Robot Cage Fighting is Still a Thing!

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Remember Battlebots? Turns out it is alive and well in Southern California at the National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) Robotics League. That’s right — high school students are getting to build remote controlled weaponized robots to battle to the death inside a poly-carbonate octagon arena. Awesome.

[Bradley Hanstad] wrote to us today to inform us of the 2014 Regional Competition — happening tomorrow at 10AM (PDT). We can’t make it there ourselves, but there is a live stream for everyone to see!

The league started just this fall which currently consists of 15 area high schools, community colleges, and technical schools. The goal of the league is to spark an interest in engineering and manufacturing in young students, while at the same-time providing hands-on education on the applied side of the sciences. It’s sometimes tricky to get students engaged in engineering competitions — but as soon as you say fighting robots you will have most peoples’ attention.

To see a teaser trailer for what is to come at these competitions, stick around after the break!

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Powering a RPi with Hydrogen

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Looking for a new way to power your Raspberry Pi? The raspberryHy project aims to develop a small fuel cell designed for powering the credit card sized computer. It adds a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell, a battery, and custom control electronics to the Pi.

The system takes hydrogen in from a compressed hydrogen cartridge and feeds it through a regulator. This passes the hydrogen into the PEM fuel cell at the correct pressure, and creates a potential. The control electronics boost that voltage up to the 5 V required on the Pi’s USB port. There’s also an electronically controlled purge valve which periodically exhausts the fuel cell.

There’s a few reasons you might want to run your Pi with hydrogen. Run time of the fuel cell is limited only by the amount of hydrogen you can store. In theory, you could connect a large cylinder for very long run times. Combined with a battery, this could be quite useful for running Pis in remote locations, or for long-term backup power. The raspberryHy will be presented at Hannover Fair 2014 this month.

Building an Inductive Loop Vehicle Detector

[Trax] was asked by a friend to build a device that could detect the presence of a car in front of his garage gate for it to open automatically. After searching the web for such a project and trying many of them, he decided to build his own detector based on an induction loop. As you may have guessed, this kind of detector works by detecting an inductance change in a wire loop (aka coil) buried in the road. Having a car pass several inches on top of it produces such an effect.

[Trax]’s write-up shows a very well thought and professional design. All the detector parameters can be adjusted using DIP switches and buttons: detection type (presence/pulse), signal filtering, main frequency and sensitivity. The wire loop is isolated from the main sensor electronics using a 1:1 isolation transformer and a Colpitts oscillator is used to drive the latter. Moreover, gas discharge tubes are also used for lightning protection.

The change in inductance translates to a change in resonant frequency which is later detected by the main microcontroller. The board is 24V AC powered and a diode bridge + LM2596 SMPS step-down converter are in charge of generating the required +5V in an efficient way.

As if this was not enough, [Trax] also made a PC-based tool that can change other platform settings using a serial connection. All the resources can be downloaded from his website and a few videos are embedded after the break.

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Sci-Fi Contest: Source Universe Roundup

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The Hackaday Sci-Fi contest has 36 entries so far. Since there are fifteen prizes available, you stand an excellent chance of winning; but you can’t win if you don’t play. It’s pretty easy to be considered for the contest. You simply need to hack together something Sci-Fi related and show off your work. Head over to the contest page and check out the details. Ten of the prizes are popularity-based, so posting early is the best bet! For those that were put-off by the team requirement, there’s a hack to get around that.

Since this is a themed contest we thought we’d give you an update on where inspiration is coming from. Below is the break-down of each Sci-Fi universe that has been so-far adopted by the entrants. We’d like to point out that this isn’t limited to movies, as the bulk of inspiration is to be found in literature. Why don’t we get a comment thread going here to help brain-storm for people who want help locking onto an idea?

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the banner images. These were taken from three of the contest projects. The upper left is a GLaDOS replica controlled by Google Glass (complete with Nerf dart gun) inspired by Portal. Bottom left is a pair of Peril-Sensitive sunglasses inspired by A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And the bottom right is a life-sign scanner inpired by Stargate Atlantis.

