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Ask Hackaday: Fixing Your Tractor Could Land You Behind Bars

อังคาร, 05/12/2015 - 18:01

It’s 9AM on any given Sunday. You can be found in your usual spot – knee-deep in wires and circuit boards. The neighbor’s barking dog doesn’t grab your attention as you pry the cover off of a cell phone, but the rustling of leaves by the back door does. Seconds later, several heavily armed SWAT officers bust in and storm your garage. You don’t have time to think as they throw your down on the cold, hard concrete floor. You’re gripped by a sharp stinging pain as one of the officers puts his knee in the square of your back. Seconds later, you’re back on your feet being lead to the back of an awaiting police cruiser. You catch the gaze of one of your neighbors and wonder what they might be thinking as your inner voice squeaks: “What did I do wrong?”

The answer to this question would come soon enough. Your crime – hacking your dad’s tractor.

“That’s like saying locking up books will inspire kids to be innovative writers, because they won’t be tempted to copy passages from a Hemingway novel.”

-Kyle Wiens

John Deere is trying to convince the Copyright Office that farmers don’t really own the tractors they buy from them. They argue that the computer code that runs the systems is not for sale, and that purchasers of the hardware are simply receiving “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

In order to modify or “hack” any type of software, you have to copy it first. Companies don’t like the copying thing, so many put locks in place to prevent this. But because hackers are hackers, we can easily get past their childish attempts to keep code and information out of our hands. So now they want to make it illegal. John Deere is arguing that if it is legal for hackers to copy and modify their software, that it could lead to farmers listening to pirated music while plowing a corn field. No I am not making this up — dig into this 25-page facepalm-fest (PDF) written by John Deere and you’ll be just as outraged.

Trying to keep hackers out using the DMCA act is not new. Many companies argue that locking hackers out helps to spur innovation. When in fact the opposite is true. What about 3D printers, drones, VR headsets…all from us! The Copyright Office, after holding a hearing and reading comments, will make a decision in July on whether John Deere’s argument has any merit.

Let us know what you think about all this. Can hackers and the free market learn to live in harmony? We just want to fix our tractor!

Thanks to [Malachi] for the tip!

Filed under: Ask Hackaday, Hackaday Columns, slider

PicoRico Hacks String Encoder for Bike Suspension Telemetry

อังคาร, 05/12/2015 - 15:01

It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it works really really well. The PicoRico team built a telemetry system for a downhill bike. Off the top of your head how would you do this? Well, telemetry is easy… just add an IMU board and you’re golden. They went beyond that and have plans to go much further. In fact, the IMU was an afterthought. The gem of this build is a sensor that may go by several names: string encoder, draw wire sensor, stringpot, etc. But two things are for sure, they planned well for their hackathon build and they executed on that plan. This landed them as first-runners-up for the top award at the 2015 Disrupt Hackathon in New York, and the winners of the top Hackaday award at the event.

[Chris], [Marek], and [Dorian] wanted to log all the telemetry data from [Chris’] downhill bike. One of the biggest challenges is to measure the force absorbed by the suspension on the front fork. The three had seen a few attempts at this before. Those used a retractable wire like what holds keys to a custodian’s belt, mated with a potentiometer to measure the change. This is where the term stringpot comes from. The problem is that your resolution and sensitivity aren’t very reliable with this setup.

That is a sensor problem, not a mechanical problem so they kept the retractable reel and replaced the pot with a much more reliable part. In its place an AMT203 absolute position sensor provides an epic level of sensing. According to the datasheet (PDF) this SPI device senses 12 bits of rotation data, can be zeroed over the SPI bus, and is accurate to 0.2 degrees. Unfortunately we didn’t get a good up-close shot of the installation but it is shown in the video. The encoder and retractor mount above the shocks, with the string stretching down to the skewer. When the shocks actuate, the string extends and retracts, turning the absolute encoder. Combine this with the IMU (and two other IMUs they plan to add) and you’ve got a mountain of data to plot and analyze. The videos after the break show a demo of the string encoder and an interview with the team.

They came to play

It’s worth noting that the PicoRico team were in this to win it. They packed heavy for the 20-hour hackathon. Here’s a picture of all the gear they brought along with them to the event… in addition to the bike itself.

We see a solder station, Dremel (with drill press), impact driver, tap and die set, extension cords, boxes full of electronics, and more. This type of planning breaks down barriers often faced at hardware hackathons. You can download a software library; you can’t download a tool or building material that nobody has with them. This is the same lesson we learned from [Kenji Larsen] who, as part of his mentoring at the event, brought a mobile fabrication facility in a roller bag.

If you start getting into hackathons, and we hope you will, keep this in mind. Brainstorm as much as you can leading up to the event, and bring your trusted gear along for the ride.

