Projects For Solving Big Water Problems

We’re looking for solutions to problems that matter and water waste is high on that list. This week we challenged you to think about Big Water; ideas that could help conserve the water used in agricultural and industrial applications. Take a look at some of the entries, get excited, and start working on your own idea for the 2015 Hackaday Prize.


smart-dewpoint-harvesterThat’s right, windtraps. Like the Fremen of Arrakis there were a few hackers who propose systems to pull moisture from the air.

The RainMaker is targeted for urban farming and explores the possibility of passive systems that water themselves automatically. [Hickss] admits that there are some limitations to the concept. Small systems would have limited ability to collect moisture and a need for direct sunlight in order to be solar powered. However, if you’re growing food we figure direct sunlight was a pre-requisite anyway.

On a bit grander scale is the Smart Dew-Point Water Harvester which is shown off in this diagram. The proof of concept at this point is a desktop system that collects moisture on a small heat-sync. Scroll down to that project’s comments and read about the possibility of building the system underground to take advantage of the naturally colder area.

For us the interesting question is can this be done in conjunction with traditional irrigation? Is a lot of irrigation water lost to evaporation and could reclamation through these means make an impact?

Moisture Sensing

water-sensing-orb-thumbSimple but powerful: only water when the plants need it! Here are several entries focused on sensors that make sure fields are being watered more efficiently.

The Adaptive Watering System focuses on this, seeking to retrofit current setups with sensor pods that make up a mesh network. We found the conjecture about distributing and retrieving these pods using a combine harvester quite interesting.

Going along with the networked concept there is a Moisture Monitoring Mesh Network which proposes individual solar-powered spikes. Much of the info for that project is embodied in the diagram, including a mock-up of how the data could be visualized. One thing we hadn’t spent much time thinking about is that fields may be watered unevenly and a sensor network would be a powerful tool in balancing these systems.

Wrapping up this concept is the Soil Moisture Sensor for Agriculture. [JamesW_001] rendered the image seen above as his concept for the sensor. Toss the orbs throughout the fields and the rings of contacts on the outside make up the sensor while the brains held safely inside report back wirelessly.


solar-water-pumpTwo projects tackled plumbing. The first is the Solar Water Pump seen here. Focused on the developing world, this array provides water for multiple applications, including agricultural irrigation, and can be used for wells or surface water sources.

Once that pump gets the water moving it will be taking a trip through some pipes which are another potential source of waste. When buried pipes leak, how will you know about it? That’s the issue tackled by the Water Pipeline Leak Detection and Location project. When the water pipe is buried, two sets of twisted-pair conductors in permeable sheathing are also buried along with it. These redundant sensors would use Time-Domain Reflectometry (TDR) to detect the location of a short between conductors. We’re a bit fuzzy on how this would detect leaks and not rain or irrigation water but perhaps the pipe/wire pairs would be in their own water-shedding sleeve?

This Week’s Winners


First place this week goes to the Smart Garden and will receive a DSLogic 16-channel Logic Analyzer.

Second place this week goes to Soil Moisture Sensor for Agriculture and will receive an Adafruit Bluefruit Bluetooth Low Energy sniffer.

Third place this week goes to Solar Water Pump and will receive a Hackaday robot head tee.

Next Week’s Theme

We’ll announce next week’s theme a bit later today. Don’t let that stop you from entering any ideas this collection of entries may have inspired. Start your project on and add the tag 2015HackadayPrize.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hackaday part of TechCrunch NY Hackathon

The Hackaday Prize Worldwide is coming to New York! Hackaday is adding a hardware-centric twist to the TechCrunch Disrupt in May. They’re kicking off the conference with a weekend hackathon which traditionally has been a software event. This year Hackaday is partnering with TC to make a change. If you’re a software-only sort of person, grabbing a ticket to the event is extremely tough. But those Hackaday community members who want to prove they can make electrons do their bidding still have hope; Hackaday can get you in!

Twenty Hours of Hardware

Show up at 12:30pm on Saturday, May 2nd. By 9:30am the next morning you must have a working piece of hardware having been totally built on-site. Starting at 11am on Sunday you have 60-seconds to show off your build. We’re not kidding around when we say the judging criteria for this hackathon is “Awesomeness”. TC is putting up $5,000 to the winning team. Obviously someone who hangs out around Hackaday should be the winner here so go sign up!

