Lifelong Learning a blog of all the things I've learned about…

21Dec/090

My new hot air rework station (Aoyue 968)

Aoyue 968

So I decided to get myself a birthday present this year for my electronics hobby. So many hobbies to fund and so little funds. Anyhow, I picked up an Aoyue 968 unit from SRA. The unit is within my budget and has gotten really great reviews. I finally decided on this unit, however, after getting the Aoyue 2901 lead-free soldering unit from Sparkfun.com. They rave on the Aoyue, and my soldering iron was great, so I figured I'd gamble on this unit. I waiting on a shipment of proto boards from BatchPCB.com to really test it out, then I'll write up a more formal review.

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16Dec/090

My new E-flite mCX Helicopter

E-flite mCX HelicopterSo I got my early birthday gift from my parents! You guessed it, they got me a new E-flite mCX helicopter! My father and I have always been big fans of anything R/C and these new breed of micro helicopters are no exception. We have been flying the Blade CX and CP versions and after he purchased one of these he knew I would love one too! These should not be confused with the cheap-o toys you see at China-Mart or the like, these are highly sophisticated R/C helicopters, including gyros and proportional linear servo control.
I can't say how cool these things are, they are tiny, weigh 1oz and are really sturdy. I've banged my up quite a bit and it still hovers effortlessly. Each battery charges in about 20 minutes and flies for about 6 minutes, after I picked up a few more of the 110mAH batteries and I can fly for as long as my attention span. These are fantastic for the beginner or pro alike!
And as you can imagine, I've already designed a few PCB boards to enhance the charger and allow me to charge 8 batteries at once. I'll be replacing the existing red LED with a low current 0603 blue 5MA LED. Should help with battery life and cooler look if you ask me!

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6Dec/090

Adafruit’s Ask an Engineer…

 AdaFruit.com Ask An Engineer

  Image curtesy of Adafruit.com

I stopped in last night to the live streamming "Ask an Engineer" over at the Adafruit.com website. I was quite surprised with the good questions and insight into the industry. Found out that I can't find an ATMEGA328 to save my life because the plant in France is being shut down and the workers decided to get strike indefinitely when they found out. Dang those frenchies! Anyhow, the discussion was very intresting and it was quite neat to see the very automated shipping process they have built from open-source and homegrown systems. They gave everyone who was on the chat a 10% off coupon, so I decided it was time to pick up a MintyBoost kit for myself. Have been reading alot about boost converters alot lately and figured the kit would be a nice introduction into making my own. I have some ideas on using a home-grown boost converter and a VFD driver to make my very own VFD displays/clocks/etc.

Head on over next Saturday night at 10pm EST and check out the discussion!

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6Dec/090

A Borax Snowflake?

Borax Snowflake

 

My wife found a fantastic article on Craftzine showing how to make a neat borax snowfake. She took some of my pipe cleaners and made a small snowflake which will soak in the borax solution overnight, the end result being a very faintly blue snowflake! Cool huh?

Directions:     3 tbsp Borax per 1 cup boiling water. 1 drop blue food coloring per cup of water. 

Borax Snowflake Soaking

Borax Snowflake

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6Dec/093

Finally Got My FakeFire LED PCB Boards Done

ATTINY13A Fake Fire LEDA while back I wrote about a neat project that I had read about where a couple of LEDs and an ATTINY13 had been used to simulate the flicker flame of a candle or fire. I built a prototype and quickly realized that project deserved more of my attention, I spent the next couple of days tweaking the design and code to come up with this! My primary design focus was battery life and I've been running this board with 3 standard AA batteries for nearly 2 months. Good enough for me! This design incorporates a photocell to turn the LEDs off during light hours and a deep sleep mode for the AVR when the LEDs are not illuminated. A watchdog timer triggers the AVR to wake up and sample the photocell to decide if it's dark enough to start illuminating the LEDs. I've included the Eagle schematic and board files in addition the the AVR C code and high-res pictures in the attached zip.

ATTINY13A LED Fake Fire

ATTINY13A Fake Fire LED

 

Fake Fire PCB
Title: Fake Fire PCB (749 clicks)
Caption: Fake Fire PCB Zip File
Filename: FakeFirePCB.zip
Size: 3 MB

Fake Fire PCB
Title: Fake Fire PCB (749 clicks)
Caption: Fake Fire PCB Zip File
Filename: FakeFirePCB.zip
Size: 3 MB

6Dec/090

Almond Biscotti Cold Process Soap

Almond Biscotti Cold Process SoapI picked up some new fragrance from Brambleberry for the Holidays as my wife and I will be giving away some soap for the holidays. One of the fragrances I was most excited to try was Almond Biscotti, I thought it would be a great smell for the holidays and boy was I right! Almond Biscotti is fantastic smelling! We also decided to try some java brown mica for coloring in a swirl, I wanted it to resemble biscotti a bit. I think it turned out perfect, the yellow will turn less golden and more blonde with curing; I can't wait to try it out.

I would have never managed to get this soap completed without the amazing help of my hard working helpers below...

Super Helpful Friends

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