Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Workbench Projects Bengaluru

Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) is a town full of awesome hackers. So when Workbench Projects, a local maker space there, asked if I’d like to come down and talk about the Hackaday Prize, I immediately set things in motion. We decided to arrange a “Bring-a-Hack” event, asking local makers to turn up with their hacks and give a talk or drop by and discuss ideas that matter. To reach out to a larger audience, we also partnered with IoT-BLR, a pretty large group of IoT enthusiasts in Bengaluru. 10,000 Startups (NASSCOM for Startups) helped ensure that all the hackers were well fed with sandwiches and cookies while Paper Boat chipped in with a cooler full of beverages.  A freak hail storm meant that we had to delay the start a bit. But that turned into a blessing of sorts, as it allowed those already at the space to check out the hacks that had been set up at demo tables and generally network with each other.

almost 100 Hackers turned up
almost 100 Hackers turned up

[Anupama], who set up Workbench Projects with [Pavan], set the ball rolling by telling us about how it all started off a year ago. She and [Pavan] had ideas buzzing in their heads, but no means to prototype them. “You can either continue cribbing about the lack of maker spaces, or jump right in and start one on your own”.

We then had [Pavan] tell us about the various “studios” that they have set up. He was also excited to announce their addition to the world-wide MIT FabLab network. Their space is located right under the escalator that goes to the Halasuru Metro Station. The use of that space, which would other wise have been wasted and empty, itself is brilliant.

I stepped up and talked about the Hackaday Prize and our call to makers this year to “Build something that matters”. I showed off last years winners, this years prizes and gave out other details asking the assembled hackers to jump in and submit their hacks to the Hackaday Prize. Next up we had [Nihal], who founded IoT-BLR and talked to us about their projects, events and initiatives. IoT-BLR is the 3rd largest IoT-focused Meetup community in the world.

With that done, we opened up the floor for the assembled hackers to come forth and talk about their hacks. First up was [Anmol Agrawal] who showed off his earthquake early warning system which was prototyped using Littlebits, PubNub and Ruby.

I was glad that at short notice, my friend [Mohammed Khasim], who works at Linnaro, agreed to drop by to talk about and show off the modular phone being developed by Google as part of Project Ara.

Intelligent cane for blind

The all-girls team of [Kruti], [Chitra] and [Archana] showed off their intelligent cane for the blind. Five ultrasonic ping sensors, one light sensor and a camera are all hooked up to a Raspberry Pi running off a battery pack. The cane communicates with a paired smart phone and the app provides audio cues. There’s also a pager motor for haptic feedback.

[Rahul] and his team showed up with what looked like the Iron-Man Arc Reactor on a T-shirt. It turned out to be an HID device that could be used to send key presses back to a paired computer. Their next iteration was less flashy and unobtrusive. They are now working on using this to provide safety for school kids by allowing them to send alerts in case of an emergency.

 

Drone demo, for collision avoidance

[Chetan] and his team from EdgeVerve showed off the work they are doing with putting various sensors on drones – CO2, temperature, humidity, multi-spectral camera –  to enable them to be used for some real world applications. They have also integrated collision avoidance using cheap ultrasonic sensors and a ballistic parachute which deploys during an emergency.

The IoT-BLR connected cars project team talked about their project to tap into on-board diagnostics on vehicles and use the various sensor data to control pollution.

Kumar Abhishek's BeagleLogic

[Kumar Abhishek] came down just in time to show us his BeagleLogic. I had written about this project on the blog earlier, and it was nice to be able to see it in action.

There were some more projects up for display. [Osho Bajpai] had a demo of his “Smart Driving alert system”  which detects if driver is falling sleep and wakes him up. [Sanju Mathew] demo’ed his prosthetic arm while [Supreet Joshi] showed off his “Smart Robotic Arm”  which replicates the movements of a human arm using a smart glove. On display was also a remote controlled skate board driven by a BLDC motor controlled via the ESC. It was also interesting to see a bunch of school kids wheel in their chopper-inspired bicycle which is still work in progress. Those kids are learning a lot in the process such as ergonomics and welding. [Abdul] showed off a couple of devices he is working on to help harness tidal energy from coastal areas. The team from WiSense showed off some network connected environmental sensors. One measures soil moisture and temperature and transmits data  via text message over GSM. This is aimed for use by Farmers and alerts them to water their farms at the right time. Another sensor worked as a tank level detector and controlled flow rate to prevent over flow.

By this time, it was quite late in the evening, so folks spent the next hour looking up the various projects, talking and getting selfies taken using the OpenSelfie photobooth that I had set up. [Rishi Bhatnagar] from Workbench Projects, who set the whole event in motion, managed to archive the evening’s proceedings and you can watch the (long) video after the break.

Here’s another photo album from the event.

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Logic Noise: Taming the Wild Shift Register

One of the best things about DIY synth building is that you can create devices that just don’t exist in the commercial marketplace. In this session, we’ll build a looper / sequencer the likes of which you may have never seen. And it’s groovy. Today we’ll also get back a little closer to the soul of the series. In this session, nothing is analog — this is pure Logic Noise.

The shift register is the centerpiece chip this session, and a great device in its own right. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so watch the teaser video and then let’s get going.

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Weekend Proves Hardware Wins Hackathons

Teams hacking on hardware won big this weekend in New York. There were ten teams that answered Hackaday’s call as we hosted the first ever hardware hackathon at the Tech Crunch Disrupt NYC. These teams were thrown into the mix with all of the software hackers TC was hosting and rose to the top. Eight out of our ten teams won!

