The Box project, completed!

With the Box project, or temperature/humidity monitor (part 2, I guess), sitting on a breadboard for some time, I dedicated all of today of transferring it all into the final box. I’m very happy with it despite how simple it seems. I also have a new build material.

IMG_0942I started soldering things on using a plan I drew up. This is the first time I’ve actually planned out a PCB and it worked extremely well. I don’t have to think as much as I go along.
IMG_0943Base Atmega stuff in and some resistors for the LEDs and buttons… Because it was so organized this time, it seemed a lot neater.
IMG_0945Organization was really key to the success of this project. It’s probably bad, but I was kind of surprised. There were many connections that could go wrong, and one did but I caught it and it was smooth sailing on from there.

IMG_0946I love using hot glue now and I expect to use it a lot more. Most of this project is made up of thin jumper wires so I didn’t like the connection to the perfboard on its own. The hot glue added a better base.
IMG_0947It also helped a lot with soldering. I glued them into place before soldering so I didn’t have to position my helping hands to hold the wire as I solder.
IMG_0948The first test was just powering on the LCD. I was super happy! I slowly got the other parts online and it turned out to be all good.
IMG_0950The last part was getting it all into the box. I was getting worried it would end up like my Frank robot which was basically the same thing on wheels. In that project, I couldn’t get a lid on so there were just all of these wires flying out of the top. I was actually laughing trying to find a place for the RTC. I found humor in trying to shove it in for some reason. Maybe I was just really happy too.
IMG_0953That’s it! It’s powered with a backup battery I bought for my phone, but it also works with my USB wall warts and PC USB ports.

The following video shows what control I have over it now that everything’s enclosed. Enjoy!

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The Box: The Soldering Plan

Planning is underway to get the temperature/humidity monitor (The Box) project soldered and into the final box.IMG_0938 When I do larger soldering projects, it’s usually hit and miss because I end up trying to plan out the board as I’m going along. This time, I have a piece of grid paper and have tried laying out the components. This way, I can start soldering anywhere on the board without having to think as much.IMG_0939This is a rough plan of the layout of things on the box. Everything mounted on the box will be connected to the board with jumper wires (one end soldered to the board).

I’m a little hesitant to get started so I’ll take a couple more reviews of the plan before I start soldering anything. Hopefully that won’t take too long!

Good news, bad news, progress.

Let’s start with the good news!

IMG_0899I stripped a USB cable I had and soldered some solid core wire to it.IMG_0902It works just fine with any USB power source (5v). I taped up the connection, but I did it over again even tighter than what it looks like in the picture. I wanted to make it thick enough so it doesn’t flex a lot at that point because the wires in the USB cable are really tiny.

It’s hard talking about failures but they happen. Here’s the bad news, though it’s unrelated to this project:

IMG_0900I tried soldering the Atmega circuit to this prototyping board. It didn’t work.IMG_0901If you look closely, you’ll see the traces that are covered by the silkscreen. They throw me off a lot as I’m adding components on it. I have yet to have a successful project soldered on one of these boards, so I’m glad that this was my last one. I’m sticking to the perfboards with individual pads. I’ve had better experiences with them.

Now that the bad news is out of the way, let’s throw in some more good news!

My Dipmicro package shipped last night! I don’t expect it to arrive until early next week, though.

I found a stash of 9v batteries that I didn’t even know I had. I’ve been thinking of doing the “final” roaming robot, with the challenge of making it as small as possible since I learned to use the Atmega chip by itself. My biggest issue is power because it can’t be tethered to the wall and I don’t want to pour money into buying new batteries for it all the time. Since these robots are pretty much the only thing I’d power with batteries and I found four 9v batteries, there’s a better possibility of this happening.

One last thing… I still have to start the PLC Trainer program. I wrote up an old mixing tank situation last year so I’ll probably dig that up to get things going. I came up with the idea of using the new LED panel to show the tank level instead of using each LED to indicate the current state of the program. I’ll have more on that once I get to writing the plan out.

The Box: More brainstorming

I don’t anticipate my order with the potentiometer to come in until early next week so I have a lot of time to plan out every last detail for this project. A few more developments have come up.IMG_0878I found the perfect box for it. It’s wide enough for the LCD but still small enough so there’s not a lot of wasted space.IMG_0882Something I picked up from the Greg robot project is that the wiring for the LCD will use a lot of space if I use the same jumper wires.
IMG_0880This time around, I’ll chop off the male end of the male-to-female jumper wires. That way, I can cut the wire to a more reasonable size. These wires are good because they’re stranded so they’re easier to work with in a smaller space, even better when they’re shorter.IMG_0886I’m still thinking about the power situation and I’m starting to lean toward finding a 5v supply to ditch the regulator and that large 9v adapter. I remembered I purchased this backup battery for my phone that gives a 5v 1A output. I’d like to use this over normal batteries because it’s rechargeable, and I’m out of rechargable AAs or AAAs so I won’t have to spend any more money on that.IMG_0887I have this Samsung USB cable for my phone that started acting weird months ago so I stopped using it. It had both data communication problems as well as power/charging problems, but that could have been caused by the phone itself. It reacted better to other cables that I use now though. I’ll  cut it open and see if I can use this to connect the project to the battery. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go buy a 5V 2A adapter from Sayal again.

