Tag Archives: ATmega

Add a delay timer to your washing machine


This Maker hacked his washing machine with an Arduino to reduce costs and add convenience.


Depending on where you live, you may or not be familiar with time-based pricing for power consumption. Basically, this refers to a system where power is priced not only by how much of it you use, but at what time the consumption takes place. Simon Jowett lives in an area of Australia where “peak” power, from 2 PM to 8 PM on weekdays, is charged at 51 cents (Australian) per kilowatt hour (kWh). The “off peak” rate, from 10 PM to 7 AM, is only 11 cents per kilowatt hour. In other words, where he lives if you’re willing to use power when most people are asleep, it costs less than a quarter of what it would during the most expensive times.

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In order to take advantage of this pricing scheme without disturbing his sleep, Jowett squeezed an Arduino into his washing machine’s control panel, along with several relays to act as a delay timer. As he notes in step 2, “Mains electricity is dangerous” so you shouldn’t attempt this if you’re not “confident and or competent.” Additionally, as he puts it later when trying to find DC power to run his Arduino from the machine, “There is a risk here of really mucking things up.”

Warnings aside, his delay-enabled machine seems to work quite well, and, as seen in the video below, has a very usable display and interface. Now he can set up the machine to wash, go to bed, and his laundry will be washed when he wakes up in the morning! Intrigued? Head over to the project’s page here.

Bring your wildest wearable projects to life with Fiat Lux


The Fiat Lux controller is an Arduino-compatible board specifically designed for DIY wearable projects.


Sisters and entreprenuers Lavanya and Melissa Jawaharlal have already successfully run a pair of Kickstarter campaigns. You may recall the AVR powered Pi-Bot from last year? Hoping three’s a charm, the co-founders of Southern California startup STEM Center have now introduced Fiat Lux — a wearable electronics kit for students, teachers, Makers and hobbyists alike.

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Fiat Lux — which appropriately means “let there be light” in Latin — is based around an Arduino-compatible, compact board specifically designed for wearable projects, ranging from rudimentary circuits to more complex gadgetry. For your convenience, the ATmega32U4 driven controller comes equipped with everything a Maker could possibly need in bringing their idea to life: RGB LEDs, a photocell, a buzzer and a pushbutton.

To add a little more pizazz to any project, Fiat Lux includes a variety of LED options: basic LED shines, a smart tri-color pixellite and even a 17-pixellite ring for more advanced creations. And that’s not all. The kit also packs a light sensor, a LiPo battery and charger, conductive thread and Aida cloth. Not only bounded by the supplies provided, those wishing to broaden their creativity canvas can do so by transforming any ordinary object, like a T-shirt or safety vest, into a flashy accessory or nighttime garment. A special friendship bracelet. A light-up tie. A dangling pair of earrings. An LED-laden bike jacket. The possibilities are truly endless!

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“Wearable electronics are becoming extremely popular — smart watches, wearable fitness trackers, virtual reality glasses, and more! Now imagine creating your own wearable electronics,” the Jawaharlals explain. “Real learning happens by doing. By designing, creating, and programming their own wearable tech, students build their confidence and have a higher chance of pursuing a tech career. DIY wearables are not just for students — it’s for everyone!”

For the younger generation or the novices starting out, STEM Center USA offers two separate dialed-back kits that will help users work their way up to the more comprehensive set. The Fiat Lux will be complemented by a user manual, an assortment of suggested projects and video tutorials, so that beginners can familiarize themselves with electronics and other requisite DIY skills.

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But what’s hardware without software? Makers with a little experience will be able to code their Fiat Lux in the C language using Arduino. According to the Jawaharlal sisters, they have also developed a first-of-its-kind, easy-to-use graphical programming interface for young students that’ll automatically generate the corresponding C code right there on the computer screen, making the process as seamless as possible!

Intrigued? Head over to Fiat Lux’s Kickstarter campaign, where STEM Center USA is currently seeking $30,000. Delivery is slated for March 2016. On another note, the duo recently appeared on the ABC hit series Shark Tank, drawing interest from several of the sharks and eventually scoring a $200,000 investment from QVC’s Lori Greiner. Safe to say, the Maker Movement has gone mainstream!

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The BuzzClip is a wearable assistant for the visually impaired


The BuzzClip is a discreet wearable device that helps the blind or partially sighted navigate the world around them. 


