Posts with «tech hacks» label

Rodriguez — IV Curve Tracer on the Cheap

In response to an online discussion on the Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange, [Joseph Eoff] decided to prove his point by slapping together a bare-bones IV curve tracer using an Arduino Nano and a handful of passives. But he continued to tinker with the circuit, seeing just how much improvement was possible out of this simple setup. He squeezes a bit of extra resolution out of the PWM DAC circuit by using the Timer1 library to obtain 1024 instead of 256 steps. For reading voltages, he implements oversampling (and in some cases oversampling again) to eke out a few extra bits of resolution from the 10-bit ADC of the Nano. The whole thing is controlled by a Python / Qt script to generate the desired plots.

While it works and gives him the IV curves, this simplicity comes at a price. It’s slow — [Joseph] reports that it takes several minutes to trace out five different values of base current on a transistor. It was this lack of speed that inspired him to name the project after cartoon character Speedy Gonzales’s cousin,  Slowpoke Rodriguez, AKA “the slowest mouse in all of Mexico”. In addition to being painstakingly slow, the tracer is limited to 5 volts and currents under 5 milliamps.

[Joseph] documents the whole design and build process over on his blog, and has made the source code available on GitHub should you want to try this yourself. We covered another interesting IV curve tracer build on cardboard ten years ago, but that one is much bigger than the Rodriguez.

Cheating At Bowling, The Hacker Way

Anyone who has ever gone to a bowling alley will know the preferred (but ineffective) technique to telepathically control a bowling ball. [Mark Rober] and [James Bruton] decided to change that and hacked a bowling ball that can be steered remotely (and discreetly), simply by leaning your body.

They started with a standard bowling ball, that was cut in half and hollowed out on a lathe. A beam sits on the centre line of the ball, mounted on a bearing in each half to allow the ball to spin around it. Steering done by shifting the centre of mass, by moving a steel pendulum that hangs below the beam side to side with heavy-duty servo. The servo is controlled with an Arduino, and an IMU to detects the balls orientation. Power is provided by and RC Lipo battery. The wireless controller is a sneaky little device that is taped to [Mark]’s back and covered with clothing, and steers the ball by detecting how far he leans with an IMU module. The brain is an Arduino Mini and an NRF24L01 provides the RF link.

While it’s not an easy build, it’s a fairly simple system electronically, with off the shelf electronics modules and perfboard. The genius is in the implementation and its entertainment value. The look on the kids faces when [Mark] “telepathically” controls the ball, after showing off the fact that he has zero natural ability, is absolutely priceless. [Mark Rober], a former NASA engineer, has made a name for himself with viral Youtube videos on cool projects like a glitter booby trap for package thieves and a liquid sand hot tub. [James Bruton], a former toy designer is known for his robotics prowess that he has put on display with OpenDog and functional Star Wars robots.

For us this hack is a perfect example of one that entertains and inspires, a powerful combination for young and old alike. Check out the awesome video after the break.

Hack a Day 24 Nov 15:00

Jackpot!: The Trials And Tribulations Of Turning A Slot Machine Into An ATM

Have you ever wished that slot machines dispensed money as easily as an ATM? Well so did [Scotty Allen] from Strange Parts, so in collaboration with his friend [Matt] decided to combine the two. After a four-month journey fraught with magic smoke and frustration, they managed to build a fully functional ATM slot machine.

The basic idea is that you insert your card and enter your pin like on a normal ATM, select your winning amount, and pull the lever. This sets wheels spinning, which come to a stop with three-of-a-kind every time, and you win your own money as a bucket load of coins with all the accompanying fanfare. The project took way longer than [Scotty] expected, and he ended up missing his original deadline to show off the machine at DEF CON.

They started with an old broken Japanese slot machine, and replaced the control board with an Arduino Due after a lot of reverse engineering and hacking. [Scotty] did a cool video just on getting the original vacuum fluorescent display working. Integrating the ATM parts proved to be the biggest challenge, with number of very expensive parts releasing their magic smoke or getting bricked in the process. [Scotty] came up with an ingeniously simple hack to interface the ATM hardware with the Arduino. The cash note dispenser uses multiple sensors to detect if there are notes loaded and if one is successfully dispensed. These were spoofed by the Arduino, which controls two coin hoppers instead to dispense appropriate amount of quarters or pennies. The build was rounded off with some very neat custom graphics on the glass panels, and the machine was finally showed off at a local arcade.

This was an awesome project, and we can appreciate the fact that [Scotty] made no attempt to hide the real emotional roller coaster that anyone who has worked on a large project knows, but is rarely documented in logs. [Scotty] has made a name for himself by building his own iPhone from parts and touring Shenzhen’s many factories. Check out the videos after the break

A Virtual Touchscreen (3D Ultrasonic Radar)

Producing items onto a screen simply by touching the air is a marvelous thing. One way to accomplish this involves four HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor units that transmit data through an Arduino into a Linux computer. The end result is a virtual touchscreen that can made at home.

The software of this device was developed by [Anatoly] who translated hand gestures into actionable commands. The sensors attached to the Arduino had a an approximate scanning range of 3m, and the ultrasonic units were modified to broadcast an analog signal at 40 kHz. There were a few limitations with the original hardware design as [Anatoly] stated in the post. For example, at first, only one unit was transmitting at a time, so there was no way the Arduino could identify two objects on the same sphere. However, [Anatoly] updated the blog with a 2nd post showing that sensing multiple items at once could be done. Occasionally, the range would be finicky when dealing small items like pens. But besides that, it seemed to work pretty well.

Additional technical specifications can be found on [Anatoly]‘s blog and videos of the system working can be seen after the break.


[Thanks for the tip João!]

Filed under: Tech Hacks