At the elementary school my children attend, students exchange Valentine's Day cards with one another, and they compete to decorate or build the most interesting mailboxes. My 11-year-old daughter came home one afternoon with an idea for her mailbox. She asked me to help her design one so that a sensor would open the box automatically when someone walked by.
I started with a servo motor (and some mechanical linkages) taken from a broken remote controlled car, connected it to an Arduino UNO microcontroller development board, and connected a light sensor to one of the microcontroller's analog inputs. We wrote the code to monitor the sensor and track the average light level. The box would open only when the light level changed suddenly. Then the box would close slowly over a period of time.
We actually built two mailboxes, so my 8-year-old daughter could have one, too. My wife helped the girls decorate the boxes to look like their favorite animals. I used the Arduino software tools to create the firmware, and the Arduino board served as my MCU chip programmer. But I assembled the components, including the MCU chip, on a piece of perforated breadboard material, rather than using the Arduino UNO development board in the final project.
Jeremy Willden created small mailboxes for his daughters' Valentine's Day cards. The boxes use a sensor to open automatically when someone walks by.
Willden started with a servo motor and some mechanical linkages, which he connected to an Arduino UNO microcontroller development board. He then connected a light sensor to one of the microcontroller's analog inputs.
WOW! I find myself wishing for young children (no Grandchildren yet).
I could see myself taking the circuit board out of a "Croaking Frog" and using it to trigger a servo back in the days before Arduinos, et al.
An airplane servo can be controlled with a 555 timer circuit and doesn't require the computing power of the Arduino...but then, I admit that I am "old school" when it comes to electronics...Timers and Opamps and FETs, Oh My!
I agree, mrdon. Our family had a great time together when we encouraged and mentored our son through his science project where he tested out various fin designs and their effect on model rockets. He was in sixth grade and it was a very special opportunity to nurture a budding curiosity in science in a fun and exciting way. We took the three different models our son built to a field and he recorded altitude and flightpath for each of the three different fin designs. I don't know who had more fun - Son or Mom and Dad!
Jeremy, I really enjoyed your Gadget Freak project. Nice way to share tech as family by making cool interactive toys! I also found your build instructions to be clear and simple. I noticed you used ExpressPCB software to draw the circuit schematic diagram. Very very nice project. Thanks for sharing this special Gadget Freak project with us!
I, too, like the family aspect of this story. I also agree that this girl will remember this project for many, many years (especially since the project got a little bit of extra publicity). Who knows? Maybe this will inspire her to be a design engineer.
"Isn't that the truth, Mydesign?? I remember when my school project was to build an American settler house with toothpicks! We have come such a looooonnnng way from that. It's amazing how tech savvy kids are today. Sometimes a bit frightening, even!"
Elizabet, School projects and student's interests are different. In schools they used to do the projects with thermo cool sheets and similar substances, but at the other hand they are more interested in using most soficated devices.
Now this is one cool story. I love the interaction with everyone in the family AND the fact that a great demonstration of engineering, at it best, was given. I'm sure your daughter will remember this "gadget" for years and years and I suspect it will be one of her most treasured items as she grows up. Bridges, automobles, appliances, aircraft engines is what we do for a livig--designs like this one is what we do for our families. Great post. Love this one.
Thanks, Nancy. I actually knew people in a remote area of Idaho where bears get into the orchard and with a very long driveway--that's where I first heard of these systems. And we'll be posting an update soon about the forum idea.
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