First I put together my cabinet and added some LED grow lights with a built-in timer, and a humidifier in the bottom. The whole point is to keep my rain forest plants happy, which like things warmer and more humid than the normal conditions in my apartment.
I want to give Colin a truly American gift, something that transports him across the pond to right here in New York City. And now that Colin’s been a food judge on British TV, what better way than to share a local culinary tradition– the sidewalk hotdog cart. So for Colin, I’m building a New York Hot Dog Experience Machine. Also: Estefannie and Ruth helped me come up with the idea.
I found some “hot dog robots” online but all they did was pick up the dog, never put the toppings on, which is mostly what you see happening at a NYC hot dog cart. So I started my quest to build a toppings machine, and figured it might as well look the part too.
I wanted to help Colin feel like he was really in New York City, so I went to some different spots in Manhattan to record some audio. I’ve attached the edited OGG file, which is compatible with the audio FX sound board.
The electronics for this project are based around a motor driver board to control all three servos, hooked up to a microcontroller that is also reading the photoresistor to detect the hotdog and also two manual control buttons for loading/unloading the mustard bottle.
The LED matrix is made from three smaller panels, and the LEDs are dotstars. It has its own little microcontroller so I didn’t have to worry about integrating the LED animations with the motors or switches up top. The code is easier that way.
Power is shared between this main circuit and the sound board controlling the audio, as well as the LED and its dedicated microcontroller.
Now, mechanical engineering isn’t usually my strongest subject, and I really didn’t want to mess up this awesome idea, so I called on my friend Ruby Zoom for help– she helped design the mechanisms, and it was a blast working with her on this project. Please go check out her channel.
The mustard squeezer and onion dumper are 3D printed and have servo motors controlling their movement.
I used bits of aluminum extrusion I had kicking around to make a simple gantry for the mustard.
The squeezer has two motors. One to wiggle the bottle back and forth, and one to squeeze out the mustard.
Onion Sauce Plopper
The onion sauce plopper has one motor that spins the sauce trough to dump out the sauce.
Mini Sabrett Umbrella
Fittingly enough, the umbrella that ended up being the right scale for this project is an American Girl doll umbrella. I fitted it with some blue and yellow fabric to make it look more like the ones at the hot dog carts. I used some iron-on t-shirt vinyl and my cnc vinyl cutter to make the graphics.
Polymer Clay Pretzels
I made some polymer clay pretzels to go with the experience, but by the time it was ready to ship to Colin, my studio was such a mess I couldn’t find them. They turned up when I cleaned up, so I’ll put them on the second version of the machine I made to keep for myself.
Maker Secret Santa 2021!
All that was left to do was send Colin’s gift to him in the UK. I included the mustard, onion sauce, UK power adapter, and some instructions. Head over to Colin’s channel to watch him open it and try it out.
It’s that time of the year! Here are my recommendations for the best gifts to get makers in 2021. To keep up with what I’m working on, follow me on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and subscribe to my newsletter. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases you make using my affiliate links.
Whenever I’m getting ready to prototype a new project, I reach for an Arduino board first. No maker has enough Arduinos, so they make great gifts. This year you can take advantage of the Arduino Black Friday sale through November 29th to get discounts on all the most popular products.
I upgraded my seltzer machine by hooking it up to a 50lb CO2 tank, with the help of my friend Ian. We’re calling it “Endless Seltzer”. We both really love fizzy water.
Ian Charnas is a YouTuber who does mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer engineering. In his videos he makes these super fun inventions and raffles them off to support good causes – so you can win almost everything you see on his channel.
We did some research online and found this adapter you can get that connects the SodaStream to a more industrial standard type tank. That’s all that’s really required for the minimum viable product, but naturally, we wanted to add a bit more engineering so we also built an internet-connected scale that keeps track of how much CO2 is left.
Although you don’t have to build the electronics part of this project to enjoy the fizzy benefits, you must understand the dangers of working with a pressurized tank of gas. If it falls over and the valve is damaged, the whole thing could become a dangerous projectile. Basically a missile. The main precaution we’re taking is to install a tank strap to the wall. Don’t skip this step. I’m also setting up a CO2 safety monitor/alarm just in case there’s a leak.
Meet my new webcam privacy friend, a motorized and 3D printed eyeball that sits atop my screen.
I’ve used stickers and post-its to cover my webcam for years, for peace of mind that my webcam is only accessible when I want. But it’s hard to remember to replace the sticker after each meeting, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to try building a simple robot companion.