  • Unknown (genre or misc themes) 9
  • A Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy 4
  • Back to the Future 3
  • Star Wars 3
  • 2001 A Space Odyssey 2
  • Doctor Who 2
  • Stargate 2
  • Thor 2
  • Blade Runner 1
  • Demolition Man 1
  • ET: The Extra Terrestrial 1
  • Futurama 1
  • Harry Potter 1
  • Knight Rider 1
  • Portal 1
  • Prometheus 1
  • Start Trek 1

Tube Headphones Rock Out While Keeping the Family Peace

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It’s hard being a kid sometimes. [Young] likes his music, but his dad is an overnight trucker. With his dad sleeping during the day, [Young] has to keep the volume down to a reasonable level. He could have bought some commercial headphones, but he wanted something a bit more customized. Rather than give up on his tunes, he built a pair of headphones with an internal tube preamp amplifier. [German language link — Google translate doesn’t want to work with this one but Chrome’s translate feature works].

Two 1SH24B preamp tubes feed two LM386 amplifier chips, creating a hybrid amplifier. The 1SH24B tubes are designed to work on battery voltage, so a step up circuit wasn’t necessary. However, [Young] still needed to provide an 8 cell battery pack to run his amp. Speakers were a 3 way coaxial of [Young’s] own design. He built the headphone frame using candy tins and cups from commercial headphones. A final touch was a window so everyone can see all that vacuum state goodness.  Considering that [Young] is only 16, we’re looking for some great things from him in the future.

If you don’t want to strap the tubes to your skull there are other options. But you have to admit it makes for a cool look. Starbucks here we come.

[Thanks Patrick]

We’re At The Vintage Computer Festival This Weekend!

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This weekend takes some of the Hackaday crew to the Vintage Computer Festival East in Wall, New Jersey. There’s going to be lots of cool stuff, some dork walking around handing out Hackaday t-shirts and stickers, and more awesome retro computation devices than you can shake several sticks of RAM at.

On the agenda for Friday are a host of talks that include bootstrapping CP/M, assembly programming, disk imaging, and a talk from our very own [Bil Herd] on how to not kill yourself with a CRT monitor.

Saturday is when things really heat up with exhibits including a PDP-8, a 1960s UNIVAC, Chromeco Dazzlers, VAXxen, and a whole slew of computers that weigh less than several hundred pounds. There’s even a real Apple I. Seriously. There are also workshops that include some really obscure work from the late, great [Jef Raskin], and more talks, including [Dave Haynie]’s recollections of Commodore’s circling the drain.

The VCF is hosted at InfoAge, an exceptionally cool vintage technology treasure trove that’s more than worth the visit, even if there weren’t a vintage computer festival going on this weekend. We caught up with the InfoAge guys a while back, and needless to say, if you come, you’ll have fun.

If you see somebody walking around with a Hackaday t-shirt on, be sure to tell them you’re a fan. If they don’t know what you’re talking about, ask them who they got the shirt from. Regular updates to follow, including a video of someone loading the Hackaday Retro site with an Intel 4004 microprocessor. I didn’t think that was possible either.

Oh, watch our Twitter or something. That’s a thing now.

SQL Injection Fools Speed Traps and Clears Your Record

Typical speed camera traps have built-in OCR software that is used to recognize license plates. A clever hacker decided to see if he could defeat the system by using SQL Injection…

The basic premise of this hack is that the hacker has created a simple SQL statement which will hopefully cause the database to delete any record of his license plate. Or so he (she?) hopes. Talk about getting off scot-free!

The reason this works (or could work?) is because while you would think a traffic camera is only taught to recognize the license plate characters, the developers of the third-party image recognition software simply digitize the entire thing — recognizing any and all of the characters present. While it’s certainly clever, we’re pretty sure you’ll still get pulled over and questioned — but at least it’s not as extreme as building a flashbulb array to blind traffic cameras…

What do you guys think? Did it work? This image has been floating around the net for a few years now — if anyone knows the original story let us know!