Solar Powered Electric Bike

As many readers out there may know, I am a strong proponent of cycling and energy conservation initiatives.  Although I usually ride a traditional or “regular” bicycle, I have also recently constructed an electric bicycle.  My intention was to consider using the electric bicycle for trips where the time spent commuting needed to be minimized.  In other words, for those days that I felt lazy, how late could I sleep in each morning, yet still arrive at work on time if traveling by bicycle? Continue reading “Solar Powered Electric Bike”

Internet Controlled Robotic Arm

Gripper for a robotic arm.

The motivating factor for the construction of this robotic arm originally came from a tour of the Volvo factory in Göteborg, Sweden. It was during this factory tour that I first saw the massive robotic arms used to pick up car parts and weld them on to the car body. With sparks flying, these were some of the most impressive robots I had ever seen, and if you ever have a chance, take the tour!

Fast forward one month, and I was the proud owner of my first robotic arm kit, a Lynxmotion AL-5D, with the heavy-duty wrist rotate mechanism. Oh boy did I have big plans for this arm! Having some previous experience with Arduino boards, I immediately connected an Arduino Uno to the SSC-32 servo controller that came with the arm. With a little bit of web searching, I was able to find instructions and sample code which had me sending basic commands to each servo. It took another couple of weeks, but I had finally gotten the arm to move the way I wanted. Continue reading “Internet Controlled Robotic Arm”

PongSat Results

The balls sent to the edge of space.Our PongSat ping pong ball was successfully flown on JP Aerospace flight “Away 47” on April 9, 2011 (it is the experiment on the far left above). It reached a height of 85,549 feet before the balloon carrying the ping pong balls popped and the experiment fell back to Earth.

The structure holding the PongSat balls as they went to the edge of space!

The weight of the balloon and payload was approximately 12.5 pounds, and it climbed at an average rate of 1,300 feet per minute. The flight duration was 1 hour, 25 minutes. JP Aerospace recorded a minimum temperature of -74.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The payload was recovered 27.25 miles from the launch site, which was near Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Continue reading “PongSat Results”

PongSat Experiment

Our PongSat ball fully assembled.Today, our first PongSat experiment will be launched to the edge of space! JP Aerospace, a group located in California, offers to fly student experiments that fit inside of a ping pong ball to the edge of space, often over 100,000 feet above the surface of the Earth. Did I mention that they do this at no cost to the experimenter? To get started, you only need to send an e-mail to

With the help of my two boys, we created a ping pong ball experiment to measure the temperature and humidity over the course of the ascent and descent of the balloon used to carry the balls up to space. Continue reading “PongSat Experiment”

Delicious Homemade Bread

It's bread!Every once in a while, I find something that I haven’t used in a while and it suddenly catches my interest. In this case, it was an automatic bread maker (machine) which had been sitting in a cupboard unused for the past several years.

After taking it out and dusting it off, I ran to the store and found a bread machine box mix, which just required the addition of water to make a fresh homemade loaf of bread. I dumped in the mix, added the water, turned on the machine, and waited for the magic to happen.

About three hours later, the house was filled with the wonderful scent of fresh bread. When the machine finished, I opened the cover and was immediately disappointed. The bread had risen, but then apparently caved in on itself. What I had was, at best, called a bread bowl instead of a nice fluffy loaf of bread. I ended up tasting it, but it was pointless to cut up and eat. Continue reading “Delicious Homemade Bread”

The Solar Powered Cell Phone Experiment

The sun is shining.Question: Is it possible to power a cell phone (specifically, my iPhone 3G) with just solar power without the need for huge, permanent solar panels?


Background Research: In order to determine if this was possible, I needed to do some research.  First, I tried to find out if anyone had attempted this before.  A quick web search told me that a few people had powered their cell phones while camping using some portable solar panels, but nobody had apparently attempted to do what I was hoping to do. Continue reading “The Solar Powered Cell Phone Experiment”

Glow In The Dark Stars

When I was younger, I would lay in bed and imagine I could see the stars through my ceiling.  My dream became a reality when I turned 14 years old.  Well, almost a reality.  While shopping at a local craft store, most likely with my parents, I found a bottle of glow-in-the-dark paint.  Being a mischievous child, I immediately painted random dots on my ceiling, thus creating my window to the heavens above.

When my parents eventually sold our house, long after I had moved out, they found that it took three layers of white paint to completely cover the glowing stars I had painted.  My first thought was, why cover them?  Surely a new buyer would want a room with a view of the night sky.  Apparently my parents did not share my view on this topic.

Fast forward a few decades, and I stumbled across a web site called Glow Inc.  They happen to sell glow-in-the-dark paint containing strontium aluminate pigment.  The claims made on this site indicate this paint is 25 times stronger than the hobby store paint I used as a kid.  Cool!  A $10 order later, and I had a new project on my hands. Continue reading “Glow In The Dark Stars”

Do-It-Yourself Blu-Ray Laser Pointer (Part 2)

Laser 1Everything I had read thus far told me that I needed a circuit which supplied a constant current to the laser diode.  It would have been easier if I could have just connected the laser diode to my DC power supply and adjusted the voltage, but that would have been too easy.

By the way, this is part 2 of a two part series on this project.  If you missed part 1, you can review it here. Continue reading “Do-It-Yourself Blu-Ray Laser Pointer (Part 2)”

Do-It-Yourself Blu-Ray Laser Pointer (Part 1)

Blu Ray PlayerAbout six months ago, I purchased a Sharp Aquos BDHP20 Blu-Ray player to watch movies I rent via Netflix.  The DVD player worked perfectly for several months, enabling me to watch all sorts of movies in high definition.  Life was good.

Then one day, a disc refused to load.  I figured it had a scratch, and I tried other Blu-Ray discs.  None would load.  I found a firmware update, and updated the firmware.  No go.  The player still wouldn’t read the discs.  It played DVDs just fine, but not Blu-Ray discs.  I eventually got frustrated enough to purchase a new Blu-Ray player, figuring I’d dissect the old player and extract the Blu-Ray laser diode. Continue reading “Do-It-Yourself Blu-Ray Laser Pointer (Part 1)”

A Bird Feeder Web Camera

Bird Feeder Web CameraBird feeders are a wonderful thing.  Just by placing a small amount of bird seed in the feeder, you can attract a wide variety of wildlife to your backyard.  Unfortunately, this might include some wildlife you might not have anticipated.

The only problem with bird feeders is that once the birds arrive, you must be sitting watching the feeder or you will miss the intended effect, namely, seeing the birds.  Thus, the need arose for a bird feeder that could capture photos of all of the birds that visited my bird feeder. Continue reading “A Bird Feeder Web Camera”