"Dottie" the Flip Dot Clock


Most of us have probably seen clocks or numerical displays that flip sequential boards to display the next number in a sequence. If you wanted to take that a step further, you could make a replica of “Dottie,” which flips small dots as pixels. As the great video below says, it makes a “pleasant mechanical flipping sound all day.” It also tells the date, chimes every 15 minutes, and gives an animation show once an hour.


If you wanted to make one of these devices, the technical details are on David Henshaw’s site. He includes an incredible number of pictures in the description, and includes the Arduino code here. If you have any illusions about this being an easy project, the wiring seen above should help you get a grasp on the scope of this project. There was also the mechanical challenge of fitting everything together nicely, programming, and getting the chimes to work. It took David months to get this assembly working.

It’s a very cool project, and despite the scope, makes me tempted to try something similar. Of course, like many “makers,” sometimes my eyes are bigger than my garage, so I’ve got a few other projects to complete before something like this should even be considered!

Bringing makers back to the Lab

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Scientists working in a lab are just folks. Like motor heads with cars, we have our favourite makes and models. Except with scientists, it’s all about the lab equipment, and the pros and cons of various models and brands are debated in the bar after work with as much heat and your average motor head when they’re talking about engines and transmissions.

The main problem with lab equipment is that it’s expensive. Often the next model up from what you can actually afford is the one that does what you need, and frustratingly the only difference is that the one you can afford and that one is that it has features disabled in software. Like everything sold to “big business” differential pricing comes into play with a vengeance when it comes to lab equipment.

But universities are only big businesses in abstract, the individual researchers—the people that actually buy the lab equipment—usually are trying to eke out the last remaining scraps of a grant when they actually buy the equipment

So there’s a grand tradition of making do with bailing wire, twine, and of course, gaffer tape. Almost inevitably then in recent years, the arrival of the maker movement has meant that the gaffer tape has been joined by Arduino boards.

It was only a matter of time before people started taking Arduinos and building the lab equipment they wanted.

Back in September at Maker Faire NY we talked to Charles Pax of Pax Instruments who successfully crowdfunded the first of what he promises is going to be a range of open source lab equipment, a four-channel thermocouple temperature datalogger.

Talking to Charles Pax at Maker Faire NY in September.

Of course Charles isn’t alone, also at Maker Faire were Carbon Origins and their Apollo board. Built by a group of college students who moved to the Mojave Desert, bought a house, painted it white, and turned it into a makeshift lab—and then they went out to launch rockets.

But they ran into problems, when they launched their latest rocket,

“Our rocket exploded, and we didn’t know why, we needed a data logger …”

So they built their own.

Talking to Amogha Srirangarajan from Carbon Origins.

Until recently there wasn’t much discussion in the maker community about calibration. Most of the sensors you can buy off the shelf from places like Adafruit or Sparkfun aren’t calibrated, or at least not calibrated with the requirements of scientists in mind—this is especially true of things like gas sensors that would require calibration test chambers with known amounts of the various gases.

There seems to be a number of different data loggers turning up right now, and time will tell whether these are going to be as useful to professional—and amateur—scientists as they could be. However it’s interesting to see discussions around calibration, and absolute rather than relative measurement, starting to happen in the maker community.

MOMA Adds Arduino, Makey Makey, And More

Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, Gianluca Martino. Arduino “Diecimila” Microcontroller. 2004–05. Electronic components, 2.7 x 2.1″ (5.3 x 6.9 cm). Gift of the designers

Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, David Mellis, Gianluca Martino. Arduino “Diecimila” Microcontroller. 2004–05. Electronic components, 2.7 x 2.1″ (5.3 x 6.9 cm). Gift of the designers to the MoMA.

I’ve always said that one day I’d wake up and the Arduino would be in a museum. However, I’d sort of expected it to take a bit longer.

Back in 2004 the MoMA did something fairly radical, they held a show called Humble Masterpieces. In it they displayed elements of the museum’s permanent design collection—from Post-it notes, to paper clips, to Bic pens—that normally would, perhaps, be somewhat overshadowed by the Picassos or the Pollocks also held by the museum.

The design collection at the museum was begun in 1934, with the purchase of more than a hundred simple industrial objects—such as springs and calipers—that had been shown in the exhibition called Machine Art earlier that year. Over the years the collection has been expanded and the MoMA now houses over 3,800 design objects in its collection, ranging from a helicopter to a microchip.

In 2011 the MoMA acquired Botanicalls and Little Bits for the permanent collection. This fall they’re adding not just the Arduino, but also the Ototo, the Makey Makey, the Colour Chaser and the DIY Gamer Kit.

As design curators, we have an instinctive response to designs we find compelling, and when that feeling survives the passing of time, we know we’re on to something worthwhile. We believe our new acquisitions will withstand that test. All promise to make a difference…

Like Botanicalls and Little Bits before them, the five new arrivals are well known, and well celebrated in the maker community—the Arduino especially is seen by many as one of the building blocks of the next industrial revolution.

