Open your Hackerspace Door with a Phone Call

elabHackerspaceDoor

[Mário] sent us a tip detailing the access control system he and his friends built for the eLab Hackerspace in Faro, Portugal. The space is located in the University of Algarve’s Institute of Engineering, which meant the group couldn’t exactly bore some holes through campus property and needed a clever solution to provide 24/7 access to members.

[Mário] quickly ruled out more advanced Bluetooth or NFC options, because he didn’t want to leave out members who did not have a smartphone. Instead, after rummaging around in some junk boxes, the gang settled on hacking an old Siemens C55 phone to serve as a GSM modem and to receive calls from members. The incoming numbers are then compared against a list on the EEPROM of an attached PIC16F88 microcontroller, which directs a motor salvaged from a tobacco vending machine to open the push bar on the front door. They had to set up the motor to move an arm in a motion similar to that of a piston, thus providing the right leverage to both unlock and reset the bar’s position.

Check out [Mário's] blog for more details and information on how they upload a log of callers to Google spreadsheets, and stick around for a quick video demonstration below. If you’d prefer a more step by step guide to the build, head over to the accompanying Instructables page. Just be careful if you try to reproduce this hack with the Arduino GSM shield.

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RFID Door Access Robot

RFID Door orbot

We love hackerspaces. Some of the most innovative solutions come from them thanks to having like-minded people all hanging out in the same place. Just take a look at this awesome RFID door system from the Lansing Makers Network that doesn’t require any modification of the door.

The majority of the mechanism was previously a model draw bridge that the space purchased from a surplus store — it just needed a bit of hacking. Almost all members of the space had some part in the project, whenever the build hit a snag, another member always had the right solution. It works by using a windshield motor that tightens a seatbelt around the push-bar latch of the door — the beauty of the system is it is completely non-damaging to the door, and the door works exactly the same as before. The whole system is controlled by RFID tags, which the members have as keys to the space.

It’s an awesome project and [Brian] has written a really great write-up on it, which also happens to segue nicely into the topic of hackerspaces. He describes hackerspaces as

the Wikipedia of real life, and everything else here [tools, equipment, resources] is just the lure that pulls us all together.

Stick around after the break to see the mechanism in action!

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One-night No Budget CNC Machine

low budget CNC machine

The Hackerspace Kraków in Poland hosts a weekly event on Fridays called NightHack. The idea is simple. It’s late Friday night, all the stores are closed — something needs to be hacked.

Just this past Friday night, they decided to try making a CNC machine using only what they had in the space. And gosh darn it, did they ever succeed! The build makes use of an Arduino Mega, broken Playstation 3 drives, a few spare L293D ICs, some hot glue, and wood. The resulting CNC machine is an awesome example of what can be done in a night with the right group of people working together.

It might not be powerful enough to do milling, but works quite well as a small CNC drawing plotter with its massive 5x5cm work area, with a resolution of 0.16mm. Next week they hope to modify it to allow for PCB drilling, which at the right feed rates, might just be possible!

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The Rabbit’s Hole: Creative Reuse and Stop Motion Animation

rabbitshole

The folks down at The Rabbit Hole Hackerspace have been busy lately. They’ve created an amazing stop motion animation short titled “The Rabbit’s Hole”. The three-minute film documents the journey of a white rabbit through several strange lands, including the court of a “hormonally imbalanced queen”, the sewers, a PCB wasteland, and a banana jazz concert. The rest of the video is a behind the scenes view, showing the incredible amount of teamwork that went into the film’s creation.

From set building to final photography, the entire film was shot in one day.  The set was split into 8 pieces. Each piece represented a scene the rabbit would journey through in the final movie. Members of The Rabbit Hole were able to work in parallel, each designing their own section of the set. Once the photography was done, [Whisker] took over for the process of editing and sound design. Just like in Hollywood, post production took much longer than the actual shoot.

