Tag Archives: Make (magazine)

This Arduino-powered metronome will ‘spark’ some interest

They say “time is money” and this installation will remind you of that.

A metronome refers to any device that produces regular, metrical ticks which are settable in beats per minute. In recent months, we’ve seen our fair share of such machines created by Makers, including the recent art project entitled TEMPO, TEMPO. Designed by Sanela Jahic, the piece is described as a kinetic object which forms a narrative about accelerating the production process and enhancing work performance in order to increase competitiveness and improve profits. What’s more, the project reproduces sound modulation using a spark.


As MAKE: Magazine’s Jeremy Cook notes, the metronome is wound up like a mechanical alarm clock and uses a flyback transformer to produce the spark between the end of the metronome’s hand and a nail on either side of the device’s travel. This spark is modulated by a 555 MOSFET driver — controlled by an Atmel based Arduino — in order to play audio samples, which are synced with a video of a 1930s play that shares the exhibit’s name.

“TEMPO TEMPO conveys in layers a complex narrative about the inter-relationship of technology, labor, subjectivity and the criticism of capitalist production relations,” Jahic says.


The video contains archival footage of research by Frank Bunker Gilbreth (1868–1924), a pioneer of time and motion study. In his research, Gilbreth developed methods for searching for the most efficient way of carrying out a specific task in order to increase the efficiency of workers. Jahic explains that the archival footage is complemented with modern footage from a factory making metal products.

“The title of the work is taken from the agit-prop play with the same title performed in 1930 by a theatre group of German immigrant workers called Prolet-Buehne in New York. The characters of the play include a capitalist, a policeman and seven or ten workers. The text of TEMPO TEMPO also serves as an element linking the video in which an immigrant worker in Slovenia is reading one part of the text which the kinetic object/metronome reproduces through the sound modulation of a spark.”


“Sparks are used as a reference to Gilbreth’s research into the optimal relationship of the worker’s effort to the volume of work that the effort accomplishes. Mounting a source of light on a worker’s hand, Gilbreth, who then employed time-lapse photography, recorded the trail of light created by the movement of the worker’s hand,” Jahic adds.

Impressively, the Maker was able to converge both research and art using historical and contemporary materials along with acoustic and visual elements. Intrigued? You can learn all about the kinetic art project on its official page here. Meanwhile, you can check it out in action below.

Controlling a robotic arm with your brain

Mind = Blown.

When it comes to brain-controlled interfaces, advancements in the space have come a long way since its earliest days of research at UCLA in the 1970s. Under a grant from the National Science Foundation and followed by a contract from DARPA, the papers published following the study marked the first appearance of the expression BCI in scientific literature. Now fast forward nearly 40 years and Makers are inspiring a wide-range of possibilities, from EEG beanies that can read and change colors based on a wearer’s mood to amputees instructing a prosthesis to gain movement in their arms.

(Source: MAKE)

(Source: MAKE)

Writing for MAKE: Magazine, Nathan Hurst highlights a recent project from Cognitive Technology for their recent Make it Move interactive display in San Francisco. The device was simply plugged into a computer and screen, and into a two-jointed robotic arm.

To bring the exhibit to life, the team adapted an EEG board from OpenBCI. The ATmega328 based platform measures brain activity in both hemispheres, and records that data on eight channels. However, for it to work, it requires electrodes to be pasted onto the skull — something which wouldn’t work for a public exhibit. Subsequently, the Makers decided to use a soft neoprene cap with dry electrodes that was capable of sitting on the head with a velcro strap under the chin. It would then read and output brainwaves to the OpenBCI board.


“I think if this technology advances more, it will help a lot of disabled people who can’t move their arms,” Jisoo Kim tells MAKE. “Since everything is open-source, people can build it themselves, so I think it will advance a lot more.”

Maker Tomas Vega, who is a University of California student and Cog Tech member, shares that an EEG device can read that in the form of electrical signals on the scalp. Those signals are then processed, filtered and analyzed into more digestible form of feedback. Software interprets the information from the EEG and assists in processing the signals to create useful output. However, these signals can come in rather noisy, and as a result, the program must employ some machine learning to sort it out.

(Source: MAKE)

(Source: MAKE)

As MAKE points out, EEG interpretation faces a bit of skepticism from the academic community, and in the current exhibit’s setting, the team was faced with an additional barrier of teaching visitors to actually control the interface. While brain-controlled interfaces have been used primarily for science, the Cog Tech crew hopes that new tools will help spur further research and more importantly, address more practical problems including assisting those who are paralyzed.

For the exhibit, Cog Tech is harnessing the powers of BCI to command a robotic arm that Jon Ferran devised using an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) along with some parts from an old bartending arm. At the moment, motion is limited to waving left and right.

Kim explains to MAKE that after just a few hours of training, she could already feel herself getting better with controlling the arm — something that the team hopes others will one day have the chance to experience. “It was pretty difficult. The most difficult part was to think the way that can control the arm; imagining moving my left or right arm is different from moving it.”

(Source: MAKE)

(Source: MAKE)

While BCI boasts several possible applications in basic computer control, such as replacing mice and keyboards, some have a more personal goal as well. “I want to be a cyborg. That’s my long-term goal,” Vega concludes. “I’m going to work all my life to make this a reality. There’s nothing that makes my heart beat faster than this dream of being enhanced by technology. This dream of being augmented, and augmenting my capabilities as a human, and trying to push the boundary.”

Interested in learning more? You can read the entire feature in MAKE: Magazine here. 

Maker builds a 3D-printed bionic arm for under $250

Talk to the (robotic) hand!

While we’ve seen a number of 3D-printed prosthetics, and more recently a couple of Arduino-based bionic hands, one project by Nicolas Huchet has combined the two in a rather impressive manner. It all started nearly 10 years ago when Huchet’s forearm was amputated following an accident while working as a mechanical engineer. At the time, he was given a myoelectric prosthesis whose functionality was very limited. Faced with a challenge and a hunger for more mobility, Huchet decided to develop his own bionic prosthetic, The Bionico Project. His initiative aspired to increase the accessibility of prosthetic devices through the burgeoning Maker Movement, while assisting amputees to regain independence in their daily lives.


After coming across the 3D-printed, Arduino-based robot InMoov, Huchet and a team of enthusiasts from LabFab integrated a set of muscle sensors into a prosthetic prototype, which was then placed onto his arm. The artificial limb itself was extruded from a 3D printer, while equipped with actuators to move the fingers and joints, fishing line to connect the actuators to the joints, muscle sensors and a socket, batteries and of course, an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) brain.

With a little coding of the Arduino, Huchet was easily able to control the robotic hand merely through muscle impulses. The electricity produced is sent to an electronic card, which drives the motors. These motors open and close the hand, following the muscular contraction. More impressively, the entire thing was built for less than $250 — much cheaper than any commercial product on the market which can run upwards of $80,000.


“Force does not come from muscles but from mutual assistance. Unity makes us stronger. I appreciate this because I am not shaped like Sylvester Stallone,” Huchet wrote in a recent MAKE: Magazine feature. “In October 2012, while walking through Rennes, France, where I live, I passed an exhibition where strange machines, like something from science fiction, were depositing layers of material onto platforms. They were 3D printers.”

It was this sight that truly resonated with the Maker and inspired him to pursue the project. “It’s possible to design an inexpensive bionic hand that you can make yourself, then share your work so other people can improve it and share it further. I had discovered a world where we share knowledge much differently from this crazy world we are used to. I was looking at things differently; it was my revolution, my change.”


Much like the DIY movement, the Bionico Project is a true melting pot of Makers, bringing together people from all across the globe. Huchet notes that the 3D-printed digits originate from France, the muscle sensors from America, and design input from Brazil.

“I went to Italy at the Bio Robotic Institute and Maker Faire, USA, to Johns Hopkins University and to the Geek Picnic in Russia. I want to participate in worldwide research on bionic hands and share with people the many possibilities to make such products with a 3D printer, an Arduino board, cheap motors, muscle sensors and fishing lines,” Huchet revealed in a recent interview.

Currently, Bionico isn’t robust enough to be a fully-functional prosthesis; rather, still in its prototype stage, Huchet hopes to take it to the next level either through crowdfunding and/or sponsorship support.


“Above all, we want to create an international network and database devoted to improving low-cost prosthetics. This is an open-source project, which means you can participate or make it yourself. The prosthetic-hand field is very small, but if we build a bridge between countries and people, we can make it better and stronger, and go further, faster. As the American philosopher Sylvester Stallone said, ‘Big arms can move rocks, but big words can move mountains.’”

Want to learn more? You can read the entire MAKE: writeup here, while also visiting the Maker’s official webpage here.

Build your own Pebble Smartwatch

Why buy the latest smartwatch when you can make one yourself with off-the-shelf components and breakout boards? 