The first Arduino board ever made

Humble beginnings—the first Arduino board ever made

The Arduino started off as a project to give artists access to embedded micro-processors for interaction design projects, but it has grown far beyond its humble beginnings. It allows rapid, cheap, prototyping for embedded systems. It turns what used to be fairly tough hardware problems into simpler software problems.

We all know what it feels like to master a skill previously thought completely outside our abilities, or to unlock new possibilities of experience and thought. It’s exhilarating, life-changing, and (healthily) addictive, the same reason people keep coming back to see MoMA’s Pollocks and Picassos…

I think some things—like the maker movement they represent—can be levers that can help you move the world, and it looks like the MoMA agrees with me.

E-Traces: Ballet Slippers That Make Drawings From The Dancer’s Movements


If you’re like me, then you may have been accused of dispensing some questionable moves in the vicinity of the dance floor. I’ve always maintained that my critics simply couldn’t grasp the subtlety of my particular style of physical expression, and now I just may have a means of illustrating my point with an ingenious piece of wearable electronics by designer Lesia Trubat González called E-Traces.


The concept of Electronic Traces is based on capturing dance movements and transforming them into visual sensations through the use of new technologies. To do this we focused on the ballet shoes themselves, which through the contact with the ground, and thanks to Lilypad Arduino technology, record the pressure and movement of the dancer’s feet and send a signal to an electronic device. A special application will then allow us to show this data graphically and even customize it to suit each user, through the different functions of this app.

As you can see in the video, E-Traces is a new way of creating stunningly elegant marks, which are almost reminiscent of calligraphy. So, who knows, maybe you could be the Rembrandt of freestyle dancing, all you need are a pair of Arduino-enhanced slippers!

If you want to give something like this a try, you can find the Lilypad Arduino in the Maker Shed!

[via Prothetic Knowledge]

Chameleon Jacket Project Aims to Let People Experience The World Like An Animal

The Interacket from Drap og Design that mimics chameleons.

The Interacket from Drap og Design that mimics chameleons.

Four Students from Oslo School of Archetecture and Design decided to enter a cool project into the Hackaday competition. Their project, called the Interacket, attempts to give the user an experience of how animals experience and view the world around them.

It would be hard to recreate a bats power of sight through sonar using technology, so this bunch has decided to mimic the way chameleons blend in with their environment. It is a simple and effective design that gives an inkling of superhuman possibilities and can change your perspective of the world around you. They have a video of their Interacket in action on Vimeo


A diagram of how the Interacket works.

A diagram of how the Interacket works.


The picture above show the design for the Interacket and the components involved. Two Arduino Unos are used as the micro-controllers for the jacket (one for each arm) alongside 9v batteries to power the board and the LEDs. LED strips are housed inside the jacket, down each arm. Adafruit’s neopixel libraries and code was used to control the LED strips based upon data obtained from the RGB color sensors worn on each hand of the user.

They used TCS34725 from Adafruit as a RGB color sensor with IR filter and a white LED. All of this allows the user to touch objects within their environment to change the color of their jacket: blending into their surroundings like a chameleon. If nothing else, it would make a great novelty.

The Arduino Uno and LED strips that are housed inside the jacket.

The Arduino Uno and LED strips that are housed inside the jacket.


The photo above shows the Arduino Uno and LED strips functioning outside the jacket. The jacket itself is made very simply of painter coveralls lined with aluminum foil to reflect the light of the LEDs outward. Hopefully the jacket didn’t get too hot for the wearer either. They are currently working on the Interacket 2.0. Check out their Hackaday.io page or drapogdesign.com

Raspberry Pi and Arduino Home Automation

Home automation made easy with the help of Raspberry Pi and Arduino

Home automation made easy with the help of Raspberry Pi and Arduino

Everybody knows that good things happen when you pair a Raspberry Pi with an Arduino, which includes everything from a Star Trek-like tricorder to a kegerator interface. One Instructables user (Electronichamsters) decided to take the boards and design an extensive home automation platform that’s able to monitor just about everything inside and outside of user’s homes.

Instead of using the boards for simple things such as automated blinds or lights, Electronichamsters ‘Uber Home Automation’ platform can monitor for water leaks, loud noises and even alert users when the mail arrives. His design makes use of a series of cheap wireless sensor nodes (PIR, heat, light, sound, etc.) that can be placed anywhere and on anything that needs monitoring. Those nodes relay the data to a wireless gateway and an Ethernet gateway (an Arduino Uno), which in turn sends the data to the Raspberry Pi.

Electronics basic design schematic gives users a rough idea of how the platform works

Electronics basic design schematic gives users a rough idea of how the platform works

The RPi then uploads the data to the internet where users can monitor using their smartphones. It even sends alert emails when something is amiss, allowing users to view the issues through a web cam. The whole setup costs a little over $270, assuming users already own a Raspberry Pi. Those that want to see the build process can head over to Instructables, which has a detailed list of parts and code to get things up and running. Want to know more… head over to project’s Indtructables page.

