Print your own Supercaps

[Gil] recently wrote in to tell us about some awesome research going on at UCLA. Apparently by layering some oxidized graphite onto a DVD and tossing it into a lightscribe burner, it’s possible to print your own super capacitors; some pretty high capacity ones at that.

For those that are unaware, supercapcaitors are typically made using two electrolyte soaked, activated carbon plates separated by an ion permeable film. Since activated carbon has an incredible surface area huge energy densities can be reached, in some cases 1kJ/lb.

Laser-formed graphite sponge replaces the activated carbon in the researchers’ printed capacitors. A video after the break discusses  the whole process in moderate detail, meanwhile greater detail can be found in their two papers on the subject.

First one to print a transistor gets a bag of mosfets!

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ATmega324 acts as a GPU for homebrew computer

[Quinn Dunki's] homebrew computer project is moving up another evolutionary rung. She needs a more versatile user interface and this starts with the data output. Up to this point a set of 7-segment digits has served as a way to display register values. But her current work is aimed at adding VGA output to the system.

She starts off her write up by justifying the protocol choice. Although composite video would be easier to get up and running (we see it in a lot of AVR projects) [Quinn] doesn’t have a screen that will display composite video. But there’s also a lot of info out there about VGA signal generation. She delved into the specifics and even found a great AVR-based example over at Lucid Science.

The version seen above uses the 40-pin ATmega324. It’s a lot bigger than necessary for the example she put together, but in the future she plans to add video memory and will be glad to have all of those extra I/O pins. When it comes to video sync, timing is everything. She wrote the code to drive the display using assembly. In this way, she was able to look up the cycles used for each command to ensure that the loop is running with near perfect timing.

Software defined radio from a USB TV capture card

With a simple digital TV USB capture card, you can build your own software defined radio or spectrum analyzer. While it may not be as cool as [Jeri Ellsworth]‘s SDR, it’s still very useful and only requires $20 in hardware.

The only piece of hardware required for this build is a USB FM/DTV capture device with the Realtek RTL2832U chipset. So far, two USB sticks have been tested and the unit with the largest frequency range (64 – 1700 MHz) is available direct from China for $20.

Turning these cheap capture cards into software defined radios and spectrum analyzers was discovered by [Antti Palosaari] after sniffing the device. These cards demodulate the frequency and send all the data to the computer and is decoded via software. If you have one of these capture cards lying around, you can grab the software and load it up on your *nix box. Right now, the software only writes directly to a file, and may drop a few samples if writing to a hard disk instead of ram. Small problems, but we’re sure this project will pick up steam in the very near future.

via reddit

Humanoid robot will eventually take over the world

Over the last two years, [Mark] at the Harford (and Baltimore) Hackerspace has been building 401k, a humanoid robot that will soon be able to walk on two legs, detect objects, and fight along with its comrades in the robot insurrection that leads to the extinction of man.

To get an idea of how complicated a humanoid robot is, realize the Honda ASIMO has been an ongoing project for over a decade now and can be easily defeated by stairs. [Mark] doesn’t have the benefit of millions of dollars in funding or dozens of lab assistants – in one video, [Mark] shows us the foot pads made out of [George Foreman] grill lids and hip joints made out of DVD players. Even though he’s using “unconventional” parts, 401k still has a very advanced pair of legs that model their human analog very well.

Even though it’s still a work in progress, there’s an incredible amount of work and expertise that is going into this build. [Mark] is wants to take 401k to this year’s RoboGames next month. We hope he gets his build walking in time, even for a few baby steps.

You can check out more of the 401k build vlog on [Mark]‘s YouTube channel.

Birdwatching Meets a Computer-Controlled Water Cannon, Awesomeness Ensues

squirrel turret

Sure, squirrels may bother the average home owner, but few have attempted as creative a way to control them as this automated water turret. Check out the video after the break to see how this was accomplished, but if you’d rather just see how the squirrels reacted to getting squirted, fast forward to around 16:00. According to [Kurt] he was sure this would be his solution, however, his conclusion was that “squirrels don’t care.”

As for the presentation, it’s more about how to use [OpenCV], or Open Source Computer Vision. It’s quite a powerful piece of software, especially considering that something like this would cost thousands of dollars in a normal market.  An Arduino is used to interface the computer’s outputs to the real world and control a squirt gun. If you’d rather not program something like this yourself, you could always simply use a garden hose as someone suggests just after the video. [Read more...]

Connecting toy blocks with a universal construction set

We were all children at one time, and surely some of us remember the pain of trying to make one type of building block work with another type of block. The folks at the Free Art and Technology Lab have an answer for your inner child: adapters that connect any type of building block to any other type of building block.

The project is called the Free Universal Construction Kit. This  “gee, I wish I thought of that ideas” is a set of 79 play set adapter that allow any child to mix up their Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears, K’Nex, Krinkles, Lego, Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoy, ZomeTool, and Zoob building sets in any way imaginable. Most of these adapters are up on Thingiverse, ready to be printed out with a 3D printer or sent to Shapeways.

An interesting aspect of the work of the F.A.T. Lab is the legal and intellectual property aspect; since this is the product of reverse-engineering several building sets,  it’s entirely possible the manufactures of these toys wouldn’t want adapters out in the wild. The team really covered their bases, though. Of the ten toy systems included, eight are no longer patent protected, much to the chagrin of the company behind MEGA Bloks. Adapters for the  two remaining systems – Zoob and ZomeTool – won’t be released until the patents run out in 2016 and 2022, respectively.

Check out the video after the break for the wonderful ‘a-ha moment’ one of the inventors had when watching his 4-year-old son playing with Tinker Toys and K’Nex.

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When console modders face off, only good things happen


We really love when friendly competition leads to excellent hacking. Not too long ago, we showed you a nicely done Sega Genesis portable put together by console hacker [Downing] who challenged fellow hacker [EVIL NOD] to a build off. The two were hacking Sega consoles, [Downing’s] for personal use, while [EVIL NOD] was working on a commissioned build.

As you might have guessed, [Downing] finished first, but that doesn’t mean [EVIL NOD’s] console is anything but spectacular. His Sega Multi Gen is a portable Genesis console modified to play both NTSC and PAL games. It features a large 5” PSOne screen as well as the guts from an official 6-button Genesis game pad. The case was vacuum formed by [Downing], and is another example of his fine workmanship. The console looks as if it’s had the controller melted right into its face – a design that is sure to give you the authentic feel of sitting in front of your TV mashing away at the buttons.

Check out the video below to see an unboxing video that [EVIL NOD] put together before sending the console out to its new owner.

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