Building blocks hand wash station

Our children’s preschool had a pretty complicated setup where every day they would drag out a table, water jug, soap, paper towels, and trash to the entrance and have each child practice hand washing.

After searching the internet, I found no good options so decided to create my own!   The concept is a simple wood cart with a 3-gallon water feeder that plumbs to two spigots on either side.   A central trash, soap dispenser, and paper towel holder provides everything the kids need.   And of course two nice big wheels to wheel it out every morning and back into the yard every night.

When imagination needs a vent

I love mechanical engineering and often bring work home.   But then sometimes I need to build my own things.   Below is a smattering of interesting home projects I have worked on over the years (or at least the ones I’m not embarrassed enough to post.)   Some of them are half baked and would only ever work for me but maybe they can inspire someone to do something real with them.    Maybe someday one of them will click and the idea will be worth more than hobby they have been so far!

Siri - “Help me sleep at night”

We live in a household where stuff dies all the time.   I’m not sure if it is due to poor quality that we get these days or if it just happens to everyone.   We had a cute night light from the inter-webs that decided to no longer light up.  

With a little hacking to the rescue we turned this basic colored night light into a full fledged Siri controlled web-connected monster!   Thanks to a Neopixel ring from Adafruit, an ESP-32 board, and the Homespan framework, I now have a fully Siri enabled night light.    Plus it is capable of full home automation, though I haven’t figure out what that is for.  Oh - and there is still a button on the bottom to change the color when you don’t want to yell at your smart device.


I frequently found myself frustrated that I had to open and unlock my phone to change Spotify.   Then I discovered the Spotify web api and a python library that went with it.   I took a Raspberry Pi with the 7” touch screen and display and assembly and built a little app that would create a very crude remote controller for Spotify.  

The basic functionality allows you to one click get to your albums, playlists, artists, and the top music you are listening to.  Then you can grab the most interesting content and hit play.    There is also a speaker source selector so you can select what device will play.    Since this is just a remote control I never setup the device to be an endpoint in itself.  The graphics use QT which was annoying and could use a lot of work.

Long term I would like to clean up graphics and add in album art, but I use this every day to play music without the hassle of trying to find my phone.    For $100 build it is tough to beat.  

I posted the script below.   Note you will need to get your own auth ID and install all of the include libraries to get to run.  

Tree house railing redo

The house we bought had a wonderful tree house.   Unfortunately the railing was made out of logs and had rotted out.   I designed and attached the new railing system below.   Probably overkill, but it was fun!

Bench refinishing

The bench below had been pretty beat up from years of sitting outside.    Nothing a little bit of pressure treated wood couldn’t solve.    After a few quick cuts the bench was as good as new.

Sky view Weather

I inherited a Davis Vantage Vue 2 weather station but was saddened when I couldn’t get access to the data easily.    That was no problem for a raspberry pi!    I bought a serial adapter, plugged it in, and wrote a quick little python script to decode the data and post it to this web server.    The data below is a live feed of the data!

Sky View Weather, Los Gatos, CA

Inside Temperature: 81.4 deg F
Outside Temperature: 82 deg F

Inside Humidity: 41%
Outside Humidity: 52%

Barometer: 29.922 in Hg
Daily Rain: 0 in
Yearly Rain: 0 in

Wind Speed: 0 mph
Wind Angle: 360 deg
UV: 0 W/m^2

Sample Taken: 07:34PM 07-18-2024

Outdoor High: 87.7°F
Outdoor Low: 82°F
Indoor High: 81.4°F
Indoor Low: 79.7°F
Average Wind Speed: 4080°F

Yesterday's Weather Summary


We have a history at our house of building ginger bread houses every year.   I had designed a gingerbread barn when I was 10 which had been continued to be built.   But my family was going to go to Denmark the following spring so I decided to up the ante and build a gingerbread windmill instead.    I designed it in onshape and then laser cut the forms and built it.    The blades were a mess and that ended up just being the plastic laser cut part, but the rest turned out great.   Grandma’s ginger bread recipe can’t be beat.