Electronics have improved exponentially over the years, to the point where today we carry what not too long ago would be considered a supercomputer – plus a robust sensor and communications suite with us as a ‘phone’. Such global improvement has the trickle-down effect that we can use these leaps in technology in our own projects, including the amazing STMicroelectronics VL53L5CX time-of-flight (ToF) sensor.
This ‘sensor’, as noted in Pesky Products’ breakout board listing, might better be described as a low-res camera, since it’s able to pick up on ToF data in an 8×8 grid. This resolution is good enough for gesture recognition, pose estimation (i.e. whether one is sitting, standing, or lying down), and much more, though it is limited enough to obscure detailed identifying information.
The ranging capability of the sensor is up to 400 cm, and the field of view is conspicuously rated at 61º. This means that a full 360º view could be covered, plus just a bit more with 6 sensors arranged around a robot or device. The sensor features a few additional tricks beyond sending pure range info, including the ability to calculate ‘motion intensity’, i.e. relative velocity, for each pixel.
The electrical signals emitted by the human body tell us a lot about what’s going on inside. But getting those signals inside your microcontroller is not straightforward: the voltages are too small for most ADCs, and the ever-present 50 or 60 Hz mains frequency makes it hard to discern subtle changes. Over at Upside Down Labs, [Deepak Kathri] developed a universal biosensor interface called the BioAmp EXG Pill to make all this a lot easier.
Its name refers to the fact that it can be used for several different bio-electrical sensing applications: ECG, EMG, EOG and EEG, which deal with signals coming from the heart, muscles, eyes and brain, respectively. To enable such flexibility, the board has connectors for two or three electrodes, as well as solder pads to mount resistors and capacitors to adjust the gain and bandwidth. An instrumentation amplifier increases the strength of the desired signal while rejecting noise and interference.
The form factor allows easy connection to electrodes on one side and a data acquisition system on the other. Measuring just 25.4 mm long and 10 mm wide, it should be easy to integrate into any type of biosensing gizmo you can come up with. [Deepak] has made several demo setups, showing him using the Pill with an Arduino to measure his heart rate, detect eye blinks, and even control a robot arm using his own arm muscles!
Our friends at Oak Development Tech designed this WiFi + RGB matrix display which combines the power of ESP32-S2 and SK6812mini:
The PixelWing Matrix is a powerful ESP32-S2 RGB Matrix Display board that allows you to make a simple connected display, data logger, or environmental indicator. The PixelWing features USB-C power, a 5×10 RGB Matrix Display using SK6812mini Addressable LEDs that are compatible with Adafruit NEOPIXEL Libraries!
In addition to this, the PixelWing provides a quick access I2C JST connector that is compatible with Qwiic and Stemma QT connectors allowing you to connect all your favorite Adafruit and Sparkfun sensor breakouts.
All of this is combined with Circuit Python support making it easy to get programming on your project.
Our newest sticker features OreSat,
Our newest sticker 0x1F honors OreSat:
Small educational satellites called CubeSats have been launched by dozens of universities and countries around the world. But so far Oregon has yet to fly our very own artisanally hand-crafted CubeSat. We’re changing that!
We currently have two satellite missions in the works. Both rely on the fully open source “OreSat” bus which we’re offering as an inexpensive (for a satellite!) “DIY” platform for designing and building your own CubeSat.
Finally, please also consider donating to support Oregon’s first satellites!
This is the final weekend to enter your supportive tech project in the 2021 Hackaday Prize. To goal is to find ways to make building or using electronics easier.
Accessibility is one obvious approach to this challenge. But you can also consider the example of reference designs in datasheets. Manufacturers know you don’t want to re-invent the wheel to use their switch-mode power supply so they give you information on how to lay it out on the PCB and what parts to choose. Now take that idea and run with it. This could be a modular design that takes the wizardry out of building electronic projects. But it could just as easily be a aimed at the end user — perhaps lab equipment that’s normally expensive and requires expertise to operate but you’ve reimagined it to have most of that expertise built in.
Need some more help figuring out what this is all about? Let’s look at some of the projects that have already been entered. With devices all around us that have superb cameras and dazzling screens, [Timo] realized it wouldn’t take much to turn one into an inspection microscope, which is just what’s been done with nothing more than a 3D-printed stand and a desk lamp.
