Maker Projects 

In the last few years, there has been a sudden surge in the popularity of the Maker movement. For those who aren't familiar with the term, it refers to average people, hobbyists, or off-duty engineers building and inventing new devices for fun or utility. It includes everything from homemade robotics and home automation, to custom built cars, boats, and airplanes, to home made technology like servers or 3D printers, to anything that can be imagined. Often it includes challenges in which people have a real life requirement or crisis, and limited supplies to resolve it. But for whatever reason, nerds and geeks are now in fashion, and the maker movement is growing rapidly.

As many of you already know, I have been a maker for decades. As such I thought I would list off some of my more interesting creations here as inspiration for others. Some are useful, some aren't, and many were made just to see if I could. So sit back and enjoy.

 Independent Headlights

Maybe I shouldn't admit to this one, but a few years after I got my first truck the headlights stopped working. The lights themselves were not burned out, and the fuses were fine, but something in the wiring was not working and I didn't really have the time or money to fix it properly. And so I improvised.

I started by disconnecting the headlight wires (with the car battery already disconnected). Then using the truck manual schematics for the wiring, I built an entirely new circuit using spare resistors, fuses, and switches, and housed it all in a little black box under the dashboard. Unfortunately it gave me ideas, and so once I had it working I decided to re-wire it with separate switches for each light so that I could turn them on and adjust brightness individually (I don't know why it would ever be necessary, but it was entertaining).Still not satisfied, I added a set of running lights and fog lights along the front bumper, and wired individual knobs and switches for each of those. (I even considered splicing the controls into my CD player and have strobing/flashing/disco headlights, but I figured that would definitely draw unwanted attention from the law!)

It was fun driving at night with lit switches and custom controls for my lights, but as with all good things it came to an end. About two years after this make the truck gave out completely and had to be replaced with one that had normal headlights.

Automated Bird Bath Filler

 I admit that I am a slave to the animals who live in my yard and neighbourhood. I provide for them whenever I can, and they bring me entertainment and enjoyment.

So a few years back, when I had to leave for a few weeks, I decided to build a device to refill my backyard birdbath. It wasn't really complicated, but simply a small garbage bin filled with water, and a well used fountain pump placed inside it. A little rubber tubing and some duct tape brought the water from the bin to the birdbath. For timing I used an old security timer that would turn the pump on for a few minutes each morning and each evening. 

Very simple device, built in five minutes or less with old parts, but I like to think that the little chickadees who nest outside my window appreciated the effort.

Lightning Shutter

 As many photographers know, it is very difficult to photograph lightning - especially in regions that get only a few rare strikes. There are devices to trigger a camera when there is a lightning bolt, but they tend to be several hundred dollars and are too focused on a single task to be worth the cost.

So a few years ago I built my own, using a couple of old photocells and an op-amp based trigger that would detect a sudden change in the amount of light received and close a circuit connected to my camera's shutter. 

I have only tested it once, and unfortunately it wasn't sensitive enough to achieve the effects I was looking for, but I have modified it now and just have to wait for another thunderstorm to run the next round of testing.

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