Curious Inventor Blog

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Make Cheap Standoffs with Nylon Tubing

Tan Tran came up with a cheap substitute for aluminum standoffs: nylon tubing. Polyethylene does a decent job too, and can be had for under $.10 a foot at your local hardware store. The 1/4″ OD (outside diameter) stuff shown in these pics accommodates up to #8 size screws.

Mercury Tilt Switch – Old School Accelerometer

Rummaging through the ubiquitous box of random stuff, I pulled out a mercury tilt switch, which were / are used in vending machines, thermostats, and construction equipment to detect tilt. The liquid drop of mercury conducts current when it bridges two contacts at one end, and, according to wikipedia, can operate millions of cycles since there’s no wear. Anyone know the right way to dispose of these?

10,000 Compete at FIRST Robotics Competition

Highschool teams from around the world converged in Atlanta at the Georgia Dome for the FIRST world championships this weekend. Teams had to grab “moon rocks” and toss them into trailers being towed by competitors. Some of the most effective teams could dump 20 volley-ball sized “rocks” into the 6ft tall trailers in seconds. FIRST runs robotics competitions for kids in high school and younger (Lego league). It’s a great opportunity to mentor for people involved in engineering companies. One challenge of the competition was finding the “moon rocks”, which Walmart stopped selling after the building season was well under way.

Shoe-thesizer: WSG in a Converse All-Star

The Shoe-thesizer is another addition to the crazy collection of “cases” for Ray Wilson’s WSG (Weird Sound Generator). The circuit is based on 3 simple schmitt trigger oscillators that modulate and gate each other + a low pass filter. Schmitt trigger oscillators work similarly to 555-based oscillators by snapping back and forth as a cap charges and discharges through a resistor. Just three components and you’re oscillating.

Another example (Kipp Wieland):

VoS / Stribe demos at Dorkbot

Travis and I will be demoing some toys at the next Atlanta Dorkbot, which will be held at WonderRoot (directions). Travis is bringing the Voice of Saturn line and I’ll have some stribes and an arduinome. Also, Beth Milliken will talk about Freeside, a new Atlanta based non-profit Hackerspace – encouraging collaboration and innovation across hardware and software disciplines.