Despite the ongoing craze for wearable technology, most notably smartwatches, a number of young Makers are finding that can sometimes be a bit out of their price range. Rather than having to tirelessly scalvage funds and spend their savings, tinkerers like Jonathan Cook are electing to create their own devices. The aptly named Open-Source SmartWatch combines readily available breakout boards, careful soldering and a 3D-printed frame to make a one-of-a-kind timepiece that displays notifications from your smartphone, not to mention is easily customizable in function and pleasing to the eye. Aside from already being crowned winner of last year’s Arduino Challenge and having garnered “Maker of Merit” ribbons at Maker Faires, Cook recently featured his DIY accessory on MAKE: Magazine.


As the Maker notes, the watch design is pretty straightforward, consisting of four major components housed in a 3D-printed case: a battery charging circuit, vibrating motor for silent alerts, a programmable Microduino Core+ (ATmega644PA/ATmega1284P) with power regulation and BLE connectivity, and an OLED display with push-buttons.


“Breadboarding the project is a snap. Wiring it into a small enclosure meant for the wrist is quite another matter. Break out your fine-point soldering iron and follow these complete instructions.” As for its programmable core, Cook connected the Microduino board to a programming port, a BLE chip for communicating with a wearer’s mobile device, and a voltage regulating circuit.


“A 3.7V 500mAh LiPo battery is wired to a JST connector and a two-position switch. Switched to the right, the circuit is in battery mode. Switched left, it’s ready for LiPo charging via the JST connector.”


Meanwhile, the Open-Souce SmartWatch’s vibrator circuit is comprised of a diode, 1K and 33Ω resistors, capacitor, NPN transistor, and motor. The circuit is then connected to the megaAVR based Microduino, which enables the device to buzz the wrist for an incoming call or alerts. Speaking of which, in addition to the typical time and date functionality as seen on any watch, Cook has sought out to develop an interface that any smartwatch wearer would want such as email access, Facebook notifications, Twitter updates, among a number of other features. Rounding out the design, the Maker implemented an OLED screen and a pair of tiny LEDs that are wired to seven of the digital pins on the ‘duino.


Those interested in learning more about the 3D-printed smartwatch can access a detailed step-by-step breakdown of the build here.

Man saves his wife’s sight with the help of 3D printing

After a misdiagnosis of a brain tumor, one Maker turned to 3D printing and imaging. 

Without question, 3D printing is rapidly evolving. All you needed to do was take a look around CES 2015 to note that the technology is inching closer and closer to mainstream popularity. One area in particular making great strides is the medical space, as we’ve seen everything in recent months from 3D-printed splints to prosthetics to organs, helping humans and animals alike get a second lease on life. The latest success story comes out of Pittsburgh, where a man was able to save his wife’s sight by 3D printing a replica of her tumor.


As MAKE: Magazine’s Sara Breselor first revealed, during the summer of 2013, Pamela Shavaun Scott began to experiencing frequent, severe headaches. That December, doctors confirmed that the pain was a result of a three-centimeter brain tumor lodged behind her left eye. Immediately, Scott’s husband Michael Balzer requested her DICOM files, which is the commonly used standard digital format for medical imaging data. Following another MRI a few months later, the radiologist came back with a horrifying report: The tumor had grown, indicating a far more severe condition than originally diagnosed.

Balzer — who is a 3D imaging expert behind the website AllThings3D — used Photoshop to layer the new DICOM files on top of the previous pictures in an effort to compare the radiologists’ findings. It wasn’t before he realized that, in fact, the tumor hadn’t grown at all. Instead, the radiologist had simply measured from a different point on the image. Once his relief subsided, a furious Balzer was more determined than ever to stay in control of his wife’s treatment, MAKE writes.


“I thought, ‘why don’t we take it to the next level? Let’s see what kind of tools are available so that I can take the DICOMs, which are 2D slices, and convert them into a 3D model,” explained Balzer.

The 3D imaging aficionado wanted a tangible model of Scott’s cranium so that he could get perspective on the tumor’s size and location, then think about what kind of treatment to pursue. Doctors had instructed that the removal process for a tumor of this nature — which is commonly known as a meningioma — is sawing open the skull and lifting the brain to remove the mass. This, of course, comes with several risks ranging from potential cognitive damage to blindness.

Subsequently, Balzer began experimenting with 3D imaging tech from other parts of the world. Using open-source software called InVesalius, which uses DICOM, MRI and CT files to visualize medical images, along with other imaging tools like 3D Slicer, he was able to create renderings of his wife’s tumor.

