Chill with Hackaday this Saturday after BAMF

It’s that time of year again, the pilgrimage to see and be seen in the Bay Area for Maker Faire. We’re excited to explore what people have been feverishly trying to finish up over the last weeks and months. But all that rubbernecking is tiring, and it makes us thirsty. It is with great joy that we officially announce Hackaday’s Second Annual BAMF Meetup.

Last year we closed our eyes and landed a finger on the Google Map. Further inspection revealed our digit had landed on O’Neil’s Irish Pub. It’s just our kind of place, nice with a comforting hint of dive-bar, plenty of seating, and a great drink selection. So we’re doing it again this year.

We’ll be there on Saturday starting at 7pm. Be so kind as to RSVP just to tell us know you’re coming. We love seeing what hardware people bring; last year we oohed and aahed over a top-secret smartphone prototype shown off alongside all the home-builds people were pulling out of pockets and backpacks.

You have to do something with your Saturday nights… This decision is an easy one to make. See you in a few days!

PicoRico Hacks String Encoder for Bike Suspension Telemetry

It’s simple, it’s elegant, and it works really really well. The PicoRico team built a telemetry system for a downhill bike. Off the top of your head how would you do this? Well, telemetry is easy… just add an IMU board and you’re golden. They went beyond that and have plans to go much further. In fact, the IMU was an afterthought. The gem of this build is a sensor that may go by several names: string encoder, draw wire sensor, stringpot, etc. But two things are for sure, they planned well for their hackathon build and they executed on that plan. This landed them as first-runners-up for the top award at the 2015 Disrupt Hackathon in New York, and the winners of the top Hackaday award at the event.

picorico-thumb[Chris], [Marek], and [Dorian] wanted to log all the telemetry data from [Chris’] downhill bike. One of the biggest challenges is to measure the force absorbed by the suspension on the front fork. The three had seen a few attempts at this before. Those used a retractable wire like what holds keys to a custodian’s belt, mated with a potentiometer to measure the change. This is where the term stringpot comes from. The problem is that your resolution and sensitivity aren’t very reliable with this setup.

That is a sensor problem, not a mechanical problem so they kept the retractable reel and replaced the pot with a much more reliable part. In its place an AMT203 absolute position sensor provides an epic level of sensing. According to the datasheet (PDF) this SPI device senses 12 bits of rotation data, can be zeroed over the SPI bus, and is accurate to 0.2 degrees. Unfortunately we didn’t get a good up-close shot of the installation but it is shown in the video. The encoder and retractor mount above the shocks, with the string stretching down to the skewer. When the shocks actuate, the string extends and retracts, turning the absolute encoder. Combine this with the IMU (and two other IMUs they plan to add) and you’ve got a mountain of data to plot and analyze. The videos after the break show a demo of the string encoder and an interview with the team.

picorico-packing-heavyThey came to play

It’s worth noting that the PicoRico team were in this to win it. They packed heavy for the 20-hour hackathon. Here’s a picture of all the gear they brought along with them to the event… in addition to the bike itself.

We see a solder station, Dremel (with drill press), impact driver, tap and die set, extension cords, boxes full of electronics, and more. This type of planning breaks down barriers often faced at hardware hackathons. You can download a software library; you can’t download a tool or building material that nobody has with them. This is the same lesson we learned from [Kenji Larsen] who, as part of his mentoring at the event, brought a mobile fabrication facility in a roller bag.

If you start getting into hackathons, and we hope you will, keep this in mind. Brainstorm as much as you can leading up to the event, and bring your trusted gear along for the ride.

Continue reading “PicoRico Hacks String Encoder for Bike Suspension Telemetry”

How To Make Hardware, With Examples And An Electric Pickle

Right now we’re throwing a two-day hackathon in Pasadena. As with all hackathons, people are going to build something, but that’s only going to happen today. Yesterday was an incredible Zero to Product talk that goes over PCB layout techniques, manufacturing, and schematic capture. In a seven hour talk, our own [Matt Berggren] took the audience through building a product, in this case a little ESP8266 breakout board. We livestreamed this; the video (and electric pickles) are below.

