Old School Gauges Let You Know Which Way the Wind Blows

When your passion is a sport that depends on Mother Nature’s cooperation, you need to keep a close eye on weather conditions. With this in mind, and not one to let work distract him from an opportunity to play, [mechanicalsquid] decided to build a wind-monitoring gauge with an old-school look to let him know when the wind is right for kitesurfing.

old-school-meter-for-windBeing an aficionado of big engineering helped [mechanicalsquid] come up with a style for his gauge – big old dials and meters. We hesitate to apply the “steampunk” label to every project that retasks old technology, but it sure looks like a couple of the gauges he used could have been for steam, so the moniker probably fits here. Weather data for favorite kitesurfing and windsurfing locales is scraped from the web and applied to the gauges to indicates wind speed and direction. [mechanicalsquid] made a valiant effort to drive the voltmeter coil directly from the Raspberry Pi, but it was not to be. Servos proved inaccurate, so steppers do the job of moving the needles on both gauges. Check out the nicely detailed build log for this one, too.

For more weather station fun be sure to check out this meter-based weather station with a slightly more modern look. And for another build in the steampunk style, this vintage meter and Nixie power display is sure to impress.

Conductive Concrete Melts Snow and Ice

Winter sucks. Ice sucks. Shoveling sucks. What if roads, or your driveway, could get rid of snow and ice by themselves? (…with the help of our friend, the electron.)

A few days ago we shared a project about building an epic snow-melting system right into your driveway. But for obvious reasons, it’s not that easy to do — or cheap. But [Chris Tuan], an engineering professor at the University of Nebraska thinks he can change that.

He’s created his own special formula for conductive concrete. Which means you can turn the concrete into a resistive heat load. And this isn’t just a university research project that is going nowhere; it’s actually being trialed by the FAA for use in airports . There is a patch of it in Omaha undergoing testing right now.

And it’s actually not that complex. It consists of a mixture of 20% steel shavings and carbon particles, in a regular run-of-the-mill concrete. Apparently, this is enough to cause the entire patch of concrete to become conductive, meaning if you pump enough juice through it — it’d definitely melt some ice on top.

[Thanks Michael!]

Augmented Reality Becomes Useful, Real

The state of augmented reality is terrible. Despite everyone having handheld, portable computers with high-resolution cameras, no one has yet built ‘Minecraft with digital blocks in real life’, and the most exciting upcoming use for augmented reality is 3D Dungeons and Dragons. There are plenty of interesting things that can be done with augmented reality, the problem is someone needs to figure out what those things are. Lucky for us, the MIT Media Lab knocked it out of the park with the ability to program anything through augmented reality.

The Reality Editor is a simple idea, but one that is extraordinarily interesting. Objects all around you are marked with a design that can be easily read by a smartphone running a computer vision application. In augmented reality, these objects have buttons and dials that can be used to turn on a lamp, open a car’s window, or any other function that can be controlled over the Internet. It’s augmented reality buttons for everything.

This basic idea is simple, but by combining it by another oft-forgotten technology from the 90s, we get something really, really cool. The buttons on each of the objects can be connected together with a sort of graphical programming language. Scan a button, connect the button to a lamp, and you’re able to program the lamp with augmented reality.

The Reality Editor is already available on the Apple app store, and there are a number of examples available for people to start tinkering with this weird yet interesting means of interacting with the world. If you’ve ever wondered how we’re going to interact with the Internet of Things, there you have it. Video below.

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Bismuth Crystals Hold Magnet Suspended for 100 Years

[NightHawkInLight] has been playing around with the diamagnetic properties of bismuth. Diamagnetic materials get a lot of attention due to their strange ability to produce the opposite of the magnetic field going through them. In simpler terms, metals like iron are attracted to magnets; metals like bismuth repel them.

[NightHawkInLight] built his own interpretation of a common lab example used to demonstrate this remarkable property, a levitator. A levitator is made by sandwiching a magnet between two plates of diamagnetic material. One of the plates is given a magnetic field opposite of the magnet underneath it by a stronger magnet placed some distance away. When this is done, the magnet in between wants to repel away from the plate above, only to find that as it gets closer to the plate below it is equally repelled, creating a stable system.

Eventually the magnet above will need realignment, but [NightHawkInLight] assures us this is only once every 100 years. Video after the break. Continue reading “Bismuth Crystals Hold Magnet Suspended for 100 Years”

Homemade Exoskeleton Lifts Mini Cooper with Ease

As some of you may or may not know, I’m interested in everything exoskeleton related. I’ve been messing around with my own designs for the past year or so, and just this past weekend, tested out the latest lower body design. There are a lot of boring (and some would say safe) ways to test this. But that’s no fun. For my test I used the lower-half of the exoskeleton to pick up a Mini Cooper.

exoskeleton-curlYou might remember my original upper-body design which was something I threw together in my garage as a proof of concept. It worked well for what it was, and surprisingly, took the internet by storm — amassing over a million views in a single week for a video of me curling 170lbs in my backyard. The fire had started — I knew I had to make something better. And that was the beginning of my quest to build a full-body powered exoskeleton.

The biggest problem with the original was a lack of back support — it didn’t matter how much weight I could lift, it was still my feeble human skeleton taking the weight. So it was time to go back to the drawing board, and start the design from the ground up. Continue reading “Homemade Exoskeleton Lifts Mini Cooper with Ease”

Cricket Scoreboard is a Big Win for Novice Hackers

The game of cricket boggles most Americans in the same way our football perplexes the rest of the world. We won’t even pretend to understand what a “wicket” or an “over” is, but apparently it’s important enough to keep track of that so an English cricket club decided to build their own electronic scoreboard for their – pitch? Field? Help us out here.

This scoreboard build was undertaken by what team member [Ian] refers to as some “middle-aged blokes from Gloucestershire” with no previous electronics experience. That’s tough enough to deal with, but add to it virtually no budget, a huge physical size for the board, exposure to the elements, and a publicly visible project where failure would be embarrassingly obvious, and this was indeed an intimidating project to even consider. Yet despite the handicaps, they came up with a great rig, with a laser-cut acrylic cover for a professional look. A Raspberry Pi runs the LED segments and allows WiFi connections from a laptop or phone in the stands. They’ve even recently upgraded to solar power for the system.

And we’ll toot our own horn here, since this build was inspired at least in part by a Hackaday post. The builders have a long list of other links that inspired or instructed them, and we think that says something powerful about the hacker community that we’ve all been building – a group with no previous experience manages a major build with the guidance of seasoned hackers. That’s something to feel good about.

Track Satellites with a 2-axis Antenna Positioner

Ham radio operators are curious beasts. They’ll go to great lengths to make that critical contact, and making sure their directional antennas are pointing the right way can be a big part of punching through. Of course there are commercial antenna rotators out there, but hams also like to build their own gear, like this Raspberry Pi-controlled 2-axis rotator.

[wilho]’s main motivation for this build seems to have been the sad state of the art in commercial 2-axis rotators, which seems firmly mired in the 90s. Eschewing the analog pot sensors on DC brushed motors that seem to dominate the COTS market, [wilho] went with steppers and stout gearboxes for the moving gear. Feedback on the axes comes from 10-bit absolute encoders, and an MPU9250 9-axis IMU makes sure he knows exactly where the antenna is pointing with respect to both compass heading and elevation. A mast-mounted Rasp Pi controls everything and talks through a REST API to custom software that can return the antenna to custom set-points or track the moon, satellites, or the ISS. It’s a very impressive bit of kit that’s sure to drive your home-owners association bonkers.

For another 2-axis antenna positioner, check out 2015 Hackaday Prize finalist SATNOGS.

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