The couple sent them out to hospitals across the country around February, Balzer told MAKE. “Then he uploaded the files to Sketchfab and shared them with neurosurgeons around the country in the hope of finding one who was willing to try a new type of procedure.”

A neurosurgeon at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center agreed to consider a less invasive operation, one where the meningioma would be accessed and removed through Scott’s left eyelid via a micro drill. Balzer had adapted the volume renderings for 3D printing and produced a few full-size models of the front section of his wife’s skull on his [Atmel based] MakerBot. A few weeks prior to the surgery, he went ahead and sent those renderings over to the surgeons to provide them with a better idea of the area they were working with.


Lo’ and behold, the surgeons were able to remove 95% of the tumor, and Scott was back to work in a matter of just three weeks. While Balzer’s 3D renderings may not be the only reason the procedure went smoothly, it does illustrate the tremendous potential of 3D printing technology. Those wishing to learn all about the experience and procedure can read the entire write-up from MAKE: Magazine here.

Building a sound-activated outlet for your home appliances

Clap on…. clap off! It’s a fair assumption that anyone who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s has come across the infamous jingle for The Clapper at one time or another. Created by Bay Area-based Joseph Enterprises, the device was a simple sound-activated switch that could turn on any electrical outlet in your home with a clap. Nearly 30 years after its debut, MAKE: Magazine’s Jason Poel Smith has shown off a DIY version of the gadget, not only capable of evoking your lights but appliances as well.


In order to bring his idea to life, Smith powered the home-brew Clapper utilizing an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) programmed with certain patterns for each outlet throughout the house. This allowed the Maker to trigger his lamp with a single clap and two claps for his fan.

The Arduino also enables users to program how the outlets are turned on and off.


“For instance, if your Internet router needs to be reset, you could program it to turn your router off for ten seconds and then turn it back on automatically. Or, you could turn a heater on for a few minutes and have it automatically turn itself off,” Smith writes.

In addition to clapping, users can also activate the switch with any other loud noise, like knocking on the wall, stomping on the floor, whistling or any other tone that exceeds the set threshold.


“Users can modify how the output performs by simply rewriting the code to give the desired response. You can have the appliance turn on or off when signaled. You can have an appliance such as a heater or a fan turn on for a set duration. You can also use it to reset your router by turning the power off for ten seconds and automatically turning it back on. The only limitation is your imagination.”

Interested in an ATmega328 powered personalized Clapper for your home? Head on over to MAKE: Magazine’s official project page here.

This robotic workbench is powered by an ATmega1280

Looking to channel your inner Bob Vila? Then, you will surely enjoy this fully-automated workbench created by “Dirk the Eingineer.” First brought to our attention by MAKE: Magazine, the project will make for a welcomed (robotic) addition to any garage or shed.


Let’s face it: The basic design of workbenches really haven’t changed much over the last hundred-somewhat years, so Dirk’s recent innovation certainly has some mainstream appeal. Comprised of baltic birch plywood, maple, and walnut, the beautifully-constructed bench consists of eight torsion boxes — four on the base, three on the “elevator car” and one under the maple skin of the table– — each of which were cut using his homemade CNC machine. As the Maker points out, the table is finished with linseed oil, making it super easy to clean and repair.

Unlike those of today (and yesterday), the bench is driven by an Arduino Mega (ATmega1280) which enables the workpiece to move up and down in Transformers-like fashion. The Maker also hopes to expand upon its current capabilities, ranging from measuring the distance of the bench to the floor and boasting an interactive display.

At the moment, the bench simply functions with a remote that he purchased from our friends at SparkFun, which interfaces with the Arduino. According to Dirk, the remote is a “simple one to one relay” that sets pins high when the button is pushed. The Arduino reads and transmits those direction signals to a stepper motor driver, which is linked to sprockets and a roller chain.

Think your workspace could use an AVR based bench like this? You can read all about Dirk’s build here. Meanwhile, watch it in action below!

Build a spy camera inside your coffee cup

Are you a boss looking to inconspicuously monitor employees? A jealous boyfriend? A member of the paparazzi? Looking to channel your inner James Bond?

Whatever the case, you may be interested in a recent project from MAKE: Magazine’s Steve Hobley, who has devised a slick spy camera embedded inside a coffee cup using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328).


How it works is relatively simple. It was designed in such a way that when you lift the cup up to take a sip, it snaps a picture. If your cover is blown, simply rotate the cup to hide the camera.

