Build a Solar-Powered Bench, Hear Like a Fly, and Channel Dr. Seuss

The latest batch of Gadget Freaks from the Design News archives includes a fly-inspired hearing aid and a homemade game inspired by Dr. Seuss.
  • Solar-Powered Smart Bench Charges Phones, Connects to WiFi

    People have come to depend more and more on their smartphones, using them heavily throughout the day to stay in touch and browse the Web. But smartphone batteries haven't necessarily lived up to this demand and often lose battery life throughout the day, sometimes in places without access to a power source. 

  • Video: Voice-Command System Rivals Siri

    The Raspberry Pi mini-PC has been used for countless DIY projects since its creation, including 3D printers, drones, a LEGO-based robot, and makeshift DJ soundboard. Now, two Princeton University students bring us a voice-command system for our homes, based on the simple and affordable Raspberry Pi. 

  • Fly Used as Model for Battery-Free, Intelligent Hearing Aid

    A new low-power microphone device inspired by the hearing of a fly could pave the way for a new generation of intelligent and battery-free hearing aids that focus only on what a listener wants to hear. Click here.

  • Light-Equipped Drone Is Your Personal Lighting Crew

    Manohar Srikanth, Kavita Bala, and Fredo Durand have innovated a drone that dynamically lights moving subjects with a designated rim lighting effect at the photographer's discretion. While these drones are still in the prototype stage, they are a testament to what can be done with drones in photo and film studios. 

  • Arduino Solar Charge Controller

    Solar power has the advantages of being low-maintenance and pollution-free, but the main drawbacks are high fabrication costs and low energy conversion efficiency. Since solar panels still have relatively low conversion efficiency, the overall system costs can be reduced using an efficient solar charge controller that can extract the maximum possible power from the panel. 

  • Dr. Seuss-Themed Target Game

    Colorado State University students Zachary Lund, Jake Butynski, Allison Steinauer, and Tessa Alford have created "One Shot Two Shot, Red Shot Blue Shot" -- a Dr. Seuss themed target game where the objective is to get the most points with six shots from the gun. Each game, a new, random, pattern will begin that will turn on the targets. If you hit a target while it is active, you will receive points, which will vary depending on the target that was struck. Targets in the back are worth more than targets in the front. The gun contains six shots, and after the six shots have been fired, the game is over. 

  • 3D Print on Top of Printed Objects

    Holy moly! MIT students never sleep! This new trio of students has solved yet another mystery in the 3D printing world. Some of you may have experienced that moment when you have a power failure or program glitch in your current 3D print and it must be thrown out of the window. MIT students Claudio V. Di Leo, Louise E. van den Heuvel, and Sumant S. Raykar have solved this problem simply and efficiently. And the fix cost less than $60! 

  • Boat Lift Controller with Remote

    The original lift that prompted this gadget had a manual crank and wheel, which can be quite tedious to operate. Our Gadget Freak added a Lift Mate Universal motor from Shoreline Industries to crank the wheel. This type of lift and lift motor is very common in the lakes area. The motor works well, but it uses a momentary switch, so you have to stand and hold the switch for the 2-3 minutes that it takes to raise and lower the lift. An automatic operation and remote control was the answer. Lift remotes are commercially available, but none had the specs that I wanted at a reasonable price. Thus, a new gadget was born. 

  • Midi Key-tar

    Have you ever needed an extra synth for a concert? Maybe you just enjoy fiddling around with music production software, and you need a midi controller? Well, look no further than your own computer keyboard. This simple "weekend project" will leave you with a new, stylish, playable instrument. 

  • Interactive, Arcade-Style Sandbox

    Human-Machine Interfaces (HMIs) are a passion of mine. I am forever looking for a better way to use the PC that's faster than the old keyboard and mouse. Capacitive touch screens showed me much is possible. Kinect, Leap Motion, and a few others tried, but failed to replace the standard. Sega has something that, I think, has potential. 

Here’s a bunch of gadgets from the Design News Gadget Freak archives. As we comb through these oldies, it’s surprising how fresh they remain even after two or three years. It’s the forward-thinking flash of insight that keeps these inventions new even as the years rush by.

This collection includes everything from a Dr. Seuss-themed target game to a boat lift controller.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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