Maker Project Lab
January 25, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Asus Tinker Board Challenges Raspberry Pi [Maker Update #18]

This week on Maker Update: the classic bristlebot gets an upgrade, Eagle CAD drops a bomb, ASUS takes on Raspberry Pi, musical domes, hacked Furbys, vape tech, and Chi-town gets a big ol’ Maker Faire.  

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January 19, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: Project Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Light Paintbrush for Circuit Playground

I love when a DIY project gives you something that feels almost like a magic trick. The TV-B-Gone project is one such project, but so is this LED paintbrush project published by John Park on Adafruit.

John Park has an embarrassing number of great projects, but I ordered up the parts for this one specifically because I’ve been looking for an approachable project with a fun payoff to use for a beginner electronics workshop I’m teaching in April. I love the idea of students walking away with a unique gadget to show off, rather than just a blinking LED.

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January 18, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DIY Camera Explains Your Picture [Maker Update #17]

This week, an artificially intelligent word camera, the launch of the Pi Compute Module 3 and why it’s ok not to care, a goofy walking Arduino bot, a slot-together octopus lamp, a $20 color-matching laptop light, shop tips, battery tips, and where in the world is this week’s Maker Faire? SUBSCRIBE ON YOUTUBE 

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January 11, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

DIY Overwatch Blaster & Star Wars Interfaces [Maker Update #16]

This week on Maker Update! A sonic blaster from Overwatch, the Arduino reconciliation gets real, the BBC Microbit crosses the pond, the demise of 123D, another LED Nixie to consider, 3D printed Amazon Echo accessories, a study Star Wars user interfaces, and upcoming contests from Instructables. SUBSCRIBE ON YOUTUBE

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December 21, 2016 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cocktail Robotics and Laser Cats [Maker Update #15]

This week on Maker Update, a Nixie tube alternative for the 21st century, Arduino puts your sketches in the cloud, robot cocktails, laser cats, making it rain, making music, and making the cookies. SUBSCRIBE ON YOUTUBE!

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December 7, 2016 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Let Me Give You a Raspberry Pi [Maker Update #13]

This week on Maker Update: making your own 3D printed computer museum, Fusion 360 learns a new trick, a smoking laser sword, a new drawbot, a reason to buy a dental vacuform, and a giveaway for a full Raspberry Pi computer setup from our show sponsor, WD Labs. SUBSCRIBE ON YOUTUBE

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November 30, 2016 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Time to Print the Ornaments [Maker Update #12]

This week on Maker Update: a payphone that calls the 90’s, a moon for your nightstand, a way to finally get your fish talking, a mini NES with NFC, 3D printed ornaments, a sewing machine for makers, a ridiculous amount of maker contests, and the first Maker Faire in L.A.
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November 18, 2016 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: Project Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Hack Alexa into a Billy Bass Talking Fish

As many of you know from watching my Maker Update video series, I’ve been obsessed with hacking together a Billy Bass novelty talking fish and Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. About a month ago, an artist named Brian Kane published a viral video showing a Big Mouth Billy Bass novelty singing fish, seemingly voiced by Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. The internet went nuts for it, and so did I — but mostly I just wanted to know how it worked so that I could make my own.

After a few weeks tinkering with it and collecting the components I needed, I’ve come up with a workable hack. The project documentation and code are available on Instructables. I encourage you to provide feedback and ideas on how to improve it.
Make an Amazon Alexa talk through an animatronic Billy Bass singing fish.

November 16, 2016 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The DIY Nintendo You Really Want [Maker Update #11]

This week on Maker Update: a project for painting the air, a new ally for Maker Spaces, Hackster has a new owner, Make Magazine’s 3D printer shootout, hacking the NES Classic, making your own NES Classic, and Maker Faires.

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November 11, 2016 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: Kits, Project Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: NeoPixel Goggle Kit

This Halloween, I decided to dress up as a mad scientist. Kind of obvious, I know, but a great excuse to wire up this Adafruit Neopixel Goggle Kit I had sitting around.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve never had an easy experience with Neopixels. Somehow I always manage to burn one out, or get an unexpected glitch. My hope was that this kit would provide me with a guaranteed success, and I’m happy to say that it delivered.

Goggle Kit Contents

The kit comes in a box with most everything you need including a Trinket micro controller (basically a tiny Arduino), a pair of plastic costume goggles, two Neopixel rings, multiple colors of wire, a surface mount JST battery connector, a small rechargeable battery pack, and USB battery charger. You will need to supply your own micro USB cable for loading code, and devise your own diffuser for the lenses (plain copy paper works fine).

Tools Needed For Goggle Kit

You’ll also need a few tools, including a soldering iron, solder, hot glue, E6000 adhesive (optional), wire cutters/strippers, and a computer.

No printed instructions are, but the online documentation is ample and detailed, plus you’ll need to go online to download the code required for the Trinket to do its magic.

Right off the bat, the instructions have you soldering a small surface mount JST connection to the Trinket. This allows you to run the Trinket from the included battery pack, but it’s also a likely stumbling block for anyone just beginning with soldering. It’s a delicate operation.

Wiring Neopixel Ring Wiring Two Neopixel Rings and trinket

Wiring the two Neopixel rings also presented some challenges. Despite the documentation, it was hard to get a clear idea of exactly which wires ran to which areas of the rings. After thinking it through, I came up with the right solution — but again I think this is an area where someone without experience might lose hope.

Before glueing everything in place, you’re advised to load the Arduino code to the Trinket and see if everything’s working as planned. Though the Trinket is Arduino IDE compatible (meaning it can connect to the standard Arduino software), you will need an additional download and adjustment to get things working. Again, another bump in the road for a beginner.

Trinket Wiring Closeup Neopixel ring Wiring Closeup

The Instructions also advise reinforcing some of the wiring with a few globs of E6000 adhesive. I didn’t have any, but having seen it used in so many other projects I took it as a great excuse to walk to the hardware store and buy some. Securing the rings into the goggles required hot glue, which I had plenty of.

The end result looks great and I’m happy with how these turned out. For a unique costume or cosplay showpiece, I think the $40 price of the kit is a good value. It should be noted that you can’t see through the goggles once they’re complete — they’re just meant to hang out on your head and look cool.

Goggle components wired without goggles Goggles without components

Cool things I learned with this kit:
-Programming a Trinket board
-Chaining together multiple NeoPixels
-Using E6000 to provide strain relief on electronic wiring
-Working with and recharging small LiPo battery packs
-Surface mount soldering (JST on Trinket)

Finished Neopixel Goggles

What to watch out for:
-A little bit of tricky surface mount soldering
-Configuring Arduino software settings for use with Trinket
-Aligning Neopixel rings in goggles for symmetry
-Devising your own diffuser for the lenses (I used Frisket film)

Check Neopixel Goggle Kit price on Amazon!

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