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Wacky Automation Devices

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I wanted a machine that would turn on the torch on my phone when my finger was feeling tired. Here's the resulting "voice activated torch"


My daughter has been a youtube fan since she's been young and when she heard I was making a film offered to film it for "Megan TV" so it turned into a family project. As you might guess it took a few attempts to get it to run through to the end.


The stages of the machine are as follows:

  1. Google AIY - Voice activation
  2. Marty the Robot - Moves and flips switch
  3. Raspberry Pi Zero - Switch triggers a sweeping servo
  4. Toy train - Runs down slope and triggers microswitch
  5. Relays - Microswitch engages a two relays, one which latches and the other with starts a motor
  6. Motor with winch
  7. Lego pivot with touch pen
  8. Mobile phone with torch app



{gallery} Rube


Overview: All the parts of the machine

Google AIY and Marty the Robot

Marty and Google: Voice activated robot

Pi Zero

Switch and Pi: The Pi Zero detects the change of switch and activates the servo


Switch and servo: A change over switch from an old Lego battery box and a micro servo to push the train


Train: The runaway train went down the track...


Relays: Two relays, one to switch the motor the other the latch the relays on, "emergency off switch" in background

Lego Swivel

Touch Pen: Capacitive touch pens with grounding cable


Here it is in action on "Megan TV"


Automated Tea Dunker

Posted by carmelito Oct 21, 2017

Wacky Automation Devices

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This is my entry to this month Project14 theme - Wacky Automation Devices. For a lack of a better name, I am calling this an Automated Tea Dunker. But if you can come up with something more fun, please leave it in the comment below. Here is the video of the prototype using an Arduino pro mini, two hobby 9G micro servos  and thumb joystick. But I plan to automate this further, if time permits in the coming weeks,  and probably add Wifi capability.


Now if you watched the video and the first thing that crossed your mind was, "hmm, wouldn't it be easier and faster to just dip the tea bag using your hand" . If yes, then I think I have achieved my goal and build something wacky !!


Here are the steps to follow, to make something similar

Download and 3D print the STL files attached

There are 4 STL files in total attached in the zip file below, which are going to be used as part of the servo mechanism. You can print this using PLA or ABS filament on your 3D printer.

Here are all the 3D printed parts. In my case, I used Hatchbox 1.75mm green PLA to print the files on my Flashforge creator pro.


Adding the servos to the 3D printed parts


For the servos, I am using two Tower Pro - SG92R servos. The screws used to mount the servo's onto the 3D printed parts should come with the servos.For the base servo, use the two sided servo horn as you see in the picture below. And for the servo that controls the tea bag arm you will have to use a single side horn, here don't completely tighten the screw on the servo horn as you may have to readjust this after uploading the arduino code below, if you are not happy with dunking movement of the tea bag.


Put the circuit together

As part for the circuit, here are the connections, I am using the Arduino pro mini, but you can use any version of the Arduino..

  • Servo connected to the base 3D printed part is connected to pin#4 on the Arduino Pro mini
  • Servo connected to the tea bag arm is connected pin#5
  • As part of the Joystick the Vertical pot is connected to pin# A0
  • and the Horizontal pot is connected to pin# A1


Upload the code below to the Arduino

In my case, since i am using an Arduino Pro mini, I had to use an FTDI breakout to upload code using the Arduino IDE.

//Carmelito 10/18/2017 - Created for the Project14 - Wacky Automation device project 
//called the Automated Tea Dunker.
int servoVal;
//The joystick bits of the code are based on Mike Grusin, example on SparkFun Electronics 3/11
const int VERT = 0; // pin A0
const int HORIZ = 1; // pin A1
const int SEL = 2; // pin #2
const int servoBasePin = 4;   //Servo connected to the top base of the 3D printed part
const int servoTeaArmPin = 5; //Servo connected to the Tea bag holder arm of the 3D printed part
Servo servoBase;  // create servo object to control a servo
Servo servoTeaArm;  // create servo object to control a servo

void setup()
  // make the SEL pin of the joystick an input
  servoBase.attach(servoBasePin);  // attaches the servo
  servoTeaArm.attach(servoTeaArmPin);  // attaches the servo

void loop() 
  int vertical, horizontal, select;
  // read all values from the joystick
  vertical = analogRead(VERT); // will be 0-1023
  horizontal = analogRead(HORIZ); // will be 0-1023
  select = digitalRead(SEL); // will be HIGH (1) if not pressed, and LOW (0) if pressed
  // print out the values
  Serial.print("vertical: ");
  Serial.print(" horizontal: ");
  Serial.println("Move servos");
  //Mapping the postions to the servos
  servoVal = map(vertical, 0, 1023, 0, 180);  
  servoVal = map(horizontal, 0, 1023, 0, 180);  
  delay(10); //Change this to check what works for you    



And once you done upload the code, put in the hours of practice !! and  finally once you confident, dip the tea bag in a cup of hot water and enjoy !!



Purple Panic Button

Posted by dougw Top Member Oct 20, 2017

Wacky Automation Devices

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I wanted to submit a wacky automation system to inspire more participation in this month's Project14.

The idea I had goes back when a co-worker gave me a little plastic panic button that would pop up a little flag when the button was pushed. The flag said "Be Calm".