Thinking out loud

Last night, I put in an order at Dipmicro. If the package arrives soon, this week should be a productive one, though most of the things will get done at the tail end of the week. In the mean time, I’ll be working on a couple of tutorials. Once the package comes, I’ll be revisiting the rectifier tutorial because I bought a bridge rectifier. I’m also going to build a Wii bar for my brother. I’ve never played on the Wii before, but I’ve gathered that the bar is just a simple circuit with some infrared diodes. Finally, The Box project will finally get enclosed once I get a potentiometer for the LCD backlight. Here’s a quick update on that:

IMG_0861I’ve had the project running for the most of the days since I got it up and running. I’ve just been looking for bugs while I wait for the potentiometer. All of the bugs have just been clock formatting issues (wrong AM/PM, spacing, etc). When it’s all soldered, the Atmega chip will sit in a socket so uploading new code is always possible. Since the last update, I added another button that changes what the LEDs are doing (chasing, all on, all off). In the picture above, you can see I’ve set them all to be off. I also added a heatsink to the regulator.IMG_0860This project will likely end up on my top shelf alongside my LED nametag. Since I plan to have it regularly running, batteries are out of the question but I don’t like this adapter because it’s so big. I could power it with my desk lighting system, but I want it to be portable enough to move it to another room. I guess for now, I’ll stick with this adapter until I can find one that’s smaller. I may just go and buy another 5v supply (cheap and fairly small) like the one for my desk lighting system, but I’d have to make a final decision on that before I get to soldering because I’d need to remove the regulator.

Watch out for a new tutorial soon. Thanks for visiting!

Spring cleaning + The Box update

I’m ready to put in an order next week at Dipmicro. I decided to do some cleaning through my storage areas so that things don’t look even messier when more components arrive.IMG_0842It started with just my box of LEDs, then I decided to just go through everything.IMG_0843Over time, I’ve just been dumping things into the drawers without looking so I just wanted to make it look a little neater. Before you wonder, the Cheerios box is scrap cardboard…
IMG_0844This is one of those things I want to keep holding on to for some reason. It’s a burnt out resistor (still works but I’m not going to use it) from one of my labs in school. There was an instruction in the lab that told us to drop the voltage from ~30v to 5v but it seemed like a bunch of us missed it, causing a nice puff of smoke.IMG_0845This was my organizer through college. I took out the scrap LEDs and jumper wires, and all of my capacitors.IMG_0846I organized my capacitors into small bags and now have them with my resistors.. I don’t have the space, money, or practical reasoning to get one of those things with like 100 drawers in them that sit on people’s workbenches so this setup will do for now.

As for The Box project I showed off in the last post, there are a few minor notes on what’s next. I want to get a potentiometer for the LCD backlight but I won’t have that until sometime next week. In the meantime, I’ve just been watching out for bugs. The ones that have come up are mostly just formatting issues with the clock. I’ve had it running all day and noticed the regulator was getting a little hot, as expected, so I screwed on a heatsink. The enclosure will be cardboard again since I can’t afford a plastic one.

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The Box: Prototyping

So “The Box” project is back, taking on a less ambitious form this time. I’m not going to try and cram every part I have into a box. It’s just going to be a simple temperature and humidity monitor with a clock and some LEDs. It’s nothing fancy, but I’m hoping I end up with a polished final product.IMG_0826I’ve begun prototyping all of the elements of the project together and I think I have a solid base right now. Let me walk through how the prototype currently works.

IMG_0831The system greets you when it’s first powered on. There is actually a reason for this which will be explained shortly.
IMG_0832This is the main screen. The clock can be toggled between 12 and 24 hour formats. The bottom line alternates between the temperature and humidity readings every three seconds.IMG_0835There’s the button to toggle the clock. The system is powered by a 9v power adapter into a 5v regulator. The brains is an Atmega328p microcontroller.IMG_0834Those two perfboards have the temperature/humidity sensor and the real time clock. Oh look, some LEDs!

The LEDs go back and forth signalling a complete second. It’s done using delays which provides a break for the LCD and sensor updating. While the LEDs are going back and forth, it isn’t actually using the RTC. It’s simply delayed so that a cycle back and forth takes a second.  This takes us to the reasoning for the power on screen with the “Hi”. What’s actually going on is there’s a delay so that you can always read the “Hi”, then it waits for the next second change by the RTC. This process syncs the start of the program with the start of a clock second. That way, every time the program loops back to the beginning, it starts at the top of a second since each loop of the program takes a second to complete.

Check out this video to see the prototype in action: