Blog Posts

Robot Missions Bowie Brain Kit

If you’re an intermediate maker hoping to take your hands-on robotics skills to the next level but aren’t exactly sure how to get started, the Bowie Brain Kit might be just the thing.

Built by Robot Missions the Bowie Brain Kit comes with everything you’ll need to assemble your own “robot brain” including sensors, motor drivers, coin cell battery, speaker, enclosure and a Teensy 3.6 among other smaller but necessary parts like diodes and resistors. Most importantly, the kit comes with full instructions that will walk you through how to assemble the brain including soldering and attaching components to the board.

In the video below, a couple members of the Robot Missions team perform brain surgery on a weather-sensing environmental robot to show how each of the components work together.

Robot Missions⁠—whose self-declared mission is to build low-cost robotics systems for environmental applications⁠—has, among other interesting projects, deployed rover-style versions of robots that use the Bowie brain to clean up public beaches by sifting sand for trash.

Aiie! Apple //e emulator

Jorj Bauer has made a full-speed handheld Apple //e emulator using a Teensy 3.6. – UPDATE NOW USES TEENSY 4.1

Aiie! is an Apple //e emulator, made by Jorj Bauer using a Teensy 3.6. The Apple //e is a vintage desktop computer that was released by Apple in 1983. It was a popular first home computer for many people and was manufactured and sold for 11 years, making it the longest living computer in Apple’s history. Aiie! is named after a sound effect in the classic 1981 Apple //e game Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.

Bauer copied the ROM from a vintage Apple //e and has replicated it in three prototypes: one in the original desktop form factor and two scaled down handheld versions using 3″ and 5″ LCD screens. Happily for us, Bauer has documented his work on Aiie! extensively. You can see his code on GitHub along with a readme file full of helpful notes aimed at other people who might want to try making a similar project. You can also check out the informative build logs for the Aiie! Apple //e emulator on the project page, see or follow Bauer’s work on Twitter.

Rotorphon – An Electro-Acoustical Synthesizer

If you’ve ever struggled to learn how to play guitar and thought to yourself, “there must be another way” then you’ll be delighted by this guitar synthesiser project that creator Mike Utz recently shared to the Teensy forum.

Mike Utz, a Swiss sound engineer, has created this clever and unusual synthesizer that at heart is a guitar that actually plays itself. The synth uses a number of mechanical actuators attached to the body of a guitar driven by a Teensy 3.2. By combining analog and digital processes, Utz creates an interesting combination of sounds by way of producing vibrations against the guitar’s body.

Utz’s project, which he’s dubbed the “Rotorphon,” includes DC moving coils, servos, DC motors, and stepper motors that can be controlled using MIDI via USB. Below you can see the Rotorphon in action playing the theme to Knight Rider (a true test of musical excellence) or head over to Youtube to see it perform the theme from Super Mario or Kraftwerk’s Die Roboter. You can see more of Utz’s sound and engineering-focused projects on his website.


ARDOP – HF Radio Modem

Developer Tom Lafleur has created this development board for testing a new HF radio modem called ARDOP (short for Amateur Radio Digital Open Protocol) for use on the Winlink network.

Winlink is a global radio email service that uses radio pathways to communicate in spaces where the internet isn’t available. Winlink is used by Amateur radio operators worldwide, as well as the Red Cross, TSA and many government agencies who use it as an alternative method of relaying information in spaces where the internet can’t reach. The service is developed and maintained by volunteers via the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation.

ARDOP, which can be used on a number of operating systems and devices, is compatible with both HF and VHF radio transmissions. The protocol can operate over a wide range of data rates by automatically adjusting for optimized performance under poor multi-path conditions.

Lafleur’s development board makes use of the full processing power of a Teensy 3.6 as well as the 16 bit ATD and 12 bit DAC. The board features aux, radio frequency control, and can interface with a PC or tablet via serial or Bluetooth 4.2.

