Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Make a $20 G-Force Gauge

How many Gs did you pull in that last curve? Find out with this handy board and some simple code.

So I post mostly artsy/craftsy stuff here with a smattering of technology. I do all kinds of projects, but it's hard to take a good, entertaining photo of clean code or a well planned PCB, so I stick to the visually interesting objects for most of my posts.

But a buddy of mine likes to read this blog, and he always says, "Hahaha can't turn no wheels with that...  I'm a gear head. You will have to forgive me."

Well here you go dude - something specifically made for high performance motor sports.

BTW, the detailed tutorial is over on Instructables. Check it out for all the info you need to build your own version.

The project features a multicolor LED display that shows you the G forces you're pulling - live and interactively.  It shows forces left/right for turning, braking and acceleration, and even vertical movement for bumps and humps.

It can also record the forces for you to display on a graph. Just upload the data to a computer to see how all the forces interact.

Heck, if you want to, you can even hook up the board to your laptop and watch the G-forces change as the car moves. Or hook up your webcam and sync the graph with the recorded video of your drive. The possibilities are endless.

Building the project is super simple, just download the code into the board, plug it into a battery pack or your car's cigarette lighter and put it on your dashboard. The board is the Circuit Playground board from

This little beauty is one of the best of the new "all-in-one" Arduino boards. It has accelerometers, light and sound sensors, a heat sensor, a microphone and speakers, buttons and lots and lots of bright RGB LEDs to play with. And it only costs about $20 USD.

You don't even really need a case, but you can build one easily. I built a case out of layered panels and a plastic bezel. But you can get as fancy as you want. Since it fits in a standard 2" gauge frame, almost any of the aftermarket cases will work, There's tons of them on the market.

Don't worry about writing any code. The tutorial has a pre-written program and lots of notes about how to customize it. But it really is as simple as installing an app on your phone. On the other hand, this is a great way to learn about how to program an Arduino. Once you learn, you can creat thousands of fun projects of all types. Just check it out and give it a try.

For example, you can take this exact same board and, with some changes to the code, turn it into a playable piano that changes pitch and speed depending on how you tilt it. Go ahead and pick up one of these wonderful boards. You'll have hours of fun for a very small investment.