Presenting the ESP8266 Capsule!

This project went exceptionally well. With just under two weeks of prototyping and 3.5 straight hours of soldering, the ESP8266 Capsule is complete! The project as I’ve been showing you in previous posts has been crammed into an enclosure (a food container). Let’s take a look at how the soldering went.

IMG_0001The only plan I had was a very rough schematic of the project. I skipped the perfboard planning on paper which is something I started doing with my projects that ended up on perfboards. I thought the circuits were simple enough to wing it… While that’s was somewhat true, it was challenging at times but it all worked out.

IMG_0002I pulled apart the prototype since I had the schematic to work with. I used fresh ATmega328p and AMS1117 boards since I like to have a couple rough assembled ones laying around for prototyping with.

I used some cut jumper wires that still have the female connector on it to connect up the LCD. The ones I used were actually cut off of the old Box project that was sacrificed for this project. I like to think of this as the Box 2.0 since it’s pretty much the same thing, except it gains an internet connection but loses the real-time clock.

IMG_0003This was about halfway through the soldering process. I got increasingly concerned with all of the connections flying out everywhere. They’re that long just for assembly. They would be cut down when it was time to connect everything together.

IMG_0004The first test was scary, as it usually is. The LCD lit up but didn’t show anything. After a few minutes, I realized the potentiometer that adjusts the contrast of the text was turned all the way down for some reason. I thought it would have stayed the same since it was directly taken from the prototype.

The only real issue was with the photoresistor. One of the legs had a loose connection that I had to touch up with my soldering iron a couple more times to get right. I would have liked to hot glued parts of this project but I don’t think I have enough glue for my glue gun. I put some tape in hopes that it’ll help things stay in place. Everything is so tightly packed in there, mostly because of the female connector for the LCD connections, so things aren’t shifting around too much inside.

IMG_0006This is the final product. The sensors are mounted on the top with the LCD underneath it. Beside the LCD is a switch to turn on and off the LCD backlight.

It looks very similar to the Light Timer Project since it uses the same kind of enclosure and LCD. I’d like to think I’ve progressed since then. There are no breadboards tucked in there, and I’m using some custom PCBs… That’s progress to me!

IMG_0007I find that inexpensive switches are hard to find so my previous projects usually never had one unless I had a switch I pulled from an old toy or something. My switches from China finally came in yesterday. They’re cheap and don’t fit in a breadboard, but they work great in the project.

Now that it’s in the enclosure, it can be moved around, especially since it can still be powered by batteries. I’m thinking of leaving it outside for a day and watch the data come in. It’ll be a designated day I’d announce since I’d have to pick a good day to do it. The enclosure is hardly weatherproof, and the power in contacts are fully exposed. I could put it in a bag, but I think that would affect the humidity readings. I’ll let you know.

Thank you for following along with this project! Stay tuned for more projects coming soon!

Here are some links for this project: MYSQL Database Live DemoThing SpeakGitHub Repository

ESP8266 Project Powered Up

As I said in the previous post, I wanted to get a power supply for the ESP8266 project instead of using batteries. I decided to go to the nearby electronics store today to get one.IMG_0001This power supply is 9VDC 1A and actually comes in a branded box for the Atari “Lynx”, an old portable gaming system from the 80’s. I’m curious to know if the newer (I’m assuming) and smaller power supplies that were also in the store are any better than this one in terms of efficiency. I bought this one because of the cheaper price and it has the CSA and UL listings which is nice to have.

I also picked up a new soldering iron tip, and the 9V battery clips came in the mail today. I used all of these things to get the power supply into the project.IMG_0003I soldered the power supply wires to one of the 9v battery clips backwards so it would clip into another battery holder that would be the power input to a project. This way, the project can still go battery powered if I wanted to move it somewhere away from any power outlets temporarily. The power supply can also be shared around to other projects if it even needs to be.

With the project powered up from the wall, I have it uploading information again. You can view my Thing Speak channel here. The code is available on GitHub if you’d like to try a similar project.

I am waiting for some switches in the mail, along with other things I don’t really need anymore (parts for the temperature sensor that was supposed to be for this project). Anyways, I want to add a switch to the LCD backlight so I can essentially turn off the LCD when I don’t want it on. That would be the last connection in the prototype. From there, I’ll need to decide what will be soldered where and try to get it into an enclosure.

Thanks for reading!

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!

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:

Animatronic Head project, now “The Box”

In my five project Project Lineup, I had an animatronic head project listed there. I want to move away from the usual roaming robots because I get tired with them too quickly. In the past, I’ve seen people make cool robot faces with LED matrix eyes and servos that moved it around to follow and interact with you. I wanted to try something like that.

The Shelf Lighting System project sort of drained me as I’m finding it hard to be creative. I ended up with this after 15 minutes:This is a crappy version of what I had in mind but still somewhat close, which made me even more unmotivated just looking at it. That’s why I made the change to “The Box”.