Here is a picture of what that panic button looked like:


It was a popular novelty with a cute little surprise. I was thinking I could keep the surprise fresh by making the response programmable, and not only display some cute text, but also play some iconic audio track.

All panic buttons seem to be red, but I like the alliteration of a purple panic button and I just happen to have some purple plastic for my 3D printer.

Purple is a unique colour - I don't think there is any such thing as monochromatic purple. Despite the ultraviolet spectrum which could be monochromatic, I think the purple we see is always a mix of red and blue light. If you mix any other 2 primary colours you get something close to a monochromatic colour. Almost all the other colours with names can be monochromatic.

Purple is way off the monochromatic spectrum and a purple panic is right off the wall.

I really enjoy finding a new use for technology I have developed previously - it is a testament to the applicability of the original design and it leverages all that work. This project uses a PSoC4 circuit board I developed as a spin-off from the Henrietta Project, so you can see some of its capabilities there.

I also used parts of this project in the Purple People Eater, although this project was almost complete before that one kicked off - but even more use out of the basic design - I love it.

Despite the wacky automation "Rube Goldberg" theme, I wanted the device to also have some real usefulness, so when it is not in panic mode, it is programmed to display the time based on GPS satellite data.

The first video covers a little bit of the build and first power up:

The second video is a demonstration of the purple panic button in action:

The concept is for the panic button to cause some slightly unexpected response both by displaying some clever comment and playing some catchy sound bite.

The demo above shows some of the quips and sound bites I've found so far to give an idea of how it works, but I would like to get the clever e14 membership involved in suggesting more material. Any wiseacre, smart ass, one-liner quip or sound bite or ditty that might surprise and delight purple panic-ers can be listed in the comments below.

This member participation in the project might be the most interesting aspect of the project - not that I'm calling anyone a smart ass.....

Wacky Automation Devices

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Electronic devices are built to automate routine tasks simply and efficiently. They offer us the promise of making life easier by allowing us to spend more time doing the things we love to do.  A perfectly engineered device, especially a complicated machine, can do this with as few moving parts as possible.  An emphasis on design engineering made Apple relevant again, rescuing it from the brink in the late 90s, and is something that is carefully considered whenever a contender for the next big thing emerges.


The Wacky Automation Device competition from Project14, takes this concepts, and flips it over in a (hopefully) absurd and humorous way in homage to Rube Goldberg, the man who left engineering school to be an artist.  Rather than try to engineer the next iPhone, the idea is to add as many moving parts as possible to create an automation device that is absurb in the all the automated steps it takes to do the simple tasks is was designed to do. This is a project that you can have a lot of fun with.


Thinking about how a Rube Goldberg device works is a great way to build appreciation the thinking that needs to happen with design engineering.  Engineering fraternities have held routine Rube Goldberg competitions and it’s a part of recommended early curriculum for students in the K-12 range who hold interest in an engineering career.


These students are trained at an early age to use Rube Goldberg cartoons as a way to engage their critical thinking on the way devices can be used to make simple tasks more complicated.  The objective is to consider the importance and usefulness of the technology and devices around them. 


Thanks to the Internet it’s now easier to get devices and invention you could think of on a whim, adding it to a shopping cart, and having it delivered to your door or at your desk.  For the world we live in today, digital age seems a bit antiquated considering its been tossed around since the 80s.


If you were a gadget hound in the 80s you had a Casio watch to digitally give you the time, a calculator to save you from doing long division manually, a Handy Cam with an actual video tape that you could take out and pop into your VCR, and a Walkman to listen to mix tapes you made using a dual cassette deck.


Something to think about is that many of these devices were mass marketed and produced to replace other single function devices that were mass marketed and produced a decade earlier.  For someone growing up with gadgets in the 70s the Casio watch probably didn’t provide a useful upgrade over the analog wrist piece they may have already grown accustomed to using.


The Polaroid camera would have provided a fundamentally different way to instantly capture and store memories compared to the handy cam. Nevertheless, it can be argued that the loss of the popularity of one device to store memories, supplanted a form of capturing memories that was subsequently lost.


The record player you owned to play your analog music produced a sound that some people still prefer heavily to the sound of digital recordings.  Even in a world where single purpose devices reigned supreme, whether or not they represented an upgrade over what came before is subjective, especially considering the revival older “analog” devices such as record players and instant film cameras.


The world we live in today has many devices that fill the niche left behind when single function devices fell by the wayside.  Do we really need another way to listen to our music and don’t you miss your old photo camera?  What’s lost on those of us who never grew up with these devices and don’t share the same hankering for beloved devices that only served one function and were simple enough in how they were engineered electronically?


Rube Goldberg entered the lexicon as an adjective to describe accomplishing by complex means what could be done simply. It’s a concept that has resonated well past his cartoon strips, witnessed in movies such as the Goonies, and continues to shape the way we relate to electronics and technology. Beginning in 1988, the National Rube Golberg machine contest , has witnessed contest winners featured on Newton’s Apple,  Johnny Carson, the Today Show, and Good Morning America.




While we can’t promise any guest appearances after the Wacky Automation device competition closes.  We can offer a Shopping Cart to 3 First place Winners and have some fun as this is Project14!