Google Brings Remote Broadband Internet via Flying Routers

Google has revealed their pilot program in New Zealand to bring 3G internet to remote areas using weather balloons.

Maker Dezsö Molnár presents his flying gyro-cycle

Tired of towing your autogyro to the regional small aircraft strip? Maker Dezsö Molnár has been working for almost a decade on his flying gyro-cycle-- a hybrid of an autogyro (a wingless aircraft with a non-powered rotor) and a street legal motorcycle. It's amazingly cool with a sleek racy design, check out the video below from TESTED.

The Roentgens' Berlin Secretary Cabinet is an amazing piece of analogue makery

Check out this inspiring piece of 18th century furniture chocked full of secret drawers, counterweighted mechanisms and pop-out compartments!

Moving things in a line, a linear motion gallery

I've been in a linear motion groove for the past few weeks, and I'd like to share the various types of linear motion mechanisms that makers can use in the projects. Basically, linear motion is the act of moving things in a straight line. This is great for a variety of machines ranging from 3-axis CNC mills all the way to the vending machine that serves you lollies and crisps.

Clone DNA with your Arduino

Instructables user staceyk documents an open source design for a Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machine. Basically, PCR allows you to amplify and copy strands of DNA, and is used for applications like paternity testing and disease research.

The OpenPCR design features some beautiful laser-cutting as well as an open-source electronic design powered by an Arduino. The full build instructions are available, and it has also spawned a web shop where you can buy OpenPCR as a kit.

Nice work staceyk, and way to go for leading bio-hacking forward!

Universal Translator with Two Raspberry Pi's

Maker Will Powell has used two Rasperry Pi's, an iPhone, iPad and a flat screen TV to create a real-time translation tool. It allows two people to have conversations in different languages (in this example, English and Spanish) while running voice-recognition and translation services in real time. Watch out Google!

Fuelling Your Arduino - Why you should use an External Power Breakout

One of the great things about the Arduino platform is that you can get out of the box and start developing straight away - Everything you need is built into the board, just add USB - The on board regulators take care of the rest of those pesky power problems. But all is not what it seems. To get a better understanding let's inspect some Thermal Images. Read on after the jump.

A look at the DSO Quad

Originally released in April 2011 as an open source project, time has been kind to this device. Many of the early shortcomings of the firmware have now been ironed out by the community along with several different firmware streams to choose from making this much more usable and attractive to the hobbyist than in the past. So let's take a closer look at it.

PC to PCB in under 30 minutes - Quick 'n Easy PCB Fabrication

With the explosion of the hobbyist microcontroller scene the past few years, PCB fab houses have sprung up left right and centre. At these wonderous places, you can get professional quality PCBs fabricated for your every desires for relatively low costs. They can range from very low cost and looooong lead times, to reasonable prices (~$50-$100) for low volume runs ('protoype' services). At the larger end of the scale, you can panelise your design and get even better value per PCB...

Aussie Maker GorillaBuilderz Is Working On Wifi Shield

We're very happy to see some more Down-Under OSHW-- Aussie Maker GorillaBuilderz (twitter @GorillaBuilderz) is working on an Arduino-compatible Wifi Shield to fill in the void caused by the closure of AsyncLabs. A huge improvement over previous Wifi Shields is GorillaBuilderz plan for compatibility with the Arduino Ethernet Library. Check out their website for more news!

USB Volume Controller Made From Old Keyboard

TinkerKit System Is Like Lego For Arduino

The Arduino TinkerKit system released early this month unveils a modular set of sensors and actuators that can be connected to the Arduino Uno or Mega without any soldering. The set is already quite comprehensive including push-buttons, LEDs, a relay, potentiometers, a MOSFET and an accelerometer. The TinkerKit hub is an Arduino shield that allows you to connect to the TinkerKit components with standard 3-pin cables. Look out for these soon in Australia!

Canberra UAV Progresses with Robot Vision Test Flight

Canberra's own autonomous aerial robot team, Canberra UAV has now progressed to adding robot vision to their UAV which will be entered into the UAV Outback Challenge. Andrew Tridgell, inventor of Rsync and core contributor of the Samba project is leading up the artificial intelligence programming for the entry. As reported at a Make Hack Void Maker Meetup, Tridgell has made some progress with their machine vision camera attempting to locate an IR beacon on the ground while flying. His robot vision program is using OvenCV to detect "Outback Joe", a Canberra UAV team member laying on the ground pointing the IR beacon upwards. Tridgell explains their first attempts were about 50% accurate in locating Outback Joe-- the blurry, badly focused camera along with early algorithms (a total of 40 lines of Python) are at fault for the false positives and positive negatives. Following are some images of the team's robot vision test flight.

