NebbieBox – Cat Entertainment Center

Another recent project is a cat entertainment center using a combination of servo controlled mice and feathers. For the prototype I used a wooden wine case (6 pack) and inserted 1-1/2 inch tubes and servos for two mice. A slot on the side uses another servo to pop out a feather. It has been very popular with Nebbie, our six month old kitty.

Features include the following:

  • Dual ATMega328 chips (I2C master and slave)
  • Adafruit 16-Channel 12-bit PWM/Servo Driver – I2C interface – PCA9685
  • Bluefruit LE – Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE 4.0) – nRF8001 Breakout
  • Two Piezo buzzers for mouselike sounds
  • Two small vibration motors to simulate scatching
  • Two IR LED emitters/receivers to detect cat proximity
  • iPhone to control each servo / sounds
  • Automated mode to pop mice out and in

One of the challenges was to make it robust enough to handle abuse from the kitty while at the same time “NOT HURTING” my kitty. Nebbie has pulled out the servos several times. She also runs over to the box as soon as she hears the servos power up.

Home Automation Motion Sensor

This is a prototype of my battery powered PIR motion sensor unit that I have on my front porch. It has run for several months on 3 AA batteries. Larry gave me the idea to use the PIR output to drive a MOSFET power switch.

ATMega328 battery powered motion sensor

ATMega328 battery powered motion sensor

The ATMega328 and NRF24 radio are powered up by motion detected by the PIR sensor. In the setup() routine it determines which of the four outdoor sensor locations it has been installed in (front porch, back yard, etc.) by the 2 position DIP switch, configures the NRF24 radio (DIP determines mesh network parent and pipe addresses), sends a message to a mesh NRF24 router unit and then enters a null loop until it looses power (PIR goes low). I’ve used an Adafruit proto-board to build a more permanent version:

ATMega328 Motion Sensor Project

ATMega328 Motion Sensor Project

I’ve run this device for more than 3 months and it works great. My next prototype will use the same idea but replace the ATMega328 and NRF24 with an ESP-1 Wi-Fi client.

ESP8266 Light Switch

Another recent project with the ESP8266 was my Wi-Fi controlled light switch. I had a couple of LED desk laps that I wanted to control remotely from my Home Automation iPhone app.

Goals for the project:

  • Use an ESP-1 to handle all of the processing (no ATMega328)
  • Implement a simple REST web server to handle HTTP PUT commands
  • Only use one 2.1mm power plug (Wi-Fi control has to use the lamp’s power cord)
  • Be as efficient as possible and rely on a LM1117 voltage regulator for 3.3 volts
  • Use a MOSFET to control power to the connected appliance (LED desk lamp)

This is a video of the first breadboard version of the light switch.

The next step is to create a more permanent protoboard (Adafruit product) and enclose it in an antique wooden project box.

ESP8266 Wearable Access Point

I wanted to create a couple of wearable devices using the ESP8266 for a SEAWare MeetUp. The first thing I needed was a wearable Wi-Fi access point. My first wearable project would use the access point to coordinate communication between my iPhone and other ESP8266 devices.

Wearable Wi-Fi Access Point

Wearable Wi-Fi Access Point

I decided to use a lanyard to hold both the battery and a very visible ESP8266 circuit board. I included an 8×8 matrix LED from Adafruit that use I2C communication (needed for he ESP-1). Features included:

  • ESP-1 access point
  • 3.3 volt lithium ion battery
  • 8×8 LED matrix
  • 2-position DIP as a power switch
  • iPhone to select different scrolling text messages

My next couple of posts will describe the wearable name tag with its OLED display, gyro-accelomter (posture sensor) and IR LED switches.

ESP8266 ESP-1 Internet of Things

I’ve recently started working with the ESP8266 model ESP-1 Wi-Fi web server, web client and access point. It is an incredibly powerful microprocessor with an equally powerful Wi-Fi radio. Its 32 bit, 80 MHz processor has lots of memory (compared to my ATMega328) and at around $2 US, its hard to beat.

ESP-1 IOT Platform

ESP-1 IOT Platform

You can use several different development environments but the ESP8266 community has ported it to the Arduino IDE. I’ll post a few of my most recent prototypes in the next couple of days.

DIY – Home Automation and Monitoring

I’ve spent the last couple of years learning digital design with the Arduino platform. The open source hardware and software communities have been immensely helpful and I could’nt have made much progress without their help.

I decided to use home automation and motion surviellance as the central theme for my self taught, hardware design education program. Today, my home has many sensors collecting data in each room and communicating status to my iPhone via Bluetooth devices. I’ve used an nRF24L01 2.4 GHz radio in a mesh network to coordinate each device.

I will document version 1.0 of my home automation system on “parttimemaker”.