Earthquake detector could have helped during quakepocalypse

[Andrea] built a seismic wave detector that warns of a possible impending earthquake. Because P waves travel much faster than the “make everything shake” S waves, building a device that detects P waves serves as an early warning system that alerts building occupants to go under a door frame. [Andrea]‘s build detects these fast-moving P waves and only took an hour to make.

Last August, those of us on the east coast of the US had to live through Quakepocalypse, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake centered around Middle of Nowhere, Virginia. For those of us who have decided to stay, rebuild, and put our garden chairs upright again (so brave…), [Andrea]‘s build could have been very useful.

The mechanics of the build is very simple: a pair of springs and levers are electrically wired together so that whenever there’s a sudden shock, a buzzer goes off. It’s very similar to an ancient Chinese earthquake detector that detects P waves by dropping a ball into a frog’s mouth.

While we’re not sure if a few of [Andrea]‘s devices would be needed to detect P waves coming in off-axis, the build is simple enough to build dozens of them. Check out the video of the build in action after the break here.

 

Chinese hackerspaces, or, what happens when a government is run by engineers

Government leadership in Shanghai wants to build 100 community hackerspaces funded by the Chinese government. Each space will be at least 100 square meters, open 200 days a year, and come equipped with wood and metal lathes, saws, drills, grinders, mills, and more electronics than we can imagine.

The official government statement (translated here) says the Shanghai Science and Technology Network wants to build a few dozen ‘innovation houses,’ ostensibly to create a breeding ground for new, innovative ideas and to nurture young builders.

The first Chinese hackerspace, Xin Che Jian, opened last year and they’re doing some pretty cool stuff. A RepRap Mendel is already on the build roster (pictured above) along with a few quadrocopters and small racing robots.

As far as what this means for western countries, we’re going to editorialize a little bit and say that government-funded hackerspaces would increase innovation a little bit more than watching our representatives argue about homosexuals or taxes. Who knows, if this Chinese experiment proves successful, it may move out of Asia and onto the Americas and Europe.

via reddit

Kitchen Hacks: Improving an espresso machine

The heat sensor in [Cameron]‘s espresso machine doesn’t work very well. He sees some pretty crazy variations in temperature when pulling an espresso shot, and when the boiler is just sitting there the heater element will heat the water full-bore then shut off for a while. Since this is a pretty low bar from a control theory standpoint, [Cameron] decided on a PID makeover on his espresso machine.

Instead of going with a commercial PID controller like we’ve seen on a few kitchen hacks, [Cameron] decided to roll his own Arduino derivative based on an ATMega328 microcontroller. The newly designed board reads the state of the ‘Steam’ button, a few relays for controlling the heater and the pump, and of course an LCD display.

[Cameron] still has to do a little tweaking to get his PID algorithm down, but already the new control board keeps a much more stable temperature than the old thermostat. The fancy new bezel and LCD display adds a lot of techy class to his espresso machine, to boot.

Star Trek style pneumatic doors that don’t require a stagehand

In 1966, [Gene Roddenberry] introduced fully manual doors powered by a stagehand on Star Trek. The fwoosh sound of the door was later dubbed into each show, but progress marches on, and now [Alex] created his own Star Trek-style automatic doors for his house.

The build includes a ‘control panel’, and [Alex]‘s door operates in three modes: Open, and stay open; Close, and stay closed; and Automatic. The control panel itself is fairly remarkable. A small puck interacts with a magnetometer underneath [Alex]‘s counter. If the puck is pointed towards ‘Open’, the door stays open. If the door is pointed towards ‘Closed’, the door stays closed. If the puck isn’t near the magnetometer, the door operates in automatic mode with the help of a few IR sensors to detect someone trying to get in or out of [Alex]‘s kitchen.

For the mechanical portion of the build, [Alex] used a One meter long piston with the quietest air compressor he could find. We can’t tell from the video after the break if the compressor ever kicks in, but [Alex] says it’s about the same volume as his fridge. As a small added bonus, the new automatic door does have a fwoosh sound, just like [Gene] would have wanted.

[Read more...]

Adorable and small portable NES

The Queen of Bondo is back again, this time with an adorably small NES portable, the HandyNES.

When last saw [lovablechevy], she had just finished up her build of a Nintenduo, a build that stuffed an NES and SNES into a single box. The Nintenduo was such a clean build it would be a crime to let her talents go to waste, so [Lovablechevy] finished up one of the smallest NES portables we’ve seen.

The build is based on a top-loading NES with a 3.5″ screen. [rekarp]‘s NES2 composite mod was used to get the NES and screen working together. Two LiIon batteries provide 3 hours of play time (with a low battery indicator, natch).

[lovablechevy] also included an AV out so she can connect her HandyNES to a larger CRT screen. Like our old Sega Nomad, this allows for a little two-player action – player one using the HandyNES and player two using an extra controller. Support for the Zapper was also included after modding the Zapper connection to a USB port.

Check out the video walkthrough after the break. To prove that her build isn’t a clone, [lovablechevy] also include a video of herself playing Battletoads past the point where the clones crash. Excellent work from the Queen of Bondo.

[Read more...]

Two ways to convert an electric cooler to a humidor

It’s not a proper humidor in the technical sense (there isn’t any specific way to moderate the humidity) but [Dzzie] came up with a couple of ways to keep his cigars cool in the summer heat.

Both versions use a Coleman electric cooler as the enclosure. This hardware uses a Peltier device to keep it cool inside. The first attempt at use a thermostat with this worked by adding an external relay to switch mains power. A thermostat dial hangs out inside the cooler to give feedback to the relay board. This worked, but it’s a really roundabout approach since the cooler operates on 12V, and this method uses a mains-to-12V adapter. If [Dzzie] decides to hit the road the relay won’t work when the cooler is powered from a 12V cigarette lighter in the car.

The second rendition fixes that issue. He moved to a 12V relay, and used a car cellphone charger to supply the 5V of regulated power his control circuitry needs to operate.