As we suspected, having something physical to show off is a huge bonus compared to those showing apps and webpages alone. Recipe for awesome: Mix in the huge talent pool brought by the hardware hackers participating, then season with a dash of experience from mentors like [Kenji Larson], [Johngineer], [Bil Herd], [Chris Gammell], and many more.

Out of over 100 teams, first runner-up went to PicoRico, which built a data collection system for the suspension of a mountain bike. The Twillio prize went to Stove Top Sensor for Paranoid, Stubburn Older Parents which adds cellphone and web connectivity to the stove, letting you check if you remembered to turn off the burns. The charismatic duo of fifteen-year-olds [Kristopher] and [Ilan] stole the show with their demonstration of Follow Plants which gives your produce a social media presence which you can then follow.

We recorded video and got the gritty details from everyone building hardware during the 20-hour frenzy. We’ll be sharing those stories throughout the week so make sure to check back!

Vintage Computer Festival Europa 16.0: The Hackaday Report

The 16th annual Vintage Computer Festival Europa (VCFe) is still ongoing this weekend in Munich, and of course Hackaday had to swing by. If you’re anywhere in Germany, you’ve still got until Sunday at 16:30 to check it out.

DSCF7896The theme for this year’s festival is “The East is Red Colorful” and that means vintage computers from the other side of the Iron Curtain. Here in (West) Germany, that naturally means a good representation of computers from the former Democratic Republic of Germany (DDR), but Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and of course Russia were also in the house. There was far too much going on to cover it all, but here’s a few of the projects and computers that caught our eye.

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Excruciating Quest Turns Chromebook Pixel IPS Into Exquisite Extra Monitor

[Shen] wanted an extra monitor at his desk, but not just any monitor. He wanted something particularly special and unquestionably refined. Like any super-power-possessing engineer he set out to scratch his hacking itch and was sucked into a multi-year extravaganza. For the love of everything hardware we’re glad this one came in on the weekend. If we had spent all that time drooling during a weekday we’d be so far behind.

The final product is a desktop monitor on an articulated arm. It features a Chromebook Pixel’s IPS display in a custom-crafted case everything. The journey started out with two different LCD units, the first from a Dell L502x replacement display using a generic LVDS board. The results were meh; washed out colors and obvious pixellation, with display adjustments that left [Shen] with a grimace on his mug. Installment two was an iPad Retina display. This iteration required spinning his own boards (resulting in [Shen’s] discovery of OSH Park). Alas, 9.7″ was too small coupled with short-cable-requirements making this version a no-go.

chromebook-pixel-ips-driver-boardAnd so we arrive at the meat and potatoes of this one. [Shen] identified the IPS LCD display on Google’s first Chromebook Pixel laptop as the object of his desire. The hack takes him through sourcing custom display cables, spinning rev after rev of his own board, and following Alice down the rabbit hole of mechanical design. Nothing marginal is good enough for [Shen], we discovered this with his project to get real audio out of a computer. He grinds away at the driver board, the case design, the control presentation, and everything else in the project until perfection was reached. This work of art will stand the test of time as a life fixture and not just an unappreciated workhorse.

This one is not to me missed. Head over to [Shen’s] project entry on Hackaday.io (don’t forget to give him a skull for this) and his blog linked at the top. We need to celebrate not only the people who can pull off such amazing work. But also the ones who do such a great job of sharing the story both for our enjoyment, and to inspire us.

Italian Law Changed by the Hackaday Prize

A recent change in Italian law was spurred by the Hackaday Prize. The old law restricted non-Italian companies from hosting contests in the country. With the update Italian citizens are now welcome to compete for the 2015 Hackaday Prize which will award $500,000 in prizes.

We’ve heard very few complaints about the Hackaday Prize. When we do, it’s almost always because there are some countries excluded from participation. We’ve tried very hard to include as much of the globe as possible, some countries simply must be excluded due to local laws regarding contests. The folks from Make in Italy saw last year’s offer of a Trip into Space or $196,418 and set out to get the local laws changed (translated). Happily they succeeded!

The Make in Italy Foundation was started to encourage and support FabLabs in Italy. After seeing two major Hacker and Maker oriented contests — The 2014 Hackaday Prize and the Intel Make it Wearable contest — exclude Italian citizens from entering. Their two prong approach sought out legal counsel and started a petition on Change.org signed by about 1.8k supporters.

We’ve been holding off on the announcement as we needed our own legal opinion on the change (we’re not great at understanding Italian legal PDFs without some help). But today we have removed Italy from the list of excluded countries. Submit your entry today just by writing down your idea of a build which will solve a problem faced by a large number of people. Build something that matters and you could win a Trip into Space, $100,000 for the ‘Best Product’, or hundreds of other prizes. But we’re not waiting until the end, over the next 17 weeks we’ll be giving out $50k in prizes to hundreds of entries.

[Thanks Alessandro]


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

New 3D Printing Techniques at AMUG 2015

Sometimes there’s a lot of perks to working for a cutting edge tech company while also being a writer here at Hackaday. This week I had the opportunity to attend AMUG 2015 — the Additive Manufacturing User Group conference in Jacksonville, Florida.

I saw companies big and small, checked out the newest techniques like metal printing and mold making, and met a ton of interesting people. Join me after the break for the rundown and a video summary of my experience.

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