Category Archives: Projects

Space antenna!

Late in 2019 I heard of an upcoming project by SpaceAustralia to home brew your own radio-telescope, with the objective of peering at the Milky Way. Previously only the domain of scientists with very nice radio dishes, the reducing cost of entry has now put it in range of the hobbyist so it seemed like a cool thing to try.

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Raspberry Pi Car Shield

Raspberry Pi 2 + Power supply PCB + 7″ TFT

I’ve had an aftermarket ECU (Adaptronic) in my car for a little while now, and I wanted some extra dash gauges.  My car (Nissan R34 GTT) has a spot on the dashboard perfect for a 7″ TFT.  Raspberry Pi is the obvious choice, However, you can’t just run a Pi directly off the accessory power in a car.  Aside from voltage conversion, graceful shutdown is also mandatory!

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Raspberry Pi Webcam (Fishcam)

One day I was looking at my fishtank and thought it would be nice to see my fish behaving naturally.  The problem with sitting in front of the tank is they recognise someone is there and go into their “feeding” pattern – rising to the top of the tank in expectation of food.

If I added a webcam, I could push my  RPi temperature display into service.  As a bonus, I could measure the temperature of the tank at the same time.

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Pinoccio Project #3 – How cool is your Pinoccio?

My freezer has a bad habit of icing up.  It’s not a great design to start with and I suspect I’m overfilling it, but I wanted to check whether it was getting down to the right temperature and also whether the defrosting cycle was running properly.  A Pinoccio is an ideal thing to check this with, the only problem is Lithium batteries don’t like working in cold temperatures.   At -20°C the chemistry inside the battery is finding it really tough going – after a short trip into the freezer my Pinoccio’s battery was reporting 4% even though it was fully charged moments ago.

There is an alternative though, a supercapacitor.  Capacitors don’t particularly care about the cold since they don’t rely on a chemical reaction.  Capacitance is simply an electric charge difference between two conductive plates that are close together.  Supercapacitors with an industrial temperature rating (-40°C to 85°C) are quite common.

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Pinoccio Project #2 – Graphing a Data Set

It’s now been a couple of days since my introduction on Pinoccio.  I left my Field Scout in the wilderness that is my workbench, plugging it in occasionally to charge it, and it dutifully checked in with HQ every couple of minutes and reported on its vital signs (remember I haven’t actually asked it to do anything yet!).  It’s time to find out what has been happening with it.  We can do this using Pinoccio HQ, some Linux command line hacking and some free online graphing tools.

So what data does the Scout report to HQ?  The dashboard shows the live temperature and battery status of the currently selected Scout:

HQ status

This data is logged in HQ as well, and it is possible to use the API to download a history report.

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Pinoccio Project #1 – Look Ma, no wires!

Pinoccio is an Arduino-compatible, web-enabled, wireless mesh networking ecosystem.  Check out their website for more information, these little boards are awesome!!

Pinoccio Field Scout (Lego for scale)

Pinoccio Field Scout (Lego for scale)

One of the first things that amazed me about Pinoccio was its ScoutScript feature.  This lets you run live commands on your Scout without recompiling!  As an embedded engineer I’m so used to the code->compile->download->review process that being able to simply type a command on a microcontroller and see the result is amazing.  See this demo I stole from the Pinoccio homepage:


As you can see, there are a lot of things available to play with – temperature, battery charge (that’s the 94%), an RGB LED on the Scout’s PCB, and all the digital and analogue pins are right there too.

I’m a little obsessed with the temperature of things, so I’ll be doing a couple of projects on measuring various temperatures around my home.  Let’s have a look at the Pinoccio and then set it up for some data collection.

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