Tag Archives: ATmega168 MCU

The Power Suit is an Arduino-powered costume

Just in time for Halloween, a Maker by the name of Michael Teeuw has created a slick costume entitled The Power Suit. Though the ATmega168 MCU powered suit originated as just a fun idea to win a theme night competition with a couple of friends, the end result was actually quite stunning!

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“Every once in a while you are looking for a nonsense reason to build something completely useless but absolutely awesome. This year’s trip to the Belgian Ardennes is the number one reason to achieve my childhood dream,” Teeuw prefaced.

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The Maker aspired to create a suit which was equipped with built-in sound effects and voiceover, full-color LEDs, real-time audio and manually controlled lighting, independently powered wings, Bluetooth connectivity, and to round out the Tony Stark getup, a mobile app to act as his J.A.R.V.I.S.

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Based on a set of football shoulder pads and chest protector, the Iron Man-inspired suit was brought to life using an Arduino Pro Mini to serve as the brains of the system, a Bluetooth Low Energy shield to enable wireless communication, a series of Adafruit NeoPixels to add the visual effects, a spectrum analyzer to transform audio into usable data for the Arduino, and a step-down power converter to run the electronics.

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Using the shoulder pads as its base, Teeuw added a pair of ATmega168 controlled servos under each of its flaps to create wings capable of lifting themselves up.

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The Maker then attained 72 Adafruit NeoPixels. The center of the suit was fitted with a 24 pixel ring and two-8 pixel strips along the shoulders, while another two-16 pixel rings were situated around the eyes using Adafruit’s Kaleidoscope Eyes tutorial.

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In order to enhance its next-gen appearance, Teeuw used a 300 million megawatt speaker connected to a 18 watt amplifier.

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Additionally, in order to control the lighting effects, color and wings, the Maker tasked a Nintendo Wii nunchuck connected to the Arduino.

Rounding out Teeuw’s must-have function list was the suit’s coinciding iPhone app. Besides a futuristic designed interface, the iPhone app has five features:

  • Playing looping background sounds
  • Playing speech sounds with a manual or random trigger
  • Playing sound effects with a manual or random trigger
  • Playing speech sounds based on Bluetooth feedback from the suit
  • Feedback about the current actions and connectivity in a console

Oh, and for those wondering as to whether or not Teeuw won the competition, you bethcha!

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Inspired to go make a Power Suit of your own? You can find the detailed breakdown of Teeuw’s build here, and see it in action via the video below.

Designing an NES Power Glove Light Suit

Designed by Grant Goddard and Samuel Cooper Davis for Abrams/Gentile Entertainment and made by Mattel in the United States, the Power Glove was originally released in 1989. The next-gen wearable was equipped with traditional NES controller buttons on the forearm as well as a program button and buttons labeled 0-9. Unfortunately, the gaming device failed to catch on in popularity and was criticized for its imprecise and difficult-to-use controls.

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However, a Maker by the name of Greg Sowell decided to transform the obsolete NES Power Glove into a psychedelic light suit using addressable LED strips and an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega168).

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The Maker was inspired by a video from one of his favorite bands Hypercrush, which featured a member wearing a Power Glove-like device with lasers coming out of the ends. With a light suit already in his possession, Sowell thought, “Why not control the suit with the Power Glove?” And thus, the project was born.

Additional materials used in his build included:

  • 12 – 10k resistors: Pull down for buttons and voltage divider for bend sensors
  • WS2812 RGB LED strip from Adafruit or Sparkfun: Used 5-meter strips
  • 300 ohm resistor: To protect data pin
  • 1000 uF cap: Just before the light strip to protect the lights
  • 2-USB cables: To power the system
  • 5V 2A USB battery pack
  • 2 – 10mm LEDs
  • 10-foot stranded Cat 5 cable
  • Adafruit’s NeoPixel Library

Interested in learning more? You can find a full breakdown of Sowell’s build on his website here.

A DIY altimeter for RC planes

A Maker by the name of Qubist has created an Arduino-based altimeter targeted at RC planes. For the uninitiated, an altimeter or altitude meter is an instrument used to measure the altitude of an object above a fixed level.

According to Qubist, the DIY altimeter documented on Instructables is capable of measuring altitude with an accuracy of 0.3 meters, all while saving the highest and lowest values.

Key project components include:

  • Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega168 MCU)
  • 40 mAh Lithium Polymer battery
  • LCD bubble display
  • MPL3115A2 Altitude Sensor
  • 3D printed case (optional)
  • Button
  • Switch
  • JST connector

“The entire build adds up to around $30, but you may have some or most of the parts lying around already,” said Qubist.

“You can make this! It is not a very difficult project, and could be good practice for through-hole soldering and coding if you want to do modifications.”

