The bad servo-RF mix

A long while back, I purchased a couple of RF transmitter and receiver pairs. My idea was to make a remote controlled robot. I did do some experimenting with it before but nothing came of it at the time. I tried some more experiments today and, well, I broke more things, but I also confirmed a few other things that will sway where this project goes, if it does go anywhere.IMG_0001For the transmitter, I used an Arduino Uno. At first, I used it for the receiver, just so I could make sure the communication was working fine via the serial monitor. Once that was ready, I swapped the transmitter and receiver on the two systems. Using the transmitter on the Uno allowed me to change what was being sent instead of setting up a hardware circuit with buttons.IMG_0002Here’s the receiver. It uses my ATmega328p Breakout Board (Rev B) and my old AMS1117 voltage regulator board. I used my 16 SMD LED board and an LCD for debugging purposes.IMG_0003Before the servo motors were thrown into the mix, I tested the communication between the two separate systems. I’ve gotten the hang of it. I can edit the transmitter code to send as many characters I want. The only time I need to touch the receiver code is to change what the system does with the received data (the conditional logic).

I accidentally wired the power connections (Vcc and Gnd) to one of the servos backwards. It got really hot at that point and now it doesn’t work. I decided to take it apart for fun and will share those photos in a future post.

And after that, my problems with the servos continued as I realized the servo and virtualwire libraries try to use the same interrupt timer. To get around it, I’m trying to use the ServoTimer2 library which uses another timer. It wasn’t working properly for me so I’ll have to look into it more, but I think I’m just using the library wrong. You can take a look at my code on GitHub. It would make things easier if I just used DC motors instead of servos, but I’d rather use parts I already have. I do have another idea for these RF pairs so, even if this project is lost, you’ll still get to see them in action elsewhere…

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned if you’ve ever been interested in seeing the innards of one of these micro continuous rotation servo motors! That’s coming up next!

Arduino Light Show #7 Debut: “Make A Wish”

My PHP script on the Light Show website ended up releasing the shows a day early so I figured why not… I’m proud to present the newest version of the Arduino Light Show Project with this holiday special! Enjoy!

A detailed build overview is coming up soon. Stay tuned!


A closer look at the Arduino Light Show 5.2

I’m not quite ready to take down the latest Arduino Light Show stage but it’s been sitting around collecting dust, literally which you will see in the photos below. I want to take you through a photo tour and provide some notes on the build.
IMG_1557One of the things I first noticed about the horizontal light bar is that, at a certain angle, it makes a neat effect where you see the light of each LED on the bar.IMG_1562Once the light bar is moved away from that angle, the effect is gone. At another specific angle, the light from the bar colors the area below where the floor LEDs are. The red had the most dramatic effect.IMG_1578Some day I’d like to figure out a way of being able to see a beam of light from the LEDs so that having them positioned like in the photo above would be more dramatic, especially on camera. I’m fairly certain the LEDs would have to be more high powered and somehow focused so they can be more of a spotlight. My other idea is using fog. These are just ideas, ideas that I doubt I would ever go through with.
IMG_1580Let’s take a closer look at the build with the room lights on. These are the transistors I used for the light bar. Since one Arduino pin would be controlling six LEDs, it needed transistors to supply more current than the maximum 40mA the Arduino pin can source. I’ve always had a fear of transistors, mostly because I’d get lost trying to do calculations. I’m going to keep working on it…IMG_1581Here’s what the stage looks like. The darkness and colored lights tend to hide its imperfections.IMG_1582I always love taking a top view to show off the mess of wires.IMG_1583Here’s a close up of the light bar. The four wires coming off of the board are stranded wire where the connection to the perfboard is reinforced with some hot glue. I always do that when I’m dealing with stranded wire which, thankfully, isn’t very often.IMG_1590The final picture is a side view of the floor LEDs. I covered some of the construction of this board of LEDs. It was a lot of soldering and my first time using heat shrink. The diffused LED that’s taped to the table is one of the two floodlight LEDs.

So that’s my tour of the Arduino Light Show 5.2. I’m not really sure what’s next. I feel like I could move on now. We’ll see. Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next blog post which will cover some of the techniques I use to program the light shows.

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 Show 3: Jumped the shark?

After just two videos, and neither of them programmed to songs, I’m calling the light show project done. Forever. Or at least for now.

The build was everything I expected it to be, and yet it still felt incomplete. That’s the way I feel about all of my projects, though. There was more than enough to work with, even with this feeling, and that contributed to the early end of this project. Having servos in the light shows make them unique to just LEDs laid out on a breadboard like my first experiments with Arduino. However, it also complicates things because I had to figure out ways to have the LEDs and servos do things simultaneously. It becomes a lot to take on when it takes hours to produce a few seconds of a show.

The next reason I’m closing up this project now is so that I can focus on other projects. This project is sort of the “fun” project, but lately I’ve been trying to find more practical projects like the temperature and humidity monitor and the light timer. In the end, the goal is to have an end product that I can show off, possibly to future employers.

There may be a future for the light show project down the line, but it’s not in my sights at this point. On a somewhat related note, I did do one experiment while I was working on this project.

IMG_20140128_124709I’ve always thought of using my Nexus 7 tablet as a screen. I think it would take most of the focus off of the LEDs to give me an easier time programming. However, it complicates things because I’d be more comfortable having original content on the screen which I’m not capable of doing.

The grand vision in the first place, at the very beginning of these light shows, was fountains. The inspiration for these light shows originated from World of Color at Disney California Adventure so it’s not surprising that replicating the show to some extent would be the goal. I’m not quite ready to work with water yet, though.

So that’s it for this one. Another project is already queued up and I’ll have details on that soon. Thanks for reading!

Arduino Light Show FAQ

Once in a while, I get the same few questions about my Arduino light shows. I figured it would be a good idea to address those questions and throw in whatever extra information I can.

Q. Are you processing the audio in any way?

No. I tried a tutorial that uses Processing that identifies the levels of different frequency ranges in a song and the Arduino relays the info by way of LEDs, but I think that sort of thing is better suited for mood lighting or lighting features (like those water fountain speakers). My shows include LED patterns and moving servos that wouldn’t be controlled by this method, or at least it would likely be very difficult to do.

Q. Can you post your code?

I do not publicly post my code for the shows because they’re not really meant for other people to read and interpret. I do not document the code as I program the shows so there would be a lot of confusion as you try to follow along, which happens to me at times. As long as you know how to use the Servo libraries, for loops, and delays, there’s not much else to to know.

Q. How did you program the show?

It’s trial and error. The process is just replaying the song over and over and slowly adding on more code until I reach the end. (By the time I have a video up, I’m sick of the song.) There’s nothing neat or fancy about it.

Q. What went into building the show?

Talking about the latest show, there were a few key elements. It all started with two lines of breadboarded LEDs. The towers were constructed using cardboard and tissue paper to diffuse the RGB LED light in each tower. The “spotlights” were three servo motors with an RGB LED taped onto each servo horn. Behind the scenes was an Arduino Mega 2560 (compatible) along with three mini-breadboards to distribute power and to setup the resistors for some of the LEDs. Half of the wiring was 22AWG solid-core wire, the other half were female-to-male jumper wires.

Q. Inspirations?

World of Color at Disney California Adventure started it all. Canada’s Wonderland, my home park, upgraded their fountains over the past couple of years so that has also helped inspire me to continue. I also ran a short-lived (like they all are) website called More Than Starlight that was a blog and database for fountain and light shows. I discovered many amazing shows across the world which helped build up to my first light show.

Visit the Light Show project webpage here.