Adventures in Hackerspacing: Hackyard Athens, Part I

Hackyard Athens

It’s funny how quickly it can all come together. If there’s a hackerspace or makerspace in your area, I hope you’ve gone by to see what it’s like. If there isn’t, you can always start your own…

That notion seems so simple, doesn’t it? Round up a few like-minded folks, find a space—any space—shove them and some equipment into it. Two years of attempted round-ups and shove-ins, however, is enough to discourage the most passionate of would-be hackerspacers. By all predictions, the effort to start a hackerspace in Athens, GA was a marathon, a gradual advance culminating in a hard-earned workspace. But that’s not what happened. Hackyard Athens erupted into being.

In only one week.

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Follow up of Hacker meet up at Heatsync Labs

The hacker meet up at Heatsync Labs in Mesa, AZ  on May 15th was an amazing success. I got to meet lots of new people at the gathering but more importantly I was able to interview several hackers who shared a lot of details on their current projects. I put together the short overview video above that has clips of each hacker presenting their project. If you like what you see in the teaser please watch the full 30 minute video with all the presentation footage after the break along with project page links. Also, if you’re not yet up to speed on The Hackaday Prize, the full length video starts with a short overview.

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Solderless Noise-o-Tron Kit Makes Noise at Chicago Makerfaire

Noise-o-Tron

Anyone who’s manned a hackerspace booth at an event knows how difficult it can be to describe to people what a hackerspace is. No matter what words you use to describe it, nothing really seems to do it justice. You simply can’t use words to make someone feel that sense of accomplishment and fun that you get when you learn something new and build something that actually works.

[Derek] had this same problem and decided to do something about it. He realized that in order to really share the experience of a hackerspace, he would have to bring a piece of the hackerspace to the people.  That meant getting people to build something simple, but fun. [Derek's] design had to be easy enough for anyone to put together, and inexpensive enough that it can be produced in moderate quantities without breaking the bank.

[Derek] ended up building a simple “optical theremin”. The heart of this simple circuit is an ATTiny45. Arduino libraries have already been ported to this chip, so all [Derek] had to do was write a few simple lines of code and he was up and running. The chip is connected to a photocell so the pitch will vary with the amount of light that reaches the cell. The user can then change the pitch by moving their hand closer or further away, achieving a similar effect to a theremin.

[Derek] designed a simple “pcb” out of acrylic, with laser cut holes for all of the components. If you don’t have access to a laser cutter to cut the acrylic sheets, you could always build your own. The electronic components are placed into the holes and the leads are simply twisted together. This allows even an inexperienced builder to complete the project in just five to ten minutes with no complicated tools. The end result of his hard work was a crowded booth at a lot of happy new makers. All of [Derek's] plans are available on github, and he hopes his project will find use at Makerfaires and hackerspace events all over the world.

Hackaday Meetup with HeatSync Labs and The Tymkrs

 

hackaday-meetup-tymkrs-hsl

We know a lot of hackers will be heading to Maker Faire next weekend. If you find yourself passing through Mesa, AZ on your way or you’re a local hacker enthusiast then please feel compelled to drop by HeatSync Labs on May 15th between the hours of 5pm and 9pm for an informal gathering. You will get to meet HeatSync Labs hackerspace members and The Tymkrs (Whiskers and Addie) who are founders of The Rabbit Hole hackerspace in Rochester, Minnesota. Sorry for the late notice, I thought it would be a great opportunity to organize an impromptu hacker meetup in order to include The Tymkrs as they pass through town on their epic summer road trip.

If people have a project or photos of a project they’re working on I would enjoy hearing all about it and I’m sure others would as well. I’m looking forward to visiting everyone that can attend!

For those who show up early there should be plenty of pizza, soda and Hackaday swag to go around. I’d like to thank the members of HeatSync Labs for kindly letting me schedule a Hackaday style meetup at their hackerspace on such short notice. There will be some food and drink so don’t be too late or you might go hungry.

Meetup address: HeatSync Labs 140 West Main St. Downtown Mesa, AZ

 

Sniffing Vending Machine Buses

Sniffing the Multidrop Bus

 

We’ve talked about a variety of protocols and how to deal with them in the past. Today, [Dan] is working on sniffing vending machine Multidrop Bus. The Multidrop Bus (MDB) protocol is a standard used in vending machines to connect devices such as currency collectors to the host controller.

To connect to the bus, interface hardware is required. [Dan] worked out compliant hardware and connected it to an Arduino. With the device on the bus, [Dan] got to work on an Arduino sketch to parse the MDB data into a human-readable format. With that working, the bus can easily be sniffed over the Arduino’s serial console.

This is just the start of a more involved project. Since this protocol is used to communicate with a vending machine’s currency collector or card reader, being able to communicate it would allow him to implement his own payment methods. The plan is to augment the vending machine he operates at Vancouver Hack Space to accept Bitcoin. We’re looking forward to seeing that project unfold.

Hackerspace Tour: IXR in Wall, NJ

IXR2

Hackaday took a little trip out to Wall, NJ last weekend for the Vintage Computer Festival 9.1 East. The event was held at Camp Evans, a former US military installation that can only be described as, ‘The DARPA of a century ago”. This is the site of a Marconi transmitter and the place where [Edwin Armstrong] developed the regenerative receiver a little more than 100 years ago.

There’s a lot more to Camp Evans than a vintage computer festival once a year – it’s also home to MARCH, the Mid-Atlantic Retro Computing Hobbyists, InfoAge, a retro technology museum, and IXR, the Institute for eXploratory Research, a hackerspace located in the old telecom building at Camp Evans.

In our video tour, [Joe Wilkes] takes us around the shop, showing off their equipment and tools. Unlike most of our hackerspace tours, we couldn’t find a Makerbot sitting disused on a bookshelf anywhere, but the space did have a Solidoodle 3D printer, a Shapeoko 2 CNC machine under construction, and enough hand tools to bring any project to fruition.

There were a few oddities in IXR compared to the other hackerspaces we’ve been to. First is an inordinate amount of synths, keyboards, and other MIDI gear. [Joe] didn’t know what these were for, so we’ll leave that explanation for an IXR member in the comments of this post. There was also a small supply of random components for sale (and on display). Most of the merch was from Adafruit, and it seems like a great way to have that one part I need to finish this build for members while providing a little bit of beer money for the space.

Pics and video below.

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Hackerspace Tour: Xerocraft In Tucson, Arizona

xero

While we try to get out to as many hackerspaces as possible, we can’t be everywhere. Not wanting to wait for a Hackaday compatriot to roll through their dusty town, the folks over at Xerocraft in Tucson, Arizona sent in their own video tour of their space.

We’ve seen the Xerocraft space before when [Caleb] rolled through town on his south-west tour a few years ago. Since then, a lot has changed; they have a new, larger, and cleaner space a few miles north of the old one. There’s also a huge increase in the number of tools. While the old space had all the usual metalworking tools, the new space has a much improved wood shop and more 3D printers than anyone can shake a stick at.

From the video, it looks like a great space, and from their blog it looks like they’ve got some really cool projects under their belt. If you’re a member of a hackerspace, we’re always looking for some tour videos. Be sure to send them in so you can share your space with the rest of the Hackaday readership.

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