9 DIY projects to take your STEM skills to the next level

Get inspired and start automating at home!
How-To guideMarket trends 23 min read

Katie SimpsonPublished 30th Nov 2020

Mat Zolnierczyk, Labman team member and creator of spends much of his spare time exploring new techy ideas, and writing about his never ending list of home projects.

He has put together a list of his 9 favourite smart home projects especially for us - from a smart heating mod for £5 to a magic goodnight button which turn’s everything off. Totally genius? You can decide. Take it away Mat!

The idea of working in a company like LABMAN, always felt distant to me. Without prior background or STEM education, flicking light switches at home and setting automation rules based on the sensor’s input felt a pinnacle of what I could achieve. Turns out, I couldn’t be more incorrect. Understanding automation at home could be a gateway to industrial automation and the beginning of a very interesting career.

I made a list of 10 projects which challenged me, help me to understand new concepts and they are simply too cool not to share with you.

  1. Staircase lights
    $20 Automated Staircase RGB LED Lighting: DESIGN #part1 - NotEnoughTech

One of my older projects. After a friend of mine broke his toe tumbling down the stairs, I decided to aid the pathfinding in the dark. Motion activating sensors trigger random light effects. I set the budget tight, to make it reasonably good looking and very affordable! Be advised, you will hate soldering for a week once the project is done!

  1. Smart heating for a fiver?
    NEST your old thermostat under $5 - NotEnoughTech

Prices of NEST send the shivers down my wallet’s spine. My 30-year-old heating is in no shape to compete against the greatest and latest tech from Google, but this £5 mod will add smarts to the oldest thermostats. I’m pleased to say that after 3 years, my downtime was only 12h. In your face Google!

  1. The cutest RaspberryPi (on the go)
    USBerry PI -USB Raspberry Pi Zero on the go! - NotEnoughTech

For 4 years I have been commuting to work to another city. Staying away from all the gadgets I love, always makes me feel bored. Thanks to this small modification, I turned a RaspberryPi Zero into a USB portable development board. I also learned a lot about laser cutting and 3D printing. A project like this will give you a motivation to pick up some CAD skills too!

  1. Breaking language barriers
    Get WhatsApp voice notifications & translations in native languages with Tasker - NotEnoughTech

You’ve probably noticed that English isn’t my native language. Apart from being a Pole, I can communicate in other languages too. All bi-lingual friends know the pain of using multiple keyboard layouts and dictionaries. While changing the keyboard is easy, TTS poses a much bigger challenge. This project uses Google Translate API to recognise the language of your message and speak it out loud in native TTS or translate it to your native language directly - a great intro to APIs.

  1. Dumb machine > Smart machine
    Washing machine notifications - making “dumb” machine “smart” - NotEnoughTech

Smart TVs might be on everyone’s wishlist, washing machines not so much. What if I told you, that you can have your cake and eat it too? Getting washing machine notifications to your phone is possible. There is no need for a new appliance and the hack will cost you less than £10! You will learn programming tricks as well. What’s most important, you’ll never leave your washing inside again!

  1. USB-C rocks
    Best USB-C hack ever! - NotEnoughTech

USB-C PD rocks for 2 reasons: the ability to plug it in any orientation and the robust power delivery (PD) protocol. It’s powerful enough to feed a laptop. If only my laptop had USB-C port just for that! Let’s fix this.

  1. Smarter lights are better than smart lights
    Creating a smarter light switch - NotEnoughTech

Going beyond consumer smart home is rewarding. Tailoring every aspect of the house to your personal needs is the essence of automation. Solutions are already there, so I’m going to show you how to utilise these better. My light switch does so much more than light switching!

  1. Sync up alarms!
    How to sync Android alarm with NodeRED - NotEnoughTech

There are countless options to do something when your alarm sets off. What if you want to trigger something 15 min before your alarm sets off? That’s more complex, especially if the alarm time keeps changing. I solved this for Android and NodeRED ecosystems. Now, I can track all my alarms in real-time.

  1. 'Goodnight, that’s all’ switch
    A “goodnight” button - MiHome switch it all and more - NotEnoughTech

Sometimes enough is enough, and all you need is a button to turn everything off. I have the button for you. I will show you how to map everything to a single button and give yourself a break!

Get inspired and start automating! It’s a perfect hobby if you’re spending more time than usual at home. After all increasing comfort at home will make being there much more bearable - and if all else fails, helps you pass the time!