Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm

Every day when I wake up, my first thought is destroying the source of that horrible noise next to my bed. Once upon a time, humans woke up with the sun. We should still do that, because it's hard to get angry at sunshine.

With littleBits, a Smart phone, and some off-the-shelf building toys, you can wake up with a smile every day!

Step 1: Tools & Materials

Sunshine Alarm

MECHANICS + ELECTRONICS

littleBits

cloudBit

DC Motor

USB Power

Wire

Building Toys

Thames & Kosmos Physics Pro

Tamiya Universal Arm Set

Miscellaneous

4-40 Machine Screws & Nuts

Zip Ties

WOOD & ARCYLIC ENCLOSURE

3/4" Plywood

Wood Glue

1" O Wooden Dowel

1/4" Acrylic

Step 2: Assemble the littleBits

Sunshine Alarm

They make it impossible to mess up this step. littleBits snap together with built-in magnets and male/female posts on the ends, so there's only one way two parts can go together.

Going from IN to OUT:

1. USB Power + 2. cloudBit + 3. Wire + 4. Motor

Step 3: Set up the Cloud Bit

Sunshine Alarm

Setting up the cloudBit is also pretty much foolproof. Once it's plugged into the USB Power Bit (that's important by the way, it won't work with the 9v-12v power bit), go to this link in a web browser on a wireless network.

The page walks you through the process which involves switching wireless networks and waiting for colored light changes on the cloudBit.

Once the cloudBit is set up, you can test it through the setup page. Push the button and move the slider, and watch the output (in this case, the DC Motor) respond.

Step 4: IFTTT: if This then That.

Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm

IFTTT is (incredibly simple) means of programming the cloudBit. After setting up an account and linking your newly setup cloudBit, you create what they call a Recipe. Under "This", you choose the input for your program.

First set up a test recipe to make sure everything is communicating the way you want it to. My test recipe is as follows:

IF: Send any SMS to IFTTT from my number

THEN: Set output level of cloudBit to 100 for 20 seconds

This way you can instantly test the connectivity of the cloudBit and make sure IFTTT is working with it.

The alarm recipe is as follows:

IF: Time is 7:30 PM (or any other time). I used the IFTTT clock which you can set using their app, but there are a number of options for time-realted triggers on the site. You could use Google Calendar or iOS reminders for example, and achieve the same result.

THEN: Set output level of cloudBit to 100 for 20 seconds

Step 5: Mechanics: Testing

Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm

Now that the programming works, it's time to figure out the mechanics that will make the motor open the blinds.

The Physics Pro kit has a number of easy to use parts that let you create simple gear assemblies. I didn't want to over-stress the DC motor, so I decided to step up the torque for the connection to the blinds' wand.

I used one of the smallest gears (there are three sizes) and one of the largest gears to make a little linkage using one of the base plates.

The axles have a "cross" shape in section, which almost perfectly fits the plastic end piece that comes with the littleBits DC Motor. With a little bit of filing, the plastic end cap fits snugly on the end of the axle. Since I want to step the torque up, I attach the motor to the smaller gear's axle. That way, the output axle spins with high torque and low speed.

After testing out the mechanics by taping the output axle to the end of the wand, it's clear there is plenty of torque and very low strain on the motor.

Step 6: Mechanics: Fixturing

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Sunshine Alarm
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Now that I know the basic mechanics will work, it's time to fixture the parts together for a more permanent situation.

First, I used the Physics Pro fames and connecting parts to enclose the axles. Once they were secure, I started using the Tamiya parts and machine screws to fix the motor in place, aligned with the driver axle. This part took a little tinkering, but I found the simplest way to make the project work was to play around with these parts until they fell into place.

With a combination of the brackets and linear linkages from the Tamiya kit, the DC Motor was securely fastened to the Physics Pro frames with machine screws and washers.

Step 7: Mechanics: Wand Clip

Sunshine Alarm
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Next, I needed a way to be able to snap the blinds' wand in and out of place so that I could control them manually when I didn't need an alarm. I did this by using a screw-in cable clamp as a clip, attaching that to the top of a Tamiya L-bracket, and gluing that to the end of one of the Physics Pro pulleys. That way, the end of the output axle of my assembly could easily be snapped on and off of the wand.

Having all the mechanical parts fixtured, I zip-tied the rest of the littleBits to the top of the gear assembly frame. This made for the entire electronics and mechanics of the Sunshine Alarm.

Step 8: Enclosure

Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm

To keep the Sunshine Alarm in place at the side of the window, I whipped up a plywood enclosure with an acrylic top that could screw into the window trim.

I won't go into detail on this step, it's woodworking 101. Suffice it to say, I made a 6 1/2" cube with an open side, and an acrylic top with a hole in it for the output axle. I put the box on a wooden dowel that connects to a wooden bracket, allowing me to adjust the angle so that aligned as much as possible with the wand.

You could easily make the work with some shelf brackets from a hardware store, or simply using more of the Physics Pro parts.

Step 9: Wake up Smiling

Sunshine Alarm
Sunshine Alarm

This is so much better than an alarm clock, or that tone on your phone that you quickly learn to hate. Do yourself a favor.

 
 

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