Whereas most traditional aids like canes and seeing eye dogs are great for detecting objects below the waist-level, many who are visually impaired continue to seek a more versatile solution that offers upper body coverage. So far, it seems that little has been done to address the specific needs of the large partially-sighted population, not to mention to diminish the social stigma often associated with using these conventional means of assistance.

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With this in mind, Toronto-based startup iMerciv has developed a small, discreet wearable for those who are blind or have limited visibility. The BuzzClip can be attached to just about any form of clothing and uses ultrasonic sensors to spot objects that may lie directly in one’s path. It then notifies the user of an obstacle through intuitive vibrations, allowing them to safely navigate around anything that they may encounter along the way. The closer one gets to bumping into something, such as a wall, piece of furniture or a hanging branch, the vibrations will intensify accordingly.

“Orientation and mobility is difficult for a person living with blindness or partial sight. In urban jungles like Toronto, there happen to be many hazardous obstacles scattered all over the city that are difficult to detect. Navigating around busy streets with construction signs, barriers, promotional signboards and tree branches has always been a daily challenge for those living with vision loss,” its creators note.

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The BuzzClip boasts a battery life of up to 10 hours, and can be recharged via microUSB. It also comes with two different range options, indoor and outdoor, that are controlled by a simple switch indicated with tactile markings. Users can easily toggle between one and two meter distances, depending on whether they’re walking through the house or taking a leisurely stroll outside, respectively.

Beyond that, multiple units can be employed at the same time for enhanced coverage. For example, placing one BuzzClip on the chest another on each sleeve would protect someone’s front and sides, providing them with more information on their immediate surroundings.

In terms of hardware, the BuzzClip is equipped with a 42kHz ultrasonic sensor for detection, a vibration motor for haptic feedback and an MCU for its brain, all housed inside anodized aluminum casing with a titanium spring clip for ensured stability.

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Once again, this latest project is another fine example of how the burgeoning Maker community can literally make a difference in the world. Know of someone who could benefit greatly from this gadget? Head over to the BuzzClip’s Indiegogo campaign, where iMerciv is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is expected to get underway in March 2016.

Creating an open-source, yearlong time-lapse camera

At first, all Maker “val3tra” wanted was an RF-accessible camera, capable of snapping some photos, saving them onto a microSD card, and on occasion, relaying them to a computer via an RF link. Well, the project has now evolved into an open-source device capable of capturing a year-long time-lape videos.

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With the idea of leaving the camera “in a nice spot and coming back next year, without worrying about getting power there,” the build first began using a $20 JPEG camera from eBay that was modded for 3.3V, along with a $4 RF module, a megaAVR MCU and some batteries. The camera was 640×480 with each frame only an average of 48kb, while the additional components drew nearly 100 Joules of power per hour.

Since a D-cell has about 60,000 Joules, the Maker estimated that four of them would provide enough run time for about 200 days. As Hackadays Brian Benchoff notes, “This build was then improved, bringing the total battery consumption down to about 3.5-4 Joules per frame, or at one frame every 10 minutes, about 24 Joules an hour. That’s impressive, and getting this camera to run longer than a dozen or so months raises some interesting challenges. The self-discharge of the battery must be taken into account, and environmental concerns – especially when leaving this camera to run in a Moscow winter, seen in the video below – are significant.”

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Power was supplied from 4.8+ V and over a 3.3V LDO, so four alkaline batteries were ideal. “I thought of using a switching regulator to increase efficiency, but it just isn’t worth it on this scale — at best you can get 20% increase in run time,” val3tra adds.

Now, one frame captures three seconds of footage at 100mA and takes seven seconds at 60mA to jot the picture down. Between frames, the Maker says it stays in deep sleep, consuming 91 uA.

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Interested in learning more about this megaAVR based design? You can read the Maker’s entire log here, while also watching the time-lapse in action below.

This $11 robot can teach kids how to program

A group of Harvard University researchers — Michael Rubenstein, Bo Cimino, and Radhika Nagpal — have developed an $11 tool to educate young Makers on the fundamentals of robotics. Dubbed AERobot (short for Affordable Education Robot), the team hopes that it will one day help inspire more kids to explore STEM disciplines.

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Fueled by the recent emergence of the Maker Movement, robots are becoming increasingly popular throughout schools in an effort to spur interest in programming and artificial intelligence among students.

