Hovercraft Plane?

hover craft plane

[Rudy Heeman] has been working in his garage on what we may consider a new class of vehicle. It’s a hovercraft —  but it also has wings.

That’s right, you drive it on ground, water, and you can even take flight with it! However, it’s far from a new idea. After doing some digging it appears the first type of this vehicle was actually tested back in 1996 by Universal Hovercraft — a quick peruse of their site reveals you can even buy your own kits to make one! Regardless of where it came from, or who made one first, it’s a brilliantly fun concept, and would be a blast to fly. Oh and you don’t even need a pilot’s license, it’s considered a boat and follows the same rules and regulations for boating.

Stick around after the break to see one in action! Now all we need to do is figure out how to combine one of these with a Delorean Hovercraft!

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LED Blinds Turn Windows into Displays

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[Dinofizz] is almost done with his vertical LED blinds. The build makes use of 768 diffused white LEDs (10mm size), at a resolution of 48×16, and it only requires one 16-channel LED driver (a MBI5026), which makes use of 3x 4-to-16 demultiplexers. Did we mention it has 16 shades of grayscale too?

At the heart of the many piles of painstakingly soldered wires is an ATmega644A microcontroller which takes care of interpreting the data for the display. He didn’t write the firmware himself though, that credit goes to [Jay Clegg] who does some pretty cool work with Evil Mad Science’s Peggy 2.0 LED driver.

What we really have to admire is the amount of effort he put into this project. He used custom PCBs to daisy chain the blinds together, 300 feet of 16-way ribbon cable, and approximately 4000 individual solder joints! You’d think there would have been an easier way!

Making use of his high rise windows, he now has the ability to broadcast messages for the world to see. After the break check out the video of them in action!

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[Ben Krasnow] Explains Kilowatt Hour Meters

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[Ben Krasnow] is back, and this time he’s tearing down a kilowatt hour meter (kWh). While not as exciting as making aerogel at home, or a DIY scanning electron microscope, [Ben's] usual understated style of explaining things makes a complex topic simple to digest.

These old mechanical meters have been a staple on the sides of houses and businesses since the dawn of commercial power. We always thought the meters were a basic electric motor. Based upon [Ben’s] explanation though, these meters are a complex dance of electromagnetic fields. Three coils create magnetic fields near an aluminum disk. This creates eddy currents in the disk resulting in a net torque. The disk spins, turning a clockwork and advancing the dials.

Why three coils? One is a high turn high gauge voltage coil, and the other two are low turn low gauge current coils. The voltage coil has to be phase shifted 90 degrees to create the proper torque on the disk. Confused yet? Watch the video! [Ben] does a much better job explaining the field interactions than we could ever do in text.

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Cuba: A DIY Society?

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After the U.S. left Cuba back in the 60’s, most of the engineers went with them, so [Fidel Castro] told the citizens to learn how to make stuff themselves. They were called the National Association of Innovators and Rationalizers (ANIR), and that’s exactly what they did. This was the beginning of Cuba’s backyard innovation.

Fastforward a few decades and the 90’s were a very difficult time for Cuba. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a severe economic downturn almost crippled the country, and as a result a Cuban DIY culture began to flourish even more — out of absolute necessity. No money, no imports, only what they already had. Making and fixing things became a part of life, you couldn’t just go out and buy a solution to your problem, you had to do it yourself. This might be one of the greatest examples of what a full-flung maker/DIY society would be like — well, maybe minus the communist part.

The excellent video after the break is a short story about the designer [Ernesto Oroza], who started collecting examples of this DIY culture under his art project aptly called, Technological Disobedience. It’s worth the watch, so take a look.

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Fail of the Week: Photography Turntable

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Turntable photography has seen a rise in popularity driven by online shopping. If you can’t hold it in your hand at least you can see what it looks like from all angles. From the still image, [Petteri Aimonen's] roll-your-own turntable looks great. It’s completely enclosed and has a very nice paint job. But when you see it in action it appears to suffer from a stutter.

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Extremely Precise Positional Tracking

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A few folks over at Carnegie Mellon have come up with a very simple way to do high-speed motion tracking (PDF) with little more than a flashlight. It’s called Lumitrack, and while it looks like a Wiimote on the surface, it is in reality much more accurate and precise.

The system works by projecting structured light onto two linear optical sensors. The pattern of the light is an m-sequence – basically a barcode where every subset of the m-sequence is unique. By shining this light onto a linear sensor, Lumitrack can calculate where the light is coming from, and thus the position of whatever is holding the light.

Even though the entire system consists of only an ARM microcontroller (in the form of a Maple Mini board), two linear optical sensors, and a flashlight with an m-sequence gel, it’s very accurate and very, very fast. The team is able to read the position at over 1000 frames/second, nearly the limit of what can be done with the Maple’s serial connection.

Already there are some interesting applications for this system – game controllers, including swords, flight yokes, and toy cars, and also more artistic endeavors such as a virtual can of spray paint. It’s an interesting piece of tech, and with the right parts, something any of us can build at home.

You can see the Lumitrack demo video below.

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Arduino-based Sieve of Eratosthenes

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[Darkmoonsinger's] sister is finishing her graduate degree in mathematics, and [Darkmoonsinger] wanted to give her a gift that fit with her achievement. Naturally, building a Sieve of Eratosthenes using an LED matrix and an Arduino made perfect sense. If you’re unfamiliar, a Sieve of Eratosthenes is a simple, but very efficient, technique for finding prime numbers. Starting with a group of numbers, you step through each one in order. If it’s prime, you eliminate any multiples from the list. After a few iterations, the numbers remaining are all primes. After getting the LED matrix and sieve algorithm running, [Darkmoonsinger] designed an enclosure for the project. She made a couple of mistakes with this part, and happily included them for everyone’s benefit.

It only figures primes up to 64, and she lights the LED for 1 because it ‘makes the array look prettier’. Also, we couldn’t help but think that mounting the components a bit differently would have made a cleaner install (here’s a prime number generator with a backlit faceplate). However, that probably doesn’t matter to his sister. As they say, it’s the thought that counts, and we never get tired of seeing people build rather than buy!

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