5 Minute Signal

Posted on Feb 7, 2014

For the past year and a half I (Mark) have been part of an Ann Arbor, Michigan based group named GO-Tech. The common thread among the group members is that each of us is interested in making things using technology (combining hardware, software, metal, wood, etc. ). I refer to it as Do It Yourself Tech  (DIYTech). The group meets monthly to pres

5 Minute Signal
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ent projects and have interesting discussions. I attend when I am able; it is a fun, enriching after hours activity. At the most recent meeting that took place on January 13th, there was a contest in which everyone was invited to build a device and demonstrate it at the meeting. As Dale (the group organizer and leader) described it: The Five-Minute Timer Contest goal is to design a timer to time presentations at our meetings. It should semi-accurately time the presenter, and give some audible or visual indication when their time is up. Portability, coolness, and robustness will be helpful. Cool prizes supplied by O`Reilly, publishers of Make. I created a traffic signal based timer that I named 5 Minute Signal.  The time is actually settable to one minute and up (in one minute increments). To build it, I hacked an inexpensive plastic traffic signal (about one foot tall) that I purchased from Oriental Trading Company. To control the signal and provide accurate time keeping, I used my trusty Bare Bones Board (BBB) Arduino-compatible microcontroller board. The hardware is fairly simple (the BBB, a pushbutton control switch, and 3 relays to control the red, yellow, and green lights) and the software was fun to write. I put the whole thing together the weekend before the GO-Tech meeting. Basic operation is as you would expect: Push the button to start the timer. When the time interval is set to 5 minutes, the green light will...

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