Denver Mini Maker Faire Roundup

I had a great time at Denver’s 3rd annual Mini Maker Faire, which was held inside the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The official theme this year was “Building the Future” and looking back, I can tell you that they pulled the theme off well. There was a strong turnout in two categories that are crucial to building the future: the growth that comes from education at all ages and the physical places where learning becomes immersive.

The Really Fun Stuff

poison arrow[Casey] from Caustic Creations were showing off Poison Arrow just in time for season 2 of the BattleBots reboot. Poison Arrow is 250-lb. drum spinner that destroys things at 9,000 RPM. Here’s a nice introductory video shot by their sponsor, Arrow Electronics. [Casey] told me that Poison Arrow will be on the June 30th episode, so set your DVR.

Who knew that Colorado had so many maker- and hackerspaces? Colorado Makerhub, that’s who. They provide a portal to everything maker-related in Colorado, and they were in attendance along with most of the ‘spaces within a 50-mile radius of the city. Denver’s own Denhac brought a huge multiplayer rig that they had built for Comic Con last year. It runs Artemis, a spaceship bridge simulator game that divides up the tasks necessary for successful intergalactic travel. Here’s a video of Denhac member [Radio Shack] describing the game and giving a tour of one of the consoles. The group landed a space in one of the darker areas of the museum, which made the blinkenlights irresistible, especially to boys of a certain age range.

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Bootstrapped Tools, Live Stopped Motion, and a Dekatron Computer

Dallas Texas played host to an epic Hackaday meetup last weekend. The Dallas Makerspace was kind enough to open their doors, and we sure used them. Attendance was over capacity, with a line all night to screen-print your own T-shirt, a set of lightning talks that lasted nearly two hours, and plenty of hardware show-and-tell.

We’ll start off with three of the most impressive builds displayed. First is a set of simple designs that can be used to make tools in parts of the world where even a hammer is a luxury. Then it’s on to a clever entertainment device that uses discrete stopped-motion figurines to make live animations. We’ll take a look at the Witch-E project which is building a replica of the famous Dekatron-based computer. And finish up with the surprise hit of the meetup.

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Clocks for Social Good

Over the past five days we’ve been challenging the Hackaday community to build a clock and show it off. This is to raise awareness for electronics design in everyday life and hopefully you found a non-hacker to join you on the project. The point is that our society — which has pretty much universally accepted everyday carry of complex electronics — has no idea what goes into electronic design. How are we supposed to get kids excited about engineering if they are never able to pull back that curtain and see it in action?

Build something simple that can be understood by everyone, and show it off in a way that invites the uninitiated to get excited. What’s simpler than a clock? I think of it as the impetus behind technology. Marking the passage of time goes back to our roots as primitive humans following migratory herds, and betting on the changing seasons for crop growth. Our modern lives are governed by time more than ever. These Clocks for Social Good prove that anyone can understand how this technology works. And everyone who wants to learn to build their own electronic gadget can discover how to do so at low-cost and with reasonable effort. This is how we grow the next generation of engineers, so let’s take a look at what we all came up with over the weekend.

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All the Unofficial Electronic Badges of DEF CON

2015 was the year of the unofficial hardware badge at DEF CON 23. There were a ton of different hardware badges designed for the love of custom electronics and I tried to catch up with the designer of each different badge. Here is the collection of images, video demos, and build details for each one I saw this weekend.

Whiskey Pirates

[TrueControl] did a great job with his badge design this year for the Whiskey Pirate Crew. This is a great update from the badge he designed last year, keeping the skull and bones outline. It uses a PSOC4 chip to control a ton of LEDs. The eyes are RGB pixels which are each on their own PCB that is soldered onto the back of the badge, with openings for the LED to show through. Two AA batteries power the board which has a surface-mount LED matrix. The user controls are all capacitive touch. There is a spinner around one eye, and pads for select and back. The NRF24L01 radio operates at 2.4GHz. This badge is slave to commands from last year’s badge. When the two are in the same area the 2015 badges will scroll the nickname of the 2014 badge it “sees”. The piezo element also chirps many different sounds based on the interactions with different badges.

[True] makes design an art form. The matte black solder mask looks fantastic, and he took great care in use of font, size, alignment, and things like letting copper show through for a really stunning piece of hardware art.

Keep reading for ten more great badges seen over the weekend.