Filed under: cons, transportation hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry: Junkyard Fuel Cell

อังคาร, 05/12/2015 - 12:00

Modern hydrogen fuel cells are incredible pieces of engineering. While a simplistic diagram of a fuel cell is just a stream of hydrogen, an anode, cathode, and a bit of oxygen, this does’t convey the complexity of the most important part of the fuel cell – the proton exchange membrane.

The proton exchange membrane is the part of a fuel cell that takes in hydrogen, spits out electrons, and produces water. They can be made from platinum to expensive DuPont products, and if [Charlie]’s hypothesis is correct, stuff you can pull out of a junkyard.

The goal of [Charlie]’s Prize entry is to create a small, proof of concept fuel cell that’s safe, low cost, and very easy to build. Right now he’s focused on finding a cheap, readily available proton exchange membrane to make this build accessible to everyone.

A hydrogen fuel cell will of course have pressurized hydrogen in it, and [Charlie] is taking some steps to mitigate the risks of having his limbs blown off. His first real project update is about the safety considerations of working with hydrogen. He’ll be using a simple hydrogen gas sensor to measure for leaks and sound an alarm.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: The Hackaday Prize

Life Sized Lego Spaceship Parts

อังคาร, 05/12/2015 - 09:00

Ah, 1980s space Lego sets. You may think the pirate ship and castle sets are cooler, but you’re wrong, because spaceship. spaceship. spaceship.

These space Lego sets had some very interesting parts, with tiny two-by sloped pieces printed with Lego analogs of computers, monitors, phones, intercoms, speakers, control panels, and everything else that makes a voxellated spaceship fly to the moon. Now, these pieces are functional, and they’re nearly life-size.

[Love Hultén] took these fantastic parts, modeled them, and scaled them up to six times normal Lego dimensions. These blocks were then fitted with buttons, displays, the guts of an old telephone, and all the other accoutrements to make these bricks functional. Two computer blocks can be connected together, and it will play video games with a Lego-shaped controller. The intercom works, and the buttons on control panels can be used to turn on lights.

It should be noted the Lego family is more than just the small bricks that really hurt when you step on them. Duplo, the blocks made for children who would stuff Lego down their own throats, is twice the size of Lego. Quatro are blocks made for toddlers, and are twice the size of Duplo and four times the size of Lego. Since [Love] made blocks that are six times the size of normal Lego blocks, we’ll leave it up to the comments to determine what this class of blocks should be named.

Video below.

Filed under: toy hacks

Extracting Lightning Strikes From HD Video

อังคาร, 05/12/2015 - 06:00

Lightning photography is a fine art. It requires a lot of patience, and until recently required some fancy gear. [Saulius Lukse] has always been fascinated by lightning storms. When he was a kid he used to shoot lightning with his dad’s old Zenit camera — It was rather challenging. Now he’s figured out a way to do it using a GoPro.

He films at 1080@60, which we admit, isn’t the greatest resolution, but we’re sure the next GoPro will be filming 4K60 next. This means you can just set up your GoPro outside during the storm, and let it do it what it does best — film video. Normally, you’d then have to edit the footage and extract each lightning frame. That could be a lot of work.

[Saulius] wrote a Python script using OpenCV instead. Basically, the OpenCV script spots the lightning and saves motion data to a CSV file by detecting fast changes in the image.

The result? All the lightning frames plucked out from the footage — and it only took an i7 processor about 8 minutes to analyze 15 minutes of HD footage. Not bad.

Now if you feel like this is still cheating, you could build a fancy automatic trigger for your DSLR instead…

Filed under: digital cameras hacks

Hacking Amazing Soldering Features into the Already Great Weller WMRP

อังคาร, 05/12/2015 - 03:01

Weller, the German soldering tools manufacturer, has a nice range of micro soldering irons (pencils) designated as the WMRP series. These are 12V, 40 W or 55W units with a 3 second heat up time, and allow quick tip exchange without needing any tools. [FlyGlas] built a neat soldering station / controller for the WMRP series based around an ATMega microcontroller running Arduino.

It’s packed with most of the features you see in a professional rig.