A successful location of "Outback Joe". Tridgell explains that the resulting "spot" of the IR beacon was only 1 pixel-- a cause for concern until they can upgrade their camera to one with higher resolution.

An image of the edge detection algorithm.

High Speed Photography With Deadly DIY Flash Gun

Amateur flash photographer Alan Sailer has captured incredible moments of impact using a (dangerously) high voltage flash. To create these images, he fires fruit, play-doh, and anything he can find at high speeds to be captured by his DIY air-gap flash. According to the plans on the Hobby Robotics Blog, an air-gap flash has a super-short duration of 1/1,000,000th of second-- enough to capture on camera an airgun pellet's mid-air flight. Attached are some incredible pictures below from Sailer's Flickr stream along with pictures of his rig.

"Waldorf Salad"

"Patty Cake PlayDoh"

The innards of the high voltage air-gap flash

Images are posted with permission from Alan Sailer.

Switzerland Sound Artist Creates CNC Water Dropper

Switzerland artist Per Lang has created a CNC-like machine whose sole purpose is to arrange water drops on a hydrophobic surface. Just a like a 3-axis milling machine, “Falling Objects” uses a hydraulic dosing pump which dispenses droplets via a syringe onto the surface. The machine forms a grid of 21x21 water drops and restarts every 300 minutes which is the time it takes for all the droplets to evaporate. See the video below and visit the Lang's Triangulation Blog for more details.

Coming Soon: The Smart Relay Shield

Our engineer Geoff as been hard at work on Australian Robotics' first original product design: The Smart Relay Shield. We've seen other relay shields on the market, but so far there are no Arduino-compatible relay devices that are rated for Australian mains voltages of 240 volts. Geoff has created a great looking shield that also features some intelligence on-board; by placing a ATTiny microcontroller on the shield itself, the Smart Relay Shield can be controlled via a TTL serial interface-- this means that not only does it work great on top an Arduino Uno or Freetronics Eleven, but it also can be controlled by any micro that speaks serial. This frees up a few more GPIO pins and allows you to control several relay boards with just one Arduino.

Note: because of restrictions and legal requirements for working with mains voltages AR/Nixotic does not recommend use without installation/inspection by qualified personelle. This component does not in any way negate the legal and regulatory requirements for a system to undergo appropriate testing and certification before connection to mains electricity.

Smart Relay Shield Feature Breakdown

  • Four 240V/7A Relays
  • Arduino Shield Form Factor
  • TTL Serial Control: control more than one with Arduino, or free up some pins
  • "Smart States": the shield remembers its state before a reset or power down
  • Poll the state: serial commands to poll the state of the relays
  • Powered by the Arduino supply or via its own DC jack
  • Proto-area
  • 3.3V or 5V TTL Serial
  • ATTiny2313 On Board: all pins broken out for further hacking!

The Smart Relay Shield is an innovative product that enables anyone to control anything!

How to Talk To ThingSpeak With Python (A Memory/CPU Monitor)

Here's a short tutorial on getting Python talking to the new ThingSpeak data logging web service. ThingSpeak joins the likes of allowing web citizens to upload their data from devices, computers, and sensors using a RESTful web service. ThingSpeak out of the box comes with a beautiful chart visualisation API that features real-time updates. In this blog post I'll use Python to connect to ThingSpeak and send my computer's available memory and CPU usage, then visualise the data in real-time using the ThingSpeak Charts API. Watch the examples below for some real-time updates!

Web Data Logging With Pachube (Round 2)

How To Make Your Arduino Pachube Client

This article picks up on the (outdated) Pachube Article that explains how to create a self-resetting Pachube client with Arduino and the Ethernet Shield. My detailed Hardware and Software configurations are documented on the Github repository. Basically, use an Arduino Uno with the Freetronics Ethernet Shield, an improved version of the official shield. The Arduino Uno takes advantage of the Optiboot's exposure of the AVR watchdog timer for periodic resets of the AVR when it fails to register a watchdog event.

  1. Download the Pachube_Client sketch from the Github repository.
  2. Install the EthernetDHCP library into your Arduino libraries (I am using IDE 21)
  3. Get your Pachube account, create a feed, and obtain your API Key
  4. Load the sketch onto your Arduino Uno after changing the feed numbers and API Key variables
  5. Power down, plug in the Ethernet Shield and network cable, you should be up and running with DHCP after a few minutes. If you have problems, comment out the DHCP code and connect manually to your router.
  6. Optional Step to take full advantage of the code: Solder a jumper to WZT RST and connect it to Digital Pin 9. (I haven't tried this yet, but it's recommended by the original article. So far the watchdog timer seems to be enough to reset the device)

The DHCP library took a few iterations of the datalogging loop to kick in and discover an IP, so when following along at home, be patient! I had my serial monitor opened while Google'ing "Arduino EthernetDCHP problems" when I noticed the feed being populated. Ka-ching! Detailed in another page are my experiments that document the tests run as part of this article.

