Look ma, no Arduino!

IMG_0001I’m one more step closer to finishing up the hardware for this project. I’ve migrated everything over to my ATmega328p and AMS1117 boards.

I said in the previous post that I didn’t want to power this project with batteries so I should mention that the battery will be swapped out with a 9V power supply so it can stay powered 24/7. This was just to test the configuration of the boards.

Thanks for reading! I’ll get it back online soon enough!


Homing a motor with a photoresistor

I did some experimenting today with a photoresistor. A few days ago, I saw a project where someone used a photoresistor as a sensor when someone walked into a room or something like that, by pointing an LED at it and then waiting until the light was interrupted by someone in the way. I thought I could use that same concept with a servo motor.

The original plan was to build something like the Frog Hopper tower I built a while back. It would actually have “eyes” this time, as I would have mounted four sensors and four LEDs up the tower to track where the car is. After a couple of hours of not getting cardboard to cooperate with me, I gave up and quickly came up with a new plan to still play around with the concept.

If you know me, you know I’m a huge amusement park fan. Half of my fun at amusement parks are just watching the rides and picking out parts of them to figure out how it all works. IMG_20130604_114029If you know me really well, you’d know that my favorite ride is Sledge Hammer at Canada’s Wonderland. A lot of people knock it because it’s not very thrilling, but I’ve been so fascinated by it since it opened in 2003. In this picture, I’ve drawn a yellow circle pointing out a green proximity sensor, lined up with a thin piece of metal attached to the gondola, or the seats of the ride. As the ride cycle is ending, the gondolas slowly spin around trying to line up the piece of metal with the proximity sensor. I find it very interesting to watch, because most of the time it will pass by it and slowly reverse back to line up with it.
IMG_1057Anyways, this is what I set up. The button on the breadboard is used to tell the system to home the motor if the motor is running, or to restart the motor if the motor is stopped.IMG_1058 The continuous rotation servo motor has a piece of cardboard attached to it. The photoresistor sits on the servo motor and has the red LED shining on it whenever the cardboard rotates out of the way. Check out the video to see how it works:

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: 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!

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.

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:

Temperature/Humidity Sensor Soldered. Again.

It’s been a while since I touched the Temperature & Humidity Monitor project. I’ve been thinking about making it a standalone device, combining it with the real time clock and LCD I have sitting around.

IMG_0810I decided to transfer the sensor onto a new board. I cut a piece of perfboard and soldered it on, trying to be neater than last time. IMG_0812Somewhat unnecessary layout but I think it looks nice.testI tested it and it worked fine. This time, I put my soldering iron near it and tried to get the temperature to rise. I’ve never experimented with it like this so I just found out that the graph doesn’t rise past 30ºC. I’ll probably go back in and fix that.

A part of me would be bothered if I couldn’t get the sensor to work with the Visual Basic program once it becomes part of a standalone project without the Arduino board. I haven’t tried making a serial connection with an Atmega328 chip by itself. For now, the sensor would probably not be permanently mounted to anything so I can always plug it back into an Arduino and work on the VB program if I chose to.