RC Drag Racing Christmas Tree and Speed Trap

In the drag racing world, a Christmas tree is the post at the start line that sequentially lights up a set of yellow lights followed shortly after by a green light to tell the drivers to go, the lights obviously giving it its seasonal name. Included at the base of the tree are lasers to detect the presence of the cars.

[Mike] not only made his own Christmas tree for his RC cars, but he even made an end-of-track circuit with LED displays telling the cars how long they took. Both start and finish hardware are controlled by Pololu Wixel boards which has TI CC2511F32 microcontrollers with built-in 2.4 GHz radios for wireless communications.

In addition to the LEDs, the Christmas tree has a laser beam using a 650nm red laser diode for each car at the start line that’s aimed at a TEPT5600 phototransistor. If a car crosses its beam before the green light then a red light signals the car’s disqualification.

The end-of-track circuit has 7-segment displays for each car’s time. [Mike] designed the system so that the Christmas tree’s microcontroller tells the end-of-track circuit’s microcontroller when to reset the times, start the times, and clear the times should there be a disqualification. The finish line controller has lasers and phototransistors just like the starting line to stop the timers.

Oh, and did we mention that he also included 1980’s car racing game sounds? To see and hear it all in action check out the video after the break. If the cars seem a little drunk it’s because pushing left or right on the controller turns the wheel’s fully left or right.

Continue reading “RC Drag Racing Christmas Tree and Speed Trap”

The Cicada: A Parasite Art Piece With Commitment Issues

How often do you think deeply about the products around you? How about those you owned five years ago? Ten? The Cicada — brainchild of [Daniel Kerris] — is an art piece that aims to have the observer reflect on consumer culture, buyer’s remorse, and wanting what we cannot have.

The Cicada consists of an ultrasonic sensor feeding data to a Raspberry pi which — calculating the distance of an approaching human — either speeds up or slows down a servo motor connected to a General Electric Walkman’s cassette speed potentiometer. Upon detecting someone approaching, The Cicada begins to loop the chorus of Celine Dion’s “I Will Always Love You”. As you move closer, the tape speed slows, and there is a transition from love at first sight to nightmarish drawl as the music slows.

Continue reading “The Cicada: A Parasite Art Piece With Commitment Issues”

Thermoelectric Dry Ice Generator Does Not Work (Yet)

[Pabr] is trying to make dry ice the hard way by building a thermoelectric dry ice generator. The project is a well planned round trip through thermodynamics and cryogenics with a hard landing on the icy grounds of trial and error.

[Pabr’s] four stage Peltier element on a heatsink.
While dry ice can be obtained with simpler methods, for example by venting gaseous CO2 from fire extinguishers and collecting the forming CO2 flakes, [pabr’s] method is indeed attractive as a more compact solid-state solution. The setup employs a four stage Peltier element, which uses four Peltier stages to achieve a high temperature differential. With sufficient cooling on the high-temperature side of the element, it should be well capable of achieving temperatures below -78.5 °C, the sublimation temperature of CO2. So far, [pabr] has built three different setups to expose small amounts of CO2 to the cold of the Peltier element, hoping to observe the formation of little dry ice flakes.

Continue reading “Thermoelectric Dry Ice Generator Does Not Work (Yet)”

“Smilemachine” Helmet is a Delightful Mixture of Tech

smilemachine-square-animPart performance art and part social experiment, [mocymo]’s Smilemachine V6 helmet is as delightful as it is expressive. The helmet is made primarily from laser-cut MDF assembled around parts from a safety helmet. The display is an Android tablet with fine operation controlled by a Bluetooth mini keyboard, and the helmet cleverly makes use of the tablet’s ability to adjust the display to compensate for head tilt angle. It recently made an appearance at Maker Faire Tokyo, where the creator says the reception (especially by children) exceeded expectations.