Improvements In The Arduino Since Last Year: Optiboot On The Uno

Before the start of Australian Robotics in the June of 2010, I was working on a project to create a reliable data logger using Arduino, Ethernet Shield and the web service As a recap, here are some links to the previous works documenting a series of trials with Pachube and the initial Pachube + Arduino project.

To sum it up, the Arduino and Ethernet Shield make good dataloggers in the short term, but eventually will need a RESET when the hardware crashes-- so you'll notice lot's of "frozen" Pachube feeds out there and very few "live" feeds. Pachube will detect that it hasn't had an update from your device in something like 10 minutes, then it will set your feed to a frozen status. Here is a link to my Pachube Feed Number 8281.

Since June of 2010 a few changes have happened including the introduction of the new Arduino Uno, and the decision by Italy to package the Optiboot bootloader with all Arduino Uno's. Of particular interest to Pachube users is that Optiboot builds upon and includes LadyAda's watchdog enhancements which are now a part of the core Optiboot. As you'll see a key part of the code using the watchdog timer to reset the Arduino if there has been no registration to the watchdog in 8 seconds. The second key part of the code is to physically reset the Ethernet Shield by asserting Digital Pin 9 before every loop of useEthernet( ).

Pachube 8281 Feed
Live visualisation from Pachube feed. Mind the funny data during my tests :)

Contact With Jonathon Oxer: The Freetronics Undocumented Features

Today after some correspondence with Jonathon Oxer regarding Ethernet Shields and his new EtherTen Arduino with built in Ethernet, he pointed out an undocumented feature of the Freetronics Ethernet Shield. Jonathon has included in his design a shield reset pad marked as "WIZ RST" found to the top right of the Wiznet chip. This can be used with a digital output on the Arduino in order to reset the shield separately from the Arduino otherwise not possible without bending out the RESET pin of your Ethernet Shield.

Today after some correspondence with Jonathon Oxer regarding Ethernet Shields and his new EtherTen, he pointed out an undocumented feature of the Freetronics Ethernet Shield.

A procedure to do just that is documented in this (outdated) Pachube article on using the Watchdog timer with Arduino to create a reliable datalogger. Using the WIZ RST pad on the Freetronics Ethernet Shield, one can opt out of modding the shield and simply run a jumper to this pad from a digital pin to reset the shield. Jonathon has coupled the Arduino reset with the Ethernet reset to add this functionality while at the same time allowing the Ethernet Shield to be reset when the Arduino is reset.

WIZ RST Pad on the Freetronics Ethernet Shield
Asserting the WZT RST Pad from an Arduino Digital Out will reset the shield only. Nice work Jonathon!

Shortly after his email, I was inspired to pick up the project I left off before starting Australian Robotics. Most of my time over the past 8 months has been spent merchandising and working on the e-commerce backend, front end and visual designs for my web store. Quickly I revised the code from the Pachube article to use Arduino IDE 21, the latest EthernetDHCP library and my old Pachube Feed to get some data logged.

OpenPicus Flyport Hands-On

Today I had the fantastic opportunity of reviewing a new open source technology-– OpenPicus. Chris from Australian Robotics offered me the sample and I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on a new gadget!

OpenPicus is an open source hardware and software solution that provides both developers and hobbyists with a very easy-to-use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth stack.


The OpenPicus hardware is designed with modularity in mind. The hardware platform consists of one or more "Picuses" and a "Nest", the nest provides a USB debugging interface, breakout board for the Picus, a USB-ICSP Programmer and a nice silk-screen to show you what goes where.

OpenPicus Nest with Flyport module

Canberra UAV Test Flight #3 (Bottle Drop)

I’ve been following the Canberra UAV team, a group of Scientists, Programmers, Nerds and Hackers gathered to build an autonomous vehicle for the 2011 UAV Outback Challenge. The Outback challenge features several simulated challenges for UAV teams based around the idea of a rugged desert rescue, one of which is a water bottle drop to a lost bushwalker. The UAV must locate a the stranded bushwalker and drop a bottle containing 500ml of water in the vicinity of the survivor, an points are dealt out depending on the distance from the target. The Canberra UAV team is one of two Canberra teams that will be building autonomous flying robots for the 2011 challenge. Both teams are loosely associated with the Canberra hackerspace Make Hack Void.

Dave and Jack chat about the new bottle dropper
Dave and Jack chat about the new bottle dropper