Tag Archives: ATmega2560

Watch this Arduino-controlled, autonomous robot swim underwater

This robot is fincredible!

A team from the Control Systems and Robotics Laboratory at the Technological Educational Institute of Crete has developed a bio-inspired, fin-propelled robot that can swim underwater.


Each fin is comprised of three individually actuated fin rays, which are interconnected by an elastic membrane. An Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) at its core runs custom real-time firmware that implements two Central Pattern Generator (CPG) networks to produce the undulatory motion profile for the robot’s fins, through which propulsion is achieved.


The prototype, which is fully untethered and energetically autonomous, also integrates an IMU/AHRS for navigation purposes, a Bluetooth module for wireless communication and a camera to capture underwater video. This footage includes experiments conducted in a lab’s test tank to investigate closed loop motion control strategies, as well as clips from actual sea trials. The robot is powered by a 7.4V LiPo battery.

Turn an image into a full-color edge-lit lithopane

The Lit-O-Pane! 

A lithopane is an etched or molded artwork in thin translucent porcelain that can only be seen clearly when backlit with a light source. Ryan Branch’s creation, the Lit-O-Pane, however is something much different, involving more colors, an Arduino, RGB LEDs and several panes of acrylic. It might not be immediately obvious from the video below what’s going on, but the idea behind it is really neat, and took a lot of experimentation to perfect.


To make this ‘Pane, red, green, blue, and white from a single picture were separated out using the GIMP image manipulation program to form four images. These separate images were then etched with a laser onto their respective panes. Each pane was lit up the correct color, and when one looks through the four panes together, a coherent image containing all the colors is produced. A separate white pane is needed because combining the three colored panes didn’t display white as needed.


An Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) is used in this assembly to control the NeoPixel RGB LEDs because the colors need to be adjusted slightly depending on the image. Using a microcontroller makes things really convenient adjustment-wise, since instead of having to play with resistors, a value can simply be programmed in as needed. Branch warns that you shouldn’t program this device with the LEDs hooked up, as you could end up drawing excessive power from your computer’s USB port.

Intrigued? Head over to Branch’s project page here.

Build your own e-waste 3D printer for $120

As the saying goes: One man’s trash is another Maker’s 3D printer.

Electronic waste (or e-waste for short) is an interesting side-effect of our high-tech world. Sure, your Pentium II computer was still pretty cool after it survived “Y2K,” but by 2010 or so it was probably in a landfill. Making this even more wasteful is the fact that there were probably working motors and mechanical components that could have been salvaged from it. If there were a good way to collect these components, and something they could easily be used on, that might make a dent in e-waste.


Though it might not solve the world’s pollution problems, this 3D printer, made in part with e-waste, at least lets people reuse some of the good parts from old computers. Per this project’s excellent writeup: “By upcycling e-waste such as old DVD drives and PC power supplies, the Curiosity not only costs less than $150, but also educates children and adults about e-waste, environmental issues, recycling and upcycling while learning everything about 3D printing!”


The kit that they have available includes a laser-cut frame and an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) with a RAMPS shield for print control. You, as the end-user, need to supply two DVD drives and a floppy drive, as well as a power supply and tools. I could definitely see this printer being quite a bit of work to build, since you have to “harvest” parts, but coming in at just under $150, their build kit is attractively-priced and should teach you quite a bit about how a 3D printer works.

Syncing sensor data with video to create an onscreen display

Build a ‘black box’ data logger for adding onscreen display gauges to your highlight videos. 

If you enjoy motorsports, mountain biking or “extreme tricycling” (aka riding a drift trike), you may take videos of your rides. This kind of presentation can be interesting by itself, but how much cooler would it be if you could display stats like speed, altitude, or even the temperature outside?


Well now you can, using an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) equipped with several sensors, including a GPS and accelerometer. Instructions for making your own can be found on Fluxaxiom’s Instructables post on this ‘black box.’ The parts list is fairly involved, and although it doesn’t look like a ridiculously-hard build, you’ll definitely spend some time soldering components.

Once everything is soldered together, it’s attached to an anti-vibration mount reminiscent of something that would be used on a quadcopter. The assembly is then inserted into what is physically a clear box. Since it’s important (or at least less confusing later) for the box to be kept in a known orientation, the box is labeled with X, Y and Z direction labels.


After the data is obtained, it can be combined with your video using software called “Race Render 3.” There are other possible solutions to put this kind of data onscreen, but Fluxaxiom has gotten good results with it — as seen in the drift trike video below.

LineFORM is a futuristic shape-changing interface

This shape-changing soft robot can be a phone, a wristwatch, a keyboard, a lamp and more.

When it comes to today’s mobile devices, the touchscreen has increasingly become one of the most common ways that we interact with our gadgetry. From our smartphones to our in-car infotainment systems to our computers, seemingly everything has a touch display. However, one team from MIT’s Tangible Media Group wants to change that.


The researchers have developed a shape-shifting, snake-like soft robot built from actuated curve interfaces that can transform into pretty much anything — from a phone, to a wristwatch, to a lamp, to a cable, to an exoskeleton. The project, called LineFORM, is comprised of several small servo motors controlled by an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), which are covered by a black spandex skin embedded with pressure sensors. The linear set of motors can move either together with the others or independently to create all sorts of shapes for various applications in a matter of seconds. Meanwhile, the system is connected to a MacBook running custom programs written in Processing.


The hope is that LineFORM will open up new ways to engage with technology. According to the team, “We envisage LineFORM-style devices coupled with flexible displays as next generation mobile devices, which can display complex information, provide affordances on demand for different tasks, and constrain user interaction.”

For example, LineFORM can be worn around your wrist and give you a tap when an appointment is approaching, and then curl up into a touch-sensitive keypad. It can wiggle and vibrate whenever you receive a text message. It can twist into an assortment of shapes and be employed as a “dynamic ruler” for drafting and drawing. It can wrap around your limps like bandages and act like a robotic exoskeleton, while also recording motion and replaying it back on your body. What’s more, a light module enables it to magically turn into tabletop lamp for reading.


Although still a proof-of-concept, LineFORM boasts endless possibilities, and who knows, may one day be the single replacement for the dozens of electronics we use everyday for countless things. Intrigued? Check out the project’s paper here, or just watch it in action below!

Phiro is a LEGO-compatible robot for kids

Phiro is a LEGO-compatible robotics toy that kids can play, code and innovate in various ways. 

Research shows that one of the most effective ways for kids to learn problem-solving is through robotics and coding. This is an area that sisters Deepti Suchindran and Aditi Prasad — who are the founders of Boston-based startup Robotix — hope Phiro can play an integral role. The LEGO-compatible kit will enable the future generation to program and solve challenges in a more engaging and interactive manner, whether that includes making a movie or cleaning their room.


Robotix has acquired many years of experience teaching coding and robotics to several K-12 schools. Along the way, they have discovered that such gadgets are usually expensive, use proprietary programming languages and are not so fun for its young user base. Instead, the team is looking to change that with an affordable robotics toy that will assist kids in learning to code and develop computational thinking skills. Young Makers will be able to enhance their coding skills in five different ways, either without a computer or with open source programming languages.

With Phiro, children can play music, create games, flash lights, detect faces and much more. The combination of programming and playing with such a toy will empower the next generation to pursue STEM-related disciplines and to become the innovators of tomorrow.


And so, Robotix has launched a pair of ATmega2560 powered robots for two different age groups: Phiro Unplugged and Phiro Pro. Both units come fully assembled and are ready for use right out of the box. First, Phiro Unplugged is designed for those between the ages of four and eight, and is an excellent instructional tool for sequential programming and binary coding. The best part is that it can all be achieved without a computer. Meanwhile, Phiro Pro has shares many of the same qualities as the Unplugged and then some.

Geared towards Makers between nine to 18, users can program their bot with a computer, tablet or smartphone, which connects wirelessly over Bluetooth to an assortment of programming languages: Scratch 2.0 (MIT), Snap4Arduino (UC Berkeley/Citilab) and Pocket Code mobile apps (Graz University of Technology). Learners can link to an online community that will encourage collaboration, sharing, and of course, more education.

Perhaps one of its greatest selling points is its LEGO compatibility. For instance, Phiro lets you transform your robot into a bull dozer or snow plow with LEGO attachments, and command it to navigate your room and clean your things!


“Be endlessly creative and transform Phiro into an animal, alien, car, join your tea party, or anything you imagine with Phiro’s LEGO-compatible connector. Kids can personalize their own Phiro robots,” the Robotix crew writes. “Want speed? Create code for a remote control in Scratch 2.0, Snap4Arduino, Pocket Code mobile app’s and gear up Phiro with LEGO parts and watch your race car go!”

Want an awesome bot of your own? Head over to Phiro’s Kickstarter campaign, where Robotix is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is slated for May 2016.

Pointr is an open data smart street sign

Press a button and this AVR powered street sign will point you in the right direction.

During a recent hackathon, one team from South African hackerspace BinarySpace was tasked with building something that could make use of openly available government data in a creative way. For this endeavor, the group took inspiration from BREAKFAST NY’s XMEGA powered Points Sign — an intelligent street sign that parses real-time data to point you in the direction of the most interesting things happening around you.


With this in mind, BinarySpace developed a similar sign dubbed Pointr. Intended for public use, this DIY installation is capable of guiding people towards one of four different government facilities — home affairs, libraries, child services and courthouses — as well as four types of emergency features: police, hospital, fire department and a panic button for immediate assistance.

The body of Pointr is comprised of PVC pipe, a steel pipe and several 3D-printed parts. Housed inside is the belt/pulley mechanism that allows the arms of the sign to swivel. An offset motor gives the project its ability to rotate 360 degrees, albeit not continuously.


“This means that if the sign is pointing at 340 degrees and needed to go to 10 degrees, it would basically move counter clockwise to 10 degrees instead of just moving forward over 360 to 10 degrees. For our purpose this wasn’t an issue at all,” the Makers explain.

At the heart of the system lies an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) along with a RAMPS 1.4 shield driving the stepper motors. Pointr’s software is handled by the Arduino, which processes the location data directly and then sends the message to its corresponding LED screen.


For the control panel, the team mounted eight buttons onto 3D-printed panels along with 3D-printed icons indicating each use. Moreover, all three arms boast an LED screen to reveal the intended target once a button is pushed. The idea is that, if a user presses the panic button, the police will be immediately notified that someone requires help nearby the sign. Press any of the others and it will point the three signs to wherever you intend on going.

Intrigued? You can see the prototype in action below!

The Prankophone is a synth for making prank calls

Prankophone is a synthesiser and telephone system hybrid that plays melodies to call recipients generated by their phone numbers.

Russian artist Dmitry Morozov, who we better know as ::vtol::, never ceases to amaze us with his innovative, out-of-the-box projects. Most recently, the Maker has spliced a synthesizer with a telephone and a logic module to create what may be the world’s most annoying machine. (But in the best way possible, of course.)


Who could forget as a kid (or an adult) making prank phone calls using soundboards from sites like eBaum’s World? Well, ::vtol:: has just taken those antics to a whole new level. The aptly named Prankophone is an apparatus which not only calls an unsuspecting person, but plays them an algorithmic melody based on their phone number. The speakers on the device transmit both the synthesized tunes along with the sound from the individual at the other end, but the recipient can only hear noise from the synth.

“Nowadays it’s averting to hear in the phone receiver any sound other than human voice – music means that we have to wait for the answer of the operator, strange electronic noises imply some mistake in decoding,” ::vtol:: explains. “Thus, the sound from Prankophone would be perceived as some kind of mistake, though in reality it is an individual and anonymous sound message, a micro-noise piece which is unique for each number it managed to reach.”


The artist says that was inspired by two historic pieces of technologies crucial to electronic music: the telephone and telegraph. The Prankophone can be set to one of four different modes to call any random number or intended recipients. In manual mode, a user must dial the number of a selected individual the old-fashioned way. Whereas in autonomous mode, the machine will generate the numbers and proceed to dial and emit the sounds all by itself. As its name would suggest, keyboard mode transforms the dialing of a number into a one-octave keyboard with each of the 10 digits correlating to a different musical key. Live mode, however, is a bit different. The number is defined by any of the previous methods, but the sounds aren’t reproduced automatically but from the keyboard, thereby enabling the user to “communicate” through sound with the person who answered on the other line.

“The system of automatic generation of numbers may be calibrated depending on the region, or there is also the international mode which takes into account the phone codes, length of numbers and other parameters,” ::vtol:: adds.


The Prankophone consists of an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and a Raspberry Pi at its core, along with a Nokia phone, a two-channel sound system, a GE telephone for its buttons and a one-octave keyboard. In terms of software, the apparatus runs various Python scripts and uses the Pure Data visual programming language. Intrigued? See and hear the gadget in action below, before heading over to the artist’s official page here.