The idea behind this particular project was conceived following the 2014 AFRON ellenge, which encouraged researchers to design low-cost robotic systems for education in Third World countries. As Wired’s Davey Alba notes, Rubenstein’s vast experience in swarm robotics led to him modding one of his existing systems to construct the so-called AERobot. While it may not be a swarm bot, the single machine possesses a number of the same inexpensive components.

So, what is the AERobot capable of doing?

  • Moving forward and backward on flat, smooth surfaces
  • Turning in place in both directions
  • Detecting the direction of incoming light
  • Identifying distances using reflected infrared light
  • Following lines and edges

With a megaAVR 8-bit microcontroller as its brains, the team assembled most of its other electronic parts with a pick-and-place machine, and to reduce costs some more, used vibration motors for locomotion and omitted chassis. AERobot is equipped with a built-in USB plug that also enables it to be directly inserted into any computer with a USB port — unlike a number of other bots.

“Using this USB connection, it can recharge its lithium-ion battery and be reprogrammed all without any additional hardware. AERobot has holonomic 2D motion; using two low-cost vibration motors, it can move forward, backwards, and turn in place on a flat, smooth surface such as a table or whiteboard. It also has three pairs of outward-pointing infrared transmitters and phototransistors, allowing it to detect distance to obstacles using reflected infrared light, and passively detect light sources using just the phototransistors.”

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In addition, the bot features one downward-pointing infrared transmitter along with a trio of infrared receivers to detect the reflectivity of the surface below, which is useful for line following. To aid in learning programs and debugging, AERobot also boasts an RGB LED.

On the software side, AERobot uses a graphical programming environment, which makes reprogramming easy for beginners. By modifying the minibloqs programming language, Rubenstein says you don’t really need to type code, instead you just drag pictures. He went on to tell Wired, “Say I wanted an LED on the robot to turn green. I would just drag over an image of an LED, and pick the green color.”

Interested in learning more? You can scroll on over to the project’s official page or read its entire Wired feature here.

 

Play 8-bit chiptunes with the AVR powered Lo-Fi SES

Ah, chiptune music. For those young whippersnappers out there who may not recall the days of ’80s gaming and its coinciding 8-bit tunes, these iconic synthesized electronic sounds were produced by chips (hence the name) of vintage computers, video game consoles, and old-school arcade machines.

Designed by the Assorted Wires crew, Lo-Fi SES is a hackable 8-bit chiptunes device that has recently made its Kickstarter debut. Consider yourself warned, the open source instrument will spark up some NES nostalgia!

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“The Lo-Fi SES is all fun with no practice. It may look like a game controller, but it’s actually a music controller. You might’ve never learned to play piano or guitar, but I’ll bet you rocked at more than a few video games. Lo-Fi SES lets you turn those hard fought skills into musical magic,” a company rep writes.

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Based on an Atmel AVR MCU, the Lo-Fi SES replicates the shape of a good ol’ SNES controller, whose buttons are used to trigger samples, change tempo, as well as play, record and delete tracks. The controller, which is the heart of the Lo-Fi SES experience, comes equipped with a default playlist of onboard sounds including a lo-fi drum set. (Bring back attack sounds from those childhood video games!)

Built around the open-source Arduino platform, a user can also swap out those samples with actual sounds from an NES or other retro console — this includes remapping the buttons and configuring it to serve as an actual game controller. The team also notes that a user can upgrade their Lo-Fi SES experience with a three different cartridges to mod their “musical journey.”

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The devices features a slot for these cartridges: Final Sound Adventure (introduce a series of different sounds), a Smasher Bros. (adjust the bass and dirty up the sound), and a USB link to hack (connect your Lo-Fi SES to your Mac, Linux, or Windows computer).

“If you like to tinker or you’re into [Atmel based] Arduinos, this [USB link to hack] is a must-have cartridge…There are infinite possibilities once connected: swap out the sounds with some wavs you designed, tweak the timing of things to match your style, upgrade the software, or make it control your favorite sequencer.”

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If this is the hackable 8-bit instrument you’ve been waiting for, head on over to the project’s official Kickstarter page here. If the team is able to achieve its $5,000 pledge goal, assembly and shipping to early backers will begin this December.

