Hackaday in Dallas — And What That Means For Your Weekend

The Hackaday Prize meetup at the Dallas Makerspace is this weekend: Saturday March 19th. We will be kicking things off at 7pm with food and drinks followed by lightning talks. If you want to come but have yet to RSVP you can do that via Meetup, please do this so we can have enough food and drinks on site for everyone.

We’ve already lined up a number of lightning talks (5-7 minutes each) to get things started so we aren’t sitting and staring at one another like a junior high dance. But we encourage you to show up and sign up for one on on the night of the meetup. Even if you don’t give a talk you should bring a project to show off afterward.

Lightning Talks Primed With:

CROPED_bradley_HV
450V 1mA PIC boost converter by [Bradley Mahurin]
[Brandon Dunson] giving a talk about the 2016 Hackaday Prize, [Mike Szczys] will be giving a talk about the Hackaday | Belgrade hardware badge. [Dave Anders] will be talking about his WITCH-E Project and [Bradley Mahurin] is bringing his 450V 1mA PIC based boost converter. Not to discredit the Hackaday talks, but I’ve seen [Dave] and [Bradley]’s work before and you’ll want to see this stuff first hand and get a chance to talk with these guys.

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Shoot Hard Drive Platters Skywards On The Power Of Magnetism

Project Hathor is an electromagnetic ring launcher that launches aluminium hard drive platters 45 feet skywards at the touch of a button. The hard work is done by a bank of capacitors which are charged to 2kV from a microwave oven transformer, before being discharged into a coil of wire on which the hard drive platter is sitting. The resulting burst of magnetic field induces a huge current in the platter, and that current in turn creates an opposing field which launches the ring into the air.

The launcher is the work of [Krux], at the Syn Shop hackerspace in Las Vegas, and he’s made a beautiful job of it. The capacitor bank has ten 3900uF 400V electrolytic capacitors wired as a single 1560uF 2kV capacitor, there are two 225W 2Kohm wire wound discharge resistors, and a beautifully designed home-made high voltage contactor featuring tungsten electrodes. The whole project has been carefully built into an acrylic case for safety, for as [Krux] points out, microwave oven transformers will kill you.

As well as the project web site, there is a YouTube playlist, an image gallery, and a GitHub repository containing all the project’s details. You can see the launcher in action in the video below, launching platters into the Nevada night right on cue.

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How I Embraced my Introvert and Joined the Hacker Community

For some people to join a new group is an exciting proposal, to meet new people and interact with them to accomplish a goal is their idea of a good time. If this describes you then you’re all set to jump in there and make some new friends! There are other people who see social interaction as not such a good time. They would rather avoid that situation and go on about their normal day, I get it. In general my level of comfort is inversely proportional to the number of people with me. This is not a character trait that I chose, I’m an introvert by nature.

The stereotype depicts hackers, nerds, or geeks as people without many friends who spend most of our time alone or you might just call us “loners”. I should make it clear that I’m writing this article from a table for 1 at my local diner and it would be out of the ordinary if there was another person at this table with me. Just in case someone feels the need to speak to me I’m wearing headphones as a deterrent, audio delivery is not their use at this time (headphone hack). I can feel the first comment brewing so let me nip that in the bud real quick: I’m in a restaurant AND actively being alone because there are often too many distractions at home to get things done in a timely manner. And I like the pancakes.

Before I climb up on this soapbox let me say that many of you are already involved in the community and are doing a great job, in fact I’m pretty sure many of the old-timers I talk about are Hackaday readers. This article is a result of my self reflection regarding my lack of community involvement as of late. I can’t think of any reasons why I shouldn’t take myself down a peg or two publicly, enjoy.

I won’t bother with the “Ra-Ra! Team Spirit!” garbage to get you all jazzed up to be a part of the team. But I will tell you what you’re missing out on by not being active and participating. It’s similar to the saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make that horse join a group of like-minded horses that would all benefit from a wealth of horse-knowledge.” The saying changes depending on where you’re from, that’s how it was told to me.

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This is How You Run a Hackathon: Tech Valley Center of Gravity

What’s not to love about a hackathon? The junk food and caffeine that fuel the weekend; the highs that come with success and the lows that come when the blue smoke is released; the desperate search for inspiration as the clock ticks away; nerve-wracking pitches to the judges, hoping against hope that everything works in the demo. Hackathons are the contact sport of the hacker world, bringing in top competitors and eager upstarts, and when done well you just might attract interested “civilians” and other newbies that will catch the hacking bug from what they witness.

Such was the scene at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity in Troy, NY over the last weekend of January. New for 2016, the CoG is hosting a series of four hardware hackathons this year, each with a different theme. This event’s theme was “Internet of Things”, and the call went out to any and all to come compete for bragging rights and over $1,000 in prizes. Incentives to compete included some big name corporate sponsors, like AT&T, and judging and mentoring provided by the likes of SparkFun’s [Jeff Branson]. There was also a steady stream of food and drink, saturation coverage by local media outlets, and your humble Hackaday writer and his son, who made the trip up to Troy with a small passel of Hackaday swag and a curiosity to see how the CoG has fared since our last visit at the grand opening of their glorious new home. We were not disappointed.

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Hacking Education – A Makerspace Experiment

This is an Education hack, and it’s pretty awesome. [Abhijit Sinha] received an Engineering degree and took up a run-of-the mill IT job in Bangalore, considered India’s IT hub. 7 months down the line on Dec 31st, he gave notice to the company and quit his “boring” job. He ended up in Banjarpalya, a village just 30 kms out of Bangalore. But it could well have been 30 years back in time. The people there had never come across computers, and there wasn’t much sign of other modern technology. So he set up Project DEFY – Design Education for You.

He bought a few refurbished laptops, took a room, and put kids and computers together. Except, these kids just knew a smattering of English. They went to the village school, run by the government and staffed by teachers whose training was basic, at best. He told the kids there are games in those boxes for them to play, but they’d have to figure it out on their own, without help from him. Pretty soon, all of them were playing games like they were pros. That’s when [Abhijit] stepped in and told them that they’d created a base line for having fun. Everything else they did from now on had to be more fun than what they had just done. If they were interested, he would show them how.

He had a gaggle of kids waiting to hear him with rapt attention. He showed them how to look online for information. He showed them how they could learn how to build fun projects by looking up websites like Instructables, and then use locally available materials and their own ingenuity to build and modify. Once a project was done, he showed them how to post details about what they had done and learnt so others around the world could learn from them. The kids took to all this like fish to water. They couldn’t wait to get through 5 hours of school each day, and then head over to their makerspace to spend hours tinkering. Check out their Instructable channel – and see if you can give them some guidance and advice.

A year onwards, on Dec 31st again, [Abhijit] gathered the kids, and several adults who had joined in during the year, telling them he had news. He had figured they were independent enough to run the space on their own now, without any help from him. He would still get them the 500 odd Dollars they needed each month to keep it operational. Other than that, they were on their own. He’s been monitoring their progress, and from the looks of it, the hack seems to have worked. More power to [Abhijit] and others like him around the world who are trying to bring the spirit of making to those who probably stand to benefit from it the most. Check out the videos below where they show off their work.

PS : Here’s the latest update from [Abhijit] : “Got back to the Banjarapalya Makerspace after quite a while, and this is what they show me – they built a little plane. Of course it crash lands, and needs a better programming, but I am super impressed that they are ready to fly.
Anyone who wants to help them technically? Financially? With parts and components ?”

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Hackers and Heroes: Rise of the CCC and Hackerspaces

From its roots in phone phreaking to the crackdowns and legal precedents that drove hacking mostly underground (or into business), hacker culture in the United States has seen a lot over the last three decades. Perhaps the biggest standout is the L0pht, a visible 1990s US hackerspace that engaged in open disclosure and was, arguably, the last of the publicly influential US hacker groups.

The details of the American hacker scene were well covered in my article yesterday. It ended on a bit of a down note. The L0pht is long gone, and no other groups that I know of have matched their mix of social responsibility and public visibility. This is a shame because a lot of hacker-relevant issues are getting decided in the USA right now, and largely without our input.

Chaos Computer Club

But let’s turn away from the USA and catch up with Germany. In the early 1980s, in Germany as in America, there were many local computer clubs that were not much more than a monthly evening in a cafeteria or a science museum or (as was the case with the CCC) a newspaper office. Early computer enthusiasts traded know-how, and software, for free. At least in America, nothing was more formally arranged than was necessary to secure a meeting space: we all knew when to show up, so what more needed to be done?

Things are a little different in the German soul. Peer inside and you’ll find the “Vereinsmentalität” — a “club-mentality”. Most any hobby or sport that you can do in Germany has an associated club that you can join. Winter biathlon, bee-keeping, watercolor painting, or hacking: when Germans do fun stuff, they like to get organized and do fun stuff together.

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Arch Reactor Hackerspace Is Moving!

What happens when your hackerspace grows too big for its building? Well — you can either take over the other units in your building — or move to a bigger building altogether!

We toured Arch Reactor almost three years ago, which is located in St. Louis, Missouri. The present facility is 2400sqft, which over the past few years has gotten a bit cramped. They’re moving to a new building at 2215 Scott Avenue, which is over twice the size of the current facility at a whopping 5100sqft!

As you can imagine, it’s not an easy task to move a hackerspace of this size to a new building, but their community is strong and they’re still hacking away, even during the move! If your hackerspace has a move in its not-so-distant-future, you might want to take note and follow along on their blog for some lessons learned.

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