May 31, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Quantified Hamster [Maker Update #36]

This week on Maker Update, Bluetooth controlled lights for your skateboard, tracking your hamster health, a classy Kaleidoscope, a tool for finding the center of a circle, beautiful circuit diagrams and Maker Faires. Our featured Cool Tool is the Robert Larson 800-2875 Plastic Center Finder.

Show Notes


LED Longboard Truck Riser
Photo and project by the Ruiz Bros.

NeoPixel Truck Risers by Ruiz Bros.

Arduino Hamster Wheel Pedometer.
Photo and project by John Mueller.

Quantified Hamster by John Mueller

DIY Aluminum Kaleidoscope
Project by Randy Sarafan. Photo courtesy of Instructables.

Make a Kaleidoscope by randofo

Cool Tools Minute

Robert Larson 800-2875 Plastic Center Finder

Robert Larson 800-2875 Plastic Center Finder
Photo by Donald Bell.

Center Finder review by Sean Michael Ragan

Ben Light Robot Recipe

Tools/Tips Maker Update Maker Update Comments Share FileEditViewInsertFormatDataToolsAdd-onsHelpAll changes saved in Drive $% 123 Arial 10 ABC: Basic Connections - The Essential Book for Makers by Alberto Piganti To enable screen reader support, press shortcut ⌘+Option+Z. To learn about keyboard shortcuts, press shortcut ⌘slash. Template 053117 036 052417 035 051717 034 051017 033 050317 032 042617 031 041917 030 041217 029 040517 028 032917 027 032217 026 031517 025 030817 024 030117 023 022217 022 021517 021 020817 020 020117 019 012517 018 011817 017 011117 016 122116 015 121416 014 120716 013 113016 012 111616 011 110916 010 110216 009 102616 008 101916 007 101216 006 100516 005 92816 92116 91416 90716 Explore ABC: Basic Connections - The Essential Book for Makers by Alberto Piganti
Photo courtesy of Hackaday.

ABC: Basic Connections – The Essential Book for Makers by Alberto Piganti

Book preview on Hackaday

MagPi Feature
Image courtesy of MagPi.

MagPi 58

Maker Faires

Jerusalem Mini Maker Faire Jerusalem
Rouen Mini Maker Faire Rouen
Ann Arbor Mini Maker Faire Ann Arbor, Michigan
Southwest Michigan Mini Maker Faire St. Joseph, Michigan
Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire Providence, Rhode Island
Thalia Mini Maker Faire Bonn

Thanks to Corey Shelman for the new Cool Tools video animation!



This week on Maker Update, Bluetooth controlled lights for your skateboard, the quantified hamster, a classy Kaleidoscope, a tool for finding the center of a circle, beautiful circuit diagrams and Maker Faires.

It’s Wednesday, May 31st, I’m Donald Bell and welcome to another Maker Update. I hope you guys are doing well. I’ve been doing a lot of organizing recently and catching up with home repairs, but it feels good.

I also ran into my friend Tristan over the weekend and he donated a new car to my Power Racing fleet that I’m going to build out as a summer project with my son. So thank you Tristan!

After all the news last week, so far this week is pretty quiet, so let’s just dive right into some cool projects I found.

Over on Adafruit, the Ruiz Brother Noe and Pedro have an outstanding guide on creating rechargeable, animated LED riser pads for your skateboard. The project consists of an Arduino-compatible Feather board, a rechargeable battery pack, a short stick of color changing Neopixel LEDs, and a 3D-printed enclosure. All in, you’re looking at about $50 per skateboard truck.

Two things I particularly love about this project. One is that it takes advantage of Bluetooth on the Feather board, which allows you to change up the LED color and animations on the fly by using your phone.

So not only will you blow people away with your skateboard lights, that you made, but you can pull out your phone and control them too. That’s pretty badass.

Second, the enclosure for this isn’t just a box — it’s a masterclass in case design. Every element has a specific place to fit into. The board is screwed down so that it’s USB port faces out for recharging the battery. There’s a little cubby for the slide switch. It’s been reinforced in all the right areas to hopefully prevent it from cracking. It’s a great design you can learn a lot from.

Just whatever you do, don’t combine this with the flamethrower skateboard from episode 34.

Another project that caught my eye this week is this hamster pedometer by John Mueller. If you’ve ever looked at a hamster tear it up on a running wheel and wondered, “I wonder how fast he’s going?” — John’s Arduino project gives you a simple way to track your hamster’s output in both number of revolutions and miles traveled.

The project puts a small magnet on the outside of the wheel that passes by a small reed switch. Every time the magnet passes by, it momentarily closes the switch, and the Arduino reads that as one revolution. An LCD shield on the Arduino displays the count. By plugging in the measurement of the inner circumference of the wheel, you can also get an accurate and hilarious mileage reading.

Finally, for a non-electronic project I’m excited to try, Randy Sarafan has a beautiful guide on Instructables for making your own Kaleidoscope. The project uses aluminum tube, thumb screws, pre-cut Kaleidoscope mirrors, and a handful of other inexpensive parts.

It’s a great intro to working with metal, tapping screws, deburring, polishing. But my favorite part is a bonus mod where Randy stuffs a small jar of electronic components into the end and the mix of LEDs and integrated circuits make this oddly beautiful pattern. I gotta have it.

It’s time once again for a 1-minute review of a useful, uncommon tool, brought to you by our friends at the Cool Tools blog. This week I’m going to show you this plastic center finder by Robert Larson Company. It sells for around $7 on Amazon Prime, and when you use the link in the video description to pick one up, you help to support my videos and the Cool Tools blog.

The magic thing this tool does is make it easy to mark out the center on something circular. You wedge either side on top of the thing you’re measuring, mark a line, turn it, mark another line, turn it again, and after three lines you have an accurate idea of where the center is.

I learned about this tool from maker Ben Light, who uses it to drill out the center in the tin can robots he builds. Online, I see a lot of videos of jewelry designers using these. Woodworkers use them on dowels or lathe work.

They also work for finding the center of squares. Flip the 90-degree angle side down for marking out squares — especially on smaller material where a speed square isn’t helpful.

If that sounds like a useful tool to have around, be sure to use the link in the description. And you can see thousands of reader-recommended tools just like this one at

I have a few more things to share with you this week. One is this great looking book by Alberto Piganti called ABC: Basic Connections. It’s full of clear, colorful diagrams of common circuits used for Arduino and other projects. A good diagram illustration can really make understanding a project so much easier, and these look awesome. It comes in a binder so it lays flat on your workbench. It’s on Kickstarter for $25, shipping in August.

Also, issue 58 of MagPi magazine is out now, with a special section on using Minecraft on Raspberry Pi. I don’t know how these guys get their magazine out the door so quickly, but it’s great. As always you can download the PDF for free. There’s a great project in there on LED stair lights that indicate the weather, and using Scratch to build your own chatbot.

Maker Faires! The 5th annual Jerusalem Maker Faire kicks off today. Then this weekend we have Roen France, Ann Arbor Michigan, St. Joseph Michigan, Providence Rhode Island, and Bonn in Germany. If you make it out to one of those, send me some pictures and let me know how it went. I’m

And that’s it for this week’s show. Be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already. I passed 6,000 subscribers this week, which feels great. So thank you to everyone who’s helped me get here. And don’t forget that $7 center finder, you can find the link here in the show notes. Alright? Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week.

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