Making Magic with EasyVR

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Magic has taken over my house. We have been reading the Harry Potter series, watching the movies, and my children have been repeatedly banished to their bedrooms for dueling with inappropriate curses.

Enter the holiday season and Enginursday. I wanted a quick project I could build for my kiddos and make it seem like the magic is actually happening. Since we needed new bedside lamps for reading, I decided we needed them to turn on and off with wands.

While I foresee potential issues with giving them wands, my children definitely need a better way to battle (instead of using rulers, pencils, knives, or heirloom candlesticks) and really, I just want a reason to yell “You’ll shoot your eye out!”. Ahhh, holiday spirit.

Back to business. We have a lovely little shield in our catalog called the Easy VR3 which is a voice recognition module that has a fair number of built-in commands as well as the ability to program your own. It does require some assembly, but once you get through all the soldering, you can pop that sucker on an Arduino Uno and start coding.

The EasyVR3 has quite a bit of functionality, so the documentation is… comprehensive. I actually read through the manual, hunted down a few YouTube videos, and then re-read the manual. To make a rather long story short, I used EasyVR Commander to program in the sounds and commands I wanted, used a handy dandy button in EasyVR Commander to create an Arduino sketch (SO EASY), modified the Arduino sketch to do what I wanted when certain commands were uttered, and then uploaded the code to my Uno. Voila prototype:

single LED turning on, turning off

Okay, so one LED isn’t all that exciting. I need to attach this to a bedside lamp and make it work with the magic commands! In our catalog, we also have the IoT Power Relay, which is a great way to control 120V outlets from microcontrollers without zapping yourself into oblivion.

So all assembled:

Assembled IoT Relay with VR Shield and lit up wand

And it works!

Now for the wands… I seriously considered just using driftwood or sticks for the wands, but to quote my kids' favorite TV show, “Anything worth doing is worth over-doing” (I’m looking at you Steve Spangler). So I 3D printed the wands.

I found a sturdy design on Thingiverse and printed one up, but then decided they needed to be super extra. I modified the design on TinkerCad (yay free CAD) to have more space internally and added an LED, an accelerometer, and a small LiPo battery.

3D printed wand with super bright LED at tip

Every time the boys pick up their wands (from their also 3D printed wand stands) the light at the tip of the wand comes on and with a “Magic! Lumos!” their reading lamps come on as well. Yay magic!

I fully expect there will be multiple iterations of “magic” happening in our house but I’m pretty happy with the prototype. There have been great strides in voice recognition software since the Easy VR Shield and I’d love to dig into the Alexa or Google Home APIs. I’d also love to play with edge lighting (as Feldi does here) and have the design be a patronus. The kiddos have even more ideas – so many fun options!

Are there any other Harry Potter fans out there? Have you created projects with SparkFun parts? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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Where do you find your inspiration?

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As another years winds down, it’s human nature to look back. To examine dreams, achievements and, for makers, projects. Regardless of whether a project was only conceptualized, or seen to completion, they are all worth revisiting.

My list of project ideas always far outweighs the number of projects that I complete, or even start. Some ideas don’t even get a second thought until December, when I revisit them through my old notes or sketches. It’s always fun to consider the more odd or obscure ones, and once again this year I found myself trying to figure out where they came from. What inspired my brain to think that tricking out a volumetric spirometer would be a good idea? Some ideas seem practical – perhaps I noticed a need, and tried to figure out a hack or build. Maybe it was a proof-of-concept project, just to see if something was even possible. And very often, it just seemed like something that might be cool/fun/dangerous/hilarious to try.

So I decided to dig into my brain a little (it’s scary in there…). I wanted to see if I could figure out what inspired me this year. Here are a few of my inspirations.

Yack-O-Lantern

Holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas, are always great inspiration for makers.

Inspiration can always be found in certain holidays. Halloween and Christmas always seem to inspire heated competition between you and your neighbor excessive creativity, and it doesn’t always mean a Clark W. Griswold level project. Something as easy and personal as a light-up Christmas card, or a glowing Halloween crystal skull, can be the starting point to creating your own version of electronic holiday cheer!

Sharknado 3D

Sometimes inspiration comes from your Secret Santa recipient’s favorite cheesy movie. Yes, that is a 3D-printed spinning Sharknado piece.

Another thing that I always find inspiring is the mind of a child. Often, they will ask for something, or suggest something, that seems absolutely impossible. But they don’t know that it’s impossible, and so they go ahead and ask. Very often, after my initial, “that’s impossible, and therefore silly” thought, I will try to consider why it’s impossible. And it turns out, it might not be impossible at all. Maybe looking at it head-on makes it seem impossible, but if you figure out how to approach it from a different angle, or through a number of smaller, more manageable steps, it might just work.

Arduino Clock

Hacking a wall clock with an Arduino to be able to remotely control the speed of the hands. Why look, five o'clock already?!

This year, I got a fair amount of commercial inspiration, too. I went down to Florida with my family and visited Disney World, Universal Studios, and of course, Kennedy Space Center. And while I found the obvious inspiration visiting KSC, and chatting with my favorite astronaut, Captain Winston Scott, I also found tremendous inspiration at the other parks as well.