The amazing part of the video is that most of the characters and set pieces are created from The Rabbit Hole’s junkbox. Even the star of the show, a 3D printed Rabbit wasn’t immune. Many rabbits were printed for the stop motion animation process. As can be expected, there were a few failed prints. Those prints became Rabbit footed Lamps, Tables, and a rather macabre rabbit’s hand in a tray. Even the camera dolly was welded up from some scrap metal and old roller blade wheels.

We like the way the entire hackerspace was able to come together to create something greater than any one of them could have done alone. This sort of project should be a template for other hackerspaces to follow.

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Full-size MRI Machine Replica

Foam MRI machine

It’s been a bit dusty lately in Seattle’s Metrix Create:Space. That’s because they’ve taken on their biggest project yet — a full scale replica of an MRI machine for university research.

[Tom Grabowski], a professor of Radiology & Neurology at the University of Washington, needed a replica MRI machine. This is because time on real MRI machines is very expensive, and when performing research on Autism, it is important to get the test subjects used to the process before using the real deal. He originally turned to the Center for Human Development and Disability, also at the University of Washington, but the project was just simply too big for their facilities. He did however get to meet a fellow researcher named [Fritz] who then contacted Metrix to see if it was possible, and like any good hackers, the members of the space were more than up for the challenge.

The replica MRI machine is made out 2″ thick, 4′ by 8′ foam insulation sheets, which is the maximum size their router can handle. Not having made use of the 3D z-cutting capabilities before, they had a bit of learning to do, but as you can see from the pictures, it worked out quite well. Over a few weeks they were able to construct the general shape of the MRI machine, and finish the surface nicely — it’s far from complete though, as they might even be adding lights and other features to make it one heck of a replica. It’s a great project, and those who have helped are happy to do so as the replica will benefit not only [Tom] but many other researchers at UW — for science, yeah!

Freeside’s Infinity Portal

sidebyside

If infinity mirrors aren’t cool enough, the 10-foot-tall infinity portal should blow you away. Strictly speaking, the mirror itself is only 7′x4′, but you’ll still find yourself engulfed in the archway. The portal began as a simple prototype that we covered earlier this summer, which was just a frame of 2×4′s, some acrylic and LED strips. It works by putting lights between a two-way mirror and another mirror, reflecting most light internally and creating the illusion of depth.

The giant archway also began as a small-scale prototype, its shape and engravings carved out by a laser cutter. Once they were satisfied with its design, it was time to scale things up. The full-sized portal needed a a tremendous amount of stability, so the guys at Freeside built the base from wooden palettes. They needed the portal to travel to a few different venues, so the rest of the frame breaks down into components, including a removable wooden frame from which the acrylic hangs. A Teensy 3.0 runs all the WS2812 LED strips, which were chosen because each of their LEDs is individually addressable.

Check out the video below for an extremely detailed build log, which should give you a better idea of how massive and impressive this portal really is!

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Hackerspacing in Europe: Conclusion

tour copy

Wow! What a trip. In just over one week we travelled nearly 2000 km and visited 13 hackerspaces in 10 different cities in Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands. However that was only the tip of the iceberg — there were dozens more hackerspaces in the area, and we wish we had the time to visit them all! The hospitality of the hackerspaces was amazing. Thank you so much to all the spaces we visited! If you missed some of tours, you can see the them all here.

  1. Chaosdorf (Dusseldorf, Germany)
  2. Garage Lab (Dusseldorf, Germany)
  3. ACKspace (Heerlen, The Netherlands)
  4. HSBXL (Brussels, Belgium)
  5. Whitespace (Gent, Belgium)
  6. Void Warranties (Antwerp, Belgium)
  7. Open Garage (Antwerp, Belgium)
  8. MadSpace (Eindhoven, The Netherlands)
  9. De Ontdekfabriek (Eindhoven, The Netherlands)
  10. Revelation Space (The Hague, The Netherlands)
  11. Technologia Incognita (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
  12. Hack42 (Arnhem, The Netherlands)
  13. Stratum0 (Brunswick, Germany)

Did you enjoy these tours? Is there anything you’d like to see more of? The style of the tour? Other things to focus on? Let us know in the comments!