Thursday, 28 June 2012

DIY Envato sale notification system with Freetronics equipment

The team from dtbaker who sell their wares over the Envato system have developed an outstanding new sale notification system. Using a Freetronics EtherTen, a Power-over-Ethernet midspan injector, our DMD board and some crafty code - each new sale is notified with a beep and display message over the DMD. For example:


Note that you can run the DMD directly from the EtherTen board if you don't need to run at full brightness - and as shown in the video above it's fine for indoor use. Using the midspan injector saves having to have a power supply for the hardware at the point of installation, so the only cable required is the Ethernet run. This is a great example of Arduino, power-over-Ethernet and using our equipment. For more informaiton, visit this Envato page

If you have created something interesting with Freetronics products and would like to feature it here, email us via info at freetronics dot com, or post the details on our Freetronics forum Project Showcase

Create an Arduino-based LED Status Whiteboard

After watching several futuristic movies, Will Bradley decided to build his own device that allowed computer visualisation of various forms of data. He has turned this idea into a successful project using an Internet-connected Arduino board, a whiteboard and a lot of LEDs. As you know an Arduino can easily control LEDs based on various parameters, and therefore the whiteboard can be customised almost anything using the LEDs. For example:

The benefit of using a glass finish allows the use of whiteboard markers to caption each LED with the required notation. And then it can be changed when required with a damp rag and a new Arduino sketch. To get started with your own display board, consider our range of Arduino-compatible hardware including the Freetronics EtherMega - the Mega2560-compatible with microSD socket, onboard Ethernet and optional PoE:

For more information, inspiration, hardware design and the code - visit Will's site

Arduino-based Pandora Radio Display

Using an Arduino board, LCD display and some simple code you can capture song information from the Pandora Internet radio service and display it on an LCD module. Often when listening to Pandora you may have the control screen covered by other software, and then miss out on the name of a song you were interested in. Therefore this project can solve that problem.

To make it happen a PHP script captures the required data and via a Chrome script sends the data to the serial port which is captured by the Arduino and then displayed. To make your own version is very simple - just use our Freetronics Eleven Arduino Uno-compatible board and an LCD Keypad shield:

To get started with your own version, check out the project page here.

Use a laser pointer and LED matrix as an input device

Eiji Hayashi has used a property of LEDs and used this knowledge to create a form of input using a laser pointer and an LED matrix. He explains that by reverse-biasing LEDs you can measure the brightness they're exposed to - and therefore if a laser pointer is aimed at the LED. So Eiji has put this to use and created a form of input that can also be used for gaming purposes. 


Well done Eiji. Remember when working with laser pointers to ensure the beam doesn't shine or reflect into someone's eyes. To get started with your own embedded Arduino project, consider our Freetronics LeoStick - one of the smallest Arduino-compatibles with onboard USB, RGB LED and piezo:

For more information on Eiji Hayashi's matrix project, visit his website

DIY Arduino-based Digital Thermometer

Sometimes we get  carried away with complex projects, and neglect the simple and useful items that can be created in our Arduino ecosystem. One of these is weather monitoring - almost everyone is concerned with the temperature and so on. John Dimo thought so to and built a simple, neat and effective Arduino thermometer which is quite presentable:

John used a DS18B20 sensor for his example, and you can too with our TEMP: temperature module with the same sensor:

Combined with our range of Arduino-compatible hardwaresensor modules and display options, you're well on your way. So to get started check our John's blog, and ourtemperature sensor tutorials

Display a twitter feed without a PC

For the paranoid twitter enthusiasts - this is the project for you. Instead of dedicating a browser page and possibly a PC just for twitter, instead make your own display using simple Arduino-based hardware. To build this project would take less than an hour, and then you can get back to work with the display in the corner of your eye:

To reproduce this, all you need is an Ethernet-enabled Arduino board, an LCD module and a housing. At Freetronics we've got that covered with our EtherTen - the Arduino-Uno compatible with onboard Ethernet, microSD socket and optional PoE:

Then slot in our LCD Keypad shield, and you're set:

So to get started, find the instructions and Arduino sketch here

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Build a huge animated LED Matrix Display with Freetronics DMDs

Once again, Chris Debenham has taken a Freetronics product a made something amazingly useful - a giant dot-matrix display using not one or two... but six of our DMD display units. Mounted on a simple frame, the huge matrix looks great and performs smoothly using Chris' Arduino library and code. And it is driven with only one Arduino-compatible board!


