Low-cost Drift Buoy Plies the Atlantic for Nearly a Year

Put a message in a bottle and toss it in the ocean, and if you’re very lucky, years later you might get a response. Drop a floating Arduino-fied buoy into the ocean and if you’ve engineered it well, it may send data back to you for even longer.

At least that’s what [Wayne] has learned since his MDBuoyProject went live with the launching of a DIY drift buoy last year. The BOM for the buoy reads like a page from the Adafruit website: Arduino Trinket, an RTC, GPS module, Iridium satellite modem, sensors, and a solar panel. Everything lives in a clear plastic dry box along with a can of desiccant and a LiPo battery.

The solar panel has a view through the case lid, and the buoy is kept upright by a long PVC boom on the bottom of the case. Two versions have been built and launched so far; alas, the Pacific buoy was lost shortly after it was launched. But the Atlantic buoy picked up the Gulf Stream and has been drifting slowly toward Europe since last summer, sending back telemetry. A future version aims to incorporate an Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, presumably to report the signals of AIS transponders on nearby ships as they pass.

We like the attention to detail as well as the low cost of this build. It’s a project that’s well within reach of a STEM program, akin to the many high-altitude DIY balloon projects we’ve featured before.

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Air-Powered Wheelchair Goes Like The Wind

Electric wheelchairs are responsible for giving back independence to a great many people the world over. They do have their limitations, however, including long recharge times and a general aversion to large amounts of water. Being weatherproof is one thing, but taking one to a waterpark is another thing entirely. Fear not, for The University of Pittsburgh has the answer: the air-powered wheelchair.

Known as the PneuMobility project, the chair relies on a couple of compressed air tanks as a power source. They appear to be a of composite construction, which would cut down on weight significantly and help reduce risk of injury in the case of a failure. The air is passed through a system of valves to a special compressed air motor, allowing the user to control the direction of travel. Unfortunately details on the drive system are scant — we’d love to know more about the design of the drivetrain! Reportedly a lot of the components come from the local hardware store, though we haven’t seen a whole lot of compressed air drive motors on the racks of Home Depot/Bunnings/et al.

Range for the wheelchairs is listed as about 1/3 of an electric wheelchair but recharging compressed air takes minutes, not hours. Developed by the university’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories, the wheelchair isn’t just a one off. There are plans to supply ten of the machines to the Morgan’s Wonderland amusement park to enable wheelchair users to share in the fun of the water park.

We’ve seen some great wheelchair hacks in the past, too – like this chair built specifically for the sand dunes! Video after the break.

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Hackaday Prize Bring-a-Hack at Make Munich Next Week!

Attention Europe! Next weekend, May 6th and 7th, is Make Munich. Hackaday wants to help you warm up with a Bring-a-Hack party on Friday, May 5th from 20:30 and on at the Munich local branch of the Chaos Computer Club.

Immediately following build-up for exhibitors at Make Munich, head on over to Schleißheimer Str. 41 (corner Heßstrasse, U-Bahn Theresienstraße) where Hackaday will be providing beer, Mate, and pizza for anyone who brings along a small project that they’re working on. We’ll have Hackaday.com and Hackaday Prize stickers galore, and a few copies of the Hackaday Omnibus on hand for those who really wow us, or just ask really nicely.

Afterwards, get a little sleep and then head back over to Make Munich on Saturday morning. We’ll be wandering around at least on Saturday, so if you see anyone in a Hackaday t-shirt, say hi! There is a lot to see.

Unlike other similar fairs, Make Munich is entirely volunteer-run, and a great way to show your support for the local scene is to help out. The deal: hang out with cool people and help run the show for four hours, and you get in free. We’ve heard that they still have some shifts open.

Non-terrible robots.

Saturday night is the Hebocon terrible robot battle, which is always absurd, and always worth the price of admission. (And you’ve already paid that if you’re going to attend on Saturday anyway.) Rules are sumo-esque, and if your lump of, well whatever, moves — it’s a robot and it has a chance. Battle starts at 18:30. Check out the video from last year embedded below.

If you still want more Make Munich, it goes on Sunday as well. We’ll be at home typing up the previous days’ events so the rest of you can read about it while sipping coffee.

Just in case you missed it in all the hubbub, we repeat: Hackaday Prize Bring-a-Hack at μC3, Friday May 5th from 20:30 on.

Come say hi to [Elliot Williams] and all of your other favorite Munich hackers! Bring a hack, show and tell, pizza and beer. And Mate, and probably Spezi. If you’re coming, shout out in the comments, and let us know your favorite toppings. Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Bring-a-Hack at Make Munich Next Week!”

