Caption CERN Contest Turns out Big Brains and Comic Brilliance

Week 1 of Hackaday’s Caption CERN Contest is complete. We have to say that the users outdid themselves with funny captions but we also helped CERN add meaning to one of their orphan images. First a few of our favorite captions:

The Funnies:

If you adjust that scope again, when I haven’t touched the controls, I’m donating you to a city college. – [Johnny B. Goode]

SAFTEY FIRST – The proper way to test a 6kv power supply for ripple on the output. – [milestogoh]

Dr. Otto Gunther Octavius – R&D some years before the accident. – [jlbrian7]

The prize though, goes to Hackaday commenting superstar [DainBramage], who proved he knows us all too well with his Portal inspired caption:

Here we see Doug Rattmann, one of Aperture’s best and brightest, perfecting our neurotoxin prior to delivery.

Congrats [DainBramage], enjoy your shirt from The Hackaday Store!

The Meaning of the Image:

8106409Funny captions weren’t the only thing in the comments though – the image tickled [jlbrian7’s] memory and led to a link for CERN Love. A four-year old blog entry about robots at CERN turned out to be the key to unraveling the mystery of this captionless photo. The image depicts [Robert Horne] working with a prototype of the MANTIS system. MANTIS was a teleoperation manipulator system created to work in sections of the CERN facility which were unsafe for humans due to high levels of radioactivity. The MANTIS story is an epic hack itself, so keep your eyes peeled for a future article covering it! We’ve submitted the information to CERN, and we’re giving [jlbrian7] a T-shirt as well for his contribution to finding the actual caption for this image.

Get Started on Next Week:

The image for week 2 is already up, so head over and see for yourself. We’re eager for your clever captions. Ideally we can also figure out the backstory for each week’s randomly chosen image.

Modular 555 Synth is Controlled by MIDI

[Atdiy and Whisker] aka [The Tymkrs] have created a  MIDI controlled 8 note modular synthesizer. (YouTube link). The project was designed to highlight some of the modules they have available at their Tindie Store. Essentially, the synthesizer is 8 classic Atari Punk Console (APC) tone generators. Each APC is made up of two 555 chips, rather than the 556 used in the original design. The APCs are tuned to a Pentatonic scale, with the 8 notes covering 1.5 octaves. [Whisker] added a single potentiometer which controls all 8 of the monostable oscillators at once. Tweaking this knob gives the synth that classic Atari Punk Console sound we’ve all come to know and love.

The 8 APC outputs are routed to once side of an AND gate. The other side of the AND gate is connected to a 74hc595 shift register. A Parallax Propeller processor converts MIDI note data into a serial stream that can be daisy chained across several ‘595 shift registers. The outputs of the 8 and gates are mixed to a single combined output, which goes out to [The Tymkrs] studio amplifier.

Like many [Tymkrs] videos, this one ends with a MIDI driven jam session, outlining how the circuit would sound in a song. Click past the break to see it all in action!

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Hacklet 33 – Minecraft Projects

Minecraft hit the PC gaming scene as an alpha release on May 17, 2009. Something about the open world, the crafting system, and the various modes of gameplay made it an instant hit. Since then Minecraft become one of the best selling video games of all time, inspiring thousands of hacks, mods, and projects. This week’s Hacklet highlights some of the best Minecraft projects on!

clawWe start with [Toulon] and his MineCraft Sidecar Keypad. The Mystify Claw was originally designed as an alternative input device for First Person Shooter (FPS) games. It may look like a mouse, but the claw has no balls or lasers. It provides a 10 button “cradle” for the left hand. Some folks liked the claw, but for many it quickly became a dust collector. [Toulon] resurrected this old input device as an awesome Minecraft controller. He started by yanking all the old electronics, replacing the claw’s brain with the Teensy 2.0, a favorite of keyboard hackers everywhere. New buttons and a slew of new Teensy code made things perfect for mining.