Ahh... the adhoc project enclosure... It may look crude but this sound sensor is very effective and can be placed anywhere

Ahh… the adhoc project enclosure… It may look crude but this sound sensor is very effective and can be placed anywhere


Replace Your Car’s Clock with an On Board Diagnostics Display


If you’re a car lover, or simply someone who is bothered by not knowing what’s going on in your “machine” at all times, you might be interested in having a customizable diagnostics display. If so, you would probably like it to look as close to a stock part as possible. Instructables user JustinN1 decided to do just that by replacing the internal clock with a selectable display that shows an assortment of car data. After all, you’ve already got the time on your phone!

The video below shows the user scrolling through several engine statistics, and how it starts up by saying “Not A Clock.”  Good to know.

Various components are used to make this display, like the ubiquitous Arduino, but what I thought was extremely interesting was the OBD-II UART board from Adafruit. This allows one to plug into any car made after 1996 and display engine data. You can then feed this into your microcontroller or computer of choice and do whatever you want with this data. JustinN1 naturally encourages experimentation his creation, even linking up more code that he wrote for something he refers to as the “robot meter.”

It’s always cool to see various “maker” disciplines come together. Sure, more horsepower can be fun, but being able to hack the electronics and computer code involved can lead to something truly unique!

DIY Automatic Fish Feeder Using Arduino Nano

Yep, that’s a drill bit and it helps to deliver the right amount of food to your fish.

Yep, that’s a drill bit and it helps to deliver the right amount of food to your fish.


There are all kinds of automatic fish feeders on the market, however most just dump the allotted food in one lump and typically can’t be programmed for an entire week of use. While this may not be a problem for some aquarium enthusiasts, it was for Brian (from Belgium). The fish enthusiast has a rather large 100-gallon tank complete with live plants and colorful breeds of aquatic life but he has a very busy life and spends large amounts of time away from home.

While maintaining the plants or the cleanliness of the water aren’t issues when he leaves for a week, the fish still need to be fed on a regular basis. Obviously, there are automatic feeders on the market but hardly any with the ability to be programmed for long periods of time while delivering the correct food amounts.

The completed housing fish feeder with compartments for the motor assembly and food compartment.

The completed housing fish feeder with compartments for the motor assembly and food compartment.

Like the saying goes, ‘if it doesn’t exist, build it yourself’ and build it he did using a simple plastic container, an Arduino Nano, stepper motor and a drill bit. The fish food sits on an angle inside the bin and the Arduino is programmed to start and stop the motor, which turns the drill bit that ‘pushes out’ the prescribed amount of food. It’s used in conjunction with an ordinary electric timer that supplies the power for those prescribed intervals. It’s safe to say his fish will be fed anytime he needs to leave, however the tank still can’t clean itself. Brian posted his design on Instructables for anyone interested in building their own.

Rana: A Biologically Inspired Hexapod

Rana, which is Italian for “frog,” is really an interesting six-legged robot design. The locomotion, which according to their writeup, has never been used before and combines the walking methods of an ant and a frog.

This kind of locomotion, as opposed to three-servo based ‘bots that simply rock back and forth allowing the front and back legs to move, requires ten servos. Two servos are attached on both pairs of front and back legs, while the middle legs receive only one servo each.

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Although the robot’s motion is complex, the mechanical housing and legs are kept simple.  Pieces of wooden rod are used for all the legs, while a larger piece of balsa wood (presumably for weight savings) is used for the body. As no other linkages are used, this may be a surprisingly easy walker build for those wanting to build one.

Although it looks like there is a plan for the robot’s walking gait, the code is not released yet. As the write-up states that “programming is one of the hardest steps,” the code is apparently not done or not to a state that the author is ready to let others look at. Hopefully we’ll see some further development on this interesting project!


How To Make A Silly String Candy Trap For Halloween


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays for one reason. Candy! However by the end of the night, the neighborhood kids have usually picked over my candy bucket. This year I’m going to change that! To keep kids away, I’m going use an Arduino to detect when someone has their hand in the candy bowl, and use a solenoid to shoot silly string at the candy thief. To detect when a hand was in the candy bowl, I used an infrared LED and infrared sensor to create an invisible beam on the opening of the plastic pumpkin.

Pumpkin with IR Beam

When the beam is broken the Arduino will send a command to a power switch tail which in turn makes a solenoid push down on the silly string can.

Silly String Spraying

I mounted the solenoid and silly string to a few pieces of foam board so the solenoid hits the silly string every time.

To allow for easy connection of the solenoid and IR LED and sensor, I mounted a terminal block on a project enclosure. The Arduino and 9V battery sit inside the project box and the terminal block connects to the Arduino through short jumper wires.



The Arduino code for this project can be found at my GitHub page