5 Projects That Make You Want To Be Better At Electronics

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If you’ve ever wished you were better at electronics, things are about to get worse. What follows are five purely awesome DIY projects built with basic hand tools, some solder wire, and a few electronic components.

Air Guitar

Why play Guitar Hero when you can rock out with a genuine micro-processor controlled, 9V battery-powered air guitar that you’ve built yourself? Designed after a right-handed guitar, the left-hand glove changes between four notes and a stick held in the right hand activates strumming. The distance between the glove and the stick determines the pitch of the note – allowing you to play real songs!

The author bears no responsibility if you take it to Wal-Mart and join in when they play Journey.

Defusable Clock

How cool would it be to build an alarm clock that looks just like the dynamite bundles that we always see in movies? It’s not just a regular alarm clock though; this is one that really does force you to wake up properly. Just hitting snooze doesn’t work with this one.

  • A microcontroller to program the clock and effects
  • A detonation sequence with a 10 second countdown timer
  • Four randomly assigned defusable wires: two are dummy wires, one stops the timer, and the last detonates the bomb immediately!
  • Alarm and Snooze functions
  • Setting that makes alarm function as a countdown timer which requires defusing

Requires some basic hand tools and a $30 kit which contains all necessary components. The fake dynamite bundle is not included in the kit and must be made on your own.

Don’t be stupid with this though – It’s an alarm clock, so it sits by your bed, don’t take it out in public, people will not have a sense of humour about it and you risk putting yourself in real danger.

Mind Control Nerf-Gun

The weapon of evil geniuses everywhere is here: the mind-controlled Nerf gun. This one requires that you’ve already modified your Nerf Stampede gun so that you have external power (rather than the 6 heavy ‘D’ cells) and some way of firing other than the trigger.   You also are going to need an Arduino microcontroller have “Auto-fire Mindbullets” Arduino software. Other parts required are a modified Nerf Stampede and an expensive NeuroSky Mindset headband.  The Arduino is there to take the input from the headband and get the gun to fire and you’re going to need to get out the wire strippers and digital multimeter and some time to put it all together.  This is a fairly complicated build, the adaptations to the gun alone will be at least 2 hours for an expert and a full day for a rookie and with a price tag of $330, the mind-controlled Nerf gun doesn’t come cheap – but taking over the world rarely does.

Warning: I’m not kidding about this; this project really isn’t for rookies.

Mindbullets (Chris Meyer) / CC BY-SA 3.0

Botanical Twitterers

Finally, those of you cursed with a brown thumb can rejoice! The DIY Twitter kit from Botanicalls monitors the moisture level in your houseplants. When your plant needs watering, it sends you a Tweet to let you know it’s thirsty. After you water it, the plant will send you another Tweet saying thanks, telling you to water it more, or even to stop!

The Botanicals kit is well documented and I didn’t find it difficult to set everything up.  If you’ve already got through the Mind-control Nerf gun project, you’ll have no problems here.

Required equipment:  solder wire and iron, extra hands, computer with ZTerm or HyperTerminal, Arduino, and Twitter account.

Spatialized Umbrella – No Rain Needed!

The Spatialized Umbrella plays raindrop sound samples and flashes LEDs around the umbrella, increasing in speed the closer you are to an object. If you get close enough to any object, a “lightning strike sequence” is triggered and white LEDs flash at the top of the umbrella. The best part of this gadget is that even though you don’t need rain, it’s safe to use when the rain is real.

This is another project that needs some skill with a soldering iron and experience wiring up breadboards.  There are some soldering accessories that you can get to make detailed jobs a little easier.  I swear by my little flux pen, if you’re trying to avoid large blobs of solder (especially when you need to cram parts on a small board) it’s invaluable.

So whether you’re getting tweets from houseplants or zapping people with a mind-controlled gun, any of these projects will make you wish you were better at electronics.

Written by:

Christopher Parkinson’s interest in electronics stem from an early age, I remember watching my father using a multimeter to test my Scaletrix which had stopped working.  At that time this was the most fantastic thing I had ever seen bear in mind I was 6 and so very easily impressed.  I went on to study microprocessor design theory before working for a company repairing mobile phones.

What Is 3D Printing And Why Should You Care?

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Additive manufacturing is a way to make three dimensional solid objects from a digital model. Using an additive process a three dimensional object is created by laying down layer after layer of solid material until the entire object is complete. As each layer is laid down they are thinly sliced and horizontal cross sectioned. This layering is what makes the eventual object.

Printing a 3D Object

Every 3D printed objective starts with a digital Computer Aided Design or CAD file. This file is created by a 3D modeling program. The software program slices the design into hundreds of horizontal layers on the screen and within the program.

The 3D printer reads the software file and begins to crate each layer exactly to programmed specifications. As each layer is created it blends with the proceeding layer. There is no hint of layering visible.

Type of Commercial 3D Printing

A 3D printer can be a Fused Deposition Modeling or FDM printer that is similar to a two dimensional inkjet printer. The 3D version has an additional axis that deposits tiny drops of melted material through a very narrow spout to form the layers.

An elective laser sintering or SLS printer creates a 3D object by scanning a bed of powered material with a laser beam that melds bits of the power together one layer at a time.

3D printing is also called additive manufacturing or using a process that adds to one layer after another. This is opposed to subtractive process that take away pieces of material. The finished object is a creation of addition rather than subtraction.

3D printing is a process that has been used for many years. 3D printers are used in the design process creating prototypes for manufacturing.

The printing capacity of 3D printers is endless. Jewelry, replacement parts for appliances, art and toys for children are all manufactured on 3D printers. You can use metal, plastic, glass, wood, gold and silver as materials that are layered and printed.

Commercial 3D printers are used in medicine with bioprinters printing human tissue samples for pharmaceutical testing.

Architecture and construction use 3D printing to form complex architectural drawings rather than crafting building models out of balsa wood or cardboard. Experimental 3D printers (these are huge) are now printing small concrete structures with the goal of printing an entire building.

Personal 3D Printers

A personal 3D printer is also known as a DIY hobbyist model. These printers range from the $300 category to $2000. One 3D printer, the RepRap has been on the market since the late 1970s and comes in a kit form. Consumers put together their own personal 3D printer that comes complete with customizations to make its parts.

What’s so Special About 3D Printers?

There is a craft or scrapbooking 3D printer that is highly portable and built with cutting edge technology. This machine is widely used by those who are not technologically focused, yet they are able to layer material on top of one another to get amazing results out of plastics, fabrics and wood. Corkboard or sponge or whatever can be cut  or “printed” can be done on a home 3D printer.

If you think that a 3D printer is not important to you, you might want to think again. Three D printers are used in almost everything you touch from shoes and electronics to building design and medicine. If you have never seen or used a 3D printer you most definitely touched an object that was made possible because of this amazing printer.

Craig Saunders writes for PrinterCorp who offer printing services to businesses in Australia including managed print services.

6 Techie Toys To Get You Through The Winter Months

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It seems like the entire country falls into a crisis whenever we receive anything more than a light dusting of snow. But if you are feeling miserable as a result of the travel disruptions and freezing conditions, put aside those winter blues and use the cold weather as an excuse to try out some of the latest technological innovations that are designed especially for use in adverse weather conditions.

Snowing!

1. USB Powered Warming Blanket

Sitting at a desk working away in sub-zero conditions is no fun at all. So keep yourself warm by investing in a USB heating blanket. Available from many online stores, a USB blanket can be plugged into the USB socket on your computer and then hung over your shoulders, where it will continue to keep you warm all day.

In fact, there are a whole range of heating products available that plug into your USB socket including cup warmers, warming seats and more, so see what you can find to winter proof your workstation.

2. Gloves for Touchscreens

It’s not easy taking out your smartphone or tablet and using it on the go when you have thick winter gloves on. That’s why you may want to invest in a pair of gloves designed especially for use with touchscreens. There are many such gloves out there to choose from, such as those from Agloves, and most of them make use of a conductive material in the fingertips to make controlling your touch devices a lot less problematic.

3. Speaker Hat

If you like to listen to music on the way to work, keep your ears and head warm at the same time by investing in a hat with built-in speakers. Again, there are a few models to choose from, but all of them allow you to listen to your music without having to sort out your earphones, making them an ideal winter accessory.

4. Waterproof Smartphone

If you are planning to whip out your smartphone in the snow or winter rain, you may want to think twice before doing so because not many smartphones are designed to be water resistant. That’s not a problem with the Sony Xperia Z, however, which can be submerged in water for up to half an hour. That means you can use it without any worries whatever the weather, and you can even take it into the shower with you when you get back home.

5. Portable Charger

When the snow starts falling, the chances of getting stranded in your car or on a train go up considerably. Despite the obvious frustrations when this happens, as long as you have your smartphone, tablet or laptop at least you will be able to stay in touch with other people and keep yourself entertained. But what if your batteries run out? This is when it makes sense to have a portable charger with you.

These battery packs, like the Veho Pebble Pro, are easy to carry around with you. They have a large battery inside and usually come with a number of adaptors, so you can use them to keep your other devices powered up until you are back on the move.

6. Youview Catch Up TV

Failing all else, the only sure fire way of keeping warm this winter is to stay indoors and sit out the cold snaps. Staying in is the new going out anyway don’t you know! YouView is the new digital TV recording and catch-up service being backed by Alan Sugar – it doesn’t require a costly monthly subscription and can record 100’s of hours of TV so you can snuggle up on the sofa and catch up on an entire season of Downton Abbey and wait for the snow to clear!.

Gadgets to Get You Through the Winter

The winter can be grim, but it is also the perfect time to try out the latest technological innovations. So try out some of the above gadgets and gizmos and banish the winter blues for good.

Attached Images:

John is a freelance writer from the UK with a passion for all things tech and gadget related

QR Codes, RFID and NFC: 3 Technologies that Define the Information Age

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Man’s history on Earth can be tracked through the different ages. If man’s earliest time on the planet is called the Stone Age, it is only fair to say that mankind currently inhabits the Information Age. Here are 3 technologies that pretty much sum up the Information Age and everything that makes it unique.

Can’t tune into this radio station

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is not a new technology; it has been around for decades ever since the US military first began experimenting with it. Originally intended to be a used as a tracking device, RFID technology has come a long way. Gone are the days when adopting RIFD technology meant severe draining of a company’s financial resources.  As computer and microprocessor technology improved, RFID became a cheaper and a much more viable option. Most companies have security systems based around RFID technology. However, companies are going one step further than RFID cards; they are having employees implanted with RFID chips. You know how the ship’s computer in Star Trek knows exactly where in the ship an individual is at any given time? That is exactly the kind of information that companies like to have about their employees, especially when security is of paramount importance.

Scanning the square code

Unlike RFID, QR code technology is relevantly new. Also, rather than a product of military spending, QR code technology is the end result of the efforts of technology enthusiasts looking to make the world a better place. However, QR codes are certainly a lot more popular than RFID. QR codes have been put to numerous uses and yet we have only begun to scratch the surface; the true potential of QR codes is yet to be unleashed. QR codes can store massive amounts of information and unlike RFID they are not dependent upon databases. Any person with a smartphone or a computer can generate a QR code to share information. The most common use of QR codes is to create virtual business cards, with the intention of sharing contact information. However, QR codes can be programmed do a lot more.

Bump to share

Near field communication (NFC) technology is still in its infancy. Like RFID, and unlike QR code technology, NFC requires specialized equipment to operate. Sure, you can sue a smartphone to take advantage of this technology, but only if it has been fitted with a NFC chip. The same smartphone can simply use an app to generate or scan QR codes. The main attraction with NFC lies in its novelty factor. Imagine transferring files from one device to another simply by bumping the two devices into each other. As mentioned before, it seems unique and is a novel way to share information, but both devices would have to be NFC enabled for the “bump” to work. With many smartphone manufacturers currently are refraining from including NFC capabilities on any but their most expensive devices, the future of NFC remains in the balance. However, the advent of mobile payment systems, such as Google Wallet, is a ray of hope for the existence of NFC.

The 3 technologies mentioned above are in various stages of their lifecycle. Like any other technology, they too will become obsolete one day. However that day is a very long time away.

Mathew Ronald is the author of this guest post.

5 Of The Coolest Solar Gadgets For 2013

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It might be a while until summer as of yet, but those warm, brighter days don’t be long arriving and with them all the fun of the sun.

Fortunately, with them comes a whole host of solar powered technology that will make even the least geeky gadget lover excitement. So, let’s take a look at some of the coolest solar powered tech.

Logitech Wireless Solar Powered Keyboard

The Logitech solar powered keyboard is a super slender 8mm offering that’s compatible with mobile devices such as tablets and phones via the powers of Bluetooth technology. There’s no need for a battery either and a full charge through the solar cell at the top will provide you around three months of battery life.

Solar Kindle

The e-reader that created the trend and still sells by the bulk load has received the power of Mother Nature to power its e-ink. This device from Solar Focus doubles as a cover for the screen and has a solar panel inside the casing to lap up the sun discreetly. It can also be used to power a reading light and works with Kindle 4and Touch versions.

Woods Solar Powered Tent

A solar powered tent you say, well more-so a tent with solar powered LED lighting inside. The EZ tent has a range of solar powered LED lights strung inside, all of which are connected to a panel on its outside that charges the lights within 6 hours. This provides two to four hours of night time lighting, plenty of time to get up at night and go for a pee so.

Goal Zero Sherpa 120 Kit

Laptop batteries are easily and quickly drained and this kit is the solution to that problem. The device runs at a high efficiency rate and can manage to charge a laptop battery to full charge within 5 hours. It can also be used with smart phones and manage to juice them up within 2-4 hours. It’s also surprisingly light at 6.5lbs, which considering it includes a panel, cables and power pack isn’t so bad. Once the pack is full it can hold 120Wh, enough to charge the average laptop twice or more.

Petal solar light

This cute device is a plant shaped solar light that charges up during the day and then emits its brightness at night in the form of light. It’s a very stylish and cool alternative to decorative lighting and you don’t even have to water it – perfect for students so.

Cormac Reynolds writes for Worldofsolar.com and is a tech geek and lover of green technology and the advances it has made.

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