Tag Archives: Arduino MEGA

This ‘useless IoT device’ prints out Reddit’s Shower Thoughts


With the press of a button, Thinking Man produces a random amusing thought from Reddit’s popular subreddit Shower Thoughts. 


If you’ve never seen it, the subreddit /r/Showerthoughts is full of brilliant, concise and often hilarious insights that come to mind while, you guessed it, showering. Amidst all of that lathering and rinsing, our brains wander. The question is, what do you think about during your most vulnerable moments?

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Cognizant of this, the crew at MAKE: Magazine have developed a “totally useless and ridiculous desk toy” that prints out snippets from Reddit’s infamous feed. With one press of a button, the aptly named Thinking Man generates a random amusing thought from its onboard thermal printer, which is downloaded from the social network via Wi-Fi. The result is an objet d’art (or “work of art”) that can surprise you with its cleverness.

Aside from its thermal printer, this Internet of Useless Things project combines an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), an ESP8266 module and a plastic mannequin head. (You can see how to program the ‘duino, wire the boards, work with code and power up the device referring to its in-depth writeup here.)

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“Because the entire response from Reddit is too large for the Arduino to store in memory, the microcontroller has to pick out the relevant data as it is received. The included source code does just that, and can be adapted to read data from anywhere on the Internet or your home network,” MAKE: explains.

With a little tweaking, you can configure your own Thinking Man to produce jokes, or even more useful tidbits such as to-do lists, headlines, weather reports and class schedules. The possibilities are endless. Intrigued? Then head over to MAKE:’s entire write up here, or watch the team’s weekend project video below!

Mirrored pyramid creates mirages in the desert


Changes in the temperature and light cause this tower’s nine tiers to morph.


As reported on WIRED, “For a few days in October, a ziggurat of mirrored boxes stood in Dasht-e Kavir, a desert in central Iran. The sculpture contained sensors, gears, and an Arduino processor that sensed changes in the temperature and the light, which caused the tower’s nine tiers to spin independently.” The resulting views of the desert, seen simultaneously from each mirrored surface, are beautiful and ominous at the same time.

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This ziggurat was constructed by Italian designer Gugo Torelli and Iranian artist Shirin Abedinirad. As shown on the project’s Flickr page, they used an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), along with five motor shields to control a total of nine stepper motors. The frame and gears were constructed out of wood, before the exterior was covered in a reflective surface.

If you want to see this tower yourself, there are plans to take this tower to New York City, which would make it accessible for many more people. According to Abedinirad’s site, “When installed in a city location it reacts with different animation patterns to the audience interaction, when placed in a natural environment its movement are changing depending on the weather conditions.” It would seem that city observers may see a different behavior out of the tower, but hopefully it will still be incredible!

[Image: Gugo Torelli and Shirin Abedinirad]

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!

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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.

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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!

Build a 3D scanner with infinite resolution for just $50


All you need is a DSLR camera, an Arduino, a stepper motor driver, a stepper motor, an IR LED and a LCD shield.


Looking for desktop 3D scanner with inifitinite resolution? Well, the good news is that you can get your hands on one for just $50. The bad news is that, you will need a DSLR camera. That’s because Maker Whitney Potter was able to create his own using a Nikon and an Arduino-driven stepper motor.

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“Desktop 3D scanning has made great leaps in recent years but it still has great limitations,” Potter explains. “Scanner hardware is built around a specific scan volume and resolution. You can get decent results, but only if your object fits that sweet spot. If you’re object is too small, or too detailed or your scanner is just having a bad day, your scan will look like a potato. Luckily there is another approach.”

The method he is referring to is photogrammetry, which constructs 3D images from a set of partially overlapping 2D images. The limiting factor with this approach is the quality and spacing of the photographs. Each picture must be well exposed and perfectly focused. Plus, there must be sufficient overlap between the photos so the rendering software knows where each shot belongs. Although this can be done with some practice on larger objects, it is virtually impossible with smaller subjects. This is where the Arduino-powered stepper motors come in handy.

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As aforementioned, Potter’s DIY 3D scanner employs a stepper motor controlled by an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) to turn the scanned item by a fixed amount. An infrared LED then triggers the camera’s wireless sensor, setting off the shutter. This process is repeated until photos have been collected from all angles, allowing one’s photogrammetry software to reproduce an accurate and high-res 3D image of the subject.

Meanwhile, an LCD display shield with a set of buttons enables a user to command the Arduino. With these buttons, the user can select the number of pictures to be taken per revolution. The scanner can run in two different modes. In automatic, it takes a picture, advances the stepper and repeats until it has completed a whole revolution. Whereas in manual, each push of the button captures a picture, advances the stepper and waits. According to Potter, the latter is particularly useful for scans where each photo needs to be framed and focused manually.

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Although Potter’s Arduino sketch has been configured for a Nikon DSLR, it can be set up to work with pretty much any other brand of camera. The Maker utilized Sebastian Setz’s Multi Camera IR Control library, which allows it to work with any model that uses an IR remote.

In terms of photogrammetry software, Potter recommends Agisoft Photoscan and Autodesk Memento, as well as Autodesk 123D Catch for those on a budget. Intrigued? Head over to the Maker’s Instructables page where you can find a step-by-step breakdown of his project.

Explore the world of robotics with this 3D-printed, Arduino-driven hand


Hobby Hand is a 3D-printed robotic hand that mimics natural movement and can be easily controlled by anyone.


The brainchild of Iowa City-based Biomechanical Robotics Group, the Hobby Hand is a 3D-printed robotic hand capable of mimicking the natural movements of its human overlord.

