This is where we'll post updates about what we're doing, either small stuff made or small pieces of work or thoughts about larger projects.  It won't all be interesting or useful, but by posting here, it'll make it easy for us to track our progress (and for people to notice and complain when we stop making progress).

Because Google Sites sucks as a blogging platform, we're moving our blogging efforts over to and just keeping this site for more technical writeups.

keg tracker

posted Mar 26, 2013, 1:20 PM by Steve Norum   [ updated Mar 26, 2013, 1:21 PM ]

I've ordered all of the parts for the control circuit for an as-yet-unnamed addition to a kegerator that will use RFID-enabled mugs and a flow meter to track how much each person drinks, and continually update a leaderboard online.  This will be based on a Raspberry Pi instead of my usual arduino core because it's significantly cheaper and easier to hook up to the internet, and because it will only need a few output pins but (compared with normal arduino code) a lot of processing power to make requests to an external server.  In addition, this should be a pretty simple introduction to using the Pi, which will make it easier to use in future projects where its increased power is absolutely needed.
I was tempted to add a touchscreen, as well, but I decided against that as it'd singlehandedly double the cost of the controls.  I'll probably come up with an excuse to use one sometime soon, though.
I still need to build the actual kegerator, as well.  I'm working on tracking down the parts for it on the cheap and I'll post pictures of it as I make it.

Sorry for the lack of updates recently - expect more soon

posted Mar 9, 2013, 11:08 AM by Steve Norum

I'm in the process of moving across the country (I've made the move but I'm still not moved into my permanent housing yet), so DRE work is at a bit of a standstill right now.  However, we've got a couple posts and projects lined up:
-Flamethrower v2 details - the info is written up, it just needs to be reformatted for the web and uploaded.
-New shop - we're going to be setting up a much better workshop, with better tools and more supplies on-hand to ease spontaneous projects.
-Theatrical special effects - one of our friends is a drama teacher, and she needs help.  We'll be making some cool special effects for her production.
-Complete lagermeister - the current lagermeister is only the control system.  Soon, it'll be hooked up to the requisite fridge and heater and actually be in use.
In addition, a couple non-definite possible future projects:
-Cartop rocket launcher - I really want to make a Yakima Rocketbox an actual rocket-launching platform.
-Home bar automation - various gadgets to improve a home bar.
-Home sensor/automation network - a network of microcontrollers (Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or pcDuino-based) with sensors and outputs, that all connect to a single main server to report data and receive instructions.  Not sure what exactly I'd use this for, but I want to combine my hobby of building electronics with my job of writing distributed software.


posted Feb 3, 2013, 11:14 PM by Steve Norum

After a weekend spent hunched over a soldering iron (when I wasn't making five trips to Radio Shack in four days), the Lagermeister is done, and fully functional.  It's all put together in its nice shiny red case, ready to be bolted to the side of a mini-fridge, and although the wiring looks atrocious, it's passed every functional test I've thrown at it.  The only thing left is a load test with the full power draw of a mini-fridge, but as the wiring and relays are rated for 10 amps, it's fused at 5 amps, and the internet says that a mini-fridge draws about 2 amps, I'm not terribly concerned.

Pictures will be posted when my internet starts cooperating, which might be a while.

more tank details

posted Jan 27, 2013, 7:22 PM by Steve Norum

After some brief planning about the tank, we've decided that the best approach is to make it modular.  The wheeled base will be completely separate from the superstructure (the outer shell that holds the "fun" parts) and the two will be easy to detach.  That will make it easy to reuse the base for other projects without having to destroy the tank.  In addition, the control system will be a drop-in unit that can also be switched out.  Initially it'll be remote-controlled, but it could just as easily be replaced by an onboard computer that makes guidance decisions on its own.
Once we have a fixed design for the base done, we'll post it here.  Ideally we'll get a CAD file up, but at the very least there'll be detailed hand-drawn blueprints.  Expect a tentative one sometime in March, and a final one sometime in May or June.  The drivetrain pieces are currently out of stock until April, but once we can get those, it shouldn't take long to do the final performance tests.

rough tank plan

posted Jan 26, 2013, 11:59 PM by Steve Norum

The exact details of the tank we're planning on making are still vague even to us, but a few things have popped up as likely:
1. It will have a flamethrower.  We like flamethrowers, and the inherent danger of a flamethrower lends itself well to remote operation.
2. It will probably also have rockets, because they're easy to fire remotely and are quite badass.
3. It will have wheels, not treads, because treads are expensive and this tank is going to cost far too much already.
4. It will be a couple feet by a couple feet.  Smaller than a car, bigger than a corgi.  Beyond that, somewhat uncertain.  Depends on how compact we can make the flamethrower and how powerful the motors are.
5. Development will start in earnest around the beginning of the summer, due to parts being out of stock and us not having a suitable workshop set up yet.  Before then, work will be limited to aesthetic design and a bit of control system work.
6. It will be metal, not plastic like the turret and flamethrower v1.  Because of the size and number of flame-producing devices that'll be attached, it really needs to be either aluminium or steel.  Either way, it'll also have a cool paint job.

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