Thursday, July 9, 2015

Homemade Laser

So I've really allowed this to gather dust again. I've just been busy busy busy with taking 21 credits in one semester among all the other things on my plate. I've still been working on projects though, can't help myself there, just haven't had time to write.
So I work during the school year for an holography lab that uses a lot of optics. I work in circuit board design and low-level programming for the video monitors, but invariably must collaborate with optics-centered colleagues. And one showed me how to build my own laser powerful enough to burn stuff. Don't worry mom, I sprung for the nicer safety goggles.

Here's a video of it lighting a match on fire from a distance. Its pretty fun to play with and super bright. You can see it in the air.
The build itself was pretty simple, as it just entails hooking up a power source to a current driver and then to a laser diode with a good heat sink. Oh and I can write my name with it.

I have other projects in the works as well, and I'm continuing to develop IoT and embedded wearable computing ideas. I keep a sketch book of ideas, as they come faster than I have time to implement them. I'm interning with Intel this summer and in the evening, I'm helping build an aircraft for Flugtag ( Maybe a post about that later.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wearable Computing

So a lot of you know about this one, since I posted it up on Facebook when I first got it working, but I thought it was about time I put up on blog post on it as well. I've gotten to the point where I can stream Youtube on it and a couple of days ago I watched the Legend of Korra Book 3 season finale on it, which was awesome. Also do notice it is not a self contained computer, there are wires coming down that hook into the battery, CPU and any other peripherals I need at the moment.
For now I've been using a flexible keyboard and wireless mouse for my inputs, but I've been thinking about and exploring different ways I can input text and mouse movements without being constrained to carrying a keyboard and mouse. Ideally this would be something I could you on the go, where I wouldn't need a hard surface in front of me to navigate. I've been trying out different voice recognition software that people have put into the open source community. The first few I tried talked back with a voice like a robot from the 80's. I named it Jarvis. Recently though I found an even better one, that actually does its voice recognition through Google Voice, It has a much more realistic women voice and so I can no longer use my cliche Jarvis name. It's name is Eva now. I'm currently working programs for it to do some simple tasks for me.
So this is one example of that exploration of how to apply input. I wanted to derive inputs from hand movements, but I didn't want to go the whole glove route as gloves just make my hands feel  sweaty. I considered using flex sensors or accelerometers and gyros but they just weren't in my budget at the time so instead I designed my own flex sensors using slide potentiometers, springs and bunch of pieces I custom designed and printed on my 3D printer. Its not done. I still need to attach the strings from the pots to the upper ring pieces and then connect it to a microcontroller that will act as a USB device and process the hand movements and send them out as text.
So a little bit on the construction. The board in little screen are pulled out of some huge video goggles that I bought from some company in China. I broke it open, extracted the electronics and started hacking away at parts of the PCB that I wouldn't need so that it would be more compact. I got rid of its internal power supply, its audio circuits, and stuff for the other eye and then started to wire in the connectors I would need to use it. The case is 3D printed and is a tight fit around the electronic pieces.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Building the 3D Printer

Woo! I figured out what my password was for this old blog. But yeah, I thought I'd throw up an update on a recent project. I know my mom is always dying to see pictures of what I'm working on. So for you mom, and anybody else who is interested, here are some pictures of my recent 3D printer build.
Well to start off here are some prints I've done. These are Klein bottles. If you don't know what a Klein bottle is, its only like the coolest theoretical math object since the Mobius strip. This of course is merely a 3D representation, as the actual 2D object could only really exist in 4 dimensions. So yeah, I'm a math nerd, moving on...
On the left is a Batman Iphone case I printed, On the right is a case for my Raspberry Pi computer.
And this is a cover for the controller board on the 3D printer. It was my first full print and I watched it diligently for 3+ hours till it finished. Honestly every time I use it I just want to watch it. Partly because I'm afraid something will go wrong mid print and partly because I find it mesmerizing. Heres's a video.

Here are some pictures from the build. At the time I built it, I didn't have any tools besides a couple of kinds of pliers. It took some ingenuity at times but I was able to build it with just those.
The starting materials.
Various times during the build. I had to calibrate the stage so that its corners and center were exactly 0.1 mm from the nozzle at starting position. I don't have any measuring tools that can measure gaps with that kind of precision so I used my calipers to measure 0.1mm of pages in my checkbook and then used that to calibrate the stage. Who needs real tools? (I'll admit they do make things a lot easier)
Then I had to make the final calibrations in the electronics and motor drivers. I really don't have room in my room for a 3D printer. I would clear off my bed and use it for a workbench during the day but now that it's made I have to find a more solid place to keeps it. This last picture is a sneak peak at my next project, built with the assistance of my 3D printer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Electric Skateboard (early stages)

My electric skateboard has been a project thats been gaining momentum since about the beginning of the summer and it's still a work in progress, but I thought I'd share how far it's come. I started out mounting a motor on a regular sized skateboard deck and soon found that there wasn't enough space left on the deck to give me a stable base to ride on. I thought I had pictures of it assembled but I can't find them now.So I moved on to a custom made long board design.

I bought a board (an actual board not a skateboard) and started to move the hardware onto it including a new set of long board wheels. After some wood working and tinkering out in the summer sun I got the board shaped, sanded, and rideable.

