LEGO’s revolutionary robotic and microcontroller education kit Lego Mindstorms NXT, allows kids to do their first experiments with moving robots by controlling 3 servos and a collection of useful sensors. The kit includes a light sensor, noise sensor, a mechanic bumper and best of all an ultrasonic distance sensor, that works like a charm. You can find my own design for a Lego NTX controlled telepresence robot here.
I recently found out that LEGO published a new education kit for renewable energy that sounds really interesting for teaching kids how wind turbines and solar panels work. The LEGO Renewable Energy Education kit includes a solar panel, turbine blades, a motor/generator, LED lights, an extension wire, a LEGO Energy Meter and full-colour building instructions for six real-life LEGO models to build.
As an additional feature owners of the LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit are able to add the components of the Renewable Energy kit as sort of sensors and data loggers. Connected to the Mindstorms NXT brick, the energy meter works as a sensor and can be used for both programming and data logging.
The Cali-based startup FutureDash presents The EnergyBuddy, which was first unveiled as a prototype at CES and now going toward the final release date. FutureDash is a complete home energy-tracking system, which uses sensors in your electricity grid in order to monitor your houshold energy consumption. Starting at $99, it keeps tabs on users’ energy consumption with a square-shaped gadget that connects to your network via WiFi or Ethernet. The square glows red, yellow or green depending on how much electricity you’re using, and the user is able to specify the typical footprint profiles.
Their motto is: ‘Increased energy awareness leads to increased energy conservation.’
Amazon becomes the latest retailer to sell the trendy NEST learning thermostat, which was designed by the guys that were responsible for the Apple iPod design. The thermostat is really quite a eye-catcher for your futuristic home and it may save you some household energy costs. NEST should learn your habbits and your daily life schedule in order to control your heating and temperature settings. Its one of the first examples of a new generation of smart home appliances that support you manageing your systems at home.
Make’s latest Weekend Project combines two projects into one to create a piece of wearable fashion technology, the Solar Joule Bracelet! A joule (pronounced like “jewel”) is a unit of energy – in this project we’ll be sourcing that energy from the sun with the aid of PIN photodiodes wired in series, which along with a supercapacitor and Schottky diode will function as a solar battery (we built a similar project previously, the Solar USB Charger). This energy will then be stolen by the “joule thief” circuit, consisting of a choke (inductor coil), transistor, capacitor, and resistor all wired together. Oscillations through this circuit will eventually exceed the adjoined LED’s forward voltage rating, causing the LED to shine like a jewel! These oscillations occur in bursts, but once fully charged the oscillations will happen so fast the LED will glow continuously.
Together a solar battery (left) and a “joule thief” (right) power this Weekend Project!
The solid wire loops that connect the PIN photodiodes make perfect eyelets for sewing through, so we mounted ours on a cuff made from salvaged neoprene. Feel free to modify the design and install the circuit where and how you wish, for example on felt, onto a hat, or on your backpack – wherever you want a solar-powered LED!
Nest was designed by the former fathers of Apples iPod (e.g. Tony Fadell) is advertised as the first thermostat that learns from you and that is as intuitive to control as other Apple products. You can teach Nest about your daily schedule well to stay comfortable at home and save energy when you’re away. Its all about changing your old thermostat with new intuitive and learing technology. Nest automatically programs itself in about a week. It creates a personalized schedule based on the temperature changes you’ve made and continually adapts to your changing life. About two hours after you’ve left the house, Nest will also sense you’ve gone and automatically adjust the temperature to avoid heating or cooling an empty home. It also helps you to keep track of your energy usage history, in order to identify devices or contexts in which you are using more energy than necessary. Some rumors mentioned that Nest’s Internet-savvy climate control could soon be in Apple Stores, presumably across the US, for the same $249 as it costs to buy one through Nest itself.
The world is discussing about green, renewable energy from solar, water, waves or wind. But the real key to get more independent from fossile resources is the battery. Without a storage all our efforts for producing renewable energy is just theatre for the masses. A functioning energy network is backed up by fast reacting power plants, such as gas or coal plants, in order to balance the usage peaks when wind or sun is not available. In countries like Austria, where we are lucky to own a lot of water power plants, we are using a really old technology to store our energy overproduction. This technology is called reservoir power station where water is simply pumped in a reservoir at a higher level, in order to reactivate a turbine when running back down. A really simple technology and completely failsafe and without the need for complex technology.
Another possibility is to research a new generation of power accumulators. In this talk at the TED 2012 conference, Donald Sadoway talks about a new generation of liquid power batteries which he and his team developed at MIT.