Robotic Farms Invade Urban Landscapes

Robotic Urban Farm System

Now there is no excuse to not have a garden, even if you are located in an urban area. The Robotic Urban Farm System (RUFS for short) solves the problems of growing many plants in a small area. The system’s high plant density is attributed to it’s vertical orientation. The entire system is even made from easy to find parts from your local hardware store. The water usage is keep to a minimum thanks to the closed loop watering system. Instead of flowing down into the ground, any excess water is collected and saved for use later.

Plants are placed in holes made in the side of a standard plastic downspout that hangs from a PVC frame, each hole several inches apart from it’s neighbor. A standard plastic plant pot is place inside each hole and is filled with hydroponic media. That’s right, there is no dirt in this system. Plants will grow happily in the hydroponic media providing they get all the nutrients and water they need.

Robotic Urban Farm SystemThe potential urban farmer may not be super excited about tending to his crops. This is where the robot portion of the RUFS system comes into play. There are two control systems that work independantly of each other. The first is for indoor applications and controls light cycles and circulation fans. The second is a little more complex and controls the watering portion of the system. Not only does it water the plants at pre-determined intervals but it also monitors the pH, nutrient and water levels inside the reservoir. Both these systems are Arduino-based. For extreme control freaks, there is one more add-on available. It’s Raspberry Pi based and has an accompanying mobile app. The Pi records and logs sensor data from the Arduinos and also allows remote updating of the watering and light schedules. The mobile app lets you not only look at current conditions of the system but also displays the historical data in a nice visual graph.

Unjettisoned Inkjet Turned Tumbler

printer parts tumblerDon’t throw out that old printer! Not that you would, but even if you’ve already scavenged it for parts, you can use the shell and the rollers to make a rock/coin/what-have-you tumbler. If your printer is part scanner, it might end up looking as cool as [th3_jungle_inv3ntor]‘s. You’ll have to laser-cut your own arachnid to supervise from above, though.

Somewhere between having an irreparable printer, being inspired by another tumbler, and the desire to make a mancala set for his sister-in-law, [th3_jungle_inv3ntor] was sufficiently motivated to get out his hacksaw and gut the printer. He used the main paper roller and its motor to do the tumblin’, and a smaller roller to help accommodate different jar sizes.

Aside from adding those sweet blue LEDs, he wired in a toggle switch, a speed control pot, and an LM317 to govern the tumbling rate. Unfortunately, the rocks in [th3_jungle_inv3ntor]‘s town are too soft and crumbly, so he can’t make that mancala set after all. But hey, (almost) free stuff tumbler.

No dead printers lying around? If you have a drill and a vise, you could always make a tumbler that way, and nothing is compromised but the peaches jar.

Automated Watering System Uses Neat DIY Water Valve

Neat DIY Valve for watering system

[Valentin] is an engineering student and hobbyist gardener. He was planning on going home for a 3 week semester break and certainly could not leave his balcony plants to fend for themselves. The clearly obvious solution was to make an automated watering system!

The most interesting part of this build is the valve. Anyone could have bought an off-the-shelf solenoid valve, not [Valentin], he designed his own. It is simple and just pinches the water supply tube to stop the flow of water coming from the elevated 20-liter water container. The ‘pinching’ arm is raised and lowered by an RC Car servo. When the valve is in the closed position, the servo does not need to continually apply pressure, the servo is powered down and the valve stays closed. This works because when the valve is closed, all forces are acting in a strictly radial direction on the servo’s drive disk. Since there is no rotation force, the drive disk does not rotate and the valve stays closed.

The servo is controlled by a microcontroller. Instead of rotating the servo to a certain degree, the servo rotates until it hits a limit switch. Those limit switches tell the microcontroller that the valve is either in the open or closed position. You must be asking yourself ‘what happens if the limit switch fails and the servo wants to keep rotating?’ [Valentin] thought of that too and has his code measure how long it is taking to reach the limit switch. If that time takes too long, the servo is powered down.

Video below.

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Hydropower from a Washing Mashine

Hydropower Washing Machine

Living off the grid is an appealing goal for many in the hacker community, perhaps because it can fulfill the need to create, to establish independence, to prepare for the apocalypse, or some combination of all those things. [Buddhanz1] has been living off the grid for awhile now by harnessing power from a nearby stream with an old washing-machine-turned-generator.