The main purpose of this project is to put to use all of the parts I currently have. The picture above shows them all: 2×16 blue LCD, RGB LED, 8-ohm speaker, photoresistor, sound sensor, temperature/humidity sensor, and a Real Time Clock. The animatronic head was going to have these parts anyway, but taking away the servos and unique form factor, compared to a box, will make things easier for me.

The kicker for this project is that it will have an accompanying Visual Basic Windows program, although it won’t be necessary to use it all the time. I’ll have info on that when I get around to starting it.

A quick note about the temperature/humidity sensor… I just found out that the prototyping PCB I used actually has a second layer that connects pads on the board. It’s hidden under the silkscreen so I didn’t know until now. It looks like there’s a shorted connection so I’m going to try and salvage the sensor and put it back on a board like the one used for the RTC.

I’ll begin testing each thing and then start combining it all together.

Mail time + Project Lineup!

I got a package today from Dipmicro. I’m going to show off the things in this small package and then go through all of the projects I’ve got planned. See if you can guess a project or two by the end of the pictures.
IMG_20140214_210811They were having a sale on Atmega328 chips so I had to pick one up. If things work out, I’d definitely get more to make more projects that can stand by themselves without the entire Arduino development board.
IMG_20140214_210907Some capacitors and an oscillator for the Atmega chip.IMG_20140214_210648The only buttons I had before were pulled from toys and things. I don’t have any left so I got some more.IMG_20140214_210701A sound module because I didn’t feel like building an amplifier for the mic I have.IMG_20140214_210715Some photoresistors…IMG_20140214_210955These parts have joined the pile of parts on my desk. This sight means I’ve got a project upcoming. In this case, I’ve got five projects!

Light Timer Modification [REVISIT]

The Light Timer project has been running fine. However, since I don’t use really any of the extra features, I’ve stripped it down to the bare minimum. I’m taking it to the real basics. The lights are not going to be on a timer anymore. Rather, they’ll use the photoresistor to sense the light level in the area and adjust the lighting accordingly.

– Real-time clock and Arduino Uno board will be stripped from the Light Timer project.

– It will run on a circuit built using the Atmega chip.

– It will now use a photo resistor for the logic in turning on and off the lights.

Light Nametag [NEW]

I plan too many projects that end up going to waste. I’d like to have projects that I leave around to showcase. That’s why I’m thinking simple for this and the next project. This project will likely be two LED-lit name tags… one for my real first name and an ASIMOWALK5 one. Simple. If the Light Timer Modification project goes well (if the standalone Atmega circuit works), I will set up the same circuit for the two nametags so I can have them doing patterns. If that doesn’t work, I’m still fine with them just being on all the time.

– Two nametags. One spelling my real first name. One spelling ASIMOWALK5. They will each be their own solid colors.

– Possibly controlled by an Atmega chip, depending on how the Light Timer Modification project goes.

Desk Light Package [NEW]

There was a time not too long ago when I wanted to turn my desk into one “big” light show programmed to music. I just want a basic lighting system now. My desk is more of a station with bookshelves and drawers. I plan on giving parts of the desk different colors. No programming here, just a simple on/off switch on the battery pack.

– Lighting package for all of the areas of my desk.

– No “brains” (controllers) behind it; Battery powered and turned on and off by a switch.

Animatronic Head [NEW]

This is the big project of this group of plans. I’m still going back and forth on the details, but basically I want to create an animatronic desk buddy…

– Head and facial features include: LED matrix eyes, LCD mouth, servos for neck (pan/tilt), 8ohm speaker for short audible feedback.

– Sensory features may include: Temperature/Humidity sensor, Real Time Clock, Light, Sound.

PLC Trainer Program [REVISIT]

The last project is to get me back to practicing my ladder logic programming. I will probably try my hand at another mixing tank program. I usually do a full write up of the scenario and layout the buttons and that sort of thing. It will be a while because this has the least priority, though I do want to make it ongoing while I work on other projects.

So that’s the plans I’ve got! I’m excited because even though the main project, the animatronic head, is somewhat ambitious, I’ve still got other smaller projects to keep me going. Stay tuned for updates!

Light Timer Project: The Last Connection

1I got a new soldering iron for Christmas which gave me the motivation to do some more work on this project. I’ve always shied away from soldering in my projects because I’ve only owned a crappy $15 irons until now. I didn’t like having that breadboard hanging off of the control unit so I went back at it with my new soldering iron and came out with something a lot closer to what I had in mind in the first place.3The LCD still doesn’t have a cut out but that’s fine. Like I’ve said before, another reason why I didn’t want to put the buttons directly on it was because it was a tight squeeze with all of the wiring and components jammed in there. My concern right now is a bit paranoid, but I’m afraid of a short or something breaking just because of how tightly packed it all is. So far, it seems fine. It won’t be kicked around or vibrating so things should stay in place. I’ll continue to have it running while I’m around just to keep an eye on it. I want to be confident in it before I leave it plugged in overnight.

2

This is the final final product. I hope.