Top 10 Arduino Sensor Boards & add ons

I thought I’d put down a little list of my top 10 things I do with my Arduino boards at home. I’ve been experimenting a lot with ambient circuits, up cycling and things like that so you could say that these things are skewed towards that kind of thing.

  • UltrasonicUltrasonic Sensors – be careful with these, I bought a pack of 4 from a dodgy supplier and the MAX232 chips had a bug which causes them to overheat rapidly and they get hot enough to burn stuff. You can use these in a lot of things, I’m currently using two as the eyes for a small robot I built to keep the cat occupied.
  • PIR Sensors – these are cheap and cheerful little blighters. Ambient circuits usually require some kind of human interaction, so ultrasonic and PIR are both decent ways to do that. Depending on how you direct them and mix them they can become quite an human interaction tool.
  • Bluetooth HC-06 – With speeds up to 250kbps the HC-06 is perfect for fast remote serial ports which can be accessed easily from a computer or android device. The HC-06 unlike the HC-05 is reprogrammable, you can hack it in various ways messing with it’s internal setup for the serial port. This is the fastest and easiest way to add a radio to a remote device that I’ve found, and I’ve tried NRF24’s, RF12’s, Wifi shields and other means. These are certainly in the category of just works(tm).
  • WS2811 RGB LED Strip – Unlike the 2801 the 2811 has individually addressable LED units, whereas the 2801 has 2 LEDs per controller. It works well with the FastLED library and lets you separate the LEDs onto individual faces of a 3D shape. They’re also significantly cheaper than BlinkM’s are and much easier to obtain in large quantities.

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  • Gyroscope – If your project has any moving parts, it’s a good idea to put an accelerometer in there, it can give you feedback in interesting ways. Very useful to have on around.
  • MSGEQ7 – With no particularly easy way to say it, it’s an equaliser IC this little chip will take a sample of audio and tell you the value of it on 7 different frequency bands. It’s useful for doing things like defining colours to be illuminated in time with music and things of that nature. Microphones will need a little amplifier to get them working but it’s a genius little chip.
  • DHT11 – Another favourite of mine is the DHT11, temperature and humidity. You can connect these up to one of these mini arduino+rfm12b boards and you’ve got a thermometer and humidity sensor anywhere.
  • rfidRFID Kit – This cheap and cheerful RFID kit can be used in all kinds of ways, creating proximity based installations or interactive spaces where each object in the space has it’s own unique ID.
  • Motor shield – There are tonnes of motors laying to waste because they’re not re-used, I collect them up and put them to work when I need one so a motor shield is always useful to have. Obviously you can always bang something together with a few transistors, but a decent motor shield for testing is always handy.
  • Screw shield – always handy to have around a screw shield can save a lot of time when prototyping.

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Goblin Teasmade Upcycle: Part 2

After the first stages were completed, that is, designing the new wiring situation and wiring the internals. The contraption now looks something like this

The wiring pattern was explained in the last post. So the things you see beyond the mentioned pin patterns are the wires for the i2c devices (ghetto pixel, and DS1307 RTC). The RTC is used to keep the time internally, there are some interesting points to consider about the clock face itself and how it will maintain time. More on this later…

Stage 5 – Building a Web UI.

The code for the Web UI can be found here on github. Obviously when you’re serving files from an Arduino via the SD card you want to keep the files as small as possible. After running ImageOptim and minifying the javascript and css It probably all comes in under 150kb. Which isn’t much but is still enough to make the poor Arduino struggle… The HTML code should be runnable in any browser and there’s a neat little clock UI that should make you feel good to watch.

Obviously, you don’t have a teasmade on your network, so unfortunately you won’t be getting a nice cup of tea out of it. Sorry.

Things to note on the Web UI are

  • Moving the cursor over the clock shows the kettle and teapot and their states behind it.
  • Pressing the right hand button makes tea… Well, I’ll mark that as WORKSFORME heh.
  • Pressing the left hand button turns on the light.
  • The freakin’ clock hands animate!!

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Goblin Teasmade Upcycle: Part 1, The Teardown

Here's what the smart home used to look like - Goblin TeasmadeDo you remember the Goblin Teasmade? The device was a mechanical and electrical marvel, however very likely responsible for many a house fire, and probably entirely unsafe by todays standards. The teasmade was the epitome of the must have device for the middle class home of the 1960s, it even featured in the Queen music video for “I Want to Break Free“.

As I’m not shy of a challenge I decided to upcycle a 1963 model into a new fangled, Internet of Things device which can make tea over the web.
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