If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve either played with Legos or you’ve watched your children play with them. In my case, both are true. What’s not to love about taking a box of parts and creating something new and exciting? Something that nobody in the world has ever built in exactly the same way.
Lego is coming out with their latest and greatest robotics kit, the “Lego Mindstorms EV3” this fall and the maker community as well as the robotics community in general is salivating at the thought.
As the anticipation mounts for the new kit, I remembered a YouTube video I saw a while back with my son, The LEGO® Story. I find it fascinating and I truly admire both the original owner of Lego, Ole Kirk Christiansen, and his son Godtfred, both of whom worked tirelessly to create a children’s toy of the highest quality. In fact, the motton of the Lego Group was and still is “det bedste er ikke for godt”, which means “only the best is the best”. Based in Billund, Denmark the company started out selling wooden toys but started selling the plastic bricks in 1947. Check out the article on Wikipedia for the whole story.
If you haven’t seen it yet, here is the video. Below that is a video of my son doing a “review” of one of his Lego projects.
My daughter asked me yesterday to pierce the ears of her “My Little Pony”. Her ears were pierced about three months ago and I guess she had earrings on her mind.
My first response was something like “Sorry honey but we don’t have earrings for your pony.” She immediately offered to let the pony use her first pair, the ones with which she had her ears pierced.
I said no, but then thought it might be fun to “pierce” the pony’s ears anyway.
So today when I came home we performed the piercing. It took a couple of small purple beads from a craft kit she had in the closet and some copper wire I had in the garage. Like the title says, it wasn’t very complicated, but the end result was just as satisfying as a real “build” project.
We have two sets of Sylvania headphones that we purchased for a trip to Belarus to visit my wife’s family. They were intended for the kids to watch their DVD player while on the plane. The headphones worked fine but were not enough by a long shot. By the time we arrived at our destination (each way) the kids were playing in the aisles and generally keeping both me and my wife very busy. But that’s a story for a different time. Once we got home the headphones were tossed into a drawer in the filing cabinet and not touched again until recently.
We started using both of them at around the same time, me at work and my wife with the laptop. Both were bad. Mine worked for a few days and then broke off in my PC at work. The set my wife was using started cutting in and out when the wire moved. I found a great Instructable here for replacing the plugs and at this time I’ve replaced the jack on my wife’s set. Hopefully I will get a chance to fix mine soon as well.
I used my “helping hands” and they were indispensable. I did not have cable strippers so I used my standard wire strippers and did not have any problems with the results. The instructions said to expect two bare copper wires that would be the ground but I only had one. The other wires were green and red. The colors are actually colored enamel. The instructions did mention that it may be possible to scrape the enamel off but I found that was not very effective. His suggestion was to use a micro torch. As I don’t have one I tried to use a standard cigarette lighter and it worked perfectly. Be careful though as once it starts burning it burns quickly.
You really only need a short length of wire to make the connections but it makes it easier to thread the wire into the holes in the jack if you have an inch or so of wire to play with. Just burn the red and green (or blue) enamel down to approximately a 1/4″ from where you stripped the cable. As advised, I threaded the wire from the inside out and then soldered it. I started with the right, then left, then the ground. When you look at the plug you will see three posts. The small one is for the right ear/wire. The slightly bigger one opposite that is for the left wire. The big post if for ground.
MAKE SURE YOU SLIDE THE FEMALE HALF OF THE PLUG ONTO THE CABLE BEFORE YOU SOLDER THE FIRST CONNECTION! I made this mistake on the first plug I did and it took a while to de-solder the hole so I could reconnect the wire.
I found that the solder held better if I made a turn around the post with the wire. Otherwise there was a gap in the hold around the wire and the solder did not make a good connection. I also found that if you are having trouble threading the wire you can bend the left post outward a little to make room. Ensure that you don’t connect them such that the bare wires will be touching each other, causing a short circuit. This could possible cause damage to your MP3 player, iPod, etc. when you try it out later.
This repair took a little longer than I expected, partly due to the problem mentioned above where I had to remove the red wire after I had connected it because I forgot to slide the other part over the cable before I started. Also, I had some trouble with threading the wires through and keeping them in place in older to solder them well. The second went a little faster because of my experience with the first.
The Instructable was clear and easy to follow, but you don’t really need all of the recommended tools. This would be more valuable if my headphones were more expensive, but I didn’t really do it to save money. I just wanted to try the fix myself for fun and to keep the headphones out of the landfill.