There are several interesting things done with this device. One is the handheld controller, which is essentially a mini Bluetooth keyboard. To help allow fine control without needing to look down at the controller, the keyboard sits in a frame with some nuts and bolts used as highly tactile button extensions. By allowing the user to change the physical button layout (and setting up keyboard shortcuts on the device to match) the arrangement can be made more intuitive for the user. Some photos of this assembly are in the gallery after the break.

smilemachine-periscope
Geared mirrors to allow seeing out the front of the helmet.

Another interesting bit is that despite a tablet being right in front of your eyes, it is possible to see out the front of the helmet while wearing it. The solution is completely low-tech: two mirrors form a periscope whose angle can be adjusted by turning a knob on the side of the helmet.

Version 1 of the helmet was started back in 2012; this is version 6 and [mocymo] is already filling out a to-do list for refinements. The nose area is uncomfortable, the angle of periscope is slightly off and the gearing needs to be reworked, among other things. We can’t wait to see Version 7. Video and gallery are embedded below.

Continue reading ““Smilemachine” Helmet is a Delightful Mixture of Tech”

LVL1 Hackerspace Builds A DOOMcano

When you need a DOOMcano, there’s no real substitute. And they’re not just selling these things on the street-corner. Nope, friend, you’ve got to get the hackerspace together and build your own.

plastic_thumbnailFor a fundraiser, and we suspect for the fun of it, the folks at LVL1 in Louisville, KY built a metal case with four (4!) flame-thrower jets. The idea is that you donate, and they’ll burn stuff for you.

Or you could build your own, following their detailed build log. LVL1 earns clever points for the use of 3D printer nozzles as gas jets, and for the laser-cut boxes that hold spray-cans of combustible fluid with servos to depress the buttons. It’s Rube-Goldbergy, but it works. Battery-powered grill igniters provide the spark, and an Arduino provides the control.

If you need more fire-breathing madness, check out this duck decoy (naturally) or this RC flamethrower turret build for further inspiration. And be safe!

Forge Your Own Neon Signs With EL Wire

Neon tube signs radiate an irresistible charm, which has been keeping them alive to this day. The vintage, orange glow is hard to substitute with modern means of illumination, but never trust a neon sign that you didn’t forge yourself. [NPoole] shows you how to build remarkably realistic faux neon tube signs from plastic tubing and EL wire.

After sourcing some polycarbonate tubing from a pet shop, where it’s more commonly used in aquariums, [NPoole] simply inserted some orange EL wire into the tubing. He heated one end of the tubing with a heat gun and twisted it off, sealing one end of the tube and welding the EL wire in place. [Npoole] then went on bending his neon tube to shape, repeatedly heating it up with the heat gun, bending it carefully, and blowing into the open end of the tube to prevent kinking of the tube.

Continue reading “Forge Your Own Neon Signs With EL Wire”

MIT Researchers Can Read Closed Books (and defeat CAPTCHA)

Ten years ago, MIT researchers proved that it was possible to look through an envelope and read the text inside using terahertz spectroscopic imaging. This research inspired [Barmak Heshmat] to try the same technique to read a book through its cover. A new crop of MIT researchers led by [Heshmat] have developed a prototype to do exactly that, and he explains the process in the video after the break. At present, the system is capable of correctly deciphering individual letters through nine pages of printed text.

They do this by firing terahertz waves in short bursts at a stack of pages and interpreting the return values and travel time. The microscopic air pockets between the pages provide boundaries for differentiation. [Heshmat] and the team rely on these pockets to reflect the signal back to a sensor in the camera. Once they have the system dialed in to be able to see the letters on the target page and distinguish them from the shadows of the letters on the other pages, they use an algorithm to determine the letters. [Heshmat] says the algorithm is so good that it can get through most CAPTCHAs.

The most immediate application for this technology is reading antique books and other printed materials that are far too fragile to be handled, potentially opening up worlds of knowledge that are hidden within disintegrating documents. For a better look at the outsides of things, there is Reflectance Transformation Imaging.

Continue reading “MIT Researchers Can Read Closed Books (and defeat CAPTCHA)”