Tinkernut’s Lamp Comes To Life Using Ultrasonic Waves

Tinkernut’s Motion Controlled Ultrasonic Lamp takes uses sound to detect motion

Tinkernut’s Motion Controlled Ultrasonic Lamp takes uses sound to detect motion

Anybody can go to the hardware store and pick up a motion activated light but that’s so 80’s and the only thing involved with installing them is talent with a screwdriver. Ultrasonic waves are better at tracking movement, at least when it comes to ninja attacks and other unseen entities, which is where Tinkernut’s Motion controlled Ultrasonic Lamp comes in. The lamp uses ultrasonic waves to not only detect movement but also the direction it’s coming from.

The lamp is outfitted with three ultrasonic sensors housed in a control box that sits underneath the lamp itself, which uses to servos to move in the direction of the sound it detects. Those sensors are connected to a simple breadboard with an Arduino Uno running the show. A double-A battery pack powers the unit, which is toggled on/off using a simple switch.

Everything needed to build your own Motion Controlled Ultrasonic Lamp minus the dremel

Everything needed to build your own Motion Controlled Ultrasonic Lamp minus the dremel

Everything wired up and ready to be attached to the lamp

Everything wired up and ready to be attached to the lamp

Obviously, the lamp is nothing without the code to run it and Tinkernut provides everything users need to get the ball rolling. Will it actually detect ninjas? If they’re worth their salt, yes. You can never be too careful. See the plans after this link.

Hack It Together Goes Beyond the Basic Blink

This post is sponsored by Freescale.


Among the rows of makers under the trees at World Maker Faire New York, a friendly man with a bowtie played the guitar, showing off the advanced signal processing ability of the Freescale microcontroller that he’s working with in a project dubbed MonkeyJam. It’s made by Eli Hughes (who plays guitar quite well, from what I can tell) and it’s one of three in a series called Hack It Together in partnership with Freescale. The projects are part of an initiative to extend the embedded system skillset among junior and senior engineering students as well as makers, hackers, and younger students. Each project has a set of free online resources including board designs, schematics, code, and explanatory video.


Monkey Listen is another one of the projects in Hack It Together. It uses the Freescale FRDM-K20D50 to make a neat spectrum analyzer display. Just speak, sing, or whistle near the microphone and you’ll see some impressive FFT visuals. The project is meant to teach microphone and OLED display interfacing, audio capture with an ADC, and spectrum analysis via FFT.

The third project is called MonkeyDo, which teaches basic electrical automation and control via the web. It combines a Freescale FRDM-K64F and FRDM-AUTO to a read temperature sensor and control a solid state relay. With websockets, JavaScript, and HTML5, it enables the maker to have a simple way of viewing sensor data and controlling appliances.

Even though he was well into day two of Maker Faire when I encountered him, he still had tons of energy and patience with everyone that came to his table. “It’s been a learning experience,” says Eli, “I’ve been getting a lot of practice explaining the projects to people at all skill levels.”

Keep an eye out for a Kickstarter if you’d like to get your own expansion boards!

When in Rome, Eat 3D-Printed Food at Maker Faire

6. foodini

banner_eventi_itaItaly is an interesting place to have a discussion about the future of food. In a country steeped in gastronomic tradition, a food printer might seem gauche, if not downright offensive. But at Maker Faire Rome, attendees will be confronted with 3D printed food — and may even get a taste.

Dovetailed, a 3D fruit printer, will be on hand, pumping out little spheres of “bespoke fruits”. Health-food Dippin Dots, or the future of food? Either way, it’s not grandma’s lasagna. Foodini (pictured, with video below), a printer that emphasizes fresh ingredients and recently received a grant from NASA to pursue off-world food printing, will be there as well.

But of course, these are just two of the more than 600 displays at Rome’s second Maker Faire, scheduled for October 3-5 at the Auditorium Parco della Musica. The faire is part of a larger “Innovation Week” in that city, with other events — like a hackathon and an open hardware summit — helping to promote research, experimentation, and sharing. Not in Rome? Watch for more coverage here.

Rocket Scientists Are Arduino at Heart

The Carbon Origins Apollo data logger board

The Carbon Origins Apollo data logger board

This is the story of a group of college students who moved to the Mojave Desert, bought a house, painted it white, and turned it into a makeshift lab. Then they went out to launch rockets.

Talking to Amogha Srirangarajan from Carbon Origins

But they ran into problems, when they launched their Neptune 2 rocket,

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

and because they’re makers, and all the data loggers they could find were too expensive or just not right for the job, they went ahead and built their own.

The Phoenix 0.2.1 launch in the Mojave Desert

Their Apollo board is less than two square inches in size and is packed with sensors — eleven of them.