Ticket Registration is a Hack:

TC hackathon tickets are released in shifts and gobbled up immediately, but because you are a friend of Hackaday we’ll can get you in for some epic hardware hacking. Even signing up is a bit of hack but here’s how:

  1. Follow this link which includes a promo code to get a Hackers – Friends of TC ticket
  2. Form/Find a team (up to 5 people) in advance through ChallengePost or you may do so onsite. You’ll notice the tags are software-related so put in “other” and add “hardware” and specific tags you can think of.

The Hardware

We’ll be bringing the basics: lots of dev boards, sensor breakout boards, and tools you need to hook them together. We’ll be posting information about the items we are bringing on our Hackaday Prize Worldwide: New York City page. Make sure you check in for updates so that you can familiarize yourself with what we’ll have on-hand. It is highly recommended that you set up any IDE or other dev tools before arriving at the event.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Caption CERN Contest Week 10

We had some great entries in the Caption CERN Contest this week. A huge thanks goes out to everyone who entered.  The jury is still out as to whether the gentleman on the left is a CERN staffer, or a Morlock caught on camera. Our eagle-eyed readers picked out some things we didn’t even notice at first blush – like the strange foreshortening of the “pipe smoking dude’s” right leg. (Yes, he is officially known as pipe smoking dude here at Hackaday HQ). We spotted him again in this image, and he’s in almost exactly the same pose!

The Funnies:

  • “Billy looked on as the James, the workplace bully, was about to walk in to Billy’s electrified puddle of water..” – [Leonard]
  • “This is Bob. Bob made a BAD ENGINEERING MISTAKE. Bob is going to spend some time in THE CORNER. Corners are not easy to find in a ring, so this is Bob’s BAD CORNER.?” – [ca5m1th]
  • “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. His name was Boson Baggins and he had a great fondness for pipe weed and protons.” – [shlonkin]

The winner for this week is [Greg Kennedy] with “You call that a moonwalk? Stand back, Edmund, and let me show you how it’s done.”  If [Greg’s] name sounds familiar, that’s because he used some creative web scraping to compile the unofficial stats for the 2014 Hackaday prize. They were pretty interesting, so we featured them right here on the blog. [Greg] will be hacking in style wearing his new Robot T-Shirt From The Hackaday Store!

On to week 10!cern-10-sm

There’s something for everyone in this image from CERN’s achieves. Gas bottles, chemicals, huge concrete blocks, high voltage wires, and a rather surprised looking scientist. What sort of experiment would require this sort of shielding? What is the photographer standing on? Most importantly, is that a keg of beer hiding under the table to the right?

Add your humorous caption as a comment to this project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the project log, not on the project itself.

As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Good Luck!

Aging in Place Prize Projects that Made us say Wow

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is all about solutions to problems affecting a large number of people, and aging touches everyone. This week we were on the lookout for the entries best addressing the problem of Aging in Place. This means being able to live in your home and community independently and comfortably as one ages. It is as important to the aging as it is to their friends and family; a topic well worth your hacking skills and engineering brilliance.

Monitor Warning Signs

There were several entries that focused on monitoring for out-of-the-ordinary behavior. The Personal Medical Assistant seeks to leverage the sensor array and computing power of smartphones combined with ancillary data harvesting from things like an ECG chest band or a pulse oximeter watch. The idea is to watch for a series of precursors to health emergencies and warn both the person being monitored and their support network of family or caretakers.

The whimsically title Ye Oldie Monitor focuses on a similar idea with a more passive role. The concept suggests a base-station and a series of remote monitors throughout the living area, like PIR motion sensors, to alert for notable variations on a person’s normal day-to-day activities. In a similar vein the LiteHouse project would retrofit the household lighting fixtures with motion detectors. These automatically light each area to help prevent low-light accidents like falls, while also monitoring for signs of duress.