  • low offset op amp for soldering tip temperature measurement with type c thermocouple
  • cold junction compensation using the PTC (KTY82-210) included in the WMRP soldering pencil
  • input voltage measurement
  • soldering pencil current measurement
  • recognizing if the soldering pencil rests in the stand (–> standby)
  • 3 buttons to save and recall temperature values
  • rotary encoder to set soldering temperature
  • illuminated 16×2 character LCD module
  • USB for debugging and firmware update
  • 4mm safety socket for +12V power input and a protective earth socket for connection to ESD protection

A PWM signal from the microcontroller controls the load current using a MOSFET. Load current is measured using a Hall Effect-Based Linear Current Sensor – ACS712. The corresponding linear output voltage is buffered and slightly amplified using AD8552 zero drift, single supply, RRIO Dual Op Amp before being sent to the microcontroller ADC input. To ensure ADC measurements are accurate and stable, a low noise precision voltage reference – ADR392 is used. Another precision resistive voltage divider allows input voltage measurement. The supply input has over-current and reverse voltage protection. A set of buttons and a rotary encoder are connected to the microcontroller to allow settings and adjustments. An analog section measures the thermocouple voltage from the soldering pencil as well as the stand-by switch status. The handle has an embedded reed switch that is activated by a magnet in the support stand which puts it into stand-by mode. Another analog section performs cold junction compensation using the PTC sensor within the soldering pencil.

The Git repo contains the initial Arduino code which is still a work in progress. While the hardware source files are not available, the repo does have the pdf’s, gerbers and BOM list, if you want to take a shot at building it. Check a demo video after the break. Thanks [Martin] for sending in the tip.

Filed under: hardware, tool hacks

Makey Makey Made Smaller

อังคาร, 05/12/2015 - 00:00

When it launched in 2012, the Makey Makey was the golden child of the maker movement. It was a simple, easy to use board with holes for alligator clips and a USB socket that would present capacitive touch pads as a USB HID device. Thus, the banana piano was born.

The Makey Makey is a device specifically designed to introduce kids to electronics in a way the Arduino can’t match; even with an Arduino, most of the work is with code. If you’re introducing electronics to a class of 10-year-olds, that might be a bit too much.

Now there’s a new Makey Makey on the block. It’s the Makey Makey Go, and it’s the same user experience as the Makey Makey classic made cheaper and much more rugged.

The Makey Makey Go features a single touch pad to clamp an alligator clip to. That’s enough to send any keypress or a mouse click over USB, where a wide variety of apps and games can make this tiny thumb drive-sized board useful. Banana pianos are out, and plant harps and Jello Flappy Bird are in.

There aren’t many details about the internals of the Makey Makey Go, but [Jay] from Makey Makey says the prototypes are based on the ATMega32u4, while the production units will use cheaper chips. Video below.


Speaking of Kickstarters for equipment we’re familiar with, Arduboy just launched one this morning. It takes the credit-card-sized console we saw a year ago and adds proper buttons, as well as a metal back plate and polycarbonate face plate.

Filed under: Crowd Funding

Hanging Out With Someone Who Walked On The Moon

จันทร์, 05/11/2015 - 21:00

Lunar dune buggy rides, piloting the most powerful machine made by humankind, stuck thrusters, landing, eating, sleeping, and working on the moon. It does not get any more exciting than the Apollo program! I was recently given the opportunity to sit in on the MIT course, Engineering Apollo: the Moon Project as a Complex System where I met David Scott who landed on the moon as commander of Apollo 15. I not only sat in on a long Q and A session I also was able to spend time with David after class. It is not every day you that you meet someone who has landed on the moon, below are my notes from this experience.


David Scott flew on Gemini 8 with Neil Armstrong during the stuck thruster incident. He was the command module pilot in Apollo 9 which was a test flight of the complete Apollo spacecraft system. He landed on the moon as commander of Apollo 15, which was the first mission to carry the lunar rover.


David lives up to his legendary status as an Apollo astronaut while also being very approachable. His sense of humor had the class in an uproar on many occasions. The MIT students were asking very specific technical questions. David’s deep understanding of everything about the Apollo system was impressive, not a question couldn’t be answered in detail and with additional nuance that may not even be in the history books yet. I’m sure he would have drawn block diagrams and schematics if we had asked.

Gemini 8 and the stuck thruster

You’ve probably heard of the stuck thruster incident during Gemini 8. One of the maneuvering thrusters stuck-open, causing the spacecraft to rotate faster and faster and faster again. So fast that David and Neil Armstrong were starting to black out. They survived it by shutting down the one thruster system and using the reentry thrusters to stop the spin.

The mission had to be ended sooner than expected. Re-entry began over Africa which was not the original plan. During re-entry they passed over the Himalayas and soon thereafter landed the south China sea. David told us that the view of the Himalayas was absolutely amazing.

David and Neil were not totally confident that they had made it over ocean which necessary for a normal landing. Fortunately Neil was able to confirm this with his mirror looking out the window, seeing ocean through the window. Chutes opened and there was no need to eject over land!

Quality of Apollo simulations

David told us that the simulations were remarkably accurate. His recollection was the only difference between the simulation and being on the moon was the fact that you were on the moon. Quite an endorsement of the Apollo simulators.

Apollo mission simulator.

