HackSpace magazine

M&M sorter

By Ben Everard. Posted

There’s a wonderful legend that the 1980s band Van Halen included on their list of demands that they be served a bowl of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed. If they arrived at the venue they were booked to play and found brown M&Ms in the hospitality area, they were contractually allowed to cancel the show, at the expense of the promoter. This sounds like spoilt brat behaviour, but the clause was inserted as a quick way to check that the promoter had read every line of the contract. Rather than check all the lighting, power, and sound requirements, they just had to look in a bowl of sweets to check that everything else was all right.

That approach wouldn’t work today, as we have this visual sorting mechanism built by Jackofalltrades. It sorts a mixed load of M&Ms into six colours, using nothing more complicated than an Arduino Uno, a combination of a photoresistor and a white LED to detect the colour of the sweet, and a few other components to drive the mechanism. We’ll admit, at first glance, we thought this was a machine learning project, but we’re pleasantly surprised to find out it’s so simple


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