“Avant-garde” is a French term that translates literally to “advance guard,” as in the vanguard that leads an army into battle. In the arts, the term describes people or works that are experimental and push the boundaries of their medium. Emily Velasco, of the Emily’s Electric Oddities YouTube channel, used an Arduino Nano to build a bizarre video game and “avant-garde” is the best way to describe it.
This handheld device runs a video game that charges players with the care of a pet eyeball. A CRT (cathode-ray tube) screen displays that eyeball in beautifully low-res monochrome graphics. An Arduino generates the composite video signal for the CRT screen using the TVout Arduino library. The Nano, CRT screen, and controls are housed within a retro-style enclosure that Velasco made out of an old motor controller case and a custom walnut wood face plate.
The only user input controls are a joystick and a button. The player can move the joystick to direct the eyeball’s gaze and push the button to make it blink. The eye’s pupil even reacts to the ambient light in the room, which the Arduino monitors through a light sensor. The game doesn’t have a goal in the traditional sense. The player isn’t given any quests or objectives. Their only job is to control the eyeball. Velasco described her creation as “the worst fake video game,” but we prefer to say that it is avant-garde and that the masses simply won’t understand its genius.
Hokey religions and ancient weapons might not be a match for a good blaster, but Arduino Star Wars projects certainly are. To celebrate May the 4th (also known as Star Wars Day), we’ve put together a list of inspired builds from a galaxy far, far away that you can make yourself.
So I Fixed a Broken Hasbro Lightsaber
It’s a rite of passage for every Jedi to build their own lightsaber. That goes for Arduino Jedi, too.
One of the first droids we meet in Star Wars is a mouse droid. The quirky little bots that zoom about the floor of the Death Star, getting under Stormtrooper’s feet.
They never actually appear to do all that much. But this zippy little droid by PotentPrintables has a hidden LED matrix that lets it deliver messages. And lots of terrible Star Wars puns, of course.
Imperial March on a Toaster
If you’re looking for sci-fi toasters, Red Dwarf is usually the first choice. But this hilarious video from Device Orchestra brings the dark side to your devices.
An Arduino controls the electromagnet in this toaster to turn it into a tuneful buzzer. Accompanied by toothbrushes and a typewriter, we get the immortal Imperial March played by droids.
Mini Arduino Star Wars Shoot ‘Em Up
A game that’s as simple as it is small and cute (like R2!), all run on a Nano on a breadboard.
And just consider how its graphics are comparable to those of the Death Star’s display as it moves into range of Yavin. Talk about human-cyborg relations!
Build a Life-Size BB8 Droid (Phone Controlled)
It was a pretty big deal when it turned out Lucasfilm built an actual droid for Star Wars Episode VII. It would have been easier to make BB8 in CGI. But we’re glad they went the practical route, as the cool ball droid has inspired a lot of makers.
Not least of them being Angelo, who built his very own amazing life-size BB8 using Arduino.
Recreating the Death Star Trench Run Scene with LEGO
As much as Wani Kim’s recreation of the iconic trench run is an incredible feat of LEGO engineering, it wouldn’t be complete without Arduino. The whole diorama is embedded with a galaxy-full of LEDs, bringing the scene to life.
That’s no moon. It’s an Arduino project!
Laser Shooting Game (Star Wars)
As Han told us, there’s no match for having a good blaster at your side. Ismail took that quite literally, and built a Star Wars laser shooting range that lets you take out those pesky Stormtroopers with a homemade blaster.
Arduino-Based Lightsaber with Light and Sound Effects
A great lightsaber build isn’t just about the colorful blade. It’s about the audio combinations, and the lighting effects when the blade makes contact. Bring all these things together, like Mad Gyver did, and you have an elegant weapon, of a more civilized age.
Prank Your Friends with Talking Darth Vader
Perfect for Halloween, as well as Star Wars Day, this motion activated Darth Vader head is just as creepy as its inspiration. It can be programmed with as many voice clips as you like, and wouldn’t it make a great option for a dark side Alexa?
Droid Build D-O
To be honest, D-O didn’t get nearly as much screen time or plot involvement as he deserved. But the latest addition to the growing line-up of Star Wars droids has been lovingly recreated by Matt Denton using a MKR WiFi 1010. No bad motivators here!
We want to hear about your Arduino Star Wars projects, so tell us all about them in the comments. May the force be with you!
In the fictional Marvel Universe, Wolverine has sets of claws that pop out of his hands as if they were natural parts of his body. While a seemingly fantastic concept, myoelectric sensors are able to pick up on muscle movements in order to illicit a response. YouTuber MERT Arduino & Tech decided to take this concept and build a pair of forearm-mounted claws.
The wearable device senses muscle activation via a MyoWare muscle sensor, which sends information on to an Arduino Nano on a custom carrier board. Depending on the signal, it’s able to extend or retract claws, with the help of a servo motor and linkage system.
Ferrofluid is a special kind of liquid full of ferromagnetic particles, so it reacts to magnetic fields. Dakd Jung built a beautiful Bluetooth speaker that features a ferrofluid display driven by an Arduino.
This Bluetooth speaker has a gorgeous minimalistic 3D-printed enclosure that would look great on any bookshelf. But it is the ferrofluid display that makes the speaker special. A glob of ferrofluid floats inside of a glass reservoir mounted front-and-center on the speaker. That ferrofluid moves to the music playing through the speaker, providing a mesmerizing visualization. There is even a dial that lets the user adjust which part of the sound frequency that the ferrofluid responds to.
The ferrofluid is able to react to the tunes thanks to an electromagnet placed behind the glass reservoir. An Arduino Nano board controls the power going to that electromagnet proportionally to the volume in a specific frequency range of the music playing. An MSGEQ7 graphic equalizer module isolates the desired frequency range. The Arduino monitors the voltage output from that module and uses it to control the voltage going to the electromagnet.
The result is that the ferrofluid jiggles and bounces along to the intensity of the music. If the user tunes the dial to low frequences, then the ferrofluid will react to the bass. If set to high frequencies, the ferrofluid will respond to treble. It is entrancing to watch and a very creative use of ferrofluid.
Many dog breeds require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to be healthy and happy, but not many of us want to spend our time endlessly throwing a tennis ball. That’s why Connor Benson used an Arduino Nano to build an automatic ball launcher that is capable of keeping his pup entertained all day long.
In this case, the Nano is being employed to sense when a ball has been dropped into the ball launcher, spin up the launcher’s motors, and then release the ball down into the spinning wheels. The board requires very little power, so this machine can run on a battery pack for a relatively long time.
The frame and mechanical components are 3D-printed in a nice bright blue color. An Adafruit proximity sensor is implemented to detect when a ball is in the machine and then releases the ball with a hobby servo motor. The 3D-printed wheels that grip the ball and fling it out are spun using powerful brushless DC motors. The Nano controls those via electronic speed controllers (ESCs).
Now Benson can play fetch with his dog for hours at a time without tiring out his arm and the dog certainly seems happy with the project.
Prolific project maker and Arduino lover Alain Mauer has made a rather splendid tea maker project with a steampunk twist. Despite Mauer being based in Luxemburg, we’d have to say this feels like a very British Arduino application.
Crumpets or Battenburg, anyone?
Putting the “Tea” in “Steampunk”
The Tea Timer is a classic Arduino project. A simple idea with a simple execution, beautifully presented.
Mauer’s put together a timer that submerges a teabag for a preset period. We all have our preferences for the strength of tea, and everyone knows an entire day can be ruined if the teabag’s left in for too long (right?). So a five-stage timer lets you determine just how strong your tea will be.
Once the timer’s run down, an Arduino Nano fires up the servo, which turns the gears and lifts the bag out so you don’t forget. Adjusted correctly, this also means you can consistently make the perfect cup of brown joy.
And just like the perfect cuppa, presentation is everything. Mauer didn’t need to add the gears, wooden housing or the brass finish. But the steampunk aesthetic really completes the project, and makes it into a work of art as well as an essential kitchen appliance. Now we just need to hook it up to a home automation system.
Mauer has provided all the CAD parts on his GitHub along with the Arduino code, so it’s easy to replicate.
Tea is a subject of great significance to the British. It can cause arguments, hysteria and family feuds that last for generations. All in a very civilized manner, of course. No Brit would be uncouth enough to have cross words in public about the proper way to drink tea. But we do reserve the right to tut and roll our eyes behind closed doors afterwards, should someone get it wrong.
Check out the steampunk Tea Timer and automatic teabag remover on Mauer’s blog. And let’s leave the last word on the vital importance of a cup o’ brown joy to the immortal Professor Elemental.