Octo-Bouncer Automatic Ping Pong Bot

For years, maker and blogger Tobias Khun carefully considered the question: what would it take to build a robotic ping pong player capable of keeping a ball in motion for hours on end? The result, the Octo-Bouncer, is the perfect mechanical juggler.

The ping pong paddle takes the form of a horizontally-aligned clear acrylic plate which is carefully controlled by four servo motors driven by a Teensy 4.0. In order to determine when it’s time to move the plate (and how including angle and force), the Octo-Bouncer turns to computer vision analysis of a camera feed for a See3CAM_CU135 camera module located beneath the clear plate.

The analysis is performed using openCV running in Unity at a whopping 120 frames per second. The program uses a custom ball detection algorithm and includes data visualization of the ball’s location. Having iterated on the project for over five years, Khun is still making improvements to the programming which he’s open sourced including most recently adding plate tilt visualization, hit position prediction, and analytical tilt control. The project is also a marvel of manufacturing with over 150 CNC-ed parts that and Khun has generously provided the Fusion360 files for on Github.


Car in a Case

UK-based IT specialist and car hacking hobbyist Ian Tabor recently shared his Car in a Case project to his Twitter account.

Tabor, a network architect who in his spare time explores the security vulnerabilities of automotive computing systems, created the Car in a Case using four Teensy 4.0’s as the main ECUs or Engine Control Units.

The Car in a Case works as an effective Portable Automotive Security Testbed with Adaptability also known as a PASTA. PASTAs, which you can either purchase or (as demonstrated by Tabor) DIY for a slight discount in cost, are used by professionals and hobbyists alike to test the vulnerabilities of a car’s computer system to cyber attacks. PASTAs can also provide valuable opportunities for researchers and developers to learn more about the vehicle’s ECUs and the ways the various components of the car’s electrical system communicate with one another.

Tabor says he created the Car in a Case to make car hacking more accessible in the UK and Europe. If you’re intrigued and would like to know more about car hacking, Tabor has an entire blog dedicated to the subject that is full of projects, videos, and more for you to explore.

Game-o-Tron Mini

The Game-o-Tron Mini is a pint-sized but powerful handheld game console with a nostalgic look and feel.

About the size of a credit card, the mini uses a Teensy 3.2 to drive a 128×96 pixel OLED display and speaker. Inputs include 8 push buttons and an on / off switch with a rainbow color scheme reminiscent of the Nintendo 64 controller. The entire device is powered by three AAA batteries which fit snuggly into the 3D printed case alongside the other electronics. The mini is the third in a series of game controllers designed by UK-based maker David Boucher. The Game-o-Tron 3000 uses a Teensy 3.1 and a 320×240 pixels screen. While software development for the mini is still in progress, the complete software and hardware development process for the 3000 is available on Boucher’s website.

Some of Boucher’s other interesting projects include a pocket-sized EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) and a Teensy command line compile program which allows you to run Teensy code from the command line.

MultiDrum and VCO Firmware for Radio Music Module

Raphaël Hoffman, a Belgium-based engineer who runs the one-person company Hora Music, has produced two alternative firmwares for Music Thing Modular’s Radio Music—a popular module used in the DIY modular synth community.

The MTM’s Radio Music is a widely-appreciated virtual radio Eurorack module that includes 16 banks and stations. The Complex VCO firmware (which also works with MTM’s Chord Organ module) features a complex oscillator built using a vult transcompiler which allows for morphing between sin and tri waveforms. These waveforms can also be folded up to 16 times to generate rich harmonics.  The second alternative firmware—MultiDrum—is its drum machine counterpart. It includes three “analog” sounds (kick, snare, and high hat) created from models instead of sound samples as well as 6 LinnDrum samples including: kick, snare, clap, closed hi-hat, open hi-hat, and cymbal. Users can set the sample decay and play 2 samples simultaneously to create more complex patterns. Both of Hoffman’s firmwares are based on the Teensy 3.1 and are available for sale on the Hora Music website.