Flexible, printable circuits inspired by goldbug beetle

Poking a golden tortoise beetle ("goldbug") triggers the insect's color to change from gold to a red-orange. Inspired by the natural system underlying that insectoid superpower, MIT researchers have developed flexible sensors circuits that can be 3-D printed. Eventually, the technology could lead to sensor-laden skin for robots. From MIT News:

“In nature, networks of sensors and interconnects are called sensorimotor pathways,” says Subramanian Sundaram, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), who led the project. “We were trying to see whether we could replicate sensorimotor pathways inside a 3-D-printed object. So we considered the simplest organism we could find...."

The MIT researchers’ new device is approximately T-shaped, but with a wide, squat base and an elongated crossbar. The crossbar is made from an elastic plastic, with a strip of silver running its length; in the researchers’ experiments, electrodes were connected to the crossbar’s ends. The base of the T is made from a more rigid plastic. It includes two printed transistors and what the researchers call a “pixel,” a circle of semiconducting polymer whose color changes when the crossbars stretch, modifying the electrical resistance of the silver strip.

In fact, the transistors and the pixel are made from the same material; the transistors also change color slightly when the crossbars stretch. The effect is more dramatic in the pixel, however, because the transistors amplify the electrical signal from the crossbar. Demonstrating working transistors was essential, Sundaram says, because large, dense sensor arrays require some capacity for onboard signal processing.

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Anker's 10-port USB charger on sale for $33.59

Anker makes good stuff. Their 60-Watt 10-port USB charger can charge up to 2.4 amps per port (12 amps maximum). If you live with more than a few people, this can come in handy. It's on sale at Amazon for $33.59. Read the rest

A kid-friendly electronics board that you can program from the web

Peegar is an Arduinio-style electronics kit that you design programs for by dragging and dropping Scratch-style objects around in a browser; when you're done, the program is converted to a brief snatch of sound that you transmit through the board by plugging a standard audio cable into your device's headphone jack. Read the rest

Groovy 1973 Bell Labs documentary about communication technology

Produced by Bell Labs in 1973, The Far Sound looks at the latest developments it telephony, electronics, and computers. The intro has Peter Max-ish graphics and a song that sounds like a Partridge Family instrumental.

1973, the year this film was made, was a very exciting time to be at Bell Labs. Telstar was under development. BellComm was about to be spun off, to work with NASA on the moon project. Technologies involving the transistor, laser, and the solar cell were underway. Scientists were just starting to explore what a computer was and what it might accomplish. In the middle of this wave of innovation was the Bell System’s core business—providing telephone service to almost the entire country.

At 9:43, we get a great description of how transistors work, complete with anthropomorphic electrons. Read the rest

New $10 Raspberry Pi comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

The Raspberry Pi Zero W is is a tiny Linux computer that costs $10. It has built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Mini-HDMI, a USB On-The-Go port, and 512MB RAM. Here's the announcement on the Raspberry Pi Foundation website. Read the rest

Tiny robot pendants made of repurposed electronic waste

Romanian artisan Andreea Strete creates these delightful TinyRobots, charming anthropomorphic creatures made of recycled electronic components. Read the rest

Anker's small bluetooth speaker on sale for $17

Anker generally makes high quality electronic gear, and judging by the reviews on Amazon, the tiny SoundCore Nano Bluetooth speaker is no exception. It's got a battery life of 4 hours, and can be recharged with the included Micro USB charging cable (which also can be used as a way to connect the speaker to a computer instead of Bluetooth). Read the rest

Terrific takedown of fake DIY phone charger tutorial

The fakers at ADDYOLOGY posted a scam video purporting to create a homemade wireless smartphone charger that is both dangerous and useless. The always-entertaining ElectroBOOM did this epic takedown and electronics tutorial. Read the rest

Why Circuit City abandoned its 700 stores

Bright Sun Films' Abandoned series looks at Circuit City's steady rise and dizzying fall in the world of retail consumer electronics. Read the rest

This insane DIY fan-made Daft Punk helmet even comes with WIFI

LoveProps has indeed crafted a “Perfect Daft Punk Helmet,” and I dare say it's better than the original worn by the band.

