Voltage Regulators: An Introduction

We finish off our Introduction to Electronic Components series with the voltage regulator, which is a useful little thing. Sometimes, you have more voltage than you need—say, when you’re working with a 9 volt battery but you need 5 volts for your circuit. Also, if your project is especially finicky, they can also take in a fluctuating amount of voltage and emit a perfectly constant value.

If you’re looking for more about other components (say…diodes, buttons and switches, resistors, etc etc) check out the whole playlist!

 

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Draw MIDI: A DIY Paper Circuit Project

Update: Alex won first place in NYU Music Technology’s 2014 product design competition!                       Congrats!

 

Today’s Project: Draw MIDI

(Production: Ronny Mraz, Adam November, and Kathleen “Ying-Ying” Zhang, full credits at Youtube)

A digital-based project, Alex Haff’s Draw MIDI uses capacitance sensing to collect electrical signal from a pencil-and-paper keyboard, converts that to MIDI using an Arduino, and then sends the code into your computer via a Max patch. That may sound complicated, but it’s quite simple once you understand the function of each part of the project.

System Requirements and Code

While this project can technically be done on Windows, it takes a bit of finagling. We recommend Mac OSX.

Because Draw MIDI is a digital project, you’ll also need some code. For this project, Alex used both an Arduino sketch and a Max patch. You can find each of them here and here.

The Arduino code will run in the controller’s software on your computer. The Max patch will need to be run in Max. If you don’t own Max, never fear. You can copy and paste the code into Max’s free runtime application.

Step-by-Step

NYU Music Technology is an active member of the Instructables.com community. As such, a step-by-step guide of building the project may be found here.

Edit: Thanks for the feature, Instructables!

We had a lot of fun with this week’s project and hope you will, too! A special thanks to Langdon Crawford for cleaning up and hosting the code.

Draw MIDIPaper Circuits

Paper circuits have been making their way around the tech world because their low-cost components give them great potential for cheap mass production. For DIY, they offer similar affordability, a great availability of materials, and they’re just plain fun. There’s a novelty in creating something interactive from ink and graphite. Usually, our words and drawings can’t fly off the page, but with the addition of electronics they can light up or be heard.

For an industry application of paper circuits, watch our talk with educator Alex Ruthmann.

For some inspiration, check out this Ted Talk, “DJ Decks Made of Paper” by Kate Stone.

And for some great, simple projects the Exploratorium’s Tinkering Studio has you covered.

 

A Speaker From a Starbucks Cup?

Part of what we at the Science of Music love about DIY electronics is the tinkering aspect of it. It’s the idea that you can take an everyday object and just…flip the script a little bit to create something new entirely. That’s the spirit with which we present this video project.

We looked at a Starbucks cup and, with just some magnets, a coil of wire, some tape we saw how you could “flip the script” to create a working speaker. Plus, it’s a good excuse to get yourself a frappuccino*.

(*Note: not an action we recommend in January. Unless you’re close to or within the Southern Hemisphere. In which case: Hi, can we come visit?)

Introduction to Resistors

Video

In a continuation of our Introduction to Electronic Components series we present (drum roll please) resistors!

Resistors…resist. It’s what they do. Well, they don’t resist everything. They won’t help you resist the temptations of the dark side, for example. But these little guys are useful components when it comes to regulating the amount of electricity with which you want to work.

Interested in more? Check out our full playlist here.

Introducing an Introduction (to Electrical Components: Capacitors)

New YouTube channel means new content! The Science of Music presents an Introduction to Electrical Components: an ongoing series dedicated to teaching the basic building blocks of musical electronics. Today’s topic: capacitors or “caps” for short.

Capacitors are a type of passive electrical component that store electrical charges via an electrostatic field. There are several different types of capacitors, and we’ll go through their differences and shared similarities.

Be on the lookout for more in our Intro to Components series with resistors, voltage regulators, and more in the weeks ahead.

DIY: Build Your Own Microphone!

This how-to video explains the process of building a dynamic microphone (which, incidentally, can also be used as a loud speaker) from a cup! This rudimentary audio transducer could be used as a quick project for a physics class exploring electromagnetism or an audio technology class exploring transduction. Or you could do it just for kicks.

The fidelity of the completed project is not studio quality (if it was our lives would be a whole lot cheaper), but it’s cool. And on the upside you don’t have to have an EE degree to build it.

Credits:

  • Written and Directed by Travis Kaufman and Nick Dooley
  • Produced with support from The National Science Foundation

DIY: Graphite and Paper Mixer

Once you grasp the concepts behind your gear, you can translate that knowledge into making your own, albiet much simpler, versions of that equipment. This video is a short how-to guide and demonstration for using graphite pencils, paper and wires to make a mixer.  With less than $5 worth of materials, you too can make a basic mixer!

Disclaimer: some pencils were harmed in the making of this video.

Credits:

  • Directed by Langdon Crawford
  • Edited by Sarah Streit
  • Theme Music by Tate Gregor
  • Audio loops collected by Nick Dooley
  • Produced with support from The National Science Foundation