Solving the Communication Barrier

being-thre-with-pi-thumbWatching out for each other is complicated by distance.  We saw a few entries that try to alleviate that, like the Being There with Pi project. Smartphones and computers are a great way to communicate, until you need help making your smartphone or computer work in order to do so. This project looks at developing a dedicated video conferencing system based around the Rasperry Pi. The point is to develop an excruciatingly simple, robust form of live video communications.

julias-speakerphoneContinuing on the note of simplified communications is Julia’s Speakerphone project. [Julia] is living with multiple sclerosis that has resulted in her being bed bound for almost a decade. Making phone calls has been both rare and leaves us wondering why this sort of solution isn’t already in wide adoption. The solution is a combination of a Bluetooth hands-free calling module, Android tablet, Skype a pay-as-you-go cellphone, and an interesting button hack for [Julia] to activate the hand’s free. It is crafted with leaf switches and polymorph and worn as a bracelet. The proof of concept is there and we can’t wait to see this evolve into a more robust and extensible solution.

This Week’s Winners


First place this week goes to the Personal Medical Assistant and will receive a RE:load Pro programmable constant current load.

Second place this week goes to Julia’s Speakerphone and will receive a Sparkfun Microview.

Third place this week goes to Being There with Pi and will receive a Hackaday CRT-android head tee.

Next Week’s Theme

We’ll announce next week’s theme a bit later today. Don’t let that stop you from entering any ideas this collection of entries may have inspired.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Hack the Home

Live in Kentucky? Want to invent the next big thing for the kitchen, like the automated ice maker? Well, you’re in luck. GE is hosting a massive hackathon at their microfactory called FirstBuild which is located in Louisville, Kentucky. Unfortunately it looks like pre-registration is already closed.

The concept of FirstBuild is pretty cool. GE has created what they like to call a microfactory for innovating new products in small production runs to flush out good ideas. We’d call it more of a corporate hackerspace with some serious funding. Regardless of their motives, it’s still a cool concept. And they have some awesome toys, er, tools.

The event is being sponsored by lots of big names like Intel, Atmel, TI, Freescale, MakerBot and even Autodesk — and the prizes aren’t too shabby either! Though for the really big prizes you’ll need to stick with us.

We have to wonder — what happens when GE sees an idea they like? Hopefully it results in a sweet job.

Continue reading “Hack the Home”

Hack a Lock, Get a Free Car?

No, we’re not talking about any lock, or car for that matter. The creators of Loxet are so confident in their product, a smart lock for your car, they’ve issued a challenge to the world. If you can defeat it, you can keep the car — sadly the car isn’t anything special though.

The device, after installed on your vehicle, gives you a taste of the premium lifestyle of fancy push-to-start vehicles. It automatically unlocks your vehicle when you come near with your cellphone, and only your cellphone. It also has the option to give access to friends and family using an invite system. It controls ignition access, and works as a proximity lock.

The car is located at ul. Straszewskiego 14 in Krakow. If you’re not from Poland, [Matt] recommends you team up with a local to try your hack. The alternate prize (if you’re not from Poland or don’t want the car) is $2000.

The car is just sitting there. We’d love to see some 1st person attempts from any of our Polish readers living in Krakow! It is currently set to unlock and lock every 10 minutes. You might be able to get into the vehicle — but will you be able to take it? Let us know!

Continue reading “Hack a Lock, Get a Free Car?”

Caption CERN Contest is a GO for Week 9

Thanks for another week of great entries in the Caption CERN Contest over at! We still aren’t sure if our CERN staffer is looking at that machine pensively, amorously, or with a bit of confusion, but you all found some great words to go with the image!

The Funnies:

  • “Dr. Breman’s early attempts to create the perfect robot woman had some early success, but was later scrapped do to a tragic input/output error.” – Terry Davis
  • “You were supposed to be intelligent, my dear. What do you mean by segfault?” –elias.alberto
  • “CERN’s pioneering computer dating service didn’t quite work out as expected.” – Nick Johnson

The winner for this week is Stripeytype with the quote seen in the top image of this article. Stripeytype will be sporting a CRT head T-Shirt From The Hackaday Store at their next hackerspace meeting.

cern-9-smWe’re not done searching out they mysteries of CERN’s history. Week 9 of the Caption CERN Contest has just begun! 

Some of CERN’s experiments take place in the miles of tunnels below their labs in and around Meyrin, on the border of France and Switzerland. It looks like this image was taken in one of those tunnels. It’s definitely an interesting shot. CERN’s documentation for the image has been lost to history, so it’s up to you to explain what’s going on here! Add your humorous caption as a comment to the project log. Make sure you’re commenting on the log, not on the project itself. As always, if you actually have information about the image or the people in it, let CERN know on the original image discussion page.

Good Luck!