What could be more terrifying than ghosts, goblins, or clowns? How about a shapeless pile of fright on your bedroom floor that only moves when you’re not looking at it? That’s the idea behind [Sciencish]’s nightmare robot, which is lurking after the break. The Minecraft spider outfit is just a Halloween costume.
In this case, “looking at it” equates to you shining a flashlight on it, trying to figure out what’s under the pile of clothes. But here’s the thing — it never moves when light is shining on it. It quickly figures out the direction of the light source and lies in wait. After you give up and turn out the flashlight, it spins around to where the light was and starts moving in that direction.
The brains of this operation is an Arduino Uno, four light-dependent resistors, and a little bit of trigonometry to find the direction of the light source. The robot itself uses two steppers and printed herringbone gears for locomotion. Its chassis has holes in it that accept filament or wire to make a cage that serves two purposes — it makes the robot into more of an amorphous blob under the clothes, and it helps keep clothes from getting twisted up in the wheels. Check out the demo and build video after the break, because this thing is freaky fast and completely creepy.
While we usually see a candy-dispensing machine or two every Halloween, this year has been more about remote delivery systems. Don’t just leave sandwich bags full of fun size candy bars all over your porch, build a candy cannon or a spooky slide instead.
That’s exactly the thinking behind [Mr Innovative]’s automatic label dispensing machine. All he has to do is load up the roll of labels, dial in the length of each label, and away the machine goes, advancing and dispensing and taking up the empty paper all at once. In fact, that’s how it works: the take-up reel is on the shaft of a NEMA-17 stepper motor, which gets its instructions from an Arduino Nano and an A4988 motor driver. Our favorite part is the IR sensor located underneath the sticker that’s ready to take — the machine doesn’t feed another until it senses that you’ve taken the previous sticker. We stuck the demo and build video after the break.
Our other favorite thing about this build is that [Mr Innovative] seems to have used the same PCB as his freaky fast bobbin winder.
Traditionally, the useless machine is a simple one that invites passersby to switch it on. When they do, the machine somehow, some way, turns itself off; usually with a finger or finger-like object that comes out from the box in what feels like an annoyed fashion. Honestly, that’s probably part of what drives people to turn them on over and over again.
What’s really happening is that an Arduino is getting a signal from the toggle switch, and is then rotating it on a ball bearing with a stepper motor driven through an H-bridge.
It shouldn’t be too hard to make one of these yourself, given that [Bart] has provided the schematic and STLs. If we weren’t living in such touchy times, we might suggest building one of these into your Halloween candy distribution scheme somehow. Sell the switch as one that turns on a candy dispenser, and then actually dispense it after three or five tries.
A set of helping hands is a nice tool to have around the shop, especially if soldering or gluing small components is a common task. What we all really want, though, is a robotic arm. Sure, it could help us set up glue or solder but it can do virtually any other task it is assigned as well. A general-purpose tool like this might be out of reach of most of us, unless we have a 3D printer to make this open-source robotic arm at home.
The KAUDA Robotic Arm from [Giovanni Lerda] is a five-axis arm with a gripping tool and has a completely open-source set of schematics so it can be printed on any 3D printer. The robot arm uses three stepper motors and two servo motors, and is based on the Arduino MEGA 2560 for control. The electrical schematics are also open-source, so getting this one up and running is just an issue of printing, wiring, and implementing some software. To that end there are software examples available, and they can easily be modified to fit one’s robotic needs.
Any owner of a budget 3D printer will tell you that they can be pretty noisy devices, due to their combinations of stepper motors and drives chosen for cost rather than quiet. But what if the noise were an asset, could the annoying stepper sound be used as a musical instrument? It’s a question [David Scholten] has answered with the Stepper Synth, a device that takes an Arduino Uno and four stepper motors to create a four-voice MIDI synthesiser.