“The designing, building and programming of the GM01 unit took more than one year of daily work,” says the maker, who is a fan. “Finishing it with the desired quality was a huge odyssey.”

Damn. This thing is no joke. Read the rest

Great deal on Electronics for Kids book

I have a copy of Electronics for Kids: Play with Simple Circuits and Experiment with Electricity, by Oyvind Nydal Dahl. It's a full-color introduction to electronics, and is useful for kids and adults who want to get started in hobbyist electronics. Right now, this 328 page book is on sale for just $11 on Amazon.

Why do the lights in a house turn on when you flip a switch? How does a remote-controlled car move? And what makes lights on TVs and microwaves blink? The technology around you may seem like magic, but most of it wouldn't run without electricity.

Electronics for Kids demystifies electricity with a collection of awesome hands-on projects. In Part 1, you'll learn how current, voltage, and circuits work by making a battery out of a lemon, turning a metal bolt into an electromagnet, and transforming a paper cup and some magnets into a spinning motor. In Part 2, you'll make even more cool stuff as you: Solder a blinking LED circuit with resistors, capacitors, and relays Turn a circuit into a touch sensor using your finger as a resistor Build an alarm clock triggered by the sunrise Create a musical instrument that makes sci-fi sounds

Then, in Part 3, you'll learn about digital electronics--things like logic gates and memory circuits--as you make a secret code checker and an electronic coin flipper. Finally, you'll use everything you've learned to make the LED Reaction Game--test your reaction time as you try to catch a blinking light!

With its clear explanations and assortment of hands-on projects, Electronics for Kids will have you building your own circuits in no time.

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The coolest portable record players in the world

Fumihito Taguchi's fantastic collection of vintage portable record players, including the wonderful specimens seen here, will be on display at Tokyo's Lifestyle Design Center from July 30 to August 28. See more at this Fashion Press post and in Taguchi's book "Japanese Portable Record Player Catalog," available in the US from my favorite vinyl soulslingers Dusty Groove. (via #vinyloftheday)

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A wonderful gallery of toy, prank, and novelty fun projects at Make: magazine

Make: recently posted a series of fun projects to their website that are also featured in Volume 52 of the magazine, their forthcoming DIY Virtual Reality issue. I really love some of these and wanted to share a few of my favorites here.

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Sensors – The final volume in an impressive series of electronics guides for 21st-century makers

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 3: Sensors by Charles Platt and Fredrik Jansson Maker Media 2016, 256 pages, 7.9 x 9.6 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $18 Buy a copy on Amazon

With this somewhat slim but jam-packed volume, Make: contributing editor and electronics columnist, Charles Platt (here joined by Fredrik Jansson), completes his detailed explorations of the modern, common electronics components most useful to today’s electronics hobbyists and other DIYers.

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How to deal with a tiny stripped screw on a gadget

I had to remove the SSD from an elderly MacBook Air, but the tiny little screw on it was stuck on good. The appropriate Torx driver stripped it, and two flatheads snapped in the hole that remains. Here's the easy way. Read the rest

Star Simpson is designing classic circuits from Forrrest Mims' "Getting Started in Electronics"

The talented engineer Star Simpson is designing circuits from in Forrest M. Mims' terrific 1980s electronics books published by Radio Shack. They look great!

Each circuit depicts an original, traced and hand-drawn schematic created by Forrest Mims for his iconic books Getting Started in Electronics, and the Engineers’ Notebook series. Every board includes a description of how it works, in Mims’ handwriting, on the reverse side.

Alongside the schematic is the circuit itself. Paired with the components you need to build up timeless examples such as the Dual-LED Flasher, the Stepped Tone Generator, and the Bargraph Voltage Indicator, each board is carefully designed for easy assembly recreating the wonder of learning how electronics work— whether it’s your first soldering project or your fifty-thousandth.

Here's Star on the O'Reilly Hardware podcast talking about designing beautiful circuit boards: Read the rest

Handy $4 set of 10 test leads

Are they Alligator leads or Crocodile clips?

This $4 set certainly comes in handy when playing with our Makey Makey, and unsurprisingly have become standard kit when trouble-shooting electrical gremlins on my motorcycle.

Also useful for extending the reach of a multi-meter.

Set of 10 multi-colored 14" Test Leads via Amazon Read the rest

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