Make a Water Leak Detector for $25

$25 Water Leak Detector from MAKE Volume 28

Electrical engineer and MAKE contributor Jeff Tregre has two 10-year-old hot water heaters in the attic of his New Orleans home, and knowing that 10 years is about the life expectancy of such heaters, he started researching water leak detection devices. Being a maker, he realized he could create his own system for much less than the going rate. The circuit he designed costs less than $25 and draws power from his doorbell transformer — convenient, since it too is in the attic and is on all the time, but you can use a dedicated transformer if need be. Jeff shares his how-to with us in the newest issue of MAKE, Volume 28, on newsstands now.

In his intro, Jeff writes:

Does this leak detector work? The answer is a big yes. Just a few weeks after I installed it, I came home from work and heard it buzzing. Upon investigation, I discovered that my primary water heater was leaking, and that its drain pan was clogged and already half full. My little circuit had saved the day.

Awesome! We’ve also shared Jeff’s build with you on Make: Projects, so you can get crackin on building your own today.

From the Pages of MAKE

MAKE 28MAKE Volume 28: Toys and Games!
MAKE Volume 28 hits makers’ passion for play head-on with a 28-page special section devoted to Toys and Games, including a toy “pop-pop” steamboat made from a mint tin, an R/C helicopter eye-in-the-sky, and a classic video game console. You’ll also build a gravity-powered catapult, a plush toy that interacts with objects around it, and a machine that blows giant soap bubbles. Play time is a hallmark of more intelligent species — so go have some fun!

On newsstands now! Buy or Subscribe


The Innovators (video)

The Innovators (video). With a lot of familiar makers!

Traveling with Entrepreneur Magazine in 2011 we’ve interviewed some of the brightest innovators all across the U.S.A. We decided to bring them all together in this short film.


Counting Down to the Gift Singularity

We’re kicking off our Holiday 2011 coverage here on Makezine this week. We wanted to do things a little differently this year (every whizzing electron in cyberspace has a gift guide these days), so we’re looking at gift exchange through several different lenses.

Starting off with a timed acceleration toward infinity goodness, we’re launching the Make: Gift Singularity. Between now and Christmas, we’ll be presenting gift project ideas that you can build given the time available. So, projects that take longer will be posted first, giving you enough time to make and gift them to your intended, followed by increasingly easier/quicker projects.

We hope you’ll follow along with us, either doing some of the projects or telling us about one of the homemade gifts that you’re working on. In this depressed economic climate, there seems to be an increased interest this year in supporting small and home businesses, and in making things yourself. We’d love to see what you come up with. Or just post ideas you have for things you could build and give.

And stay tuned for other fun holiday happenings, including a gift giveaway series you’re not going to believe.


“Nautilus” Art Car Pressure Door with Huge Mechanical Iris

Sculptor, kinetic artist, and longtime MAKE pal Alan Rorie is back with this beautiful “pressure door” built for a Nautilus-themed art car commissioned from San Francisco art collective Five Ton Crane.

The door locks and unlocks via RFID, and the huge, four-foot diameter mechanical iris in its center is motorized:

The motorization of the large aperture was surprisingly easy. I used two small DC motors with spur gears and nice torque mounted on either side of the cam ring. I then welded chain around the cam ring turning it into a giant gear. It worked the first time I tried it. I controlled the two motors with an Arduino and a motor shield, two limit switches and a few lines of code. I then modified an old positioner and inserted a set of buttons, so that when you pull the handle of the positioner it trips the buttons and turns the motors.

Rorie, who is a specialist in iris apertures, also built four smaller irising windows for the car’s body.  There are many more beautiful pictures in Alan’s Flickr Set.   [Thanks, Alan!]



Intern’s Corner: Open Make Event

The first Open Make was a hit, a lot of people showed up to check out the lab.

Last month, we had our first Open Make event, opening the doors of MAKE HQ in Sebastopol California and letting people check out Make: Labs and the new Project Make classroom. We had such a great turnout that we’ve decided to make this a reoccurring event. Check out some of the photos from the evening, and stay tuned for further details of future Open Make nights. The next Open Make will include a learn to solder station as well as 3D printing and laser cutting demonstrations from the Make: Labs interns. Let us know what you would like to see or do at such an event.

Intern Paul Mundell running the soldering station

Engineering Intern Eric Chu showing off the MakerBot 3D printer.


High Speed Liquid Observation Platform

Robert Woodhead of Wilmington, NC, had the rare opportunity to ride on G-Force One, a “vomit comet” style zero-G flight, and he’s bringing along a science experiment:

Well, after several days, we have a new launch date – if all goes well, I’ll be in Florida Nov 19-20 to fly on a Zero-G Experimental Flight. These differ from the regular tourist flights in that you get more parabolas (25) and can bring significant equipment onboard.

I had originally planned a simple apparatus but as preparations were made for the flight, it became clear than an enclosed experiment box would be much preferable. So I whipped up a simple setup using MicroRax miniature t-slot.

[Thanks, Chris!]


Photog’s Antique Mechanical Exposure Time Computer

This beautiful little gadget dates to the 1920s, and is known as Kaufmann’s Posographe:

Kaufmann’s Posographe is nothing less than an analog mechanical computer for calculating six-variable functions. Specifically, it computes the exposure time (Temps de Pose) for taking photographs indoors or out (depending on which side you use). The input variables are set up on the six small pointers; the large pointer then gives you the correct time. The variables are very detailed, yet endearingly colloquial. For outdoors, they include the setting — with values like “Snowy scene”, “Greenery with expanse of water”, or “Very narrow old street”; the state of the sky — including “Cloudy and somber”, “Blue with white clouds”, or “Purest blue”; The month of the year and hour of the day; the illumination of the subject; and of course the aperture (f-number)…

The linkages, of course, are hidden inside. The linked site, above, includes a patent illustration that shows how they work. [Thanks, Alan Dove!]



New in the Maker Shed: RGB Backlight LCD Displays

These new Arduino compatible RGB Backlight LCD Displays from the Maker Shed are a fancy upgrade from standard 16×2 LCDs. Instead of just having a single color backlight, these LCDs have full color RGB! That means you can change the background color to anything you want; teal, chartreuse, orange, purple, whatever! Use the colors as a status indicator (flashing red for DANGER or ARMED of course,) for temperature monitoring, or just to make your project look pretty. Available in both Positive (shown above) and Negative (shown below) versions. (Note: the pictures are 3 photos cropped together. These displays only have 1 RGB LED so you cannot display more than one color at a time.)

  • 16 characters wide, 2 rows
  • Connection port is 0.1″ pitch, single row for easy breadboarding and wiring
  • Pins are documented on the back of the LCD to assist in wiring it up
  • Single RGB LED backlight included can be dimmed easily with a resistor or PWM and uses much less power than LCD with EL (electroluminescent) backlights
  • Can be fully controlled with only 6 digital lines! (Any analog/digital pins can be used) and 3 PWM pins for the backlight
  • Built in character set supports English/Japanese text, see the HD44780 datasheet for the full character set
  • Up to 8 extra characters can be created for custom glyphs or ‘foreign’ language support
  • Arduino LiquidCrystal library compatible.
  • Comes with 10K necessary contrast potentiometer and strip of header

Laser-Cut Enclosure Features Sweet Bends

I love this Arduino project enclosure by Oomlout, who created bendable plywood by emulating a technique they saw Snijlab employ, where small slits are lasered into the plywood making it bendable. Oomlout’s site has the DXFs or you can grab them on Thingiverse.


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