David is a big fan of simulations. He told us that when traveling into space you want to simulate as much as possible while on the ground so that you get to know the systems and your fellow crew members. Apollo went so far as to simulate parts of the mission with the CM and LM inside of a huge vacuum chamber.

The simulators were hybrid digital and analog systems. David told us that the people running the simulations were trying to kill them by causing a large plurality of alarms, false alarms, systems failures, partial failures, and so on. It required an engineer’s mind to solve the puzzle presented by almost any alarm because alarms were not always what they seemed. Correctly solving this conundrum of machine feedback was a matter of life and death during a real mission.

David had kind words to say about the controversial LM flight trainer. This is a vehicle flown in earth’s atmosphere in order to train the astronauts; the same one that crashed and nearly killed Neil Armstrong. Without this the moon landing would have been much more dangerous.

Abort control on takeoff

There is an abort control on the left side of the left seat (pilot’s seat) of the command module. It’s a very interesting thing, if you are at the start of your flight rocketing up with the whole stack (F1 engines going) and you rotate it right then the entire stack is now under manual control where the pilot in the left seat is manually flying the entire rocket.

This feature was never used but it was tested in simulation many times. Apparently under manual control you had to keep a pair of crossed needles lined-up on one of the instruments on the front panel while riding the most powerful machine ever made by humankind. It sounds extremely challenging, right?

If you turned the abort handle left then the escape rocket at the top of the CM would fire, subjecting the crew to 14G’s. Nobody wanted to rotate it to the left because, as you can imagine, 14G would not feel too good and aside from personal comfort the crews were extremely motivated to make things work no matter what happened.

Even when Apollo 12 was hit by lightning, causing the electrical systems to go crazy as it was clawing its way up into the atmosphere, the abort control was not touched. They still went for it.

Apollo 15 landing

David and James Irwin landed between the two largest mountains on the moon at a steep descent angle so that they could safely ‘thread the needle’ between the two mountains. David admits flying the LM is a challenge, but even more so with the added weight of the J mission which includd the rover, tools, experiments. This weight penalty was further compounded by the steep descent angle caused by the mountainous approach.

Why manual control on final phase of descent

David talked about how the LM could land on the moon entirely by itself but the last portion of the landing was always taken over by manual control. This was not macho fighter pilots showing their bravado at the controls, instead it was a safety concern. There was not much time to react and trouble-shoot if an alarm light occurred on the final phase of descent. By contrast if a pilot were in control he would feel the spacecraft do something different if there was a problem and be able to naturally compensate. This is why the last phase of landing was achieved with manual control.

Don Eyles, who was key to architecting the LM’s software and specifically the landing programs, was sitting next to me in the audience and took this all very well. Later that evening I was able to chat with Don, he is also extremely interesting and a super-nice guy, he explained to me that the entire Apollo computer was made from NOR gates and showed me one of the logic cards.

Living on the moon

During Apollo 15 David and James had to live and work on the moon for 3 days which meant that they had to develop procedures to live, eat, and sleep on board the LM. Not a trivial task.

Sleeping in a space suit was not comfortable, resulting in little sleep. Space suits had to come off every evening. Taking off the suits and not getting lunar dust all over everything in the LM was tough, apparently this was done in a large bag of sorts to at least minimize it. Hammocks were setup in the LM and the guys slept in their underwear.

They researched circadian rhythm, which was not well known at the time. Moon time became Huston time for the purposes of maintaining their sleep-wake cycles.

When examining the space suits on board the LM, they found that the caked on moon dust was surprisingly abrasive. This raised concerns about the integrity of the suits’ air-tight fittings.

The lunar rover, dune buggy on the moon!

As if you had any doubts, but David confirms the lunar rover was really fun to drive. The vehicle had a wide wheel base, a low center of gravity, and each wheel had its own motor. But there was one occasion that caused a stir when the rover nearly slid down a mountain.

Preventing the lunar rover from sliding down a mountain.

David and James noticed a green-colored boulder on the side of a fairly steep mountain so they cruised to it in the rover. In 1/6 gravity it wasn’t long before the rover started sliding sideways down the mountain! James had to catch it with his own two hands. Mission control did not have a live video feed during this time so the guys kept it on the DL.

This is the photo of the green rock with the rover in the background, one of its wheels up in the air and James is literally holding the vehicle up, keeping the rover from sliding further down the mountain.

Feather and hammer gravity demonstration

Which falls faster in a vacuum, a feather or a hammer? David wanted to test-out the feather and hammer drop right away because there was a risk that static electricity could cause the feather not to drop. For this reason he brought two feathers with him, one for the video recorded demo and the other to test it first. Fortunately the demo was a huge success. We’re greatly amused that David’s reaction to the successful experiment is “How ’bout that?”!