Sous Vide Arduino isn’t Lost in Translation

If your idea of a six-course meal is a small order of chicken nuggets, you might have missed the rise of sous vide among cooks. The idea is you seal food in a plastic pouch and then cook it in a water bath that is held at a precise temperature. That temperature is much lower than you usually use, so the cook times are long, but the result is food that is evenly cooked and does not lose much moisture during the cooking process. Of course, controlling a temperature is a perfect job for a microcontroller and [Kasperkors] has made his own setup using an Arduino for control. The post is in Danish, but Google translate is frighteningly good.

The attractive setup uses an Arduino Mega, a display, a waterproof temperature probe, and some odds and ends. The translation does fall down a little on the parts list, but if you substitute “ground” for “earth” and “soil” you should be safe. For the true epicurean, form is as important as function, and [Kasperkors’] acrylic box with LEDs within is certainly eye-catching. You can see a video of the device, below.

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To Deal with Plastic Trash, All You Need is Bugs

Outlawed now in some places, or only available to tote your purchases at a ridiculous premium, the billions of “T-shirt” bags used every year present a serious waste management problem. Whether blowing across the landscape like synthetic tumbleweeds, floating in the ocean as ersatz jellyfish, or clogging up municipal waste streams, finding a way to deal with them could really make a difference. And finding a bug that eats polyethylene and poops antifreeze might be a great first step in bioremediating the mess.

As with many scientific discoveries, learning about the useful and unexpected eating habits of the larval stage of the Greater Wax Moth Galleria mellonella can be chalked up to serendipity. It began when biochemist [Federica Bertocchini] cleaned a wax moth infestation from her beehive. She put the beeswax-loving pests in a plastic bag, later finding they had chewed their way out. Intrigued, she and [Paolo Bombelli] ran some experiments using the bugs. They showed the mechanism wasn’t just mechanical and that the worms were digesting the polyethylene, to the tune of 92 mg consumed for 100 worms in 12 hours. That’s about 1,000 times faster than bioremediation with bacteria.

Furthermore, the bugs excrete ethylene glycol, a useful industrial chemical, in the process. Finally, to see if the process can scale, the researchers showed that a homogenate of wax moth larvae could digest PE sheets. This could lead to an industrial process if the enzymes involved can be isolated and engineered. The letter describing the process is a fascinating read.

While this one may not a classically hackish way to deal with plastic recycling, the potential for this method is huge. We look forward to seeing where this goes.

[Images: César Hernández/CSIC]

Stealing Cars for 20 Bucks

[Yingtao Zeng], [Qing Yang], and [Jun Li], a.k.a. the [UnicornTeam], developed the cheapest way so far to hack a passive keyless entry system, as found on some cars: around $22 in parts, give or take a buck. But that’s not all, they manage to increase the previous known effective range of this type of attack from 100 m to around 320 m. They gave a talk at HITB Amsterdam, a couple of weeks ago, and shown their results.

The attack in its essence is not new, and it’s basically just creating a range extender for the keyfob.  One radio stays near the car, the other near the car key, and the two radios relay the signals coming from the car to the keyfob and vice-versa. This version of the hack stands out in that the [UnicornTeam] reverse engineered and decoded the keyless entry system signals, produced by NXP, so they can send the decoded signals via any channel of their choice. The only constraint, from what we could tell, it’s the transmission timeout. It all has to happen within 27 ms. You could almost pull this off over Internet instead of radio.

The actual keycode is not cracked, like in a HiTag2 attack. It’s not like hacking a rolling key keyfob either. The signals are just sniffed, decoded and relayed between the two devices.

A suggested fix from the researchers is to decrease this 27 ms timeout. If it is short enough, at least the distance for these types of attacks is reduced. Even if that could eventually mitigate or reduce the impact of an attack on new cars, old cars are still at risk.  We suggest that the passive keyless system is broken from the get-go: allowing the keyfob to open and start your car without any user interaction is asking for it. Are car drivers really so lazy that they can’t press a button to unlock their car? Anyway, if you’re stuck with one of these systems, it looks like the only sure fallback is the tinfoil hat. For the keyfob, of course.

[via Wired]

Help Wanted: Open Source Oscilloscope on Rigol Hardware

We’ve often heard (and said) if you can’t hack it, you don’t own it. We noticed that [tmbinc] has issued a call for help on his latest project: developing new firmware and an FPGA configuration for the Rigol DS1054Z and similar scopes. It isn’t close to completion, but it isn’t a pipe dream either. [tmbinc] has successfully booted Linux.

There’s plenty left to do, though. He’s loading a boot loader via JTAG and booting Linux from the USB port. Clearly, you’d want to flash all that. Linux gives him use of the USB port, the LCD, the network jack, and the front panel LEDs and buttons. However, all of the actual scope electronics, the FPGA functions, and the communications between the processor and the FPGA are all forward work.

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