rappiNext up is [Thomas] and his Raspberry Minecraft Server. The Raspberry Pi has long been a hacking platform for Minecraft. The official Raspberry Pi edition of Minecraft is easy to get running, and great for hours of fun. You can also run a Minecraft server on the Pi, which is exactly what [Thomas] is doing. He’s set his Raspberry Pi up with a WiFi dongle and a battery pack. With a bit of configuration, this allows the Pi to become the center of a wireless Lan party. On batteries, the Pi will run for about five hours of continuous gaming. Details for [Thomas’] project are a bit light right now, but that’s only because he just literally started documenting and uploading his project as we’re going to press. Give him a few days and he’ll have everything filled in!

gppk[GPPK] brings a bit of Minecraft into the real world with Full Size Wireless Redstone Lamp. Inspired by smaller models of the Minecraft redstone lamp, [GPPK] decided to build a life-sized version. “Life-sized” in this case is about 1 cubic meter. That’s a BIG lamp! [GPPK] designed the shell of the lamp in Sketchup, and cut the sides out using a gantry style CNC machine. The structure will be held together with 3D printed connectors, while a Raspberry Pi will provide the brains. Turning the lamp on will be as simple as turning on a switch in-game in Minecraft. [GPPK] has been a bit slow lately with updates on the project. If you know [GPPK] let ‘em know that we’re anxiously awaiting some info!

pipyFinally, we have [Simon] and Raspberry Pi Python Controller. One of the best ways to get kids hooked on hacking and electronics is to show them how simple circuits can lead to big changes. What better way to do that than wiring up a simple push button controller for Minecraft? [Simon] used an Arduino paired to a Raspberry Pi with a serial over USB connection. Buttons wired to the Arduino are sent through the serial link to the Pi, where a python script fires off actions based on the serial data. [Simon] has tested his script with Mincraft Pi Edition, and is happy to report back that it works great.

Do you know what’s missing from this Hacklet? Your Minecraft project! It’s not too late though – upload your info to, and we might just add it to our brand new Minecraft Projects List!

Well, it’s just about quitting time here in the Hackaday Mine. As long as the creepers don’t get us, we’ll be back next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of!

Caption CERN Contest

To say Hackaday has passionate folks in our comments section would be an understatement. You’ve made us laugh, made us cry, and made us search high and low for the edit button. From the insightful to the humorous, Hackaday’s comments have it all. So, we’re putting you to work helping out an organization that has done incredible work for science over the years.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) has quite a storied 60 year history. CERN has been involved in pursuits as varied as the discovery of neutral currents, to Higgs boson research, to the creation of the World Wide Web. Like any research scientists, CERN staff have always been good about documenting their work. Many of these records are in the form of photographs: hundreds of thousands of them. The problem is that no one kept records as to what each photograph depicts!

The folks at CERN are trying to remedy this by publishing over 120,000 unknown photos taken between 1955 and 1985. The hope is that someone out there recognizes the people and equipment in the photos, and can provide some insight as to what exactly we’re looking at.

Here at Hackaday we think these photos should be seen and discussed, and we’re going to have some fun doing it. To that end, we’re hosting the Caption CERN Contest on Each week we’ll add a project log with a new image from CERN’s archives. If you know what the image is, click on CERN’s discussion link for the photo and let them know! If you don’t know, take a shot at a humorous caption. Hackaday staff will pick the best caption each week. Winners will get a shirt from The Hackaday Store.

Here’s how it will work: A new project log will go up every week on Tuesday night at around 9pm PDT. The project log will contain an image from CERN’s archives. You have until the following Tuesday at 9pm PDT to come up with a caption, and drop it in the comments. One entry per user: if you post multiple entries, we’ll only consider the last one.

The first image is up, so head over and start writing those captions!

Good Luck!

[Mike] Shows Us How to Use an Armature Growler

[Mike] has put up a great video  on his [SmallEngineMechanic] YouTube Channel about a tool we don’t see very often these days. He’s using an armature growler (YouTube link) to test the armature from a generator. Armature growlers (or just growlers for short) were commonplace years ago. Back when cars had generators, just about every auto mechanic had one on hand. They perform three simple tests: Check armature windings for shorts to other windings, for open windings, and for shorts to the armature body. [Mike’s] particular growler came to him as a basket case. The wiring was shot, it was rusty, and generally needed quite a bit of TLC. He restored it to like new condition, and uses it to help with his antique engine and genset addiction hobby.

