Measuring Poop for a Better Sanitation Service

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Hacking can make a huge difference in peoples’ lives. So when the Nottingham Hackerspace was challenged with optimizing Ugandan Toilets, they hopped on-board.

Back in January of this year [Nicola Greene] approached the hackerspace with this real-life design problem. She represents Water for People, with support from a UK-based Engineers Without Borders organization. Water for People is involved with improving access to sanitation in Uganda and many other third world countries — to make sure everyone has access to a safe and usable toilet. The cool thing with Water for People is they don’t just want to build an infrastructure for the people and run away, they want to bring together local entrepreneurs and the community to establish a system that will actually last.

So, what is the problem anyway? Well, since Uganda doesn’t have quite the same network of sanitation businesses as we might, it’s important for the new infrastructure to know a few things — in particular, how much do we poop? This question was summarized into a basic goal for the Nottingham Hackerspace:

To develop a low-cost (<$200) monitoring device to give an approximation of what volume of liquids — and in an ideal world, solids, is entering the latrine.

Before you click through, think about how you would solve this?

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Cordwood Puzzle Kit Without Instructions

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What you see above is a cordwood circuit, an interesting circuit construction technique from before the days of integrated circuits. The circuit consists of two circuit boards arranged parallel to each other with components holding them apart. This was, for its day, the densest circuit construction technique, used in everything from late 50s aerospace tech to huge computers that filled rooms.

The folks over at Boldport have a love for interesting PCBs and are apparently aficionados of antiquated tech, leading them to create their own cordwood circuit. Here’s the best part: it’s a kit, without assembly instructions.

The cordwood puzzle assembles into a bunch of LEDs that will light up when power is applied. Not much, but there’s a few FETs in there that allow you to control them all individually with a microcontroller. The real fun is trying to assemble the kit: both sides of the cordwood circuit are identical, meaning there’s going to be holes that aren’t meant to be filled, components that will need to be soldered, and most likely a bit of swearing.

Still, this is an exceptionally small circuit for something using this construction technique. If you know of a denser and more modern cordwood circuit out there, leave a note in the comments. If you want to know what the kit looks like when it’s built, [Phil Wright] has your back.

Midwest RepRap Festival: 3D Printed Waffles

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Hackaday is settling in with the action at the Midwest RepRap Festival in Goshen, Indiana. Already it’s turning out to be a great weekend; an hour after the doors opened at 6:00 pm on Friday, with a freight train blocking traffic for half the town, there were more than 100 people through the doors. I have since stopped counting.

As far as who’s here, Lulzbot, the guy behind the Smoothieboard, Ultimaker, [Josh] from MakerJuice, [Jo Prusa], [Nicholas Seward], creator of the RepRap Wally, Gus, and Simpson, and the folks from MakerHive and Maker’s Tool Works.

Everybody is having tons of fun and I’m currently giving away Hackaday T-shirts in return for a contribution to the beer fund. The real show starts Saturday morning with a waffle breakfast, talks from famous reprappers, and hours and hours of fun.

Pics of some cool stuff below, here are two live streams, videos of awesome stuff up tomorrow.

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Your Weekend Plans: Hardware Freedom Day

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Hardware Freedom Day is tomorrow: Saturday, March 15th 2014. This is the third year for the event, which seeks to raise awareness about what Open Hardware is, and to encourage hackers and makers to share their own work with the world.

This is a concept that we believe in strongly here at Hackaday. There are a multitude of reasons to support open hardware. We usually look at it from two angles: education and user freedom. If the design for your projects are available, others can learn from your successes and produce even cooler things that in turn should be made open. At the same time, if you have a device that’s nearly-awesome, a skilled hacker will have a much easier time getting it there if the original design can be used as a reference.

If you want to see what’s going on near you there are events on every continent (except Antarctica… lame!). If continental adjacency isn’t close enough consider pulling together an adhoc event, or just going through that project you finished last year and publishing the files for others to use.

 

DAGU: The Standalone CNC Controller

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In terms of user interfaces, 3D printers are far, far beyond the usual CNC machine. It’s difficult to find a new, commercial 3D printer without some sort of display, set of buttons, and an SD card slot for loading G Code and running a printer. For CNC routers, though, you’re usually dealing with a parallel port interface connected to an old computer.

DAGU hopes to change that by providing a huge 240×128 LCD display, a bunch of buttons, and an SD card slot for loading G Code directly from an SD card. This is a fully functional controller, able to deliver 3.5 A to each stepper motor winding.

Right now DAGU is in the prototype stage, but already there are some really interesting features: the interface allows for a basic preview of the job before it begins, and should be somewhat affordable. At least as cheap as using an old computer for CNC control, anyway.

Video demo of the use and operation of DAGU below.

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Open-Source Sentry Gun Plans Promise the Next Level of Office Warfare

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We admit it, we were browsing Reddit when we found this beautifully hacked together Nerf Sentry turret. But are we ever glad we did — as it turns out, it is very similar to the totally awesome, open-source Project Sentry Gun.

We have actually covered a project that used that system before, but it looks like it has evolved a bit more since then. It’s just too cool not to share.

The system itself is quite simple and easy to build. You’re going to need three servo motors, an Arduino, a webcam, and assorted wires, nuts and bolts, etc etc. Grab a copy of the code, slap it all together, and you’re ready for business!

Just take a look at the following video of the Gladiator II Paintball Sentry Gun — we know you’re going to want to build one now.

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Old Inkjet Turned Into An SVG Plotter

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What do you do when you have an old printer, a portable CD player, and a handful of other electronics sitting around? Turn it into a plotter, of course.

The frame of the plotter was taken from a ye olde Epson printer, reusing the two stepper motors to move the paper along its length and width. The pen is attached to the laser head of a junked portable CD player. With this, it’s just three stepper motors that allow the Arduino control system to move the pen across the paper and put a few markings down.

The motors on the printer are, in the spirit of reuse, still connected to the printer’s driver board, with a few leads going directly from the Arduino to the parallel port interface. The motor in the CD player is another ordeal, with a single H-bridge controlling the lifting of the pen.

On the software side of things, a Processing sketch reads an SVG file and generates a list of coordinates along a path. The precision of the coordinates is set as a variable, but from the video of the plotter below, this plotter has at least as much resolution as the tip of the pen.

[Read more...]

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