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Teleclaw: Remote Robot Gripper

Teleclaw: Remote Robot Gripper

It might have been Robots of Saturn that first got my young brain thinking about building a mechanical man. In that obscure 1962 sci-fi adventure novel, Dig Allen and his fellow teenage space explorers transfer their thoughts into the bodies of teleoperated robots to mine Saturn’s dangerous rings for precious Methane-X. Using some of my […]

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Light Theremin

Light Theremin

Anyone who’s shivered in the dark at a scary movie or laughed at the unintentional cheese-ball of a bad sci-fi (paging Ed Wood) knows the eerie sounds of the theremin. In the classic theremin design, two antennas control pitch and volume, and you play the instrument by moving your hands near the antennas without touching […]

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The Luna Mod Looper

The Luna Mod Looper

The Luna Mod is an easy and fun instrument that will have you making great-sounding loops in no time. Rather than sampling input like a traditional loop station, the Luna Mod synthesizes its own sounds, and you play it using two knobs and one button.

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Whack-a-Mole Game

Whack-a-Mole Game

Jim Chen designed an excellent electronic “Whack-a-Mole” game using 555 timers, LEDs, and bent-diode touch sensors, that you can build on a solderless breadboard

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Lunchbox Laser Shows

Lunchbox Laser Shows

Back in the 1970s, my friend Wayne Gillis and I used to do light shows at science fiction conventions. We had the usual panoply of overhead, slide, and custom-made projectors, and a single, very expensive, helium-neon laser from Edmund Scientific. Calling ourselves Light Opera, and later, Illuminatus, we performed at ConFusion conventions in Ann Arbor, […]

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One-Ton Linear Servo

One-Ton Linear Servo

RC hobby servomotors were just made for hacking. What’s not obvious is how much you can hack them — with a few tricks, you can use a servo to control almost anything. Hobby servos consist of a DC gear motor, a potentiometer (usually 5K), and a control circuit. The output shaft is the output of […]

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The Autophenakistoscope

The Autophenakistoscope

Motorize a phenakistoscope, a 19th-century parlor novelty that preceded motion pictures, and keep its frames synched to an LED strobe by using a sensor and an Arduino microcontroller. Invented in 1832 by Joseph Plateau, this device creates a moving picture from a sequence of stills arranged on a spinning disk and viewed through strategically cut […]

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