Kudos to Chris for his work and sharing it with us. It's great what you can do with one of our DMD display units - let alone six. 

If you have created something interesting with Freetronics products and would like to feature it here, email us via info at freetronics dot com, or post the details on our Freetronics forum Project Showcase

Improving Arduino to PC Interactions with MegunoLink

Although you can log data from an Arduino-based system to a microSD card (possible with our EtherTen and EtherMega boards) - when the volume of data being logged is large, or you need real-time analysis a new piece of software called MegunoLink may be of interest. It has six primary functions, including plotting data from the serial line to a graph:

as well as logging data to a text file, interfacing between Atmel AVRStudio as an alternative to the Arduino IDE, a graphical interface for avr-dude, an advanced serial port monitor, and a clever interactive serial protocol simulator. MegunoLink is a simple, yet useful piece of software that is documented well and free to download. If you find it useful a donation should be made to the supplier. For more information, visit theMegunoLink product pages


Real-time object tracking via GPS and mobile data with Arduino

The Indianapolis Museum of Art had a resident artist that wished to be locatable at any time, so their designers turned to the Arduino world to solve their problem. Using a simple GPS receiver shield, a GSM cellular shield and an Arduino board, they created a device that sent the GPS coordinates of the artist over the GSM GPRS network to a networked PC running a Python script which can map the artist in question:

At first such a project may seem difficult, however the designers have thankfully published all the required Arduino and PC-side code and project details for your perusal. For a complete description and instructions, visit the IMA blog page. To get started with your own Arduino project - you can't go past our Freetronics Eleven. It's a fully Arduino-Uno compatible with onboard prototyping area, curved edges and visible LEDs:

Build your own accurate Alarm Clock with Freetronics

Apart from writing some excellent Arduino libraries for our Dot Matrix Display andDS3232 real-time clock module, Rhys Weatherley has published the design and code for an alarm clock with several features:

Apart from the time and date, it has various alarms including weekday and weekend, an external MOSFET control to power a radio and much more. Although building your own alarm clock may seem simple, it gives you a chance to design it exactly how you want it to behave - and that is one of the goals of doing it yourself. So to get started, check out Rhys' site here. To get started with your own alarm clock, consider using our Freetronics Eleven, super-accurate real-time clock module and LCD Keypad shield:

DIY Autonomous Vehicle with Arduino

Edward Ros decided to modify an off-road remote control car with an Arduino and related circuitry as a foray into creating an autonomous vehicle. He added two ultrasonic distance sensors, some LEDs for directional lights, and modified the drivetrain to decrease speed and increase torque. Here is a short demonstration of the vehicle in action:


The code for Edward's vehicle is not terribly complex, and shows how simple it is to make a device with some level of intelligence. When building your own vehicles and Arduino projects with external circuitry, consider using one of our range of Arduino-compatible ProtoShields. They are a bright yellow colour which makes planning and referencing the prototyping areas easy on the eye:

Furthermore, to review Edward's code and design, visit his page here (Opens in Google Translate).

DIY Canon Camera Panorama device

Attempting to shoot panoramic images can be difficult at best - even with a tripod it can be difficult to line up the exposures at the appropriate time. However Ethan Zonca solved this problem with the "Panobot", a modified tripod with a stepper motor, which is controlled by an Arduino board which also controls the shutter. Finally the Canon camera needs to be running the Canon Hack Dev Kit. However the efforts results in some great shots, for example:

Once outdoors or with a more interesting subject, the effects could be marvellous. To get started with your own panorama device, visit Ethan's website here. To get started with your own Arduino-related projects, consider the Freetronics Eleven - the Arduino Uno-compatible with onboard prototyping area and low-profile USB socket:

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

DIY Arduino-based MIDI controller

ludo from the Arduino forums has designed and built an excellent example of a MIDI controller using a scavenged touchpad, some external circuitry and an Arduino board. 

Although making a MIDI controller isn't the newest project around, this one deserves mention due to the level of professionalism and the freely available notes, documentation and code. For more information, visit the Arduino forum and matching flickr pages. To get started with your own Arduino-embedded project, consider theFreetronics LeoStick - one of the smallest Arduino-compatibles on the market that include onboard USB, an RGB LED and piezo:

Android and Arduino-powered Automatic Cat Feeder

For those with unattended pets who need to be fed dry food, this project may be of interest. Damon has designed and built a simple food dispenser that is controlled via an Android phone running a scripting language, which commands an Arduino-controlled feed unit via bluetooth. Here it is in action:


Although this may seem like overkill, the use of the phone enables internet streaming of the vision from the camera, allowing remote monitoring of the food level in the feeder. To get started with your own Arduino-based projects, consider using our Freetronics Eleven - the Arduino Uno-compatible with onboard prototyping space:

For more information, including links to the parts, code and circuitry - visit the projectpage

Running USB Rubber Ducky Scripts using the Freetronics LeoStick

Chris Debenham has been having some fun using our Freetronics LeoStick to emulate a USB HID (human interface device - that is, a keyboard or mouse) - and in doing so, has the LeoStick emulating the operation of a "USB Rubber Ducky". These little devices are useful for running scripts of keyboard presses (for example) and other nefarious purposes. 

For more information and how to get started, visit Chris' interesting website here. And for more discussion about our LeoStick, visit the LeoStick forum section

Build your own Arduino-based focus stacker

More advanced photographers often find the need to accomplish "focus stacking" - the process of taking multiple images at different focus distances to give a result with a greater depth of field than one image of the subject. "Really Small" on flickr found the need for their own focus stacking controller, and has documented their own version - by modifying a manually-controlled stacker with a stepper motor. The control is via an Arduino and related circuitry, housed in a professional enclosure:

When reproducing this project, you can save time with out Freetronics Eleven - theArduino-Uno compatible with onboard prototyping space. For an LCD module, look no further than our LCD & Keypad shield:

However to get started with your own focus stacker - visit the project's flickr pages

DIY Stroboscope with Arduino and a CDROM drive

The people at elabz have designed and built a small stroboscope using an Arduino board, some simple circuitry and a brushless motor retreived from an old CDROM or DVDROM drive. Here it is in action:


Although you may not be interested in a stroboscope, their articles contain an excellent tutorial on how to control brushless DC motors which may have other applications in your projects. When working with external circuitry for prototyping withArduino boards, people often avoid making their own protoshield due to the perceived costs. However this worry can be avoided, using the Freetronics ProtoShield Basic- inexpensive bare shields that are perfect for experimenting, and available in bulk at a discount:

For more information and the motor tutorial, visit here

Sensing PC temperature with your Arduino

For the serious PC enthusiasts and overclocking crowd who are concerned about the internal temperature of the rig due to extra GPU cards, serious power supplies and so on - this project is for you. Simple, yet quite useful - measuring the internal temperature of the PC with an inexpensive temperature sensor and displaying the results with some coloured LEDs.

Powering the project shouldn't be a problem, as most motherboards should have a spare USB line, or you could split a drive power supply cable and take 5V from that. One could also run a USB cable from the Arduino board back to a spare slot at the rear of the case to allow  upgrading the Arduino sketch without pulling the case apart. To get started with your own version - consider using a Freetronics LeoStick. Apart from being one of the smallest Arduino-compatibles on the market, it has onboard USB, RGB LED and a piezo for sounds (useful for a high temperature alarm!)

For temperature measurement, we have a highly-accurate temperature sensor module, and a bright yet customisable RGB LED module for the display:


For more infomation and instructions, visit the project page

Measuring household water use with the Aquameterduino

Although the ~duino project naming is starting to get a little out of hand, Nicoo created the Aquameterduino in order to track his domestic water usage. The purpose of measuring water usage with this project was to determine the usual amounts, so that irregularities in water use could be detected. The key to measurement was having a second water meter fitted with a reed switch that closed once per litre of water flowed through it. 

Then it is a simple task of counting the pulses from this meter and working with the data via an Arduino board. Nicoo has added Ethernet access and a real-time clock module, and the data is sent to an online service such as cosm or can be polled over the network. The Aquameterduino is a prime example of what can be done with an Ethernet-enabled Arduino board, and to get started with your own version consider ourFreetronics EtherTen - the Arduino-Uno compatible with onboard Ethernet, microSD socket and optional Power-over-Ethernet support, which would make powering a remote project a breeze:

The rest of the circuitry would then fit nicely on a Protoshield, including our real-time clock module:

To examine the project details, including circuits and code, see here

Monday, 25 June 2012

Change playing shared music by throwing things at a poster

Michael Robinson works in an office with music playing in the open, and sometimes people didn't agree with the currently-playing music track. To enable some democracy and office mayhem with regards to the choice of music, he created the "Change the tuner" poster. Simply this is a poster which has a piezo knock sensor behind it - and once an object hits the poster, the sensor sends a signal to an Arduino board which changes the track of the music player via USB. For example:


Although not fully documented, the project can be easily replicated. A piezo can be measured with an Arduino analogue input, and then send commands as a keyboard via USB as described in this article. Apart from using one of our range of Arduino-compatible boards, you can bring this project to life with our SOUND: sound and buzzer module which is perfect for knock detection:

For more information and inspiration, visit Michael's site here

Creative music with Noisy Jelly

And now for something completely different - "Noisy Jelly". Using various moulds, the user mixes up a jelly liquid which sets into various shapes, and then the jelly object is places on a board containing capacitive sensors. This turns the jelly object into a type of sensor - as the electrical conductivity of the jelly changes in relation to the thickness, and once the signal is read by an Arduino - it is converted to sounds using software on an attached PC. See it in action here:


This project is a fascinating synergy of art, imagination, chemistry, electronics and Arduino. For more information, visit the project site here and here. To get started with your own musical project, consider the Freetronics Eleven - the Arduino Uno-compatible with onboard prototyping space:

Build your own inexpensive Hexapod robot

Next in our series on inexpensive robot projects is this Hexapod from Mad Science. Using only a few paddle pop sticks, fishing line, pipe cleaners, a servo, Arduino board and wiring they have created a Hexapod robot that really walks. Although it sounds like a third-grade project, it really does work and shows you don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun in the process. Here it is in action:


Once again it just goes to show what you can do with an Arduino board and some imagination. To keep the cost and size down, consider using one of our Freetronics LeoStick boards for your hexapod. As well as being one of the smallest Arduino-compatibles on the market, it has onboard USB, a piezo for making Hexapod sounds and an RGB LED for further effects:

So to get started with your own Hexapod, read the instructions, Arduino code and demonstrations on this site

Monitoring simple object status over the Internet with Arduino

Joe has documented the process of monitoring an Arduino digital input pin over the Internet as part of a garage door system. Although he  hasn't moved forward with the entire project, his article is excellent as it descibes the complete software and hardware process for sending information from an Arduino board over the Internet. 

In his example the status of a digital input pin is returned. You can then build upon Joe's code and make your own monitoring solutions. An ideal base for these projects is to use our Freetronics EtherTen or EtherMega boards - the only Arduino Uno/Megacompatibles with onboard Ethernet, microSD card socket and optional PoE support:


For more information and to get started with your own Internet-connected project, visit Joe's site here

Using an Arduino board as a USB keyboard

Recent Arduino boards including the Uno and our Freetronics Eleven board use the small ATmega8U2 microcontroller to take care of the USB interface. However this can also be programmed to help the board behave as a USB keyboard, and the people at Mitchtech have explained the process for doing this in a well-documented manner. Several examples are shown, including making a keyboard-based volume control, for example:


Certainly useful - you could make a macro-style function to enter many presses, perhaps a sequence to enter a password, or hide it at the back of the machine and enter random keystrokes as a practical joke. All this and more is possible with ourFreetronics Eleven - the Arduino-compatible with onboard prototyping area:

To find out more and learn how it's done, visit Mitch's website here

Modifying cheap robot toys with Arduino

As technology becomes cheaper over time, so do interesting robotic-style toys and devices from electronics stores. Often you can see a robotic arm, bug, car, tank and so on for less than forty dollars. David found one for himself, and modified it with a larger battery, small Arduino-compatible board and an ultrasonic sensor for obstacle avoidance. Here it is in action:


