MAKE: I'm a Maker!

Last Modified: 21 June 2009

katie's tech projects

This is a page I've started to keep track of ideas for tech projects I want to try and status of tech projects I'm doing. Your input, in the form of comments or suggestions, is welcome; just e-mail me.

Have a look at my workbench. Since I'm interested in wearable/soft electronics, my "workbench" should include my new sewing machine setup too.

currently underway

a wearable LED display

I've acquired all the parts (including an AVR programmer) except a target garment, which should be simple enough to buy or make. I'm planning on doing a 10 x 10 matrix of LEDs. It'll be a major undertaking for me, but I'm also thinking of how I could add my own touch to it, beyond just following the instructions laid out, as far as input to the microcontroller. Perhaps (once I get it working) I could add some sensor that could feed data to the microcontroller for display on the LEDs

To start out with, I'll be spending some time making a hundred LED 'sequins' with crimping beads and solder.

solar butterfly wings

I have a kit to put together a "butterfly" with shape-memory alloy wings powered by a solar cell. Most of the work appears to involve soldering parts to a circuit board.

nixie tube bargraph

Another kit I have is one with a picaxe microcontroller and an LM358 op-amp controlling a current-driven nixie tube "bargraph".


remote lakewater temperature monitor

Here's my original idea for a way to keep an eye on the temperature of the lakewater. I've gotten good feedback on this idea in the weblog comments and from Andrew Turner, who writes:

You should turn it into a blogject by having it post directly to a/your blog with the data. Then someone could subscribe to that blog, in say, a Geo-Aggregator (fofredux) with other sensor data. ;) There are some neat projects on Makezine using embedded processors & wifi/bluetooth/Cell modules sending data to webservers.

iLow-power FM transmitter Perhaps then you can decode that FM signal. Hrm, I'm sure there are other, inexpensive ways, to transmit simple data like that short distances.

With respect to pushing the data out, there was a pretty flurried discussion recently on the GeoRSS and W3C geospatial groups regarding sensors, and another dev and I are putting together a SensorRSS namespace to include sensor data in an RSS feed. :)

I might also look at SensorBase as a way of publishing the sensor data.

I should look at the Zedomax Digital Thermometer and its ethernet enhancement, as well as this temperature monitor, this LED thermometer project, USBTenki.


data transmission


bat detector

Another fun thing to have at the lake would be a bat detector. That's a good, thorough set of instructions.

wi-fi heartbeat


This project is for a small electronic unit that allows the user to sense the presence and relative signal strength of wireless hotspots. It can be worn as a pendant or carried in a pocket. It is "always on" and communicates the presence and signal strength of an in-range hotspot by way of sequences of pulses - like a heartbeat you can feel. The stronger and faster the "heartbeat", the stronger the wireless signal detected.

The maker provides a schematic, source code, and pictures, but it does assume you're familiar with loading code onto a microcontroller and working with electronics generally.

a magnetic-stripe reader

As outlined in Make magazine. See All Electronics for parts. A portable reader can be made, too.

interactive placemat

I think it would be neat to make a placemat with a few LEDs sewn into it with a pressure-sensitive circuit that would close, lighting up the LEDs, when there's something sitting on the placemat. The circuit would be a cross between the one in the LED-embedded wrist cuff and the light-up acrylic coaster design.

[Later...] Thinking more about the design, I'm envisioning several (washable?) low-profile tactile switches wired in parallel so that pressure on any one of a number of points on the placemat closes the circuit to light the LEDs. That way it would accommodate a variety of types/sizes of dishes and glassware that might be put on the placemat. If I wanted to get really fancy, the placemat could include a few separate circuits like this, say one for a plate in the middle and another for drinkware in the far right corner.

A better—i.e., not Binary-Coded Decimal—binary clock.

I have Thinkgeek's binary clock, but it's BCD, and I've decided it isn't binary enough for me. So I'm going to build my own binary clock. Other than a bunch of LEDs and a microcontroller (are there cheap ones that would be suitable?) and some wires, I'm not sure what parts I'll need.

Note to self: read about how Hans made one. Someone else made one and posted the pictures.

A related project would be to make a binary wristwatch with an LED display.


It would be cool to make a theremin.

digital picture frame

I could make a (relatively) cheap digital picture frame.

A means to reset my DSL modem remotely.

The DSL modem provided by my ISP, Speakeasy, needs to be reset at some inconvenient times, such as when I'm on vacation and I want to check the e-mail on my box at home. So, the dilemna is how to reset the DSL modem remotely, without using the DSL connection. It appears the easiest way might be to get an x10 appliance module and plug the DSL modem into it. A script running on a box at home could ping some outside IP address every so often; if it finds that it can't, it turns the appliance module off and then on again.

light tent

light-up coasters

Cutting the acrylic disks looks challenging.

bag lights

Maybe my satchel needs some lights on it.


amateur radio satellite pass calendar

This software would pull data from a source like Heavens Above and any sites that list individual satellites' schedules and fill in a calendar with any "good" passes (based on location and maximum altitude). A first iteration could just list all passes for AO-51, then refine that to "good" passes, then passes for other satellites. I expect I'll be using Beautiful Soup, a Python HTML/XML parser.

Update: done! Here's an example of the scripts' output.

tea server robot

I recently acquired a kit for building a mechanical tea server "robot" like those crafted in Japan during the Edo period (called karakuri ningyo). The instructions, appropriately enough, are entirely in Japanese, so I'm working on translating them.

Update: here's my post about the finished product.

LED-embedded wrist cuff

I've completed making a fabric wrist cuff with embedded LEDs, using conductive thread and velcro.

sun jar

It's so simple it's barely a "project", but I made a sun jar as a birthday present for my sister-in-law. I used a glass jar from IKEA, the guts from a solar-powered landscape light, and spray-on glass frosting. I also upgraded the 600 mAh Ni-Cd battery that came with the light to a 2450 mAh NiMH battery.

given up

teabag timer

Issue 04 of Make magazine outlines how to use a toaster mechanism to make a tea timer that pulls your teabag out of the water at just the right time. I acquired an appropriate toaster and disassembled it, but I must have removed at least one part too many, because it no longer works when I connect it back up to wall power. Here are pictures.