RPi Show and Tell Saturday and NYC Meetup on Monday

Join Hackaday for the vanguard of cool emerging technologies next week at our meetup in New York.

Like all our meetups, we’ve gathered some of the neatest technologists to spill the beans on what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Madison Maxey, founder of Loomia and designer of soft, blinky circuits will be there. Dr. Ellen Jorgensen, co-founder and executive director of Genspace, the citizen science biotech ‘hackerspace’ in the heart of New York will be there too. Kari Love & Matthew Borgatti of Super-Releaser, most famous for their super cute pneumatic soft robots will also be there. It’s still up in the air if we’ll be racing these robots. Of course there will also be opportunities for you to present a lightning talk at the meetup.

enlightenpiThe meetup will be at Pivotal Labs, 625 Ave of the Americas, on Monday, October 24 starting at 6:30 PM. An RSVP is required, so if you’re coming head on over to the Meetup page.

Live Video Show and Tell on Saturday

This Saturday join us online for a special show and tell all about Raspberry Pi projects from 7-8p EDT (UTC-4). Hosted by Limor Fried of Adafruit and Sophi Kravitz from Hackaday. This live show is hosted on our YouTube channel and will feature projects from our giant collection of Raspberry Pi projects on Hackaday.io and entries in the Enlightened Raspberry Pi contest.

A lot of people have already signed up for the Show and Tell but we do still have some time left for your project. Email sophi@hackaday.com to get on the list.

Navigation Thing: Four Days, Three Problems, and Fake Piezos

The Navigation Thing was designed and built by [Jan Mrázek] as part of a night game activity for high school students during week-long seminar. A night-time path through a forest had stations with simple tasks, and the Navigation Thing used GPS, digital compass, a beeper, and a ring of RGB LEDs to provide a bit of “Wow factor” while guiding a group of students from one station to the next. The devices had a clear design direction:

“I wanted to build a device which a participant would find, insert batteries, and follow the beeping to find the next stop. Imagine the strong feeling of straying in the middle of the night in an unknown terrain far away from civilization trusting only a beeping thing you found. That was the feeling I wanted to achieve.”

The Navigation Things (there are six in total) guide users to fixed waypoints with GPS, a digital compass, and a ring of WS2812 LEDs — but the primary means of feedback to the user is a beeping that gets faster as you approach the destination. [Jan] had only four days to make all six units, which was doable. But as most of us know, delivering on a tight deadline is often less about doing the work you know about, and more about effectively handling the unexpected obstacles that inevitably pop up in the process.

Continue reading “Navigation Thing: Four Days, Three Problems, and Fake Piezos”

Are Today’s Engineers Worse?

Today’s engineers are just as good as the ones that came before, but that should not be the case and there is massive room for improvement. Improvement that can be realized by looking for the best of the world to come and the one we left behind.

Hey kids! Let's learn why the CE certifications exist!
Hey kids! Let’s learn why the CE certifications exist!

Survivorship bias is real. When we look at the accomplishments of the engineers that came before us we are forced to only look at the best examples. It first really occurred to me that this was real when I saw what I still consider to be the most atrocious piece of consumer oriented engineering the world has yet seen: the Campbell’s soup warmer.

This soup warmer is a poor combination of aluminum and Bakelite forged into the lowest tier of value engineering during its age. Yet it comes from the same time that put us on the moon: we still remember and celebrate Apollo. It’s possible that the soup warmer is forgotten because those who owned it perished from home fires, electrocution, or a diet of Campbell’s soup, but it’s likely that it just wasn’t worth remembering. It was bad engineering.

In fact, there’s mountains of objects. Coffee pots whose handles fell off. Switches that burned or shocked us. Cars that were ugly and barely worked. Literal mountains of pure refuse that never should have seen the light of day. Now we are here.

The world of engineering has changed. My girlfriend and I once snuck into an old factory in Louisville, Kentucky. The place was a foundry and the only building that survived the fire that ended the business. It happened to be where they stored their professional correspondence and sand casting patterns. It was moldy, dangerous, and a little frightening but I saw something amazing when we cracked open one of the file cabinets. It was folders and folders of all the communication that went into a single product. It was an old enough factory that some of it was before the widespread adoption of telephony and all documents had to be mailed from place to place.

Continue reading “Are Today’s Engineers Worse?”

Brew a Cup of Coffee Without Electricity!

So, wether you’ve blown your house’s breakers while cranking up the power on your latest project or a storm has brought low the local power grid, what do you do if you desperately need coffee with no electricity to power your coffee maker? Make like [austiwawa]: crack it open and bust out the tea lights.

Removing the bottom of the coffee maker is simply done, exposing the resistance heating element. Improvising a jig to hold the coffee maker over an arrangement of five tea lights, the candle flames slowly do the work of heating the element to set the maker in motion.

It’s a solution for after the apocalypse… as long as you can find tea lights, coffee plus a grinder, and for some reason don’t want to use the quick and efficient method of brewing over an actual fire (though kitchen hearths are a rarity these days). Now we kind of want to see this adapted for all kinds of other heat sources. Reflected sunlight anyone?

Continue reading “Brew a Cup of Coffee Without Electricity!”

How To Find, Buy, And Renovate A Titan II Missile Silo

Why would you want to live in a missile silo is the wrong question. Why wouldn’t you want to live in a missile silo is the right question. You’ll have weird, antiquated machinery hanging above your head, a great reason to change your name to ‘Zephram’, and living underground is much more ecologically sound, in any event.

For a certain class of people, the benefits of living in a missile silo are self-evident, but no one has really gone through the process of documenting all those unanswered questions. How do you buy a missile silo? How do you re-commission it and turn it into livable space? Is it even possible to get a bank to sign onto this? All these questions and more are being answered by a relatively new YouTube channel, [Death Wears Bunny Slippers].

In 2010, the creator of this channel decided to buy a missile silo. He ended up with a Titan II missile silo that was decommissioned in spring of 1986. In its prime, this missile silo held a single Titan II, pointed at a target over the pole, a three-story access tunnel, and a hardened command and control pod capable of keeping a few airmen alive after the apocalypse.

[DWBS] has been working on this project for a half-decade now, and what’s been shown so far is impressive. When this missile silo was decommissioned, the Air Force dropped a bunch of broken concrete down the access shaft, tore down the top 10 or so feet of the access tunnel, and generally made a huge mess of the place. After renting an excavator, [DWBS] was able to turn this hole filled with crap into a blank canvas.

Already, [DWBS] has been working on his missile silo home for years, and video updates are coming in at a rate of about one per week. The project is great, and a perfect example of a rare, strange, yet unbelievably interesting genre of YouTube channels: the huge, multi-year build broken up into weekly segments. If you’re looking for projects similar in scope, check out SV Seeker, the project that’s building a Chinese junk in the middle of Oklahoma, or the Camberghini, an abortion of an MX-5 designed to make you irrationally angry. Buying and refitting a missile silo is a step above any of these projects, and over the next weeks and months will make for spectacular YouTubing.

Below, you can check out the two most interesting videos to date – opening the access tunnel to the silo and draining all the water.

Continue reading “How To Find, Buy, And Renovate A Titan II Missile Silo”

Hackaday Prize Entry: 3D Prints For The Visually Impaired

Students with visual impairments can have difficulty with visual and spatial relationships. 3D printers can print almost everything, and with a lot of CAD work, this project in the Hackaday Prize provides these students with physical objects to learn any subject.

[Joan] and [Whosawhatsis] have already written the book on 3D printed science projects and have produced a 3D printed Braille map of a campus, but for this project, they’re making things a little bit simpler. Visually impaired students are tactile learners and the simplest of their 3D printable objects are fixed volume objects. This collection of 3D printable cylinders, cones, prisms, and pyramids give a physical representation of geometric solids. These objects also have another trick up their sleeve: they all contain the same volume. Fill the cylinder up with water, pour that water into a cone, and the student will discover that they all contain the same volume.  That’s useful for the visually impaired, but would also put these printable shapes at home in any elementary or middle school math class.

This project already has a rather large following, with teachers of the visually impaired contributing on a Google Group, and a ton of people downloading the models. [Joan] and [Whosawhatsis] are getting a lot of great feedback and growing the range of contributors, making this the start of an awesome community and a great Hackaday Prize entry.

Dumb Terminals And Raspberry Pis

Back in the old days, the cool kids didn’t have an Apple II or a Trash-80. The cool kids had jobs, and those jobs had Vaxxen all over the place. The usual way of working with a Vax would have been a terminal, a VT220 at least, or in the case of [Sudos]’ experiments with a Raspberry Pi, A DEC VT510, a single session, text only serial terminal.

Usually, when we see a ‘new hardware stuffed into old tech’ project like this, the idea is simply to find a use for the old hardware. That makes sense; a dumb terminal from the late 90s should be a bit rarer than a Raspberry Pi Zero. This is not the case for [Sudos]’s build. He recently came across a few Raspberry Pi Zeros at Microcenter, and looking for a use for them, he decided to turn a serial terminal into a Real Unix System™.

As you would expect from a serial terminal, connecting a Raspberry Pi and putting some awesome character graphics on the screen is as simple as a Max3232 board picked up from eBay, a WiFi dongle, and an Ethernet adapter. Connect the Pi to the terminal with a serial adapter cable, and you’re off to the races.

While the VT510 serial terminal is just about the end of the line as far as dedicated terminals go, there are classier options. The VT100 terminal, older than most of the Hackaday readership, features a port on its gigantic board, meant to connect to whatever weirdness was coming out of Maynard in the late 70s. You can attach a BeagleBone to this connector, making for a very slick stealth mod.