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Maglev, Submersibles, and More at Maker Faire Detroit

This past weekend the Maker Faire returned to the motor city. While it seemed a bit smaller than previous years, the event still brought in a ton of awesome makers from the metro Detroit area and beyond.

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Although we don’t feature too many woodworking projects, there were quite a few woodworkers at the Faire with projects ranging from custom longboards pressed with a home built iron mold to DIY kayaks with elaborate wooden skeletons built by a local group of Michigan kayak builders. The kayaks were quite impressive: hand sewn nylon panels are wrapped around custom frames made from steamed white oak. It’s great to speak with the makers about the specialized skills needed for kayak building.

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The Best Environment-related Prize Projects

Last week we challenged you to post your idea on environment-related solutions for the 2015 Hackaday Prize. We’ve gone through every entry and have chosen this week’s winners. What a tough process, there are so many interesting ideas to consider that we’ve done a round-up of some that held our attention.

Bosch Haber Process
Bosch Haber Process

Energy Saving

Conservation was at the center of these projects and [Peter Walsh] is thinking large scale to improve the Bosch-Haber process. This process is used as a source of nitrogen for fertilizers and consumes 1% of all energy worldwide. Even small efficiency advances could have a huge effect.

From profound to whimsical, [TomaCzar] has an alarming solution to leaving the lights on. We enjoy his preamble about his family moving to Earth from a planet with unlimited energy (hence their habit of leaving the lights on). He plans to add an audible alarm to any light that is switched on for more than 10 minutes.

Energy Production

Those huge solar farms that use arrays of mirrors to focus the sun’s light on a central tower leverage a techique called Concentrated Solar Power. Traditionally they store heat in a pool of liquid salt for generating power around the clock. [PUNiSH3R] has a plan to build his own on a micro-scale. The Portable Micro-CHP will use similar concepts (less the molten salt) in a package small enough to be transported by a single human.

Undeveloped parts of the planet have huge problems when it comes to bootstrapping an electrical grid. [hickss] thinks blimps might be one way to alleviate the problem. The DayBreaker project will tether blimps to the ground, with a hydrogen feed supplied through electrolysis which keeps them afloat. While high in the air they can catch higher winds using a turbine and transfer the electricity back to the ground using the same tether.

Rounding out energy producing examples is the Domestic Geothermal Stirling Power Unit. We’ve seen geothermal systems that use heat exchangers to heat or cool your home. [Shrad] ponders the idea of also using the loops of circulating fluid to feed a Stirling engine that could help supply power to the home.

Way Out There Ideas

Is this parking lot a power plant waiting to happen?
Is this parking lot a power plant waiting to happen?

There were a number of interesting concepts that we think are well worth considering and debating. It’s hard to say if these are all feasible, but tossing the ideas around is just the kind of interaction that could lead to a big breakthrough. For instance, the image seen here is a freshly paved and painted asphalt parking lot. Asphalt Heat Harvesting imagines the Peltier effect being used on a large scale by embedding metal networks between layers of the pavement. A heat differential between the surface and the base layer could produce electricity.

We’re at a loss for understanding how the Open Source Modular Absorption Refrigeration Unit actually works. It seeks to supply refrigeration using a heat source instead of electricity. The diagram looks promising and we think OSMARU is a solid acronym!

Remember The Hunt for Red October? If so, you certainly remember the caterpillar drive which made the submarine virtually silent. [N-Monkeys] wants to use that and ocean water as a generator rather than a locomotive device. Check out Project InchWorm.

This Week’s Winners

time-for-the-prize-environment

First place this week goes to Improve the Bosch-Haber process and will receive the SmartMatrix 32×32 RGB LED matrix along with a Teensy 3.1 to drive it.

Second place this week goes to DayBreaker and will receive a Bus Pirate and probe cable.

Third place this week goes to Domestic Geothermal Stirling Power Unit and will receive a Hackaday Robot Head Tee.

Congratulations to all three! We think it’s important to mention we are judging the idea on its ability to solve something affecting a wide range of people, its level of innovation, and the feasibility of the concept. There is no requirement at this point to have built anything or completed the documentation. Don’t be afraid to write down your own brainstorm… it might just win you a prize!

Next Week’s Theme

We’ll announce next week’s theme a bit later today. Don’t let that stop you from entering any ideas collection of entries may have inspired.

This week’s theme is Aging in Place. Check out the announcement post for details.

Coming up with that killer concept is a matter to thinking in different ways and interacting with other Hackers, Designers, and Engineers to help make the mental leap to greatness!


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: