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Game Boy Camera

I remember seeing people use a Game Boy Camera years ago, and with my interest in lo-fi tech (and probably spurred on by 8bitMKE) I ordered a Game Boy Camera for $11.97 on eBay almost two years ago (Hey, sometimes projects take a while.)

Last fall when my daughter moved out we found her old Game Boy Advance, and after a good five minutes of Tetris I popped the camera into it and took a few photos. But alas, with no way to transfer them out of the Game Boy, they were stuck there…

After some digging around I found some posts that mentioned using an Arduino to transfer the photos from the Game Boy to a computer. Arduino you say? That’s my jam! But even then it took some time before I did anything.

I finally got the cable I needed (a “Two Player Link Cable Cord for Nintendo Game Boy”) for $3.99 on eBay after first ordering the wrong cable, and I quickly grabbed an Arduino Nano, one of my breakout boards that was already soldered up, cut the cable in half, stripped the wires, grabbed a multimeter to figure out which was which, and got it all wired up.

The arduino-gameboy-printer-emulator repo on GitHub proved the most useful to me in getting this all set up.

The process to transfer involves connecting the Game Boy and “printing” the photo you want while the Arduino serial monitor is open and set 115200 baud. The data will flow into the serial monitor window, then you copy it and paste it into the decoder and you get your image.

While I’ve got a DSLR, a phone, a Raspberry Pi camera, and other ways to capture images, the Game Boy Camera is definitely one of the more esoteric methods of doing so. Stay tuned to see what I actually do with it.

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Manual Crankable Larson Scanner

The most recent fun project at Brown Dog Gadgets is our take on the classic Larson Scanner. EMSL has an awesome kit, and many people who have experimented with an Arduino and LEDs have made a breadboard version.

Well, Josh and I made a LEGO version using Crazy Circuits parts, and instead of a microncontroller it’s controlled by a hand crank! Yeah, it’s an Analog, Hand-Cranked, LEGO-Based, Crazy Circuits Larson Scanner.

As with all of our projects, the instructions, files, templates and all that are available for free. Check it out! You can certainly use other components besides Crazy Circuits and Maker Tape for this, but as always, getting parts from us (or a reseller) ensures we can keep producing open source educational content and curriculum. And yes, schools, teachers, maker clubs, and other use these resources, and we incorporate their feedback into new designs and projects.

There’s a bit of an explanation about the cylinder and “coding” as it were, in the instructions. While this is a simple & fun project, you can expand upon the basic concept to talk about more advanced concepts. That’s pretty much our goal with these things.

Josh had a lot of fun making the video for this one, though I’ve heard that stock music way too many times in other videos! ;)

Perfect for your Knight Industries Two Thousand or Cylon!

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Crank Activated LEGO Circuits

The latest project for Brown Dog Gadgets is a LEGO-based, crank-activated circuit. This is a simple build that uses LEGO along with Maker Tape to allow a rotating cylinder to close a circuit.

The trick here is that Maker Tape is not just conductive, but it’s strong, and can be stretched just a bit against the cylinder to provide good electrical contact. Besides a few LEGO bricks on a baseplate we’ve got some round LEGO pieces for the cylinder, two bricks with holes, a long and short axle, and a beam with axle holes to make the handle. Overall, pretty simple.

This is one of those projects which really highlights what Maker Tape can do. There really isn’t an easy or reliable way to do this with wire, or with copper foil tape.

The video below shows the circuit in action, and if you want more, we also showed it off during one of our live video streams that we do each week.

As always, get the full details of this build on the Brown Dog Gadgets Project Site. And yes, we’ve got a lot more fun coming with crank activated circuits!

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A Clothespin Piano

Hey there, it’s another project! This one (like many others) can be found in the Brown Dog Gadgets Project Database. This is a piano (another one) but instead of buttons we’ve assembled our own “keys” using clothespins. It’s a Clothespin Piano! They’ve already got springs to snap back to a “closed/off” position, so adding a little bit of Maker Tape was easy. (And yes, we had lots of clothespins around from the Simple Coin Cell Battery Testers that we make.)

Here’s a nice illustration to show the connections and how to assemble it. You could print this page and use it as a guide, and we’ve also got a PDF that can be used with just the outline of the clothespins and and tape. (I actually laser etched some cardboard for my version, which made lining things up very easy.)

We used 1/4″ Maker Tape and 1/8″ Maker Tape. The former for the clothespins, just to get better surface contact, and the latter for the Crazy Circuits connections.

Worth noting is that these are “Normally Closed” switches (or “NC”) instead of “Normally Open” (or “NO”) switches, so we’ve reversed the logic in the code to handle that. (Also fun, if you disconnect all the keys it’ll just play notes all the time.)

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UFO Badge

Hey, it’s time for another badge! This time we’ve got a UFO Badge. It’s another Brown Dog Gadgets project that’s a great example of using Maker Tape.

The PDF file contains two pages you can print onto cardstock and then cut up and make into the badge. (Full instructions are in the Brown Dog Gadgets Project Database.)

These badges are fun, cheap, and easy-to-make wearables. They feature simple circuitry that requires no soldering, just a few components and some conductive tape.

(Note: This one doesn’t actually blink, but you can use whatever LEDs you like. The 10mm Jumbo LEDs at Brown Dog Gadgets have built-in resistors, which make them great for simple projects like this.)