NASA Culture during Apollo

Being involved in startups I’ve always been curious as to what the cultures are like in other fast organizations. Apollo was fast, in about 7 years they went from Gemini missions to walking on the moon with an organization that included nearly 400,000 people (of course this is a high estimate, including the subcontractors and so-forth).

How did they do it? I asked David this question specifically.

The astronauts were closely involved in development. David was involved in the development of guidance and navigation. He also developed the layout for the panels on both the command module and the LM from a pilot’s perspective for ease of use.

For example the Friday Tindall meetings involved representatives from each major subsystems. The objective of the meeting was to solve problems and make decisions affecting all of the major systems. Engineers in attendance were empowered to make decisions for their respective teams and decisions were communicated the program via Tindall memos.

“Well, I just got back from MIT with my weekly quota of new ulcers, which I thought might interest you.” – Bill Tindall, June 13, 1966.

These memos were funny to read but also key in keeping everyone on the same page. Of course some decisions were overturned when more info was available the following week, but this was the synchronization pulse.

In summary, meetings were for making decisions and every engineer had a voice, listened to no matter what level.

David also pointed out that generally speaking, Apollo engineers were of the can-do variety. They may have never done the thing that was being asked of them but they were willing to give it a try, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes.

Read the book and Prof. Mindell

Look, you may not ever be faced with the amazing opportunity to hang out with an astronaut who has been to the moon. But the astronauts from all of the various missions have been great at sharing their experiences.

Credit for this experience belongs to Prof. Mindell, who is the Frances and David Dibner Professor of History of Engineering and Manufacturing (STS) at MIT. Prof. Mindell created the course and wrote the book Digital Apollo. This book is a must-read for those interested in the nuts and bolts of the guidance, navigation, and many other technical details of the Apollo system.

Prof. Mindel also wrote two other books that might be of interest to the Hackaday community:


We can learn a great deal from how the Apollo program accomplished its missions and should always take the opportunity to listen to those who worked on Apollo. If you’ve had the chance to meet someone having to do with the program please let us know about your experience in the comments below.

Author Bio
Gregory L. Charvat is a huge fan of manned space flight, is the author of Small and Short-Range Radar Systems, co-founder of Hyperfine Research Inc., Butterfly Network Inc. (both of which are 4catalyzer companies), visiting research scientist at Camera Culture Group Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, editor of the Gregory L. Charvat Series on Practical Approaches to Electrical Engineering, and guest commentator on CNN, CBS, Sky News, and others. He was a technical staff member at MIT Lincoln Laboratory where his work on through-wall radar won best paper at the 2010 MSS Tri-Services Radar Symposium and is an MIT Office of the Provost 2011 research highlight. He has taught short radar courses at MIT where his Build a Small Radar course was the top-ranked MIT professional education course in 2011 and has become widely adopted by other universities, laboratories, and private organizations. Starting at an Early Age, Greg developed numerous radar systems, rail SAR imaging sensors, phased array radar systems; holds several patents; and has developed many other sensors and radio and audio equipment. He has authored numerous publications and has received press for his work. Greg earned a Ph.D in electrical engineering in 2007, MSEE in 2003, and BSEE in 2002 from Michigan State University, and is a senior member of the IEEE where he served on the steering committee for the 2010, 2013, and 2016 IEEE International Symposium on Phased Array Systems and Technology and chaired the IEEE AP-S Boston Chapter from 2010-2011.

Filed under: Interviews, Retrotechtacular, slider

DIY Concrete Mixing Wheelbarrow Made from Recycled Parts

จันทร์, 05/11/2015 - 18:01

[Dan] had a bunch of concrete mixing to do. Sure, it was possible to stand there and mix concrete and water in a wheelbarrow for hours and hours but that sounds like a tedious task. Instead, [Dan] looked around the shop to see if he had parts available to make a concrete mixer. As you may have guessed, he did. Instead of stopping at just a concrete mixer, he decided to make a concrete mixing wheelbarrow!

The frame is built out of plywood left over from a past canoe project. The frame holds a mixing barrel that was also hanging around the shop. From the photo, the drive system looks simple but it is not. First, the small motor pulley spins a larger pulley that is in-line with the barrel. Gearing down the drive this way increases torque available to spin the barrel, and that gear reduction is necessary to spin the heavy concrete slowly. What you can’t see is a planetary gear system that gears down the drive train again. The gears are cut out of plywood and were designed in this Gear Generator program. The sun (center) gear of the planetary setup is supported by another scavenged part, a wheel bearing from a Chevy minivan.

Now [Dan] can mix all the concrete he wants, wheel it over and dump it wherever he needs it. With the exception of the drive belt and some miscellaneous hardware, all the parts were recycled.

Filed under: tool hacks

Observercade, Portable MAME System Of The Future.