One of the first sites I found when becoming interested in electronics, robotics, and otherwise “making” things was www.ladyada.net, the website/blog of Limor Fried, otherwise known as Lady Ada. She has a number of projects that she has designed and developed into kits, the Minty Boost being one of them.
I chose to purchase the Minty Boost kit from her store at adafruit.com for two reasons.
1) Because it is considered to be a beginner’s level kit.
2) Because I always seem to let my phone battery get very low with no way to charge it.
In other words, it would be a useful device to have!
Here is a link to the official tutorial for building the kit. I used it and it was very easy to follow. To see if your phone is compatible with the Minty Boost version 3.0, check out the list here. I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 and thankfully it is compatible.
The directions in the tutorial are very straightforward and easy to follow. I did have a problem in that when I went to place R3 in it’s place there was solder in one of the holes. I don’t know how it got there but I can imagine that I did it by accident. I did not have a de-soldering gun or a solder sucker at the time so I tried a couple of methods to remove the solder, neither of which worked for me. I went ahead and placed the rest of the parts until I got to the IC socket. I then decided to call it a day on the project until I had a tool that would allow me to remove that pesky solder from the hole.
I bought some de-soldering wick, which is basically a thin copper braid, to remove the solder from that hole. It took longer than I expected and I believe I will also get a solder sucker in the future. Finally, I was able to finish the project. If you decide to assemble this kit you will definitely need tin snips or something similar to cut the hole in the tin box for the USB port.
Once it was assembled I tested with my phone and lo and behold, it worked like charm.
Here is the kit assembled looking at it from the bottom. Note that when soldering into a printed circuit board (PCB) with connections that are close together, you should use a thin soldering iron tip and a smaller gauge of solder. I used what I had on hand, which was a .050 diameter solder and a standard tip. I ended up having to remove solder a couple of times when adjacent connections had too much solder and I wanted to avoid a short circuit between solder points.
All in all I enjoyed putting this kit together. It was quick, fun, and the end result is a charger that I can take with me anywhere. Thanks to the folks at AdaFruit!
I wanted to make something useful that used LEDs without having to program an Arduino or anything like that. The idea I came up with was to add LEDs to artificial flowers and make it decorative by putting them in a clear vase filled with clear/opaque glass marbles. The addition of more LEDs inside the vase would make it even better.
The day I decided on the project I went to Joann Fabrics and bought the flowers, vase, and glass marbles. The flowers are made of a very tough cloth, not silk or plastic. I did not have the LEDs I needed so I ordered them from Amazon. For my power source I decided to use two 1.5 V AAA batteries in series to make 3 volts. I did not want to have to add resistors to each LED so I ordered them with a rating of 3.0 – 3.2 volts.
For wire I decided to use solid 18 gauge copper wire that I picked up at Radio Shack on the way home. As I wanted to have the wires blend in with the plastic flower stems I bought a set of hook up wire reels with wires colored red, green, and black. I decided to use the green for the positive leads and black for negative. Red, normally used for positive would stand out too much in the green stems. I also bought a small push button that I could use to turn the lights on and off.
I had originally pictured myself puncturing the flowers with an awl to make holes for the wires. However, the material of the flowers turned out to be incredibly tough and the resulting holes were hard to line up to push the wires through. So I then tried cutting a small slit using a utility knife with a new blade and that worked out well.
The flowers I bought had six small roses with their own stems that connected to one main stem. I soldered each LED to wire leads that were long enough to reach almost to the bottom of the main stem. For each soldered connection I used black electrical tape to prevent a short circuit. When I had all six wired up I then I twisted all six black leads together along with another single lead so that I had one lead to go into the vase. Then I did the same with the green leads such that I had a single lead that would later connect to the switch.
To light up the vase itself I used three green LEDs, also 3.0 volts. I soldered and taped them the same way I did with the flowers, using different lengths of wires. Then I connected all of the black leads together and connected them with the black lead from the flowers to the black (negative) lead from the battery pack. To use the switch I connected the red (positive) lead from the battery to one post of the switch. Then I connected the green wires from the vase to the wire from the flowers into one wire which I then soldered to the other post of the switch.
The lights worked as expected. If I were to change anything I would use a bigger vase and more marbles to better conceal the battery pack and wires in the vase.
My six year old son helped out with cutting some of the wires and testing the LEDs. He enjoyed it immensely and I look forward to including him in future projects. This was not meant to be an advanced project but simply one that I could do in a short period of time (approximately 2 hours) and without spending a lot of money. It would have been cheaper if I had picked up the vase and flowers in a thrift store but while I was not exactly in a hurry, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time looking around for what I needed.