He started with a Fisher & Paykel smart drive, which he stripped down to the middle housing, retaining the plastic tub, the stator, the rotor, the shaft, and the bearings. After a quick spot check to ensure the relative quality of the stator and the rotor, [Buddhanz1] removed the stator and rewired it. Unchanged, the stator would output 0-400V unloaded at 3-4 amps max, which isn’t a particularly useful range for charging batteries. By rewiring the stator (demonstration video here) he lowered the voltage while increasing the current.

The key to this build is the inclusion of a pelton wheel—which we’ve seen before in a similar build. [Buddhanz1] channeled the water flow directly into the pelton wheel to spin the shaft inside the tub. After adding some silicon sealant and an access/repair hatch, [Buddhanz1] painted the outside to protect the assembly from the sun, and fitted a DC rectifier that converts the electricity for the batteries. With the water pressure at about 45psi, the generator is capable of ~29V/21A: just over 600W. With a larger water jet, the rig can reach 900W. Stick around for the video after the break.

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Extrinsic Motivation: Off-grid Solar System Monitoring Solution

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This solar monitoring project was entered in The Hackaday Prize and didn’t make the semifinal cut, but it is worth featuring on the site because we think that it is pretty cool. The idea started all the way back in May of 2013 when [Michel] was planning to attempt to bring his house totally off the grid in an effort to become as independent from the local Utility company as possible. After a bit of calculating, he figured out that the solar cells on the roof could potentially provide about 80% of the power needed, which of course took into account the lack of sun during the winter months in his area.

[Michel] posts a lot of the technical details on the Hackaday.io page and lists the components that were required to set up this system. At night, a lighting mechanism shows whether the building is being run off of the Photovoltaic (PV) System or if it is getting power from the grid. He states in the projects logs why it is important to monitor the solar cells and provides some amazing graphs of the data that was recorded through the energy-intelligence platform that he integrated into his home. An example can be seen posted below. A few quick specs of the project include the solar field being made of 16 solar modules providing 4300 Wp (Watts – peak) of electrical power. The system comes with a comprehensive remote control as well. We like this idea a lot. Now, would you install something like this up on your own home or office? Let us know in the comments.


SpaceWrencherThis project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.

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Extrinsic Motivation: Daisy Kite Airborne Wind Turbine

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Got another THP entry for ya’ll that didn’t quite make the cut, but is worth sharing. This time we are featuring an airborne wind turbine that, as the project description states, ‘can harvest strong and expansive wind safely and efficiently.’

Ram air kites spin a parachute that in turn transfers torque that can be captured on the ground. In a true hacker spirit way, the rig developed by [Rod] utilizes bike wheels and rollerblade wheels in the design. This homemade generator needs a lot of space to be deployed, but it looks like a nice solution to airborne energy harvesting. [Rod] goes over the specifications for the project throughout the build logs on the Hackaday.io page and includes a couple of video describing how it was created and showing what happens when it is released into the air currents outside. Diagrams and models of the open source airborne wind energy generation device are also included.

Below are a few of his videos. Watch them over, and let us know what you think.


SpaceWrencherThis project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.
[Read more...]

Converting Cigarette Butts into Batteries

cigarette_butts_batteries

Trillions of cigarettes are smoked every year, leaving behind discarded filters containing non-biodegradable materials that can be recycled into carbon-based products for electrochemical components. This was discovered by a team of South Korean scientists who presented their unique energy storage solution in IOP Publishing’s journal of Nanotechnology.

The materials inside the cigarette filters offered up better performance than commercially bought carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes at the time. They hoped to coat electrodes of supercapacitors with the material to be inserted into computers, handheld devices, and electric vehicles. A simple one-step burning process called pyrolysis reduced the filters down into a carbon-based byproduct with tiny pores. The leftover porous substance ensured higher power densities for supercapacitors. This was then tested out to see how well the material absorbed electrolyte ions and discharged them. It did better than expected and stored higher amounts of electrical energy than other commercially available options.

The full paper is linked at the bottom of their article but it’s behind a paywall. If you have a subscription and the time to look it over, please let us know if you think there’s potential for this unorthodox material source or if they’re just blowing smoke.

[Thanks for the tip Ryoku!]

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