จันทร์, 05/11/2015 - 15:00

[GarageMonkeySan] wrote in to tell us about his latest project. It’s a MAME arcade emulator, but not just any MAME arcade emulator, it is housed in a briefcase. And if that was not interesting enough, it was built in the style of the TV Show “Fringe”, specifically like the Observer briefcases. He calls it the Observercade.

The hard-shelled Samsonite briefcase was taken apart to assess the best way to move forward. A Sintra frame was added to the top half of the briefcase and would hold a scavenged laptop LCD screen. A monitor faceplate was then made from 1/16″ polystyrene sheet to fill the gap around the screen.

The bottom half of the case holds the remaining electronics, which consists of a Raspberry Pi Model B (running RetroPie), power supply, speakers and LCD driver board. They are all mounted to the bottom of the control surface which also supports the controller joystick and buttons. Notice that the buttons are labeled in Observer symbols. These symbols are as accurate as possible roughly translating to ‘credit’, ‘player’… etc. This is a wonderfully done project that shows [GarageMonkeySan] pays extreme attention to detail.

If the Observercade rings a bell, you may be remembering the project that gave [GarageMonkeySan] his inspirations: the Briefcade.

Filed under: home entertainment hacks

Hackaday Prize Entry : Impact – A Head Concussion Monitor

จันทร์, 05/11/2015 - 12:00

A lot of young athletes who get concussions each year go undiagnosed, leading to brain injury. [Hunter Scott] is working on a device called Impact to help detect these events early. According to this article which discusses the issue of concussion recognition and evaluation, “Early identification on the sports sideline of suspected concussion is critical because, in most cases, athletes who are immediately removed from contact or collision sports after suffering a concussion or other traumatic brain injury will recover without incident fairly quickly. If an athlete is allowed to keep playing, however, their recovery is likely to take longer, and they are at increased risk of long-term problems”

The device is a dime sized disk, which has an ATTiny85 microcontroller, memory to hold data, an accelerometer and a LED which gets activated when the preset impact threshold is breached, all driven by a coin cell. This small size allows it to be easily embedded in sports equipment such as helmets. At the end of a game, if the LED is blinking, the player is then screened for a concussion. For additional analysis, data stored on the on-board memory can be downloaded. This can be done by a pogo-pin based docking station, which is what [Hunter Scott] is still working on.

He’s having a functional problem that needs fixing. The ATTiny85 cannot be programmed with the accelerometer populated. He first needs to populate the ATTiny85, program it, and then populate the accelerometer. He’s working in fixing that, but if you have any suggestions, chime in on the comments below. We’d like to add that [Hunter] is a prolific hacker. His project, the Ultra-wideband radio module was a Hackaday Prize semi-finalist last year.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: ATtiny Hacks, The Hackaday Prize

Router Fixture for Radiusing Guitar Fretboards

จันทร์, 05/11/2015 - 09:00

Unless you’ve been up close and personal with a guitar, it’s easy to miss that the fretboard (where a guitar player presses on the strings) is not flat. There is a slight curve, the amount of which varies with the type and brand of guitar. There are even guitars with fretboards that have a compound radius that changes from one end to the other.

[Mike] is a guitar builder and needed a way to radius his own fretboards. He did what any other DIYer would, he designed and built a tool to do exactly what he needed. The fretboard radius cutting fixture consists of a new large router base that has a curved bottom. This base rests on two metal pipes and can slide both back and forth in addition to along the new base’s curve. The flat fretboard blank is secured to the fixture below the router and is slowly nibbled away at using a standard straight flute router bit. A little sanding later and [Mike] will be able to keep moving forward on his guitar builds.

Filed under: musical hacks

Hackaday Links: May 10, 2015

จันทร์, 05/11/2015 - 06:00

Here’s a cool crowdfunding campaign that somehow escaped the Hackaday Tip Line. It’s a remote control SpaceShipOne and White Knight. SpaceShipOne is a ducted fan that has the high-drag feathering mechanism, while White Knight is a glider. Very cool, and something we haven’t really seen in the scratchbuilding world.

[Sink] has a Makerbot Digitizer – the Makerbot 3D scanner – and a lot of time on his hands. He printed something, scanned it, printed that scan… you get the picture. It’s a project called Transcription Error.

Keurig has admitted they were wrong to force DRM on consumers for their pod coffee cups.

The Apple ][, The Commodore 64, and the Spectrum. The three kings. Apple will never license their name for retro computer hardware, and there will never be another computer sold under the Commodore label. The Spectrum, though… The Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega is a direct-to-TV console in the vein of [Jeri Ellisworth]’s C64 joystick doohickey.

Infinity mirrors are simple enough to make; they’re just one mirror, some LEDs, and another piece of glass. How about a 3D infinity mirror? They look really, really cool.

