Tag Archives: Instructables

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.


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.”


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.



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.


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.

Side View

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 five-axis robotic arm will lend you a helping hand

One Maker decided to build his own 5-DOF robotic arm using ServoCity parts, a Pololu Mini Maestro controller and an Arduino Uno. 

If you’re wondering when you’ll get the time to work on all of your crazy projects, you might look forward to retirement. This is great if you’re close, though possibly discouraging for younger workers. Either way, 62-year-old “CyberMerin” decided to make his own robotic arm from scratch. As he puts it, “I promised myself was that when I did retire I was going to complete all those projects I had running around inside my head … That’s about 50 years or so of projects.”


He also notes that microprocessors didn’t exist years ago, and a machine shop was needed to make mechanical parts. It’s a great time to be alive for those that love to build stuff!

This particular project, a five-axis robotic arm is quite ambitious, works well and is extremely well-documented, even including pictures of 3D CAD models. Though complicated, the Arduino wiring is relatively simple since it communicates serially with a Mini Maestro USB servo controller. This allows the Maestro to do the “heavy lifting” for each servo. (Be sure to check out his article for a huge amount of background on building something like this.)


Human interface is handled by a nice graphic slider setup running in Processing 3. As shown in the video below it responds quickly to commands. (Check out around 3:00 when it stacks a green block on the other two.)

For an entirely different take on a robotic arm, here’s one that employs only three servos, a coffee tin for a base, and a gaming controller. Even with these limitations, it still manages to be able to manipulate objects.

Let your plants thrive with this automated grow box

No green thumb? No problem! 

If you like plants, but sometimes don’t remember to take care of them, you can always take the “easy” route and build your own custom watering and lighting box from scratch. Okay, so building something this involved might not actually be easy, but once it’s set up, Maker Peter Ward should be able to successfully ignore his plants until the box runs out of water.


For control, the aptly named Automatic Grow Box uses an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) interfaced with an off-the-shelf household outlet timer. As diagrammed in his Instructables article, Ward found a suitable output bit from the timer to signal the Arduino at the appropriate times. This enables the box’s lighting to follow a set schedule, and even allows the plants (or possibly the humans) to sleep in and stay up later on the weekends. The box also has an RGB LED on the front to indicate the status of the plants and the box, including whether it’s too hot or cold, or if the tank needs more water.


According to Ward, he’s “neither am a carpenter, welder, electrician, programmer or gardener. Everything is self-taught and I can therefore understand that others have easier and better solutions.” Despite his modest comments, the build looks extremely good. On the other hand, one would need to be very cautious when dealing with water in close proximity to electronics if this inspires another build.

Don’t have a green thumb? No need to worry! The Maker has provided a step-by-step breakdown of his project here, so you can have your own Grow Box in no time!

Build an LED fire log with Arduino

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but this LED fire is so delightful!

It’s December, and if you live in the Northern Hemisphere it’s most likely starting to get cold outside. Modern HVAC systems are great for automatically keeping your dwelling properly heated, but there is still something magical about having an actual fire to keep everyone warm. What’s not magical is the effort required to start and fuel a fire, as well as the inherent risk of things getting out of control.


Maker Jason Tumblin decided to bridge this gap with his LED fire log. Though it likely provides only a miniscule amount of heat, it does at least simulate the look of a burning log using an Arduino Esplora (ATmega32U4) and an LED strip. As seen in the video below, it’s a pleasing effect and the Esplora provides convenient built-in control capability.


The really unique thing about this build is that the log that is meant to be on fire is made from an actual burned log. A rectangle is cut into the top of it where a piece of plexiglass is placed. LED strips are glued under the glass, and above it are placed cut chunks of wood. Spaces in these chunks are naturally left when these pieces are attached, allowing light to filter up through the top.


So, if the weather outside is frightful and you’re looking for a fire that is so delightful, then head over to Tumblin’s project page to get started on your own. For another unique lighting project, this time using frosted acrylic glass, check out this Berlin Clock replica!

3D printing an Arduino-controlled stepper motor

As a way to help teach others how stepper motors work, this Maker designed one of his own. 

Normal DC motors are fairly easy to use. Connect the propper voltage across the positive and negative leads, and one of these motors should spin. Stepper motors, however, are somewhat more complicated, both in how they are controlled and how they are constructed.


Maker “Proto G” decided to not just learn how to control one of these mechanisms, but actually built one from scratch. To achieve this, he 3D printed a stator (body of the motor) as well as a rotor that he could attach six permanent magnets to. These magnets were then sequnetially pulled by eight electromagnets on the outside, each made out of a nail wrapped with 25 feet of wire. You can see his hand drill wrapping process at around the 1:30 market in the video below.


Control is handled by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), along with some other electronic components, nicely enclosed in a project box. The motor is turned by energizing the electromagnets in a counterclockwise direction to spin the rotor clockwise, and clockwise to spin in the opposite direction. It is capable of 15-degree full steps, as well as 7.5-degree half steps, accomplished by energizing two pairs of coils at the same time.

As linked toward the end of that video, Proto G has made a version 1.1 version of his motor with a NeoPixel LED ring to show which coils are activated. The results are visually quite interesting, though the video also notes that he’s working on a second version!

Interested? You can check out the entire project on its Instructables page here.

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.

Chalkaat is an augmented reality-based laser cutter

Created at MIT’s Media Lab, Chalkaat is a direct manipulation laser cutter that’s aware of the strokes being drawn on the workpiece. 

Laser cutters are one of the more interesting tools you can have around your home (or professional) shop. Normally, you load what you want to cut or engrave into the unit, place the material to be cut inside of it, start the process, and some time later you hopefully everything has been cut correctly. As amazing as this technology is, the MIT Media Lab decided to take it one step further with their augmented-reality Chalkaat laser cutter system.


This laser cutter setup, using a camera and a projector, allows you to put or even draw an object to be duplicated via laser in the cutting field. The object is then scanned and a representation of it is projected where it will be cut. The camera that originally scanned the image then tracks a red and blue marker, which, allow you to move and resize the now-projected object.

Once things are ready to cut, a homebrewed Arduino (ATmega328P) moves the laser into position via stepper motors, and turns it on at the needed intensity. Although code was available that could take care of some of the control details, for this project the MIT Media Lab decided to write their own firmware for the sake of learning.


Many tend to have a bit of an aversion to making their own “DIY laser” setup, and as noted on their instructions, “Working with lasers is extremely dangerous. A 2W laser can blind you instantly even if looked indirectly. Always wear proper laser safety glasses.” This is a really cool project, but don’t try something like this unless you know what you’re doing and take the proper precautions.

Intrigued? Head over to the team’s project page here, or simply see it in action below!