite challenging — especially for youngsters. Tired of seeing children be screamed at by parents trying to teach them to ski, Maker “Mkarpawich2001” decided to develop a wearable system that would make the process much more enjoyable for kids.

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The Ski Buddy is an electronic jacket that helps novice skiers through the use of lights. Based on an Adafruit FLORA (ATmega32U4), the coat is equipped with an accelerometer, a AAA battery pack, and conductive thread that connects to LED sequins.

“Knowing that childhood memorizes can unintentionally affect our adult lives, I sought out to come up with a tool to help making the process of learning to ski fun for kids at young ages,” the Maker writes. “Of course, all children love light-up toys, so why not transfer that love to learning? With changeable settings, you can use this coat for a variety of lessons.”

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According to Mkarpawich2001, the Ski Buddy can be used to teach linking turns, parallel skiing, hockey stops and even gradual pizza stopping (the act of pointing your skis together and pushing your heels out to form what looks like a slice of pizza).

The lights will flash once to suggest that they are working, and then guide the user along the desired path, including direction, speed and stops. While on the slopes, instruction is provided via the LEDs, depending on the particular lesson. For instance, alternating lights can let a person know to slow down, or when turned off, can mean they’re going the right way.

You can see it in action below, and head over to its page here. Those looking for a more commercial solution should check out Carv.

 

 

SumoBoy is an Arduino-based fighting robot


Build your own lean, mean fighting machine with this robot kit. 


If you’re competitive, but not the fighting type, robot sumo may be the sport for you. Robot sumo is exactly what it sounds like – sumo wrestling for robots. Instead of you facing your opponent inside the ring, you have a robot attempting to push another out of the arena. Sound like something you’d be interested in? Luckily for you, a team of die-hard robotics enthusiasts have created a DIY kit to help jumpstart your new hobby – no technical skills required.

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Meet SumoBoythe world’s first mini sumo robotics kit that is intended for both sport and education. SumoBoy is the brainchild of RobotNest, a company started by a team of engineers and programmers who also happen to be world champions of mega and mini sumo robot tournaments in Japan, U.S. and Europe. Their goals are to popularize robot sumo worldwide while proving to the younger generation that programming and electronic engineering can be both fun and exciting.

The novelty of robot sumo is that the competing robots, called sumobots, are autonomous and not remote controlled during battle. Sumobots are successful based on the best strategy programmed prior to the competition. The SumoBoy kit comes with an assembled robot that complies with industry standards, and it includes additional components to tinker with the robot’s fighting capabilities. An instructional book will be available on the company’s website, which will address the basics of electronics, programming and other topics including artificial intelligence.

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SumoBoy boasts an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4) at its core, which can be programmed in C or C++ languages. Additionally, the kit includes a prototyping board that serves as a learning platform for the fundamentals of electronics and coding. With this board, users can play with dozens of components, combine them into numerous algorithms and learn how to program in order execute their own winning strategy.

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The kit also provides a power supply, USB cable, a set of electronic components comprised of sensors, resistors, capacitors, transistors, wires, LEDs, motors and a high-quality screwdriver, and a cardboard dummy that serves as the opponent when testing the robot in action.

Ready to take on the sport of robot sumo? Head over to SumoBoy’s Kickstarter page, where the RobotNest team is currently seeking $100,000. Delivery is slated for September 2016.

 

Check the time on an ATtiny 85 ring watch


One ring to rule them all, one ring to tell time!


Watches come in all shapes and sizes, but this DIY ring watch featuring the ATtiny85 is quite a feat of miniaturization! It’s based on two previous posts by Maker Chen Liang, explaining how the watch guts work on a breadboard and how he put a similar design together in a more traditional wrist watch. As he had to use a smaller battery than the breadboard version in his ring, he expects battery life to be around half a year.

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The ring’s ATtiny85 was programmed using a Digispark (as outlined here), and the device’s circuit was set up on three tiny boards for physical flexibility. The circuit board sections included one for the chip, another for the display, and another for three tightly-spaced buttons. These buttons were able to share one analog input pin on the tinyAVR MCU by using a clever technique involving resistors across two of the button circuits. The three buttons were wired into an analog input, giving different voltage reading depending on the button pushed. Since the ATtiny85 could differentiate between these readings, only one pin was needed for control.

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The watch band was 3D-printed, and covered with a clear thermoplastic layer. Although impressive by itself, Liang has plans to “research sync time method, GPS, Wi-Fi + Internet, BLE + mobile phone, and more.” Maybe we’ll see this project expand to a variety of rings that can be worn and linked via Bluetooth depending on what is needed in a particular situation. Do we sense a Kickstarter? In the meantime, check out the Maker’s entire build here.

 

This modified laser cutter can print complex 3D objects from powder


Rice University researchers have modified a commercial-grade CO2 laser cutter to create OpenSLS, an open source SLS platform.


Engineers at Rice University have modified a commercial-grade CO2 laser cutter to create OpenSLS an open source, selective laser sintering platform that can print complicated 3D objects from powdered plastics and biomaterials.

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As impressive as that may be, what really sets this system apart is its cost. OpenSLS can be built for under $10,000, compared to other SLS platforms typically priced in the ballpark of $400,000 and up. (That’s at least 40 times less than its commercial counterparts.) To make this a reality, this DIY device is equipped with low-cost hardware and electronics, including Arduino and RAMBo boards. The Rice team provides more detail around specs and performance in PLOS ONE.

“SLS technology is perfect for creating some of the complex shapes we use in our work, like the vascular networks of the liver and other organs,” explains Jordan Miller, an assistant professor of bioengineering and the study’s co-author. He adds that commercial SLS machines generally don’t allow users to fabricate objects with their own powdered materials, which is something that’s particularly important for researchers who want to experiment with biomaterials for regenerative medicine and other biomedical applications.

To test their concept, the team demonstrated that OpenSLS is capable of printing a series of intricate objects from both nylon powder — a commonly used material for high-resolution 3-D sintering — and from PCL, a nontoxic polymer that’s typically used to make templates for studies on engineered bone.

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It should be noted, however, that OpenSLS works differently than most traditional desktop 3D printers, which create objects by extruding melted plastic through a nozzle as they trace out two-dimensional patterns and 3D objects are then built up from successive 2D layers. On the contrary, an SLS laser shines down onto a flat bed of plastic powder. Wherever the laser touches powder, it melts or sinters the powder at the laser’s focal point to form a small volume of solid material. By tracing the laser in 2D, the printer can fabricate a single layer of the final part. After each layer is complete, a new one is laid down and the laser is reactivated to trace the next layer.

The best way to think of this process, says Miller, is to think of “finishing a creme brulee, when a chef sprinkles out a layer of powdered sugar and then heats the surface with a torch to melt powder grains together and form a solid layer. Here, we have powdered biomaterials, and our heat source is a focused laser beam.”

The professor, who happens to be an active participant in the burgeoning Maker Movement, first identified commercial CO2 laser cutters as prime candidates for a low-cost, versatile SLS machine three years ago. According to Miller, that’s because the cutter’s laser already possessed the right wavelength and perfectly suitable hardware for controlling power and its axes with precision.

Intrigued? You’ll want to see it in action below, and then head over to the team’s Wiki page and GitHub repository to delve a bit deeper.

[Images: Rice University]