Here’s the six-day notice for some cool events: Hamvention in Dayton, OH. [Greg Charvat] will be there, and [Robert] is offering cold drinks to anyone who mentions Hackaday. If anyone feels like scavenging for me, here’s a thread I created on the Vintage Computer Forum.  Bay Area Maker Faire is next weekend. Most of the rest of the Hackaday crew will be there because we have a meetup on Saturday night

Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Hackaday links

Roswell Eat Your Heart Out

จันทร์, 05/11/2015 - 03:01

When [Ian Wood] accidentally broke the camera on his fancy-pants FPV quadrotor he was a little bit upset. But out of all things we break, we hack something new. [Ian] decided to strap on some RGB LEDs to the drone and turn it into a UFO to scare his neighbors!

Now we know what you’re thinking: RGB LEDs? That hardly constitutes a hack! You’re right — but [Ian] didn’t just simply strap some LEDs on and call it a day. Oh no. He’s using a Teensy micro-controller and the NazaCANDecoder to listen to the CAN bus for RC stick positions, flight mode, altitude, battery data, etc. This means the LEDs are actually responding to the way he flies the drone. And since there was a spare channel on his Futaba RX controller, he’s also got an animation mode that can be controlled from the ground to do whatever he wants. He also got rid of the standard indicator LEDs on the quad and wired them into his new setup. They’re all being controlled by a FastLED library on the Teensy. Check it out in the clip after the break.

And if you’re looking for another fun way to spice up an old (or broken) drone, why not turn it into the Milenium Falcon?

Filed under: drone hacks, led hacks, Microcontrollers

How To Make Hardware, With Examples And An Electric Pickle

จันทร์, 05/11/2015 - 00:00

Right now we’re throwing a two-day hackathon in Pasadena. As with all hackathons, people are going to build something, but that’s only going to happen today. Yesterday was an incredible Zero to Product talk that goes over PCB layout techniques, manufacturing, and schematic capture. In a seven hour talk, our own [Matt Berggren] took the audience through building a product, in this case a little ESP8266 breakout board. We livestreamed this; the video (and electric pickles) are below.

At the end of the talks, everyone with a laptop and a copy of Eagle had a PCB design that might work on their screen. [Matt] taught EagleCAD to about 100 people. That’s truly remarkable, and not just because Eagle is only slightly terrible.

The first seven hours of yesterday were filled up with talks, but there was a party afterwards, with people bringing hacks, builds, gigantic Miller welders, but not the right cord to plug the Miller into a 30A 220V circuit.


[Steve Collins] is a regular around the Hackaday Design Lab. Last year for our 10th anniversary extravaganza, he gave a talk about hacking his way to NASA. He’s back at the space this weekend with a really great project: he built a LIDAR.

This distance-mapping bot uses a LIDAR Lite from Sparkfun that was previously a crowdfunding campaign. This sensor uses an IR laser and a ‘pulsed light signature’ to determine the distance to an object. [Steve] has the sensor rotating on a servo, feeding onto an Arduino, and displaying something like the ‘moving object prop’ from Alien on a TFT display. It can detect objects in a room and supposedly up to 40 meters.

3D Scanning

The guys from Deezmaker brought a few of their 3D printers and a 3D scanning rig. It’s just a turntable, a Kinect, and a bit of linear rail, but they were able to scan a half dozen or so people and print out miniature copies.

The Electric Pickle

Pickles have a lot of salt in them. Put two electrodes in a pickle, run a kilowatt through them, and you get a spectacular show, possibly a tan as well. Some of the crew from the 23b hackerspace loaded a gigantic Miller into a Jeep and drove it out to the event. The Hackaday Design Lab apparently has a few 30A 220V circuits, and 23b had a long enough extension cord:

That was the highlight of the night right there, and we didn’t burn down the space. Awesome.

We’re going to be at the space again all day today with boxes and boxes of dev boards, components, soldering irons, and some awesome LeCroy scopes. If you’re in LA, come on out.

Filed under: cons

DIY AC for the Hot Shop

อาทิตย์, 05/10/2015 - 21:01

Working out in the shop is usually super fun but if it’s summertime, watch out, it can get hot! We’ve all been there and we’ve all wished we could do something about it. Well, woodworker and general DIYer [April] has stepped up to the plate and built a portable low-buck AC unit to cool her shop down to an acceptable temperature.

The unit is very simple and starts off with an old thrift store cooler. A hole is cut in the back of the cooler to make room for a fan that is directed to blow air inside the cooler and across blocks of ice. The air cools down as it passes over the ice and leaves out the top of the cooler through five 90-degree PVC elbows. After all the inlets and outlets were caulked, the entire unit was given a monochromatic black paint job.

[April] says you can feel the cool air blowing from about 5 feet away from the unit. She has measured the output air temperature to be 58-62ºF. If using loose ice cubes, the unit will work for 2-3 hours. Freezing milk jugs full of water gets about 5 hours of use.

Filed under: home hacks

A Pedal Powered Cinema

อาทิตย์, 05/10/2015 - 18:00

When the apocalypse hits and your power goes out, how are you going to keep yourself entertained? If you are lucky enough to be friends with [stopsendingmejunk], you can just hop on his pedal powered cinema and watch whatever movies you have stored on digital media.

This unit is built around an ordinary bicycle. A friction drive is used to generate the electricity via pedal power. In order to accomplish this, a custom steel stand was fabricated together in order to lift the rear wheel off the ground. A 24V 200W motor is used as the generator. [stopsendingmejunk] manufactured a custom spindle for the motor shaft. The spindle is made from a skateboard wheel. The motor is mounted in such a way that it can be lowered to rub the skateboard wheel against the bicycle wheel. This way when the rear bicycle wheel spins, it also rotates the motor. The motor can be lifted out of the way when cruising around if desired.

The power generated from the motor first runs through a regulator. This takes the variable voltage from the generator and smooths it out to a nice even power signal. This regulated power then charges two Goal Zero Sherpa 100 lithium batteries. The batteries allow for a buffer to allow the movie to continue playing while changing riders. The batteries then power the Optomo 750 projector as well as a set of speakers.

Filed under: green hacks, video hacks

LED Notification Cube is a Good First Project

อาทิตย์, 05/10/2015 - 15:01

Two years ago, [Matt] made a move away from his software hacks and into the physical world. He was part of a pilot program to provide mentorship to children as part of the Maker Education Initiative. This program gave him access to 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutters within the New York Hall of Science makerspace. [Matt] chose to build an illuminated notification cube for his first physical project. The idea being that smart phones have so many alerts, many of which are unimportant. His project would help him to visualize and categorize each alert to better understand its importance.

The brain of the system is a Raspberry Pi. [Matt] found a Python library that allowed him to directly control an RGB LED strip based on the LPD8806 chip. He wired the data pins directly to the Pi and used an old 5V cell phone charger to power the LEDs. The strip was cut into smaller strands. Each face of the cube would end up with three strands of two LEDs each, or six LEDs per side. [Matt] found a mount for the Pi on Thingiverse and used a 3D printer to bring it into existence. The sides were made of frosted laser cut acrylic. The frosted look helps to diffuse the light from the LEDs.

Over time [Matt] found that the cube wasn’t as useful as he originally thought it would be. He just didn’t have enough alerts to justify the need. He ended up reprogramming the Pi to pull weather information instead, making use of the exact same hardware for another, more useful purpose.

Filed under: Raspberry Pi

Hackaday Prize Entry: Open Source Diesel

อาทิตย์, 05/10/2015 - 12:00

There are plans for open hardware farming equipment that can be brought to third world countries to relieve the beasts of burden and increase the production of fields. Want an open source car? You can 3D print one. Just about anything you can strap a motor to has been replicated in open hardware; all you need to do is buy a motor and bolt it on.

But what about the motors themselves? For his entry to The Hackaday Prize, [Shane] is designing an open source engine. It’s small, it’s a two-stroke, and it’s diesel, but it’s completely open hardware; a great enabling project for all the open source dirt bikes and microcombines.

The design of [Shane]’s engine is based on the Junkers Jumo 205; a weird engine that had opposing pistons in one cylinder. This allows the engine to have variable compression, allowing for a wide variety of fuels to be used. If you have kerosene, that’ll work with this engine. French fry oil will as well. It’s exactly what you need for an engine that could be used for anything.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: news

Embroidered Nyan Cat Brings a Meme to the Real World

อาทิตย์, 05/10/2015 - 09:00

Have you ever come across an Internet meme and just thought to yourself, “I have to bring this into the physical world!” Well [0xb3nn] and [Knit Knit] did. They decided to take the classic nyan cat meme and bring it to life.

The frame is 24″ x 36″. Many hours went into the knitting process, but the result obviously turned out very well. The stars include 24 LED sequins to add a sparkling animation effect. These were sewn onto the back of the work using conductive thread. They are bright enough to shine through to the front where needed. These connect back to an Arduino Pro Mini 5V board.

The Arduino is also connected to a capacitive touch sensor. This allows the user to simply place their hand over the nyan cat image to start the animation. No need for physical buttons or switches to take away from the visual design. An Adafruit AudioFX sound board was used to play back a saved nyan cat theme song over a couple of speakers. The source code for this project is available on github. Be sure to watch the demo video below.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks