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Happy Star Wars Day! As you contemplate the Force and whether you fall on the light side or dark side, you can multi-task by doing one of these fun projects.

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This time of year, it’s easy to slip into a funk of finals and stress-inducing studying. But how to snap out of this haze? With some fun LEDs, of course. Will’s proximity-sensing LED projects from last year provide a fun, cheerful break from end-of-semester blues.

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Did you ever play the game Battleship as a child? I remember finding it incredibly fun. This weekend, I found a new take on it! The version on Instructables uses a breadboard, wires, and other electrical components. It’s designed to teach children the basics of breadboarding — and to have fun, of course!

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So, who’s excited about ECEDHA? We here at Digilent wanted something big and flashy to amaze everyone, so we put this together. We carry weatherproof strips of the WS2812 addressable LEDs in 1m lengths with 30 LEDs on each strip, so what better way to grab your attention than to build a display with 30 strips!

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An impossible object is a two-dimensional figure that, at first glance, looks like a real 3D object. However, further inspection will lead to the conclusion that the object can’t actually exist in 3D. One famous example of this is the Penrose triangle. The concept was used in M.C. Escher’s famous Waterfall, and you might also recognize it as Digilent’s logo.

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A friend of mine came into town for Christmas and I wanted to do some sort of photography project with him. A few months ago, there were some pictures floating around the internet from Stephen Orlando, who took LEDs and attached them to a kayak paddle and kayaked around a lake, and through rapids. I wanted to do something similar. The first night wasn’t very organized. We went into the woods with just the LED strip, the chipKIT board (the uC32), and a battery.

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Last June, one of our interns wrote about a project he did making his own metronome. Using the chipKIT Basic I/O Shield with a servo motor and a speaker buzzer, you can make something fantastic! James used parts from the chipKIT Starter Kit.

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For our holiday ugly sweater party, our web developer, Sam Logan, added some blinking LEDs to his using a chipKIT microcontroller. His Instructable was featured on the chipKIT blog.

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Without its two chocolate shortbread cookies, an Oreo is just a dollop of icing. A Christmas tree without the tree is just a pile of ornaments and lights, a sandwich without bread is just a salad, and a robot without a chassis is just a tangle of wires and electronics. That’s why my For Cheap Robots series had three tutorials on how to make a cheap chassis for your robot, long before I even touched a soldering iron. But what if the chassis and electronic components were one and the same?

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With Halloween coming up soon, I decided to make a cool Halloween prop using Digilent products. After grabbing a chipKIT uC32, a couple of shift registers, a bunch of LEDs, breadboard jumper wires, and a PmodMAXSONAR, I was able to make a distance detecting Halloween Box Monster.

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At one point or another, we have all played the “Simon Says” game. In this game, one person, Simon (or Susan, Chad, or whoever happens to be the leader), will say “Simon says” and tell all of the other players to do something, such as raise their left hand. The catch in this game is that if the leader tells the other players to do something without saying the words “Simon says” and the other players do it anyway, they’re out. I personally really enjoy playing Simon Says, but I thought it could even be more fun if you could play Simon Says with a bunch of LEDs…

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Coffee is taken very seriously here at Digilent, as it is in most workplaces. Something that used to make me mad was not knowing when my coffee hit that perfect “Goldilocks” temperature zone where it didn’t burn my mouth but was warm enough to fully enjoy. I am currently working on developing a thermocouple Pmod using Analog Devices MAX31855 and thought of a great application project. If I could somehow sense how hot the temperature of the coffee was, I could have a microcontroller tell me when my coffee hit the perfect temperature range!

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I’m very proud to say that my For Cheap Robots project is still going strong! As some of you may recall, at the beginning of last month, I announced the beginning of my For Cheap Robots series here on the Digilent blog. Since then, I’ve added several more tutorials to the list and gotten a huge amount of positive feedback. I want to thank any and all of you who here who follow the Digilent Blog and decided to pop over to Instructables to check it out!

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As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I designed the proximity-sensing LED circuit to eventually move it on to a printed circuit board, or PCB. This was my first experience with PCB layout, and thankfully it was successful! The board I designed is in the picture below. We ordered 6 “prints” and soldered them in our MakerSpace. I also included extra vias (electrical connections between the layers of the board) so that we could connect multiple boards together.

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Robotics isn’t always immediately accessible. There are kits and tutorials, and a huge community built up around robotics, but it’s still an expensive hobby to get into. Many cheap robotics platforms can cost upwards of a hundred dollars, which can seem overwhelming when you’re young and just getting started. That’s why I started a series on Instructables dedicated to using cheap materials and an arts-and-crafts mentality to make robotics cheaper and more approachable for everybody!

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