FarmBot is the world’s first open source CNC farming machine

FarmBot is an open source CNC farming machine and software package designed for small-scale precision food production.

A finalist in this year’s Hackaday Prize, FarmBot is a perfect example of how the DIY Movement can make a long and ever-lasting impact on our world. The brainchild of Rory Aronson, the project is an open source CNC farming machine that hopes to make an open food future more accessible to everyone.


Essentially, FarmBot is like a giant 3D printer that, but instead of extruding plastic, uses seeds and water to grow crops. Similar to 3D printers and CNC mills, FarmBot hardware employs linear guides in the X, Y, and Z directions, which allows for tooling such as seed injectors, watering nozzles, sensors, and weed removal equipment to be precisely positioned.

Not unlike many RepRap printers available today, FarmBot is controlled by the Arduino Mega (ATmega2560)/RAMPS stack, along with an Internet-connected Raspberry Pi 2, NEMA 17 motors and rotary encoders. The open source device can cultivate a variety of crops all in same area at the same time, and can impressively care for each one in an optimized, automated manner.

According to Aronson, the outdoor XYZ unit can be constructed to fit each owner’s individual needs. It can scale from a garden as small as one square meter to as large as a farm that’s 20 square meters. In terms of cost, the Maker estimates a FarmBot to run anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, depending on the size of the installation. And since it’s comprised of corrosion-resistant aluminum, stainlees steel and 3D-printed plastic components, it’ll withstand Mother Nature for years.


Using the web-based app, a user can graphically design their farm or garden to their desired specifications and then synchronize the numerical control code with its embedded hardware. With its sequence builder and scheduler, FarmBot combines the most basic operations in custom sequences for seeding and watering, and even enables you to build complete regimens for the plant throughout its lifetime.

What’s more, a drag-and-drop interface lets users graphically design the plant layout in a game-like environment similar to FarmVille. Aside from that, additional features of its software include storing and manipulating data maps, accessing an open plant data repository, and real-time control and logging. Moreover, an integrated decision support system can automatically adjust water, fertilizer and pesticide regimens, as well as handle seed spacing and timing based on soil and weather conditions, sensor data, location and the time of year.


Looking ahead, the team is experimenting with sensors, drills and a camera tool, and more importantly, hopes to expand its community of hackers and DIY food enthusiasts interested in developing the platform. FarmBot will come in two different kits, Genesis and Genesis XL, 1.5 meters by 3 meters and 3 meters by 6 meters, respectively. The latter will be capable of growing four times the amount of food as its smaller sibling. Both models can be used outdoors, inside a greenhouse or even on a rooftop.

Intrigued? Head over to the project’s page on Hackaday here, or watch its overview video below!

Maker builds a full-scale cockpit simulator in his bedroom

Told he could not fly, this San Diego Maker decided to create a Cessna 172 simulator for use with Oculus Rift. 

What do you do if you’re a 17-year-old Maker whose aspirations of flying an airplane have been grounded by the FAA due to a pre-existing medical condition? You build your own cockpit similar, that’s what!


Having been interested in aviation for quite some time and still determined to one day earn his Class 3 pilot’s license, Aidan Fay decided to design a full-scale Cessna 172 simulator right in the comfort of his own bedroom. And unlike other computer programs and video games available today, the San Diego-based Maker wanted a system that would take his training to whole new heights. His life-size cockpit includes everything from pedals that control actual airplane rudders and brakes, to a steering yoke, to an Oculus Rift running Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D software for a truly immersive experience.


Beyond that, he employed an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560), several switches, potentiometers, a few disassembled joysticks, as well as MDF and acrylic for the construction of the actual panel. The innovative teen also used some gears and motors to create a haptic feedback mechanism that can tighten and loosen the steering depending on the simulated flying conditions. In total, the project required more than 200 hours of sweat equity — and it was well worth it! Fay continues his training and looks forward to the day that his dreams are no longer bounded by a medical condition.


“I love aviation, especially World War II aircraft, and I love to build things. This project was my way of combining two of the three things I love most,” Fay explains.

Intrigued? Fly over to the Maker’s project page, and be sure to read MAKE: Magazine’s recent writeup on the simulator here.