Aside from an ATmega328 based Arduino, the build calls for a JPEG camera module, an SD card shield, a Memsic 2125 two-axis accelerometer, a few resistors and two indicator LEDs which can be seen through the plastic lid — one illuminates when the tilt switch is triggered, while the other flashes to indicate a photo has been taken.


“Now, I’m not going to lie to you, installing all this stuff inside an innocent looking coffee cup is … err… tricky, to say the least,” Hobley admits. However, those wishing to create a master spy cup of their own can get a more detailed look at the step-by-step build here, or simply watch the video below.

Powering a grounded F-16 with ATmega328

As MAKE: Magazine points out, one typically doesn’t use the terms ‘Arduino’ and ‘military hardware’ in the same breath. However, that all changes when there’s a F-16 in need of refurbishment just lying around. Just ask author Craig Hollabaugh, who recently used an ATmega328 to restore an Air Force aircraft for the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.


“The project itself started with a question of how hard it would be to get the lights working again. Craig had little doubt that this could be done, and, rather than fool with a lot of soldering, decided to design and buy a shield for this purpose. I’m not a fan of melting metal unless it’s absolutely necessary, so I definitely like his style,” MAKE’s Jeremy Cook writes.

Hollabaugh believed that getting the lights functioning once again would be a relatively simple task by employing an Arduino and a shield loaded up with a few MOSFETS.


After coming to that decision, Hollabaugh went on to design the shield — dubbed the Lucky7 board — which consisted of the following:

  • 7 high-current (12A max) P-channel high-side MOSFETs with gate drivers (These switches have 30mOhm Rds when on. Each output has an LED indicator. 6 of the outputs are PWM controllable.)
  • The shield can operate up to 30VDC and supplies this voltage to the Arduino board
  • Two additional LEDs are connected to Arduino pin 8 and 13
  • 3 analog inputs: 2 for photocells, 1 for user button
  • 1 IR sensor input, such as TSOP38238
  • Input voltage sense to Arduino analog input A0
  • ATO fuse holder for wire protection in case of shorts to ground
  • Hardware design and firmware are released CC-BY-SA


The board doesn’t just blink lights on/off either. As our friends at Hackaday noted, since the Maker is using LEDs, “There isn’t a nice dimming glow typically see turning a normal incandescent light off and on repeatedly.” Subsequently, Hollabaugh modeled the F-16’s original incandescent bulb turn-off characteristics using Newton’s Law of Cooling and the ATmega328’s PWM output.

Once completed, the controller was hidden in the F-16’s empty gatling gun bay along with the solar panel charge controller and 12VDC deep cycle battery.


So, did it work? You betcha! On November 5th, Hollabaugh officially pressed the ‘play’ button on his remote to power on the ATmega328 based lights for the aircraft. Although he’s not entirely sure, the author does thinks that this is the first static F-16 on display with working lights. Regardless, it’s a pretty awesome spectacle at night! See for yourself in the videos below!

Build your own DIY frozen pipe alarm with Arduino

Wicked wintry weather can cause plumbing pipes to freeze and possible severe damage to a home. This DIY solution can help… 

For those residing in an extreme northern climate, like Jason Poel Smith, the possibility of pipes freezing is an ongoing concern wreaking havoc in the minds of homeowners. While there are countless preventative measures that you can take, such as insulating pipes or leaving the water dripping, the Maker chose to go the DIY route by designing a simple alarm that alerts him when the pipes are in danger of dipping below 32°F.


In a recent MAKE: Magazine feature, Smith compiled a step-by-step guide for those looking to create their own anti-freeze contraption using an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), a thermistor, an LED light and a piezo buzzer.

The temperature sensor is made by connecting a thermistor and a fixed resistor in series, which form a voltage divider. As the temperature fluctuates, so does the resistance of the thermistor, which causes the voltage between the two resistors to change. This change in voltage is then measured by the megaAVR based MCU.


Once the sensor has been calibrated (which the Maker says can be done using a simple glass of water) and affixed near your pipes, the DIY alarm will sound along with a flashing LED notifying a homeowner when the temps approach the freezing mark. Smith notes that you can add as many sensors as you have analog input pins on your microcontroller, which in his case with a single Arduino Uno allows monitoring of up to six sensors.

With winter in full swing, are you ooking to protect your pipes? Get started by visiting the Maker’s entire project page here, or watching the brief tutorial below.