WinstonScott

Shooting the breeze (and nerding out!) with fellow trumpet player and engineer, Captain Winston Scott.

The amount of sensors and robotics and interactive displays was mind blowing. As Arthur C. Clarke’s third law states, any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And to thousands of people around me, it was magic. Wave your Hogwarts wand in the correct pattern in front of a window, and something inside comes to life! But to me, it was a riddle to be solved. What technology is being used to make that happen? How can I recreate it on a scaled-down version?

Fire Dragon

A rooftop dragon that shoots fire? Your HOA may take issue with this one, but it would be worth the fight!

Potter Wand

At each of more than a dozen spots, waving your wand in a distinct pattern will trigger a little magic (definitely need to recreate this one).

Earlier this year, I moved into the role of Creative Technologist here at SparkFun, and with that, I have found that required inspiration comes every week in the form of new products. I’m fairly certain that we’ve all seen a new product that we absolutely had to have, just knowing that something that cool would certainly inspire a project. I will receive a product on Monday, need to learn what it does and how it does it, then create a product to showcase it by Wednesday or Thursday. This avenue of inspiration is still new to me, and is definitely one of the more interesting avenues. While my inspiration for some of our new products may be grand, it usually needs to be something that I can do in a couple of days. This time constraint adds an interesting twist, but definitely keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Giant Joystick

A giant joystick that you ride? What could possibly go wrong?

So now it’s your turn. Who or what has inspired your project ideas this year? How far have you gotten on your projects? Are they rattling around in your head, or did they make it onto the drawing board? Have you sourced all the parts, and perhaps created a wish list for them? Are the parts acquired and spread out across your workbench (guilty)? Did you get it built, and is it perfect, or does it kind of work, and now you’re just making final adjustments?

Let us know in the comments below, we always love to see how our products are being used out in the wild. In fact, you might want to apply for our Community Partnership Program. Once a month we help out a maker or a group of makers with their project, so why not you? And as always, Happy Hacking!

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Friday Product Post: Be a Qwiic Pro

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Hello there everyone and welcome back! Hopefully you were able to get some great parts and boards during our Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales, but now we move forward to bring you even more new products this week! We start off the week with the Pro nRF52840 Mini, an Arduino Bluetooth development board that is also Qwiic capable! Speaking of the Qwiic Connect System, we also have an Expansion Board for the Onion Omega that allows you to incorporate boards with Qwiic connectors to be used with the new IoT platform. Last up this week, we have a tiny breakout board for a USB-C connector AND the connector itself!

A new Pro Mini!


SparkFun Pro nRF52840 Mini - Bluetooth Development Board

added to your cart!


SparkFun Pro nRF52840 Mini – Bluetooth Development Board

In stock

DEV-15025

The SparkFun Pro nRF52840 Mini is a development board for Nordic’s nRF52840 – a powerful combination of ARM Cortex-M4 CPU…

$29.95

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The SparkFun Pro nRF52840 Mini is a breakout and development board for Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52840 – a powerful combination of ARM Cortex-M4 CPU and 2.4GHz Bluetooth radio. With the nRF52840 at the heart of your project, you’ll have a seemingly endless list of possibilities in an incredibly small package. The mini development board for the nRF52840 breaks out most of the critical I/O pins including GPIO and those needed for power, while maintaining a small footprint that nearly matches that of the Arduino Pro Mini (except those covered by the Qwiic connector).


Qwiic Expansion Board for Onion Omega

added to your cart!


Qwiic Expansion Board for Onion Omega

In stock

DEV-15080

The Qwiic Expansion Board allows you to easily attach any breakout boards utilizing the Qwiic Connect System to be operated b…

$15.00

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The Qwiic Expansion Board for the Onion Omega allows you to easily attach the large catalog of breakout and development boards utilizing the SparkFun Qwiic Connect System to be operated by the powerful Omega! This Expansion Board is equipped with four individual Qwiic connectors and easily plugs into the Expansion Dock. With it, you will be able to combine and have full control over what kind of project you design for your Qwiic and Omega boards.


SparkFun USB-C Breakout

added to your cart!


SparkFun USB-C Breakout

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BOB-15100

The SparkFun USB-C Breakout supplies up to 3 times the power as previous USB board while breaking out each pin on the connect…

$4.50

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USB Female Type C Connector

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USB Female Type C Connector

In stock

COM-15111

This is a 16-pin, female, USB Type C connector that is commonly found in smart phones, laptops, and other newer electronics.

$2.50

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With this USB breakout you will finally be able to incorporate a USB-C connector into your projects without needing to solder each tiny SMD pad. The SparkFun USB-C Breakout supplies up to three times the power of previous USB iterations, and also solves the universally frustrating dilemma of plugging a USB cable in correctly, because it’s reversible! Of course, if you are looking for just the USB-C connector without the attached breakout, we have you covered there too!

And that’s it for new products this week! As always, we can’t wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made!

We’ll be back next week with even more fantastic new products!