The key to these modifications is to find something that has simple, direct controls to the motors or a recognisable motor control IC. Then using some simple circuitry you can interface with the Arduino digital outputs and create your own little monsters. An ideal board for these modifications is our Freetronics LeoStick - one of the smallestArduino-compatibles on the market, with onboard USB, piezo and RGB LED:

For his explanation, code and examples - visit David's page here.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Build your own camera follow focus controller -

Adi Soffer has used an Arduino as the driver for a interesting piece of photography hardware - the follow focus. This is necessary when filming a subject that is moving towards or away from the camera, and needs to be kept in focus at all times. In theory, the design is very simple - a servo turns the focus ring on the lens, for example:

What is most impressive is that Adi's design allows for several modes - including recording a pattern of focus control for later playback. And the results are quite effective, as shown in the following video:


Truly an amazing project, and a great application of using an Arduino. For more information including the design story, Arduino code and hardware description - visit Adi's project archive here. When building your own FF controller, it would be convenient to keep the physical size as small as possible. With this in mind, consider using our Freetronics LeoStick - one of the smallest Arduino-compatible boards on the market with onboard USB, RGB LED and piezo:

DIY Arduino-based Smart Vase -

Although this was designed as a prototype for future hotel rooms, the Smart Vase is an interesting experiment in the field of Internet-connected devices. Using an Arduino Mega, Internet connection and a colour LCD touch screen, Juan Armentia has created a device that can be used to check email, display various information from the web including weather, traffic, and so on. Finally, the hardware has been embedded in a nice vase which merges form and function, for example:

For more information, visit the project page for hardware notes, Arduino code and the project wiki. To build your own smart vase or other Internet-connected device, consider our Freetronics EtherMega. Apart from being fully Arduino Mega 2560 compatible, it includes a microSD socket, full Ethernet connectivity and optional PoE support:

Arduino-based Camera Lightning Trigger

Adam Romanowicz was looking for a simple way to quickly trigger his Canon camera when photographing lightning strikes, and developed a simple and easy to build camera trigger. Using an Arduino, some simple circuitry and a hacked external shutter release cable, the results work very well. For example:

To save processing time the Arduino sketch uses direct port mapping instead of the digitalWrite function, so if you're using an Arduino-style board that uses a different microcontroller to the ATmega168 or -328, be sure to check the code before use. For more information, including the code and circuit, visit Adam's site here. To get started with your own camera trigger, consider using the Freetronics Eleven - the Arduino Uno-compatible with onboard prototyping space:

DIY Real time Spectrum Analyser

Paul Bishop has used the simple Arduino tvout library, a microphone and simple external circuitry and some clever Arduino code to make a real time spectrum analyser that displays its results on a television monitor. The purpose of this is to graphically display the magnitude of an input signal versus frequency within the full frequency range that can be measured. The results are shown in the following video:


Although you won't get the same range as commercial test equipment, building this version is simple and still could be quite useful. Instead of fiddling with an electret microphone, consider using our MIC sound input module:

An interesting alternative display method would be with our super-bright LED Dot Matrix Displays, which would look great at a party or background visuals in a musical environment:

But in the meanwhile, to get started check Paul's blog here

Make your own TV "Etch a sketch" with Arduino

No doubt many of you are familiar with the original drawing toy known as the "Etch a sketch". And as usual, someone has found a way to replicate this with an Arduino and the simple and effective tvout library. Ruy Lazaro used some simple circuitry and hacked up the circuit as a protoshield for his Arduino with the following results:


It is a simple project that can be a lot of fun, and especially useful when trying to attract younger people into the craft - they can make something and use it very easily on almost any television set or monitor with composite video inputs. When looking to make your own version, the circuitry will fit nicely on one of our range of ProtoShields, such as the ProtoShield Pro:

For more information, circuitry and code visit Ruy's blog here.

Sleep better with an Arduino

Gareth Halfacree was having trouble with his newborn falling to sleep, and after learning that "white noise" and possibly various night light colours can help - designed the "Sleepduino". Using three RGB LEDs, a piezo for noise and some control circuitry the Sleepduino can be configured to output various lights and white noise to help someone get to sleep. 

If you're looking to recreate the Sleepduino for yourself, consider using our range of modules such as the super-bright RGB LED module:

and our SOUND piezo module:

For more information, including design files in Fritzing and the code, visit the Gareth's page here.