ArduSat puts Arduino experiments in space

CubeSats are nothing new – hundreds have been launched into Earth orbit by schools and universities over the past decade. Like anything cool, an Arduino eventually gets thrown into the mix. That’s what the folks behind ArduSat are doing: they’re launching an Arduino-laden satellite into orbit with a bunch of sensors to enable anyone to become a citizen space scientist.

On board the ArduSat is a suite of sensors including a spectrometer, Geiger counter, IR light sensor, electromagnetic wave sensor, a temperature sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, GPS unit, CO2 sensor, and of course a few cameras. The rewards for this Kickstarter are fairly interesting: backers who pledge $500 are able to buy a week’s worth of time using the ArduSat sensors for your own personal experiment.

As for how this Arduino-powered satellite is getting a ride up to Low Earth Orbit, the team plans to send an application into NASA for the CubeSat Launch Initiative ride-along program. If NASA selects the ArduSat, it’ll get a ride into space along with other CubeSats on a larger commercial launch. If the ArduSat isn’t selected by NASA, the team behind this satellite has secured funding to piggyback on a commercial launch.

Tip ‘o the hat to [HackTheGibson] for sending this in.

Multimeter add-on lets you measure tiny resistance values

This multimeter add-on is called the Half Ohm. It allows you to measure small resistance values, and can be used to track down shorts on a PCB.

The board acts as a pass-through for both probes. When your meter is set to measure voltage and nothing is connected to the probes the display will read out the level of the coin cell that powers the add-on. When you are probing, the value in millivolts is actually showing the resistance in milliohms. This works for any measurement less than one Ohm. Interestingly enough, it will help you zero in on a solder bridge. By probing the two shorted tracks you can find the issue by following the falling resistance values.

[Jaanus] published several posts leading up to the final version of the board. Check out this category link for his blog if you’re interested in reading through them.

HDTV antenna that can hang in a window

We can’t wait to give this one a try. We’ve got a DIY HDTV antenna hanging out in the attic which was made from some scrap wood and eight metal coat hangers. It works great but it’s pretty ugly and not everyone has an attic to hide it in (not to mention the signal drop caused by the roof shingles). This is a fractal antenna anchored to some clear plastic so you can just hang it in the window and start picking up the over-the-air channels without much effort.

The pattern was modeled in SketchUp then printed out on two pieces of paper. One piece had it printed on both sides, which makes it easy to glue on a sheet of aluminum foil, then follow the pattern on the opposite side to cut out the important parts. The other template was used as an aligment guide when gluing the foil to the clear plastic. A coaxial adapter was then attached using nuts and machine screws. If you build it, let us know how it comes out!

Drop-in board for NES ROM chip makes cartridge reprogrammable

Here’s the guts from [Dext0rb's] Super Nintendo cartridge. It’s easy to pick out the dark-colored board which lets him reflash SNES ROMs via USB. We’ve seen this done a number of times, but this is a much cleaner option than hacks that just add a dead-bug-style memory chip.

The board he designed has a double-row of pin headers sized to fit the footprint vacated by the original ROM chip. The board has a mini-USB connector which can be accessed through a hole he cut in the side of the cartridge enclosure. This is in the right place so that you cannot plug it in when it’s being used in the SNES (which would cause damage). The ATmega32u4 chip handles USB connectivity and programs the 32 megabit flash chip which stores the ROM. He’s posted a few articles on the blog portion of his site which you’ll find interesting. We suggest starting with this hardware teaser.

Jamming gripper that’s super easy to build

This is the simplest version of a jamming gripper that we’ve seen yet. The only component that might not be readily available is the pump in the upper left, but the rest is all hardware or grocery store stuff. It’s based on the concept we saw from a research video where the air in a bladder full of coffee grounds is removed to grip an item. In this case the bladder is a party balloon which is held in place by parts from a cheap shower head. A theaded-to-barbed right angle connector makes it easy to connect the vinyl tubing up to the pump.

The video after the break shows that this works quite well for small items. But we see a lot of downward force is exerted to firmly embed them in the grounds. We’re not sure if this is par for the course, or if it would work a bit better if more air were in the bladder initially. This other jamming gripper build uses a servo to release pressure from the system, and we think that might be of help here too.

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Stiltwalker beat audio reCAPTCHA

This talk from the 2012 LayerOne conference outlines how the team build Stiltwalker, a package that could beat audio reCAPTCHA. We’re all familiar with the obscured images of words that need to be typed in order to confirm that you’re human (in fact, there’s a cat and mouse game to crack that visual version). But you may not have noticed the option to have words read to you. That secondary option is where the toils of Stiltwalker were aimed, and at the time the team achieved 99% accurracy. We’d like to remind readers that audio is important as visual-only confirmations are a bane of visually impaired users.

This is all past-tense. In fact, about an hour before the talk (embedded after the break) Google upgraded the system, making it much more complex and breaking what these guys had accomplished. But it’s still really fun to hear about their exploit. There were only 58 words used in the system. The team found out that there’s a way to exploit the entry of those word, misspelling them just enough so that they would validate as any of up to three different words. Machine learning was used to improve the accuracy when parsing the audio, but it still required tens of thousands of human verifications before it was reliably running on its own.

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12 gauge shotgun bow: Real or Fake?

It’s time once again for everyone’s favorite comments section game: Real or Fake? This week we’re looking into this 12 gauge shotgun bow. Why use arrows when you can fire shells? This gentleman has apparently removed the stock of a 12 gauge shotgun and positioned the barrel as if it were an arrow. When he releases the bowstring the gun fires.

Take a look a the quick clip after the break and let us know what you think. We’ve fired a 12 gauge and the kick is surprising. Although the sound matches in this video, we think he’s got arms of steel if he can control the weapon that well with one outstretched arm. But then again, perhaps our arms are just too wimpy from all that intricate surface mount soldering we do.

If you’ve missed out on this game in the past be sure to look back on the last couple features.

[Read more...]

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