I wired up a simple switch to control the power to the motor. Its powered by the same two lead acid batteries I used for my plasma speaker. Its not done but it's far enough along that I can ride it around the block at a decent speed. Possible future improvements include things like foot switches, lights, speakers, solar charging, and a speedometer. And it still needs some grip tape and a paint job too.

As I was learning to use the wood working tools in my garage, I also made a chair out of an 8' 2x4". It's not an electrical creation but I thought I would put it up here anyway. In other news, I've been called to serve in the Cambodia Phnom Penh mission and will be leaving for the MTC on December 7th where I'll be studying cambodian. I'll be doing some communtiy college for the next three months while I attempt to tie up any unfinished projects.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Plasma Speaker

So a couple of months ago my physics teacher showed the class a youtube video of a plasma speaker somebody had built. I saw it, thought it was awesome, and wanted to make one for myself. A plasma speaker unlike the traditional cone speaker, uses an electric arc to produce sound, or more specifically music. This arc of plasma has essentially no mass compared to a regular speaker and therefore has perfect transient responce. It makes a perfect tweeter.

Or theoretically it can be. My build really has no indepth audio filtering and its not made with the highest quality of parts so its not exceptionally great. I made it more as a novelty. Another difference with the traditional speaker is that is produces sound in all directions making it more like real sources of sound. Below I've included a video of it being demonstrated as well as a look into the build and how it works. If your not particularly intrested in the specifics of how it works then I wouldn't watch the second half of the video as it gets kinda boring. If you are however curious of the insides, there are still pictures and descriptions below.
Now for some just general pictures of the build. It took me about two weeks to assemble it. In fact, pictures of me working on it were part of my graduation anouncement.

Above are three different views of the circuit board. Perfboard is great for building quick circuits on and prototyping. I didn't feel like professionally designing this circuit board with a manufacturer nor did I have time to. I had to finish this for a physics project.

Here's the GDT(gate drive transformer) that I had to hand wrap that I mentioned in the video. You can see the parts and schematic from early in the build in the background. The next picture is the CRT television I had to open up and get the flyback step up transformer (circled in red) out of. Below I've included a couple more random pictures.

So thus ends my review and write ups of past projects. My next post will be something I'm currently working on and possibly some other news. My mission papers went in today.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Compilation of the Miscellaneous

Not everything I've built needs a post about it like my gameboy calculator did. So here I will display the rest  of my highschool creations (almost, the plasma speaker will be next). For those of you who have seen my facebook albulm, much of these first few post are things you have alreadly seen with maybe a new picture or something. I'll probably be updating that albulm less now that I'm blogging as this gives me more of an opportunity to talk about the builds.

Here's a more recent project from early senior year. It was a joint venture I undertook with my friend to build a portable N64 into a breifcase. I built it and he payed for the parts. The picture shown above was the umm "working prototype" that I took with me to an out-of-town cross country meet. We're playing mario kart.
Unfortunatly, the project never made it to full completion because of an unfortunate accident (*cough* Ryan *cough**cough*) that rendered the screen ineffective. Its a project I will pick back up with the funds and time allow it. The new one will be better anyways. The cartridge slot with its like 100 pins I had to solder (twice) is pictured above.

Now on to the smaller projects. I thought I'd start with my first electronics project (not strictly true, I got a build your own radio kit from radio shack in 3rd grade) or more specifically a mod. These were done near the end of my 8th grade year when I was first learning how to solder. At this point your probably thinking that everything I build is centered around videogames. But thats all of them. Video game related mods tend to have a lot of online support, clearer pin markings, and readily available supplies (i.e. the controllers in your room).

This was a mod/fix that I did when the rechargeable batteries in my electric razor went out. Freshmen year I think. I've since got a new razor and I use this one for long campout and out of town trips. Nuff said.

The last of my displayable project is my breadboard power supply. It regulates votage to one of  five different adjustable settings. The was the first project (and only, its kinda expensive) where I used a PCB board house and a CAD program to make my board. BatchPCB and Cadsoft Eagle specifically.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Introduction of Sorts and a Gameboy Calculator

Having found myself with vast amounts of extra time since I graduated highschool last week, I decided to set up this blog to display the products of my electrical engineering studies at home. I'm really not that productive so postings may or may not be sparse after these initial few which will sum up some of my highschool creations and mods. My name is Cameron Blocker and I'm a student enrolled at Brigham Young University with a major in electrical engineering.

I thought I would start with my Gameboy Calculator since it turned out to be my claim to fame of sorts throughout highschool. The idea came and design and construction were done during my freshmen year. Prototyping and completion were done in my sophmore algebra II class. I beleive I had time to get 6 badges in pokemon leaf green by the time that class was over.

Although many people found it impressive, there are hardly any electronics concepts involved in the build. Just soldering and rewiring (and cramming and taping). Input pins on the gameboy circuit board are active low so I just had to rewire the buttons on the calculator's circuit board so they pull the gameboy's test points to ground when pushed. I neglected to mention that it in no way functions like a calculator. Anyting that the gameboy didn't need was dremelled off to make room for the additional circuitry. And even with that done, it was still a very tight fit.
As can be seen in the first picture, it has started to wear away some from the years of use. There's even a button missing that I put a gasket in place of. It still works to this day but now it sits on my shelf without a purpose anymore.