The fantastic MegaCube hits Kickstarter

The Maker community has grown up, and respectively, requires a development platform to match. As many of you may already know, the Arduino has been the development platform of choice for many Makers throughout the world. The brains and heavy-lifting behind it is an Atmel AVR microprocessor. As a result, MEGADOM Electronics Inc. and DomCo Electronics, Inc. have teamed up and brought you just that: The grown-up Arduino, the MegaCube.

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At a first glance, the MegaCube looks a lot like a desktop PC processor; in fact, it is an ATmega2560 with all ancillary components onboard including a 5V LDO. At 1.8” x 2.1” in size, it’s the smallest Arduino-compatible development board, with an ATmega2560. Looking to get it going? All you need is a USB to serial TTL bridge such as an FTDI cable or In Circuit Serial Programmer (ICSP), such as the Atmel AVRISP mkII.

What sets the MegaCube apart from the original Arduino Mega and its clones is not only it’s minute size, but also that each of the one hundred pins of the 2560 are broken out for use. This includes the clock pins and additional general purpose I/O pins. It also works as a great stepping-stone for developers wanting to take the leap from Arduino to Atmel Studio. The MegaCube can act as either an Arduino or a full-featured Atmel development kit.

As opposed to the traditional Arduino platform which uses an asymmetrical pin lay-out, the MegaCube has a symmetrical layout. All pins are on a 0.1” grid and can be easily used with proto or vector board. This 0.1” grid also serves the dual purpose of making this dev kit socketable and thus embeddable permanently or temporarily.

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Too many times, I have whipped up a quick proof of concept, which I would have liked to have kept intact without permanently tying up my Arduino; something in which MEGADOM Electronics has thought of as well. They created a “shield” system not all that dissimilar to the Arduino platform. They have two of them out now, with more in the works — one is the eBOSS (Embedded Break-Out Shield System) and the other is the BOSS (Break-Out Shield System). The eBOSS is at the core of this concept. You can easily solder the eBOSS into your proof of concept and then just socket the MegaCube into it.  This way, when you need your MegaCube for a different project, you don’t have to destroy your current project to use it. Rather, you can simply unplug the MegaCube board from the eBOSS and plug it into another eBOSS attached to a different project. I can envision the eBOSS also being used in finished products, where the product comes with an eBOSS and is offered as a complete solution with a MegaCube or without one offered at a lower price point, with the purchaser using his or her own MegaCube.

MEGADOM’s chief engineer, Mike Dombrowski, also has a demo in the works for putting multiple programs on the MegaCube. For instance, if you are using the ATmega328-based Arduino Uno platform, you could put up to eight full Uno programs on the MegaCube. By using a unique ID chip attached to each eBOSS, the MegaCube would be able to determine which program to run, making it a snap to switch between projects. Dombrowski’s demo switches between a robotic arm and a Bluetooth Remote controlled tank without reprogramming the firmware.The robotic arm using the eBoss and the MegaCube is on MEGADOM’s Kickstarter project video. Rumor has it MEGADOM is going to be selling the robotic arm as a kit as well!

The eBOSS

The other shield system MEGADOM created is the BOSS. The BOSS was created to allow those new to Arduino to use a MegaCube as if it were an original Arduino Mega, because the BOSS is the same size and footprint as the original Arduino Mega (ATmega1280, an AVR based high-performance, low-power Atmel 8-bit AVR RISC-based microcontroller combines 128KB ISP flash memory, 8KB SRAM, 4KB EEPROM, 86 general purpose I/O lines, 32 general purpose working registers) and gives you access to only the same pins as the Mega. The creator tells me the BOSS will have an R3 footprint in final release versions. This allows the MegaCube to dock with the BOSS giving you the standard Arduino footprint and use standard Arduino shields with the MegaCube. Once again, it’s a great launching platform for engineer or Makers that want to prototype and prove in their design before embedding it into a project full-time or in a more pertinent fashion.

The eBOSS, with a MegaCube takin' a ride

The MegaCube and its shields were created to bring the Atmel ATmega 2560 [Atmel AVR based Microcontrollers] to the forefront of the budding Maker Movement. It unleashes more flexibility in a platform that is smaller and can be socketed and embedded into projects. As you can see, the MegaCube has a promising future with the Arduino Community and it’s already spawning similar designs on the Arduino Forums. To find out more about the MegaCube go to the MegaCube’s Kickstarter campaign or the MEGADOM homepage.