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Live Now: 2015 Hackaday Prize Worldwide: LA

Right now we’re throwing a huge workshop, meetup, and hackathon in Pasadena.

Events include a ‘Zero to Product’ workshop that will take everyone through PCB design, manufacturing techniques, CAM, soldering, testing, and blowing up caps and releasing blue smoke. You can check out the live stream of that here (or below).

Later on this evening, we’ll be having a few short talks from some LA-area hackers, builders and engineers.

Tomorrow is Open Hack Day, where the Hackaday Design Lab will have tables filled with components, dev boards, soldering irons, and enough blinkey stuff to blind someone. Live stream below.

Continue reading “Live Now: 2015 Hackaday Prize Worldwide: LA”

Hardware You Might See in a Bar in New York

Our New York City trip for the TechCrunch hackathon is just about wrapped up, and this weekend we’re hosting a hardware hackathon at the Hackaday Design Lab in Pasadena, but there’s still one more event from NYC left to cover: our drink-up in the city.

Our drink-up took over about 90% of the Antler Beer and Wine Dispensary, with the usual, not electronically enabled patrons sufficiently annoyed.

datarecorderWhile this meetup was really just a meet-and-greet pregame for the TechCrunch hackathon, and not a proper ‘bring a hack’, that didn’t stop a few people from toting out some very cool hardware. [Katie Fortunato] trucked out a flight data recorder (or an airplane’s black box, painted orange for visibility) that is supposedly from a 747.

This flight data recorder keeps relevant data on a loop of mylar tape. We didn’t crack into that part of the black box, but we did manage to dig into the electronics. Very weird stuff in there; the control electronics have a backplane design, where each card has a connector that’s basically 2 rows of 50 or 75 female pin sockets. These cards aren’t keyed in any way, and they must be placed in the backplane in a certain order. The circuits are extremely simple; just a mix of op-amps, 74- and 54-series logic (no, we can’t figure that one out, either), buffers, and inverters. The latest date code was some time in the early 80s, and all the boards had a conformal coating on them. There’s a weird connector on the outside of the black box [Katie] promises to document on her hackaday.io profile.

Also at the event were a few folks from NYC Resistor, a few people from the IoTGotham meetup, some of the crew from littleBits. Somewhere in the pictures below is a Ms. PacMan/Galaga cabinet. Yes, I tested the bee overflow cheat, it works, but the high score was above 500,000.

Continue reading “Hardware You Might See in a Bar in New York”

Hamvention 2015, Less Than One Week Away!

The largest amateur radio and electronics swap meet on the planet is less than one week away.  Will you be there?

The Dayton Hamvention has been an annual swap meet since 1952.  There were 24,873 attendees during last year’s hamvention alone, that is a huge number of radio enthusiasts in one place!

For those of you interested in using vintage and used test equipment you can find anything at Hamvention.  I built my entire laboratory form equipment purchased here.   It has often been said, ‘if you can’t find it at Hamvention you don’t need it.’

This year Scott Pastor (KC8KBK) and I will be covering Hamvention for Hackaday.  We plan to provide one update after each day of Hamvention summarizing the day’s events.  We hope to see you in Dayton next week!

Two Saturdays of Fun with Hackaday

Shake off the work week with Hackaday. Tomorrow we kick off Hackaday Prize Worldwide: LA. This is a Zero to Product workshop, a meetup, and a free build day. The workshop and build sessions are full-full-full but you can still get in on social hour Saturday night. Please send us your RSVP. Full details on the weekend’s festivities are on our event page on Hackaday.io.

2nd Annual Bay Area Maker Faire Meetup

There are a ton of cool people descending on the Bay Area for Maker Faire in about a week, are you one of them? If so, join us at O’Neil’s for our second annual meetup! We’ll belly up to the bar starting at 7pm on the 16th. There will be several of the Hackaday crew there and we’re bring swag along with us. But the real attraction is all of the great hackers who show up. To get on the guest list you simply need to tell us you’re coming.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: