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« September 2007 | Main | November 2007 »

Halloween Project: Put a Flying Bat in Your Belfry


Are you looking for a way to put some fright into your Halloween night? How about a flying bat circling around the heads of your guests? Armed with only a multimeter and couple of short lengths of wire, you can easily transform the WowWee FlyTech Dragonfly into a frightening dive-bombing bat—sans remote control. Yes, you can leave the radio control transmitter at home (except for recharging the bat’s internal LiPoly battery), because this bat takes to wing on its own terms.

Cost: $57.69
Time: 1 HOUR
Difficulty: EASY


WowWee FlyTech Dragonfly (RadioShack #60-167; $49.99)
(2) 1-inch lengths of wire (All Electronics #CCBL-10; $1.75)
Multimeter (All Electronics #AMM-241; $5.95)


Flat black paint
Scrap paper


Step 1. Carefully separate the Dragonfly’s two foam body halves. One blue “eye” LEDs has been glued into each one of these foam halves. You can elect to leave these LEDs intact, remove them, or swap them out with a pair of red LEDs. I elected to remove them—for conserving battery power.


Step 2. Use your multimeter to identify the main motor’s positive (+) and negative (-) connection points on the Dragonfly’s printed circuit board (PCB). These points should be labeled M+ and M- (or, M1+ and M1-), respectively. You might have to “unearth” the M- connection point from under a mound of glue gunk.


Step 3. Locate the ON positive (+) terminal and the ON negative (-) terminal on the Dragonfly’s power switch. Double-check that these terminals are in the ON position and not the OFF position on the switch.

Step 4. Solder a wire from the motor’s M+ connection point to the switch’s ON + terminal. Solder another wire from the motor’s M- connection point to the switch’s ON - terminal.

Step 5. Test the switch’s operation. When you flick it ON, you should receive full power wing flapping from the Dragonfly. Your bat is almost ready to take flight. You can switch the power OFF.


Step 6. Align the two foam body halves and glue them back together. Ensure that the gears and armatures move freely. Paint the foam body and tail flat black. Fashion two bat ears from the scrap paper and glue them into place.


Step 7. Switch the bat ON and launch it into flight. You should strive for a circular flight path. Try twisting the entire tail assembly to obtain the desired flight path.

Happy Halloween!


iRobot Create Contest Winner: the DIY Personal Home 'Bot

Irobot_winner Congrats to Instructables user dttworld for bagging the grand $5,000 prize for the iRobot challenge. If you recall, we helped get the creative juices flowing with our iRobot iNstitute—a guide to getting started with the flexible Create kit. Something tells me dttworld wasn't in need of our help, though, judging by his winning home service 'bot: it can talk, recognize faces, control your TV, water your plants, and even remind grandma to take her pills! Check out more photos and video here. —John Mahoney

iRobot Create Personal Home Robot [instructables]

iRobot iNstitute

One For the Reading Room


This is just too practical to be true. A group called Snowtone Design (the brainchild of Tokyo-based Stephen Hauser) has concocted a wastebasket that is ideally shaped for reading during a toilet respite. Borrowing from an old Louis Sullivan chestnut, in this case, form really does follow flushing.

(Image: Snowtone Design)

Halloween Treats, Lots of 'Em

Curse those overachievers at Spark Fun Electronics, curse them, I say. Just when my project-building budget started to come under control, those do-gooders released four must-have goodies that’ll surely blow my budget through the end of the calendar year.

Lnxeonbreakout04m Ya gotta love Luxeon LEDs—their small, bright, and HOT. Kinda like me! Well, kinda. Anyway, that latter quality can make it difficult to use Luxeon LEDs in a project. The Spark Fun Electronics Luxeon Aluminum Breakout board (#COM-08475; $2.95) provides an ample heatsink, as well as some isolated traces.

Rgbutton2403m Meet the switch of the future: ScreenKeys. This ingenious product is both a graphic display and a tactile switch. The result is a key that can morph to any function. SFE sells two flavors of ScreenKeys: a red/green graphic button (#COM-08492; $36.95) and a slightly higher priced RGB model ($48.95). Imagine a house populated with these switches (so that you’ll finally know which switch controls which light) or a car that toggles the same ignition switch from ON to OFF to ACCESSORIES to LOCK. Tired of waiting for vaporware? Build your own!

Are you looking for a small LCD for a special project, maybe that DIY VS1002-based MP3 player? Well, SFE presents the parallel 128x128 CSTN 1 ½-inch LCD (#LCD-08498; $14.95) that can produce nearly 64K colors.

Oscclockm_crop Lastly, SFE has a kit that’s perfect for the builder who has everything but still needs a $1,000 clock to fill that “void” on the fireplace mantel. This isn’t any ordinary clock, however. It IS a clock that magically appears on the screen of your analog oscilloscope. Designed by Dutchtronix, this small AVR-based clock kit (#WIG-08488; $24.95) connects to the X-Y probes of your idle o-scope. Oops, don’t have an analog scope? Well, then you’d better beat a path to HSC Electronic Supply and pick up a used model before time runs out. —Dave Prochnow

(Images: SFE)

Can Touch This


Often times, buying a case for your treasured electronics gadget can result in a conflict of interest: you want to protect your gizmo, but you need to use it, too. Enter Noreve St. Tropez. Noreve has been making fine leather cases for electronic devices since the dark ages of the Sony PSP introduction. Now with the advent of the Apple iPod touch, Noreve has successfully ensconced this revolutionary MP3 player in a traditional leather case for less than fifty bucks. There is a wide selection of colors, too, but, best of all, if the product you order is out of stock, Noreve will manufacturer it for you, in less than 15 business days. Heck, that’s almost like a custom leather case for $50. So, go ahead, pick olive green and carry your player in style.

(Image: Noreve St. Tropez)

Jam It: The TV Remote Control Jamming Circuit


Instructables user Kipkay has a project that claims to block IR signals from any receiving device. For example, prevent someone from changing channels on a TV. This magic is achieved through scrambling the remote’s IR signal. Based on a 555 Timer IC, Kipkay states that this circuit can be innocuously housed inside a “standard” remote control for activating/deactivating its IR signal jamming function.

(Image: Kipkay)

Kill All TVs

1571861359_adaa26935f The TV-B-Gone, a small device that can turn off all TVs within 100 feet—perfect for terrorizing your neighbors or local sports bar patrons—made a lot of headlines when it debuted last year. Now open-source hardware queen Limor Fried has a kit that lets you build one yourself. We've used Fried's kits before—to make a small POV device—and found them to be excellently documented and a great intro to soldering and building basic electronics. We'll be ordering one to build here in the office—and I have a feeling the lunch room Days of Our Lives viewing is about to get a little more unpredictable.

Break Stuff Week at ToolMonger

Toolmonger Our friends over at the Toolmonger blog are deep into a week of posts all about demolition. Seriously, who doesn't love breaking stuff? Actually, I broke some stuff myself at Maker Faire last weekend, during ToolMonger's FUBAR challenge.

(In case you're not familiar, Stanley's FUBAR tool is an update on the hammer, used specifically for breaking structures down. PopSci gave it a Best of What's New award last year.)

Today, they posted a video of the event, in which I went head-to-head with Nick Mann from periodictable.com. Who do you think won? Check it out, here. —Megan Miller

Pumpkin Pumping Time


Back in the halcyon days of electronics publishing (aka the mid-1970s), the venerable Forrest M. Mims III printed a complex circuit in one of his notebooks that is an ideal pumpkin stuffer. The “back and forth flasher” circuit was based on the powerful combination of a 74154 4-line to 16-line decoder IC and a 74193 4-bit up-down counter IC. When properly built and installed inside a pumpkin, the results can be, as described by Mims, “visually appealing.” If you’d like to try your hand at building this circuit, but can’t find a vintage Mims notebook, Tony van Roon has reprinted this circuit online. And any intrepid experimenters who have photos of this circuit, please post your pics links in our comments section.

(Image: Amazon.com)

Page Me When It's All Over


Are you looking for a little vibrating pager motor to use in that special Halloween project, but don’t want to spend the typical buck per motor price? Well, a special clearance sale at The Electronic Goldmine features a Belkin Universal VIBRA Clip (G15260) cell phone adapter at the nice price of $0.79 each. Just open the case and remove the pager motor—complete with soldered leads. Plus you get an “AAA” battery and a stylish cell phone belt clip—all for less than a buck.

(Image: The Electronic Goldmine)

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