Drop everything and build this go-kart right now!

There are awesome projects, and then there are things that make us drool on the keyboard. We just got done wiping up our mess after seeing this go-kart which uses four hub-motors as direct drive wheels. We’ll admit, this is more artwork than a hack as these guys are mechanical engineers and know what they’re doing. But how could we pass up sharing something like this?

The design is smaller than any of the other go-karts we remember seeing. The low-backed pilot seat is the biggest part, with a cubby-hole beneath it for the batteries and control hardware. Each of the hub-motors was hand wound and reading through the related blog posts it seems this was a huge and painful part of the build.

So it’s pretty fun to watch these guys tear up the hallways of one of the engineering buildings at MIT. But the footage of a two-kart race up a spiraling parking garage in the middle of the night is absolutely delightful. You’ll find both videos embedded after the break.

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Rail bike conversion is a success, and a failure

There is a long tradition of hacking transportation to work on the rails. People have done it to all kinds of things for many reasons. Some are for rail maintenance, others are simply to enjoy the tracks. With as much unused railways as we have, it seems a shame to waste them. This hack turns a bicycle into into a rail bike with the use of some conduit, a cut up razor scooter, and a fork from another bike.  After some tinkering with spacing to make the whole thing a little smoother on the rails, the whole thing seemed like a success. That is, until the front rail guide caught a railway tie and the rider was tossed. Not only that, the impact destroyed his bike frame.

So, does this wreck mark this as a failure? Or is this simply another step in the iterative process we all tend to use. The only difference is if he carries on to build another.

Automated cat feeder with a view

[Robovergne] wrote in to share his fantastic automated cat feeder with us. After researching the common commercial products he could find, he decided to build one that utilized a home made linear actuator to pull a certain amount out of a reservoir. Initially, he attempted to use microwave motors but ultimately found them to be too weak to force the bits of cat food should they get stuck. He was afraid this extra strain would cause motor failure before too long. Ultimately, he replaced the microwave motor with a fairly strong servo that seems to do the job just fine. He’s currently using an Arduino to time it all, but he does mention that he feels it is a waste of the arduino for such a simple task.

As you can see in the videos after the break, his mechanism seems quite solid. There isn’t a lot of play in the movement and the amount of food coming out seems to be fairly controllable.

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Keyboard composes its own music

Summer is right around the corner and all the final projects from electronic design classes are rolling into the tip line. This time, we’ve got [Chaorong] and [Siyu]‘s auto-composing keyboard from their time in ECE4760 at Cornell.

The keyboard has two modes: a ‘happy’ mode and a ‘tender’ mode, the difference being the tender mode is slower and sounds a little like a lullaby. After two keys are pressed, the ATMega644 figures out what key it should play in and starts generating a random-ish sounding song using a Markov probability matrix.

There’s a third option for the keyboard as well: play a short melody and the software will loop through a few permutations of the melody. After the break, you can see [Siyu] play Ode to Joy and have the autocomposer improvise around the tune. Very, very nice work and we can’t wait to see more senior design projects hit the tip line.

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RCA Capacitive Electronic Disk

capacitive video disk

Although not a hack in the sense that it was made by a large corporation, check out this capacitive electronic disk that [danielbpm] wrote in about. Here’s a Wikipedia article about it, as well as a video (which didn’t embed correctly) about how it was made. The disks look like a typical audio record, and it was conceived of in 1964. A prototype was manufactured in 1972.

Unlike the more well-known Laserdisk format, the [Capacitive Electronic disk], or [CED] used an actual stylus to read the disks. Because of this, the [Wikipedia] article astutely points out that both systems were mutually incompatible. Somewhere there might have been a scratched Laserdisk next to the VCR with a sandwich stuffed in it. The computer with a broken coffee holder wouldn’t come for another few years.

Although it may have been a good format in it’s own right, like Betamax or HD-DVD, this system wasn’t destined to become the Blu-Ray player of it’s time.

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