I finally got around to building some new workbenches in my computer room. Now I have a complete "U" of desks wrapping around the room. I was tired of the clutter and no empty desk space. Once I got everything organized using the new desks I moved on to organizing all of my miscellaneous electronics parts. I dug them out of every nook and cranny and pretty much filled the entire floor. Something had to be done, but how the hell do you organize thousands of tiny Digikey bags of parts?
I searched around and found a simple, genius idea. Just a 3-ring binder, baseball card holder pages, and some 2.5" x 3" ziplock bags. I found the ziplock bags on Amazon along with the baseball card pages. The bags are 4 mil thickness so they're very strong and not likely to be punctured. They fit perfectly inside the card pouches. I just took a magic marker and labeled the bags as I filled them. Then it was just a matter of organizing them in the binder.
Everything fit into a single 4" binder (although its pretty stuffed). And it sits right on my desk ready to be flipped through any time I need a part.
Now I can get back to work!
The LED Bar is meant to be interactive and will mostly be used at parties. So I decided to create a nice panel to mount the LCD, buttons, and slide pots. This also allows me to label all of the components to make it easier to use. I checked out the Ponoko website and decided to design a panel out of black acrylic. I used the free Inkscape software and Ponoko template to draw up the panel, including etched labels for the components. It only took a few hours since I had a good idea of how I wanted everything laid out. The design file can be found here.
After a few weeks the panel came in the mail. I'm very happy with how it turned out considering it's the first panel I have ever made. I just wish the white etching was more uniform to make the text easier to read. I may be able brighten it myself though.
I mounted all of the components and luckily everything fit as I expected.
Now that I have the panel finished it is time to start modifying my bar shelves. I created a mockup to see which lighting method works best and to try out hiding the wire within the wood shelf. I found out that mounting the LEDs under the bottles will not work. Dark bottles, dark alcohol, and most wine bottles just don't glow like I want them too. I think pointing them at the bottles from above or from behind will work best. A little more experimenting is needed.
I started to think of new project ideas once the SUFO-2 launch was delayed. I toyed around with ideas and decided it would be fun to spice up my downstairs wet bar with some LED light displays. It would be even more fun to make it interactive. I love projects with LEDs because they make everything better. So began the LED Bar.
My bar has three shelves and the back is made of rectangular mirror sections. There's lots of opportunity to play with light against the mirrors. Alcohol bottles are made of glass and can scatter light pretty spectacularly. Therefore, it should be cool to put multicolor LEDs under each bottle to light them up. I only use the bottom two shelves for alcohol bottles (no top shelf liquor here) and usually have around 20 or so bottles on hand. Thinking like a computer and keeping everything in mutliples of 8, I should be ok with 32 LEDs (16 on each shelf). I also need a way to interact with the LEDs, change their color, change display effects, etc.
Here is the list of features I came up with:
- 32 RGB LEDs with 256 steps per color, which makes over 16 million colors
- LEDs embedded in the shelves so they are hidden from view
- 4x20 LCD screen to display menus and other information
- 4 arrow buttons and 1 enter button to access on-screen options
- 1 large red button that will select a bottle to take a shot from
- 3 slide potentiometers (one for red, green, and blue) to allow mixing custom colors
- All electronics hidden under a section of shelf that can be opened
- Several display effects to keep things interesting
- Ability to disable LEDs if there is no bottle on that spot
- Settings are stored even if unit is turned off
I drew up a schematic, ordered a few parts, and threw a prototype together using an Arduino Uno.
The slide pots, button inputs, and menu system are complete. I designed an LED driver board and received the circuit board in the mail last week. The next steps are assembling the driver board, installing the LEDs into the shelves, creating a custom panel to mount the interface devices, and testing the random shot routine A LOT . Check back soon for updates on the build and videos of it in action.
It's about time for the second launch of the SUFO capsule. I have dusted off the original capsule, electronics, and tracking equipment. Everything is in working order and tested great. I made a few improvements to the original SUFO-1 after learning from the first launch.
The main problems were the failure of the cutdown module (due to a loose wire) and a lot of time spent searching for the capsule in the woods. I added a 100dB 2-tone piezo buzzer from Radio Shack that sounds like a siren to make the capsule easier to find. I also combined the buzzer and cutdown module into a single unit powered by a separate battery from the rest of the electronics. This unit is mounted in the capsule, except for the actual buzzer and the heating element that cuts the balloon free. The wire to the cutdown point was lengthened to reduce stress from the capsule bouncing around.
This flight will capture pictures just like the first flight. However, I also found a cheap HD video camera to record the entire flight. The Kodak PlaySport ZX3 is a very light HD camera that comes pretty cheap on Amazon (I bought a refurbished model). I tested a friend's Flip camera, but it ran pretty hot and shut off after about 45 minutes even though it had plenty of memory and battery left.
The SUFO-1 "only" reached 94,740 feet. I was really hoping to break 100,000 ft. The SUFO-2 will use a 1500g balloon instead of a 1200g balloon. The amount of free lift will also be lowered slightly by controlling the amount of helium in the balloon. The combination of these two items should put the SUFO-2 over 100,000 ft with the drawback of having a longer flight time.
The balloon has arrived and everything is fully tested. Now I just need a free weekend and good wind patterns. Check back here for a launch date announcement soon.
I've been meaning to post videos of the disco table in action. It's great getting a few pics of it, but watching it do its magic is much more fun. So here are a few of the effects it can do (make sure to switch to HD if they look a little fuzzy):
Equalizer: Five band graphic equalizer effect changing in real-time to whatever music is playing in the room (I figured Daft Punk was appropriate). It can visualize conversations and any other noise too. This is usually what gets left on at parties. Skip to 1:50 to see it in the dark and when the song picks up a bit.
Sparkle: The sparkle effect that comes up when the table is turned on. It's not triggered by music, but it's hypnotic.
Ripple: The ripple effect can be triggered by music and other bass sounds in the room or just continuously repeat.
Spinner: This effect shows off the LED dimming that the table is capable of. Not much to it.
Patterns: A random sequence of patterns that can be triggered by music in the room. This is basically what the original Daft Punk table did.
Text: The two ways the disco table can display text, scrolling and flashing.
Snake: A basic implementation of the classic game snake using the remote control to turn the snake. It grows by one box every time it eats the flashing "food".