Qubist kicks of the DIY altimeter project by soldering the bubble display, adding the button and JST connector/switch.

Next up?

“Solder the JST connector into the GND and RAW pins on the Arduino. Then, cut the lead that goes to RAW in half. This is where the switch circuit will be added so we can turn the device on and off. Glue the switch into place. Push it right up against the button so there is enough space to program the Arduino with FTDI later. I used superglue to stick it in place. We won’t be using any of the pins that it is covering up so you can glue it right onto the board,” he continued.

“Next, twist the JST connector so it is facing the rest of the board instead of the switch. This will allow the battery to plug in (there wasn’t enough space before). Only one of the leads of the connector is in the Arduino now, so it should be easy to twist. You may need to do some supergluing to get the metal pins that stick into the plastic part of the JST connector to stay in place. Solder the button into the cut lead of the JST connector as shown in the picture and you are done with the power circuit.”

After connecting the altitude sensor, Qubist prepares and installs the battery, uploads the sketch and makes a 3D case to house the completed device.

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official Instructables page here.

Reading paper ticker tapes with an Arduino



Ticker tape – in use from 1870-1970 – was the earliest digital electronic communications medium, transmitting stock price information over telegraph lines.

According to Wikipedia, it consisted of a paper strip that ran through a machine called a stock ticker, which printed abbreviated company names as alphabetic symbols followed by numeric stock transaction price and volume information.

Recently, a Maker named NeXT decided to design a custom PCB from scratch to facilitate the easy reading of paper ticker tape. As HackADay’s James Hobson notes, it is somewhat difficult to buy a working paper tape reader at a reasonable price.

“What we love about this hack is its clever reuse of perfboard — it just so happens that the spacing of his paper tape holes line up perfectly with the holes in the perfboard. Don’t you love it when engineers work together with nice, even, standard units?” Hobson writes.

“After discovering this it was just a matter of adding some photo-transistors on one side of the perfboard sandwich and LEDs on the other side. A bit of soldering, some Schmitt triggers, and an Arduino Pro Mini [Atmel ATmega168 MCU] later… and bam you have a serial output of data.”

According to NeXT, the the output can be fixed to any specific baud rate, although it is currently set at a cool 9600.

“That’s enough that I won’t overflow the serial channel, nor will it be painfully slow. It’s possible that I can change the baud rate with a jumper but I’ve yet to learn how exactly that would be programmed so we’ll leave that for another day. When I want to reprogram it the same four pin header that powers it and connects it to the host also holds an Rx pin so I can talk to it,” he says.

“In the end I decided while this makes a very nice and portable reader I decided the best home would be in my DEC LA-120 hard copy terminal. It has an option knockout on one side and you could easily build it into the overall terminal by taking the Tx line from the reader and tapping into the TxD line on the terminal’s serial port. That way so long as you were in 9600 baud mode if you wanted to read in a paper tape you threaded it through the optic block, set the computer to capture through the serial port and then pulled the tape through.”

Interested in learning more? You can check out the project’s official page here.

Power line comms with an ATmega168 MCU

The average residence or business likely has a number of devices that piggyback on mains line for communication. 

Recently, Haris Andrianakis decided to design his very own power line communication system for a thesis project at the Technological Education Institute of Piraeus in Greece.

As HackADay’s Eric Evenchick explains, the basic principle of the system is to inject a signal onto the power lines at a significantly higher frequency than the 50 or 60 Hz of the AC power itself.

“Using both active and passive filters, the signal can be separated from the AC power and decoded. This system uses frequency-shift keying to encode data,” he says. 

”This part is done by a ST7540 modem that’s designed for power line applications. The modem is controlled over SPI by an ATmega168 microcontroller.”

Comms between the ST7540 modem could have also been established using UART (asynchronous), although as we noted above, Andrianakis chose SPI to establish a synchronous connection.

“After a lot of hours of SPI debugging using logic analyzer and testing different combinations I found an unusual but working method. In order to enable the Slave’s (ATmega168) SS pin to indicate SPI’s start/stop I used another pin of the same MCU and not one of the ST7540 (while it wasn’t included),” Andrianakis wrote on the project’s official page.

“So by checking the CD_PD line (carrier frequency detect line) of the ST7540 the MCU knows when there are available data for reception in ST7540. If the MCU detect available data enables the SS pin and the SPI communication starts by receiving the available data. When the data reception ends thus the CD_PD pin has changed state to indicate that there are no more available data the MCU restores the SS pin to its initial state disabling the SPI and clearing the SPI bit counter used to synchronize the communication.”

Essentially, says Andrianakis, this method is like deceiving the SPI while the same (Slave) device enables its SS pin.

Interested in learning more? You can download the source code/ schematics here and check out the project’s official page here.