Hardware-wise it’s as simple as you’d expect, a box with four stepper motors each with a red 3D-printed flag on its shaft to show rotation. Underneath there is the Arduino, plus a robot control shield and a set of stepper driver boards. On the software side it uses MIDI-over-serial, so as a Windows user his instructions for the host are for that operating system only. The Arduino makes use of the Arduino MIDI library, and he shares tips on disabling the unused motors to stop overheating.
You can hear it in action in the video below the break, and we’re surprised to say it doesn’t sound too bad. There’s something almost reminiscent of a church organ in there somewhere, it would be interesting to refine it with an acoustic enclosure of some kind.
This isn’t the first such instrument we’ve brought you, for a particularly impressive example take a look at the Floppotron.
This fantastic-looking ‘bot stands on the shoulders of [Scott Bezak]’s trailblazing method for easy DIY split-flap displays. Push the rather inviting-looking button on the top, and the flaps start flipping around to find your fortune. Once the fates have aligned, a thermal printer on the front spits out an image of your card along with an interpretation.
It’s obvious that [i_mozy] put quite a lot of effort into this slick machine, and we think the stickers look especially great. All the details of physical tarot card readings are accounted for, including a random number to decide the card’s position, and LEDs to represent the card’s element. Suspend your disbelief and check out the demo/promo video after the break.
If we asked you to rattle off all the tools at your own personal disposal, you’d probably leave your timepieces off the list. But we say clocks are definitely tools — cool tools that come in countless forms and give meaning to endless days.
A clock form we hadn’t considered was that of an actual tool. So we were immeasurably delighted to see [scealux]’s clock made from a measuring tape. At least, the time-telling part of the clock is made from a measuring tape. The case isn’t really from a tape measure — it’s entirely printed, Bondo’d, sanded, and painted so well that it’s quite easy to mistake it for the real thing.
Tightly packed inside this piece of functional art is an Arduino Nano and a DS3231 precision RTC module, which we think is fitting for a tool-based clock. The Nano fetches the time and drives a stepper motor that just barely fits inside. There’s just enough tape wound around the printed hub to measure out the time in increments of one hour per inch. Take 1/16″ or so and watch the demo and brief walk-through video after the break.
Timepieces are cool no matter how simplistic or granular they are. Sometimes its nice not to know exactly what time it is down to the second, and most of the really beautiful clocks are simple as can be. If you didn’t know this was a clock, it would still be fascinating to watch the bearings race around the face.
This clock takes design cues from the Story clock, a visual revolution in counting down time which uses magnetic levitation to move a single bearing around the face exactly once over a duration of any length as set by the user. As a clock, it’s not very useful, so there’s a digital readout that still doesn’t justify the $800 price tag.
[tomatoskins] designed a DIY version that’s far more elegant. It has two ball bearings that move around the surface against hidden magnets — an hour ball and a minute ball. Inside there’s a pair of 3D-printed ring gears that are each driven by a stepper motor and controlled with an Arduino Nano and a real-time clock module. The body is made of plywood reclaimed from a bed frame, and [tomatoskins] added a walnut veneer for timeless class.
In addition to the code, STLs, and CAD files that birthed the STLs, [tomatoskins] has a juicy 3D-printing tip to offer. The gears had to be printed in interlocked pieces, but these seams can be sealed with a solution of acetone and plastic from supports and failed prints.
Thanks to some clever Arduino-driven automation, [Gurpreet] can maintain a safe distance from his slide whistle while interacting with it. Slide whistles need two things — air coming in from the top, and actuation at the business end. The blowing force now comes from a focused fan like the ones that cool your printed plastic as soon as the hot end extrudes it. A stepper motor moves the slide up and down using a printed rack and pinion.
Here’s a smooth touch — [Gurpreet] added a micro servo to block and unblock the sound hole with a cardboard flap to make the notes more distinct. Check out the build video after the break, which includes a music video for “My Heart Will Go On”, aka the theme from Titanic. It’s almost like the ship herself is playing it on the steam whistles from the great beyond.
