Your Dog Can Now Let Himself Out with this Bark-Activated Doggy Door

By | Pets, Technology | No Comments

They say puppy love is unconditional. But there are certainly times when it gets put to the test, like when you get awakened every night at 3 am from a dog that needs to go out. As a new owner of a yapping dog, a very sleep-deprived David Hunt created Pi-Rex, a bark-activated door opening project using Raspberry Pi. Although he admits this project isn’t the most secure or a substitute for training your dog, he saw it as an opportunity to experiment with the application to solve a specific dilemma.

Raspberry Pi is a miniature computer. The size of a credit card, the Pi can be used for a wide range of purposes. It features inputs for a keyboard or mouse, along with outputs to connect the device to a monitor or screen.

For this project, the Pi is being used to control several components – the bark detector, a motor driver, and a pulley system.

Bark detector setup

David Hunt

The bark detector is wired to the input of the Raspberry Pi to detect when your dog barks. The motor driver circuit unlocks the door and the pulley system opens the door.

Pulley system that opens the door.

David Hunt

David started this project by purchasing a DIY audio detection kit. A basic audio detection circuit should suffice. It just needs to be able to pick up the noise and then signal to the GPIO on the Raspberry Pi. Instead of adding a buffer circuit between the audio detector and the GPIO, David simply connected the audio detector directly to the GPIO.

David mentioned that this project could be improved by finding a way to sample audio using the Raspberry Pi in order to compare known barks. For now, the device will simply open when it detects a high enough sound decibel.

Next, you’ll need an actuator to unlock the door. David used a 12V central door lock actuator that only cost a few dollars. This is connected to a makeshift locking system.

Door actuator mechanism

David Hunt

The locking system includes an angle bracket and several pieces of metal fused together with the actuator. You’ll need to examine David’s example closely to get a good idea of how to build your own locking system.

The actuator needs to cover two positions – locked and unlocked. When fully extended the locking system will catch the door bolt. When activated, the locking system will allow the door to swing open.

Door opening system

David Hunt

Once you have all the components, you can finally put the entire project together. David mounted all the boards and the Raspberry Pi to a clear acrylic board.

Electronic components mounted to an acrylic board.

David Hunt

The Raspberry Pi was placed in the center with the audio detector on one side and the motor driver on the other. For wiring, David used Dupont connectors with 2.54mm pitch.

You’ll need to connect the motor driver to the pulley system. The pulley system needs to be able to allow the door to swing open and pull it closed. Before the pulley system can return to the latched position, the door must be closed.

For the code that you will read in the GPIO, you’ll need to follow the specific code provided on David’s post – unless you have programming experience.

Now, Fido can let himself in or out with a bark-activated door opening system using Raspberry Pi. This is just one example of what you can do with the Raspberry Pi. This minicomputer has been used to make handheld arcades, cameras, and dozens of other items. In fact, David has a few other DIY projects on his site that require the use of the Raspberry Pi.

If you want to learn the details of this DIY project, check out the full article from David Hunt on how to make a bark activated door system with Raspberry Pi.

Turn an old entertainment center into a cat hotel!

Keep Shop Cats Safe and Cozy in this DIY Cat Hotel

By | Pets, Recycling | No Comments

No shop team is complete without a few furry helpers! Whether they wander in as strays or follow you to the garage from your house, they like to hang out with you as you tinker away on your projects. So why not create a cozy and safe place for them to enjoy your companionship!

The idea for a cat hotel came from a mother of two young girls after spending their summer volunteering at a local animal shelter. The bond they formed with their new feline friends inspired them to do something special for them to make their time at the shelter feel more like home until the day comes to be adopted into a fur-ever family.

Old, bulky entertainment center from a thrift store.

Photo: Handmade Pretties

With flat screen TVs now hanging on walls, there’s not much need for bulky entertainment centers so they’re easy to find either for free online or inexpensively at a thrift store.

Modifying the entertainment center

Photo: Handmade Pretties

The goal was to create a structure that the cats could sleep and play on so they cut some fun peek-a-boo holes on the sides of the unit with a hand jigjaw and removed one of the bottom doors to open up the small side nooks.

In the large TV area, rather than just add some shelves they decided to give the area more functionality with two posts that not only served as attachment points for cat hammocks but also as scratching posts once wrapped in rope.

Making the scratching posts and cat hammocks

Photo: Handmade Pretties

You can either sew together your own hammocks with fun prints or simply use an old pillow case folded in half. Eye hooks and carabiner clips secure the hammocks against the posts and side walls.

From there you can get as creative as you want with paint and carpet patches to line each cubby. The girls chose a bright lime green color scheme and stenciled fun playroom-themed designs along each surface. The hotel was an instant hit at the shelter the the cats immediately checked-in to their new home and tried out all the play areas!

For more details on building your own cat hotel, check out the write up on Handmade Pretties!

Turn Your Bulky Old TV Console into a Vintage Pet Motel

By | Pets, Recycling | No Comments

Remember those clunky, boxy television sets? They were so heavy that once you set it down it was easier to rearrange all your furniture in the room around it rather than have to move it again – I guess that’s how the “point everything at the TV” design craze happened.

But old school TVs were more than just electronics in a box – some with their simulated wood grain patterns, cool knobs and dials, and even decorative cabinetry were as much a part of your decor as your couch, drapes and coffee table. Because of their cool design and the fond memories of childhood they bring, a lot of DIYers are coming up with clever alternative uses for these old entertainment beasts.

Gutting the inside isn’t hard. A screwdriver, needle nose pliers and wire cutters should be most of what you need. Be careful removing the actual monitor though – it has a picture tube (CRT – cathode ray tube) coming out of the back that looks like a large light bulb and a heavy cable going into the side of it. Even if the TV has been unplugged for years the tube could still hold a charge that can give you quite a jolt.

Most often there won’t be a charge but better safe than sorry so it’s best to discharge the CRT. To do so, take a length of insulated wire, touch one end to the metal chassis and the other to where the cable connects to the picture tube. Be sure to slide the wire all the way under the sleeve that protects the cable until you touch metal. If there is a charge you’ll hear a pop. Make sure to hold the wire by the insulation!

You can use this same method with screwdrivers for a better grip. Connect one alligator clip to a flathead screwdriver and ground it. Connect the other alligator clip to another screwdriver and slide it under the sleeve until you hit metal. Hold the screwdrivers by their plastic handles!

With the tube now discharged you can cut all the wires connected to it and remove the rest of the electronics. Dispose of the monitor/tube properly by taking it to your local recycler. Now decorate the TV to match your furbaby’s personality!

Check out these pet beds and mini-rooms created from upcyled old TV consoles. Don’t have one lying around anymore? They’re pretty easy to find. Get one on the cheap at your local thrift store or at a yard sale, or even nab one for free off Craigslist!