Growlers essentially are a transformer primary with a V-shaped frame. The primary coil is connected to A/C mains. The armature to be tested sits in the “V” and through the magic of induction, some of the windings become the secondary coils (more on this later). This means some pretty high voltage will be exposed on commutator of the armature under test, so care should be taken when using one!

Testing for shorts to the ground or the core of the armature is a simple continuity test. Instead of a piezo beep though, a short will trigger the growler to turn on, which means the armature will jump a bit and everything will emit a loud A/C hum. It certainly makes testing more interesting!

Checking for open windings is a matter of energizing the growler’s coil, then probing pairs of contacts on the commutator.  Voltage induced in the windings is displayed on the growler’s meter. Open windings will show 0 volts. Not all the armature’s windings will be in the field of the growler at once – so fully testing the armature will mean rotating it several times, as [Mike] shows in his video.

The final test is for shorted coils. This is where things get pretty darn cool. The growler is switched on and a thin piece of ferrous metal – usually an old hacksaw blade, is run along the core of the armature. If a short exists, the hacksaw blade will vibrate against the core of the armature above the shorted windings. We’re not 100% clear on how the coupling between the growler’s primary and two windings causes the blade to vibrate, so feel free to chime in over in the comments to explain things.

Most commercial shops don’t troubleshoot armatures anymore, they just slap new parts in until everything works again. As such the growler isn’t as popular as it once was. Still, if you work with DC motors or generators, it’s a great tool to have around, and it’s operation is a pretty darn cool hack in itself.

Click past the break for [Mike’s] video!

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Give your Multimeter a Wireless Remote Display

Multimeters are one of the key tools in a hardware hacker’s bench. For 90% of us, the meter leads are perfect for making measurements and looking over at the results. Sometimes you need a bit more distance though, and for that, [Ken Kaarvik] has created the Multimeter remote display. Remote displays are pretty handy when you want to measure something several feet away from your bench. They’re also great if you need to check something in an enclosed space, like a server rack or a refrigerator. Fluke actually sells multimeters with wireless displays, such as their model 233.

The key to this project is the FS9721 LP3 chip by Fortune Semiconductor. (PDF link) The FS9721 is essentially a system on chip (SOC) for multimeters. It contains a digital to analog to digital converter, an LCD driver, and a microcontroller. It also can send data out over a 2400 baud serial link. Two of [Ken’s] multimeters, the Digitek DT-4000ZC and a Fluke 17B, both have this chip. The Digitek has a 1/8″ plug for connecting to the outside world, while the Fluke requires some simple hardware mods to enable data output.

Since this was his entry for the Trinket EDC contest,  [Ken] connected the serial output of the FS9721 to an Adafruit Pro Trinket. The Trinket formats the data and sends it to an  nRF24L01+ 2.4GHz radio module. The receiving end has an identical radio, and another Pro Trinket. [Ken] actually built two wireless displays. One is a dual-boot Game Boy advance which has a really slick background on the color display. The other receiver utilizes a 128×64 OLED. The trinket, nRF24L01+ and display all fit neatly inside an Altoids tin.

Click past the break to see both wireless remote displays in action!

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A Modular Thumbstick Extension for Gamers with Disabilities

Hackaday alum [Caleb Kraft] has been busy working on control modifications for gamers with disabilities. His latest release is a modular system of thumbstick extensions for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Since starting The Controller Project, one of [Caleb’s] goals has been to create a system to facilitate the use of analog thumbsticks. Now that he has a few controller mods under his belt, [Caleb] decided to attack the problem head on. Rather than print a custom adapter for each gamer, he’s created a set of 3D printed extensions which can be mixed and matched to produce the perfect controller mod.

The base fits perfectly over the Xbox thumbstick. The fit is tight enough to stand up to some serious gaming, but can be easily removed with no permanent change to the controller. Extensions stack on top of the base to build up a large easy to grasp stick. There are straight and angled extensions to accommodate specific disabilities. The stick can be capped off with a rounded tip or an easy to grip knob. The exertions are designed to fit together loosely for testing. Once the gamer finds a perfect stack of extensions, a bit of glue locks everything together.

The best part is that [Caleb] has released the files for the entire system. 3D printers are becoming common enough that nearly everyone has access to a printer, or knows someone who does.  Click past the break to see [Caleb] demonstrate the modular thumbstick extension system!

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