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How To Survive College! – Life hacks,

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Essential Life Hacks for Surviving College Life

It’s no secret that college life can be tricky to navigate. Whether you’re a freshman still learning the ropes or an upperclassman well adjusted to the college lifestyle, there are several skills that every collegiette should check off her bucket list before she graduates and ventures out into the real world. To help you get started on this quest for practical knowledge, we’ve compiled a list of nine can’t-miss life skills that will make your day-to-day college experience a little less stressful.

1. Mastering the 20-minute nap

Between early-morning psych lectures, club soccer practice, all-night study sessions and sorority dinners, there are simply not enough hours in the day to fit in a full night’s rest. However, a quick 20-minute nap between classes is a great way to recharge and catch up on some much-needed zzz’s.

“Twenty minutes is the ideal length for a power nap,” says Dr. Michael Breus, a sleep expert. “It reduces the amount of sleep drive, so you wake up feeling refreshed.”

If you’re feeling extra sleep-deprived, Breus advises the 90-minute nap. “The ideal nap [beyond 20 minutes] is actually 90 minutes, because it is the length of a full sleep cycle,” he says. “Anything between 25-90 minutes will just leave you feeling more tired than when you started.”

Not only is there an ideal length for napping, but there is an ideal time of day to nap as well. “The best time [for napping] is at 1:00 in the afternoon,” Breus says. “Your body temperature drops, which releases melatonin and helps your brain fall asleep.”

2. Chugging water to avoid a hangover

While it may be tempting to come straight home and crash after a long night out, your Sunday-morning self will thank you if you rehydrate with a bottle of water before bed.

“When you’re dehydrated, your blood thickens, and this affects the supply of oxygen to the brain,” says Dr. Alexander Mauskop, founder and director of the New York Headache Center. “This can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy and even cause fainting.”

Needless to say, sipping water throughout the night and in between drinks is a great way to avoid dehydration, which is the cause of most headaches the morning after drinking.

3. Balancing a checkbook

Nothing says adulthood like managing your own money, right? While the majority of our generation will manage banking online, learning how to balance a checkbook is the best way to ensure you’re consciously keeping track of your spending and monitoring any deposits or withdrawals you make. Not to mention, if your credit or debit card is ever fraudulently used or double-charged, you’ll have tangible financial records to reference. Keeping a folder for receipts with your checkbook isn’t a bad idea, either.

4. Managing stress with tea

With final exam season coming up, it may not be a bad idea to stock up on hot tea, which boasts a surprising amount of health benefits.

“When I’m frustrated, sad or stressed out, I drink vanilla chamomile tea with honey,” says Ashley McDonald, a senior at Central Michigan University. “Chamomile tea helps you sleep better, boosts your immune system and just relaxes you in general. It definitely lowers my anxiety.

5. Making no-bake cake balls

Because dorm life doesn’t have much to offer when it comes to baking supplies and appliances, no-bake recipes are the easiest way to satisfy your sweet tooth. Follow these easy instructions to make a dozen chocolate-covered cake balls in your dorm!

Ingredients:
One pack of Oreos
One container of cream cheese
Two large Hershey’s bars
Directions:
Crush the Oreos in a resealable plastic bag.
Mix crushed Oreos in a bowl with the cream cheese.
Roll the crushed Oreo/cream cheese mixture into individual balls.
Place Oreo balls in the refrigerator for an hour.
Heat the Hershey’s bars in a microwave-safe bowl to the point where they are melted (but not burnt!).
Dip the refrigerated Oreo balls in the melted chocolate.
While they may not be true “cake” balls, they’re definitely the next best thing!

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How Suze Orman SCAMMED Millions from the Poor and Middle Class

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Beware everyone. The Suze Orman Sales Pitch will NOT help you. Watch this video to protect yourself from the predators out there trying to take a young student’s money If you didn’t know any of this was going on, then prepare to watch an eye-opening film. After you watch the video look at the list of celebrity’s that promoted Suze and probably profited too.

The intention of this exposé and the adjunct documentation at http://www.suzefilm.com (including 2016 updates) is to educate the public, stop Orman’s scams, and to present an abundance of evidence for journalists and government agencies entrusted with protecting the public good to take matters from here and bring forth justice and restitution to victims of Suze Orman’s scams, shams, and shenanigans. (see examples of those victims in this graphic: http://www.amodernquest.com/victims.jpg)

Starring:

Oprah Winfrey, SKDKnickerbocker, Arianna Huffington, Anderson Cooper
Juju Chang, Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, George Stephanopoulos
John King, Piers Morgan, Ali Velshi, Tavis Smiley, Larry King
FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, NCLR President Janet Murguia, CNBC, OWN network
Selectquote, Politico, University of Phoenix, Money Navigator Newsletter
Cadillac, “The Talk”, “The View”, Bancorp
Michael Moore, Moira Forbes, Steve Forbes, Jack Welch
Sherry Shepherd, Oprah Show Producer Sherri Salata, Wendy Williams
And Senator Elizabeth Warren

With thanks to those who spoke truth:

Gerri Willis, John Ultzheimer, Chris Cuomo, Greg McBride
Eric Tyson, Clark Howard, Jason Zweig, Newsy
David Halperin. And many other financial journalists and bloggers

Save

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