“We called it Apollo, because it has eleven sensors …”

The tiny six-layer board has an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and GPS, and can measure temperature, pressure, humidity, light (both UV and IR), and it records audio. But the board also comes with Bluetooth LE and wi-fi onboard, an SD Card for logging data locally, LiPo battery management circuitry, and it has an OLED screen and a vibrating trackball. If you count them up, the Apollo has over 200 components, all packed onto that tiny two-square-inch board.

Carbon Origins talking at MakerCon in New York

Based around the same ARM Cortex-M3 chip as the Arduino Due, the board will be part of the Arduino at Heart program, and is completely open source. The board will ship with software making use of their own Arduino library that gives access to all of the onboard sensors. However the extra GPIO pins, not used by the onboard sensors, are exposed for use and Carbon Origins will be producing a series of smart shields to make use of those extra pins.

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The board is on display here at Maker Faire in New York this weekend, and will be arriving on Kickstarter in the next month or so, and we’ll be back talking to the Carbon Origins team when it does.



Create Custom Light Sculptures with BlinkyTiles

Matt Metts brought 2,100 BlinkyTiles to New York and needs your help to create a giant LED chandelier sculpture. Each tile holds several digital LEDs, which have onboard controllers and are individually addressable allowing for customizable lighting effects.



BlinkyTiles connect at five solder joints on each side

Can’t make it to New York to help build? Check out Matt’s Kickstarter page and grab some BlinkyTiles of your own.

Popular at Public Lab

Out in Zone 5, Liz Barry of Public Lab is sensing strong interest in spectrometry.

The reason: “It’s like a Tricorder for $10!”


Liz Barry of Public Lab

The Public Lab is a community where you can learn how to investigate environmental concerns.

Using inexpensive DIY techniques, Public Labs seeks to change how people see the world in environmental, social, and political terms.

And a good place to start: spectrometry.

“Because you can use it to tell what things are made of,” Liz says.


The desktop spectrometer from Public Lab

Get out to Zone 5 and check it out!

GE Launches an Interface Board to Let You Hack Their Appliances

General Electric is releasing an interface board that will let you program and control their smart appliances, and they’re giving away a batch of ovens and refrigerators to makerspaces to help launch the project.

The program comes through the FirstBuild program, a new endeavor by GE and Local Motors to interface with independent designers to find, make, and license new product ideas much more rapidly than normal for the manufacturing giant. The interface board, called the Green Bean, is their first product, released to help makers generate new appliance-based projects.


The open-source “maker module” allows you to connect a Raspberry Pi or other computing device directly into the brain of certain GE appliances to reprogram them to control temperature, tweet status updates, offer remote control, or more. Its SDK, using Node.js, is on github, and a variety of projects are already being posted on their site, ranging from refrigerator light controllers to a smartphone alert for your dryer that allows you to keep the cycle spinning if you’re not able to remove the clothes before they wrinkle.

The FirstBuild program, based in Louisville, KY, includes a microfactory and makerspace that will bring community members in to work on their creations through hackathons and other events. It’s a major departure from the typical in-house, highly guarded process that major companies use for product development, indicating how the innovation coming from the maker community is changing the way large companies are thinking about business. And while the GE appliance division was just sold to Electrolux last week, GE indicates to us that they will continue to run the program during the 6-12 month transition process, and may implement it into their other divisions.

We caught up with FirstBuild Product Evangelist Taylor Dawson at MakerCon to hear more details about the program and their makerspace appliance giveaway. (Interested spaces should contact social@firstbuild.com to apply.)

Why Do Dead Alkaline Batteries Bounce?


If you’ve ever wondered what retired old men (I’d assume some of them are or were engineers, scientists, or science teachers) do when they’re not annoying their wives, apparently some of them go out to eat with the Romeo club (the video will explain). Lee Hite, one of the members, apparently also makes incredibly popular Youtube videos. The one below came from a discussion as to why good alkaline batteries don’t bounce, while bad batteries of this type do.

Admittedly, I’d never noticed this phenomena, but if you’re skeptical, the extremely good experimental setup in the video should be pretty convincing. Basically, a stand is set up where several batteries are dropped from the same height. The bad batteries bounce, while those that are still good definitely do not.

These self-proclaimed “old men” had two general theories on this, one was that the batteries were outgassing, thus affecting the way they bounced. The other idea was the idea that the good batteries were exhibiting something they referred to as “anti-bounce.” You may be more familiar with this as the same principle behind a dead blow hammer.

The results are closer to the second option, but check out the video below to see the explanation. This kind of setup would probably make an excellent science-fair project, or you could tuck it away for when you’re older and need to win the inevitable argument about why batteries bounce!