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The modular platform is ideal for hobbyists, tinkerers, Makers and robotics enthusiasts, as well as educators looking to introduce students to programming, analog sensors and hardware. In terms of its design, the Hobby Hand consists of five servo motors for lateral movement and five additional servos responsible for bending. A top piece mounts the hand onto the servo motor frame, which guides the flexion cables to the servos.

An Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and servo shield are tucked away inside the base, which acts as the control center for the Hobby Hand. This is also where you’ll find all of the motors, sensors and additional peripherals attached to the board. The electronics are driven by a 5V 4A power supply.

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Each finger has a total of four bands that saddle the center line to maximize the stability of each digit. These elastics are tasked with bringing the finger back to its original position after closing. Additionally, the team has devised an analog board of potentiometers that handle flexion and side-to-side movement.

What’s more, the Hobby Hand even comes with a mini breadboard, which is connected to the servo motor frame. This enables Makers to add extra analog sensors (light, sound, muscle and others), LEDs and speakers to their project.

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The hand itself ships in one of two forms: either as a fully-assembled, out-of-the-box product or as a DIY kit with a step-by-step instruction manual. The Biomechanical Robotics Group crew advises that the latter option requires some basic soldering know-how and a few common tools. Intrigued? Head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where the team is currently seeking $30,000. Delivery is slated for June 2016.

Turning foggy air into a reliable water source


FogFinder is a system that generates a new renewable water source for communities, and relies on Arduino and XBee to get the job done. 


Alright, so it may not be possible to create water out of thin air. However, with a bit of engineering, scientists in Chile are turning foggy air into a reliable water source for nearby residents. The process is almost entirely natural: the sun desalinates the water, the winds push the water to a higher elevation, and gravity allows the collected water to flow back down to the village.

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Using large fog collectors, which consist of mesh mounted on a rigid structure, to capture impacting fog water droplets from the air and tapping into the natural processes mentioned above, fog collection could be an economical way to gather and distribute clean water.

The fog collectors are typically installed on hillsides and remote areas where fog is abundant. These installations are especially common in arid climates in Chile where rain runs scarce. As fog passes through, the droplets impact the mesh fibers and collect in a trough below. One of the real challenges and opportunities for innovation lies in determining where to install these collectors, how to orient them, and understanding how efficient they are at collecting water from the air.

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While at the Universidad de los Andes in Santiago Chile, Richard LeBoeuf, Associate Professor at Tarleton State University, and Juan de Dios Rivera, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, developed a new type of sensor called the “Liquid Water Flux Probe” to measure the availability of water at current and potential fog collector sites. The sensor measures the liquid water content and speed of the fog and can be used to understand the optimal location and orientation for each of the collectors.

The sensor is part of a larger system called FogFinder, which Richard LeBoeuf developed in collaboration with Juan Pablo Vargas and Jorge Gómez at the Universidad de los Andes. Together they designed and engineered the solution, which includes wireless networking.

With the primary challenge of measuring fog liquid water flux out of the way, the team needed to design a device capable of being deployed in extremely remote environments and easily retrieve sensor data. Since there is no power source to plug into out in the desert, the options are either solar or wind power. Due to their simplicity, a separate solar power system, comprised of a solar panel, battery, and charge controller, is used in conjunction with the FogFinder unit.

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To facilitate the collection and transmission of sensor data, the team chose to build the foundation of FogFinder with Arduino and XBee. Both components offered a fast and easy way to get started prototyping the design. Each sensor node is comprised of an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and XBee module, and the team even designed and built custom boards to regulate voltage, interface the sensors and store data on a microSD card.

The node gathers data on liquid water flux, humidity, temperature, flow-rate from fog collectors, pressure, wind speed, as well as wind direction.

The team settled on using XBee for local wireless communication since it provided greater range and required less power than Bluetooth. The ZigBee protocol also offers the flexibility to create a mesh network and configuration settings to conserve power-saving valuable battery life. With external antennas and mountain top to mountain top placement of each radio, they have achieved a reliable 1 km link.

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Once the data is collected, it’s sent to a remote server over a cellular network. Using a BeagleBone SBC and a cellular modem, data is taken from the local XBee ZigBee network and can be accessed on a remote computer. This information is then analyzed to assess the performance of the fog collector.

What’s next for FogFinder? As the team wraps up the prototyping stage, they’ll be conducting calibration in a wind tunnel to prepare for field tests.  Once the testing phase is complete, the team will work to deploy them as part of a pilot program and start connecting more Chilean residents to a clean source of water.

Those wishing to learn more about the project can follow along here.

This may be the techiest Christmas sweater ever


Be the talk of your next holiday party with this epic sweater.


Got an old, ugly sweater hanging in your closet? Or just an old one in general? Well, now you can breathe new life into the out-of-date garment with the help of a few MCUs and LEDs.

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That’s exactly what UK-based Makerspace fizzPOP along with electronics retailer Maplin has done. The wearable — which they’re calling the “techiest Christmas jumper ever” — is equipped with an Adafruit FLORA (ATmega32U4), an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), four 8×8 LED matrices, as well a bunch of NeoPixels and NeoPixel Minis. It also features a portable 10,000mAh power bank and a pair of electret microphone amplifiers so it can react to those Yuletide jingles.

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As you can see in the video below, the RGB matrices allow for some pretty cool graphics to come across the front of the sweater, including a tree, snow, a bird and even some text for the ultimate holiday greeting. And who’s to say that it has to stop at Christmas? With a bit of programming, you can transform your boring pullover or turtleneck into an epic New Year or Hanukah outfit.

Want one of your own? You’re in luck because fizzPOP has put together a nice little tutorial video. If you loved this, then you may want to check out Adafruit’s recent NeoPixel Matrix Snowflake Sweatertoo.