Fish for all the family!

As a welcome distraction from CNC machining of HDPE, I made a whole lot of little fish for a colleague of mine.

Can you spot the difference?

Fishes: cut out of 13mm red oak and “flap-sanded” smooth

Each of the fish is about 65mm (2 1/2″) long by 45mm (1 3/4″) tall with a through-hole eye and a small detail cut to a depth of 25%.

As these little beasts will get a lot of rough handling, I cut them from 13mm red oak, with the grain oriented along the body to protect the tail from breaking off. I sanded the faces and flap-sanded the profiles so that they were all nice a smooth.

In use they will be painted and used as clues to solve some part of an escape game… To keep the mystery, I won’t say moire than that!

Fishes: close-up-detail

Fishes: close-up detail

… And it’s not even Friday!

LIGHTWave: the latest member of interactive light devices

It is said that “a picture paints a thousand words” so a video should tell a better story?

Here’s a video of LIGHTWave

LIGHTWave is the latest member of the range of multi-sensory interactive products.

LIGHTWave is an interactive light display with animated light patterns that respond to hand movements and gestures.  Motion and distance is detected by a circle of six sensors that control different areas of the display, its light intensity and speed of the light animations.

LIGHTWave: showing light display surrounded by the six sets of ultrasonic seosors

LIGHTWave boasts six HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor that detect movement and distance surrounding nearly 100 individually addressable LEDs arranged in five concentric rings. Animated light patterns respond to input from the sensors to modulate colour, light intensity and animation speed.

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seXY Machine: Now sporting a new head!

I designed a new head for the seXY Machine to raise and lower a pen or stylus, under software command.

seXY Machine: The new head to raise and lower a pen or stylus

My friend, Doug Commons (a real electronics whiz), built a new controller board for the seXY Machine that runs GRBL software so that the machine can execute gCode directly from my CAD/CAM applications. In real English, it means that the seXY Machine can now be controlled using standard software that is widely supported by most computer-controlled design tools.

So it was time to give it a head!

The new head comprises of a modified end cheek that pockets the travel rods and a new face plate housing two brass rods and a metal-gear servo motor. These rods align with holes in a pen holder assembly to allow it to slide up and down. Two simple 6mm thick pen holders clamp the pen or stylus to the slide assembly using M3 screws.

A spring on the end of the servo horn lifts and lowers the assembly. The alignment of the servo is such that when it is in the lowered position, there is light downward pressure on the pen to keep it in contact with the drawing surface.

seXY Machine:showing adjustable pen / stylus holder

seXY Machine: showing servo motor and spring connection to the pen/stylus slide

All of the pieces of the head were cut on my CNC machine out of 12mm and 6mm HDPE and assembled using 3mm brass rod and M3 stainless steel hardware.

seXY Machine: closeup of the pen/stylus slide in its lowest position

Now, to do some drawing with it…

FLICKER: controllable intensity random flickering LED

An artist friend of mine asked me to create a light effect that he could use as part of one of his sculptures. The effect was to simulate bright white lightening that would illuminate a long thick clear acrylic rod.

I designed a unit to create random timing, random intensity light pattern that illuminated a 1W white LED.  In addition, I added a control that allowed the user to modulate the intensity of the effect from turned off all the way to full on.

The unit is based on an Arduino Nano that creates a random timing, random intensity light pattern to drive the 1W LED using a power FET.  Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is used to modulate the intensity of the LED. The software also takes an analogue input from the  potentiometer to allow the user to control the intensity of the light pattern; ranging from all off to full on.

FLICKER: small two-part HDPE housing with intensity control and input and output power jacks

FLICKER: connected to the 1W LED assembly. Note that the miniUSB of the Nano is accessible for future software loads

The FLICKER electronics is housed in a small two-part HDPE enclosure with also contains the input and output jacks, a rotary intensity control and an opening onto the miniUSB port of the Nano.

WaveForm: The sleek new Simpler Simon with free play

The latest in the suite of Simpler Simon games is


WaveForm: sleek new design and now with “FreePlay”

WaveForm is a sleek new design of the Simpler Simon game with large illuminated “arcade-style” buttons, the same great game play, a fully programmable volume control, and the addition of FreePlay.

WaveForm: new thinner style

Free Play was suggested by my recreologist friend who is using versions of the Simpler Simon with clients suffering from dementia and other cognitive challenges. Free Play allows users to play the five notes – arranged as the first 5 notes of the key of C major – to make up their own melodies. This play mode allows clients to make up tunes with the familiar notes of Doh, Ray, Me, Fah, Soh. It’s amazing how many tunes you can play with just these 5 notes!

WaveForm: game play with musical notes and bright illuminated buttons.

WaveForm is constructed from smooth white and black plastic and feels smooth and sleek to the touch. It is designed to sit comfortably on the client’s lap, and the wave-shape is styled on the increasing pitch of consecutive piano keys.

WaveForm: One of the Simpler Simon series from



Surround Sound: The latest edition to the Simpler Simon series

Introducing Surround Sound, the latest member of the Simpler Simon interactive games.

Surround Sound:Sporting bubble lines and large arcade-style illuminated buttons.

One of the comments from users of the original Simpler Simon was that the sound effects were not loud enough. In addition, those users who had some musical background, found the “circular” sound aspect of the game somewhat confusing. They were more used to the idea of keys and corresponding notes being presented in a linear fashion; much like a piano keyboard…

So, voila!

The Surround Sound offers a new look and feel, with large illuminated arcade-style buttons that can take a lot of pounding, and up to 4 watts of sound for those with the hardest of hearing. And, there is a simple-to-use volume control built in!

As my recreologist friend noted…

“The staff in my activity department tried the new and improved Simpler Simon…. The longer design allowed the device to rest on the lap comfortably.  The volunteers tried it too.  It is a hit!  “

All the great games of the Simpler Simon with a new look-and-feel – jumbo buttons and lots of volume for game-play sound effects.

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Raspberry Pi 3B: Learning from the ground up

Over the past couple of months I’ve been working for Dan Wildgen at Amnesia Games, on a specific game called Disenchanted Forest. I designed and built lots of electronic modules – almost all built using the Arduino platform – to detect knock patterns, control lights and faders, door solenoids and a play controller to monitor and pace the game. However, the sound tracks and audio clips of the game were programmed on a Raspberry Pi, so I thought it high-time for me to learn how to program it.

So I got myself a Raspberry Pi 3B, case and power supply…

Raspberry Pi 3B board

I started with the excellent tutorials from Adafruit and have recently just started to play with the PYTHON programming language. As I love light and light pattern animations (walk towards the light…), I decided to learn how to use Python to program WS2811-type addressable LEDs.  However, I soon found that while many code examples appear to work correctly on the rPi3B, there are subtle dependencies to watch out for. As I learn, I shall post any issues and solutions that I encounter.

NeoPixel 2811 Addressable LEDs:

I followed the guides on, downloaded and compiled the rpi_ws281x library, and connected up a strip of WS2812 LEDs to the breakout header. So far so good.

ISSUE: However, all of the example files to control the strip just produced random flashing of the LEDs. No control whatsoever!

SOLUTION: It turns out that on the rPi3B there is a conflict in that audio drivers use the same resources required for the strict timing requirements of the WS2812 LEDs (see The solution that appeared to work for me was to edit the “/boot/config.txt” file and comment out the “dtparam=audio=on” line. However, this solution seems to completely disable all audio, so it’s quite a costly trade-off. Nevertheless, it did work.

# Enable audio (loads snd_bcm2835)
# dtparam=audio=on

More to come…