You probably wouldn’t expect to see somebody making astronomical observations during a cloudy day in the center of a dense urban area, but that’s exactly what was happening at the recent 2019 Philadelphia Mini Maker Faire. Professor James Aguirre of the University of Pennsylvania was there demonstrating the particularly compact Mini Radio Telescope (MRT) project built around an old DirecTV satellite dish and a smattering of low-cost components, giving visitors a view of the sky in a way most had never seen before.
Thanks to the project’s extensive online documentation, anyone with a spare satellite dish and a couple hundred dollars in support hardware can build their very own personal radio telescope that’s capable of observing objects in the sky no matter what the time of day or weather conditions are. Even if you’re not interested in peering into deep space from the comfort of your own home, the MRT offers a framework for building an automatic pan-and-tilt directional antenna platform that could be used for picking up signals from orbiting satellites.
With the slow collapse of satellite television in the United States these dishes are often free for the taking, and a fairly common sight on the sidewalk come garbage day. Perhaps there’s even one (or three) sitting on your own roof as you read this, waiting for a new lease on life in the Netflix Era.
Whether it’s to satisfy your own curiosity or because you want to follow in Professor Aguirre’s footsteps and use it as a tool for STEM outreach, projects like MRT make it easier than ever to build a functional DIY radio telescope.
Point and Shoot
The MRT, and really any radio telescope project like this, is essentially made up of two separate systems: one that provides the motorized aiming of the dish, and the receiver that actually captures the signals. Either system could work independently of the other, but when combined with the appropriate software “glue”, they allow the user to map the sky in radio frequencies.
Obviously, the electronics and mechanical components required to pan an antenna across the sky aren’t terribly complex. If you wanted to keep things really simple and were content with moving in a single axis, you could even do it with a “barn door” tracker. What’s really kicked off the recent explosion of DIY radio telescopes is the RTL-SDR project and the era of low-cost Software Defined Radios (SDRs) it’s inspired.
Unsurprisingly, the MRT also uses an RTL-SDR receiver for processing signals from the Low-Noise Block (LNB) in the dish. Professor Aguirre says that since they are still using the stock DirecTV LNB, the telescope is fairly limited in what it can actually “see”. But it’s good enough to image the sun or pick up satellites in orbit, which is sufficient for the purposes of demonstrating the basic operating principles of a radio telescope.
To move the satellite dish, the MRT is using an Arduino connected to a trio of Big Easy Drivers from Sparkfun. These are in turn connected to the stepper motors in the antenna mount, which are sufficiently geared so they can move the dish around without the need for a counterweight. This makes it an excellent candidate for enclosure inside a dome, which would allow for all-weather observations.
Both the RTL-SDR receiver and the Arduino are connected to a Raspberry Pi, which runs the software for the telescope and provides the interface for the user. The MRT GitHub repository contains all of the various tools and programs created for the project, mostly written in Python, which should provide a useful reference even if you’re not interested in duplicating the telescope’s overall design.
Wandering Through the Sky
When we visited Professor Aguirre, he was attempting to use the MRT to find the Sun. You’d think that a simple enough task in the middle of the afternoon, but thanks to an unbroken layer of steel-gray clouds hanging low in the October sky, Sol was absolutely nowhere to be found with our meager human senses.
As the dish made its slow robotic pans across the sky, we spoke with the Professor about the telescope and the various revisions it went through over the years. Eventually the display lit up, showing a representation of an unusually strong signal, clearly the MRT was hearing something out there. After brief scrutiny, the Professor announced that we hadn’t found the sun; instead, the telescope most likely crossed paths with a geostationary satellite.
It was this raconteur style of discovery that kept visitors to the Mini Radio Telescope enthralled. Nobody expected this hacked together contraption of consumer-grade hardware to discover a new exoplanet or help solve some long-pondered mystery of the cosmos while sitting in a Philadelphia parking lot.
But it was more than capable of pointing out objects tens of thousands of kilometers away while our own eyes couldn’t even figure out where the Sun was. It reaffirmed in a very real way that something was out there, and students both young and old couldn’t help but be fascinated by it.