[Alain] put his electronics knowledge, and the availability of cheap modules, to great use for his non-verbal son. The PECS Communication Board has a grid of sixteen images, each is a button to act as input. He makes the point that tablet apps exist for this, but durability and cost are both issues that his approach helps address.
There are already a ton of other great entries for this round of the Hackaday Prize, but it wouldn’t be complete without yours. Ten will be chosen to receive $500 each and move on to the finals with a $25,000 grand prize on the line. Start your project right now on Hackaday.io and use the left sidebar drop down menu on your project page to enter it.
Oskitone has launched the Scout, an Arduino-compatible, monophonic, square wave synth:
Al Williams writes on Hackaday:
The name Gladys West is probably unfamiliar, but she was part of creating something you probably use often enough: GPS. You wouldn’t think a child who grew up on a sharecropping farm would wind up as an influential mathematician, but perhaps watching her father work very hard for very little and her mother working for a tobacco company made her realize that she wanted more for herself. Early on, she decided that education was the way out. She made it all the way to the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
While she was there she changed the world with — no kidding — mathematics. While she didn’t single-handedly invent satellite navigation, her work was critical to the systems we take for granted today.
From our friends at Crowd Supply:
Curious about FPGAs but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered! We’re teaming up with Crowd Supply, OSH Park, and Mouser to give away 30 Hello FPGA kits this summer and cover prototyping costs for up to five new shield designs.
We will select up to five designs of a new Arduino shield for use with a Hello FPGA kit. Limit one proposal per person. Submit proposals with links to documentation via our contact form no later than Sunday, September 12, 2021 at 11:59 PM PDT. Winners will be announced on Friday, September 17, 2021. Winners will receive FREE PCB fabrication from OSH Park and parts from Mouser Electronics for prototypes of their design. Winners commit to submitting a video demonstrating a prototype of their proposed shield design in action no later than Tuesday, November 30, 2021. Selection of winners is at our discretion and will be based on the plausability of the proposed shield, completeness of the design, and the extent to which the new shield showcases the features of the Hello FPGA kit.
Be it the ever shrinking size of components, the miniscule size of the printing on such pieces, or the steady march of time that makes visits to the optometrist an annual ritual, many of us could use some assistance when things start getting fuzzy at the workbench. Arm-mounted LED magnifying lenses can be a handy helper. Zooming in on a macro photo on a smartphone is also a common option that we’ve used many times.
[Timo Birnschein] started down a similar path when he realized that his iPad Pro comes with an app called simply “Magnifier”. A 12” iPad isn’t exactly the most convenient device to hold while trying to solder small parts, so he spent some time designing and 3D printing a specialty iPad stand that he calls a “Quick and Dirty High Performance EE Microscope.” We call it a magnificent tool hack!
Rotating the iPad diagonally so that the camera is closest to the subject leaves plenty of room to work and makes great use of the available screen space. [Timo] reports that at 50% magnification the 12” screen makes even 0603 SMD parts easy to read. Now he rejoices to have more to do with his iPad than watching YouTube and reading Hackaday- although we don’t know why you couldn’t do both.
The STL files have been released on Thingverse for your experimentation. [Timo] notes that he’d like to add an LED ring to brighten things up, and a fume extractor to protect the delicate lens on the iPad. We have to wonder if some plastic wrap over the lens might produce the same effect at almost no cost. Whatever [Timo] decides to do, we’re sure it’ll be brilliant.
Saar Drimer writes about an interesting PCB technique:
When I ran the Boldport Club, I arranged a few community pub meets. It was a great way to meet people from the larger community and to see and hear what they’d been working on. In one of those meets, I serendipitously told Mike Harrison about what I’d been designing: an object that required interconnecting pieces of PCBs. Mike, with his extensive electronics installation experience, gave me a wonderfully effective tip: add small ridges along the slots on both pieces that are meant to be put together.
Getting the thicknesses of PCBs right is tricky. Firstly, PCBs normally have a 10% thickness tolerance and another tolerance for the slot/cutout routing. Secondly, the actual thickness depends on the design and on what’s at the surface of where it matters ─ copper, plating, finish, soldermask, silkscreen. So the variation in thickness from ‘nominal’ (0.8 mm, 1.55 mm, etc.) can be significant. We can’t keep experimenting until we get it right either; it’s expensive and somewhat pointless because of the tolerances. Adding ridges allows us to hedge our bets with a single go.