2015 THP Inspiration: The Environment

It’s not as flashy as Tesla coils or electric vehicles going 200 mph, but the environment is more important than a bunch of cool baubles and sparks flying everywhere. When it comes to this year’s Hackaday Prize, you’re going to need a project that matters, and what’s a better way to do it than with something to help the environment?

While not traditionally a domain that rocks people’s socks, there are a lot of cool builds that can help the environment like this hyperspectral imager that’s a mashup of a spectrometer and a camera, or something that takes an image of an object, complete with the spectral data of each pixel. It’s useful for everything from farming, to forestry, to medicine.

aquaponicsPerhaps you want to get your hands messy by mucking about in the dirt. You’ll probably find something interesting to build for this year’s Hackaday Prize, like the modular farmer’s market we saw in Detroit last year. How about an urban farming and aquaponics setup? Tilapia do well in giant buckets, you know.

If robots are more your speed, then how about an RC tractor or an entire robotic farm? You could always eradicate invasive plants with a quadcopter if flying around is more suited to your expertise. There are plenty of ways to do something that matters for this year’s Hackaday prize, but we’d be lying if we had all the answers. That’s where you come in with your entry for The Hackaday Prize.

2015 THP: Judges and Sponsors

And now it’s time to recognize a big part what makes the Hackaday Prize possible: our Judges and our Sponsors. First up are the Judges. We are fortunate again this year to be joined by top experts from around the world. We are going to briefly touch on each in this post, but you really should hit the Judge’s page for bios and links on everyone.

New Judges in 2015

We have seven judges new to the panel this year:

We love seeing a project pic used as an avatar and [Akiba] of freaklabs didn’t disappoint; we covered that project in 2013. [Pete Dokter], known well for According to Pete, joins us from Sparkfun. [Lenore Edman] and [Windell Oskay] are the force behind Evil Mad Scientist Labs. [Heather Knight] of Marilyn Monrobot is finishing her PhD in Robots at Carnegie Mellon. [Ben Krasnow] should need no introduction; formerly of Valve, currently of Google[x], and always of Applied Science. [Micah Scott] is artist/engineer/hacker and her Blu-Ray drive RE work is among our most favorite of 2014 hacks.

Returning Judges

Five of our friends from the 2014 Hackaday Prize are returning this year:

We have a hard time calling the founder of Adafruit anything other than [Ladyada] but you may know her as [Limor Fried]. The hardware design site The Ganssle Group is spearheaded by [Jack Ganssle]. You know [Dave Jones] from his electronics design and reverse engineering videos on EEVblog and also from the Amp Hour podcast. [Ian Lesnet] is a Hackaday alum, creator of Dangerous Prototypes, and expert regarding manufacturing in China. And finally, [Elecia White] is an extraordinary embedded engineer, founder of Logical Elegance, and the Embedded podcast.

Welcome back, and so happy to have the new Judges this year!

2015 Hackaday Prize Sponsors


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is presented by Supplyframe (parent company of Hackaday). This year we have added five giants of the hardware world as sponsors. We don’t recall having seen so many major players come together for a single initiative. We’re excited that they share our vision of supporting design initiatives. Please thank them by following their Hackaday.io pages: Atmel, Freescale Semiconductor, Microchip, Mouser Electronics, and Texas Instruments. Thank you sponsors!

Popular Electronics Magazine Archive Online

They began publishing Popular Electronics magazine in 1954, and it soon became one of the best-selling DIY electronics magazines. And now you can relive those bygone days of yore by browsing through this archive of PDFs of all back issues from 1954 to 1982.

Reading back through the magazine’s history gives you a good feel for the technological state of the art, at least as far as the DIYer is concerned. In the 1950s and 1960s (and onwards) radio is a big deal. By the 1970s, hi-fi equipment is hot and you get an inkling for the dawn of the digital computer age. Indeed, the archive ends in 1982 when the magazine changed its name to Computers and Electronics magazine.

It’s fun to see how much has changed, but there’s a bunch of useful material in there as well. In particular, each issue has a couple ultra-low-parts-count circuit designs that could certainly find a place in a modern project. For example, a “Touch-Controlled Solid State Switch” in July 1982 (PDF), using a hex inverter chip (CD4049) and a small handful of passive components.

But it’s the historical content that we find most interesting. For instance there is a nice article on the state of the art in computer memory (“The Electronic Mind — How it Remembers”) in August 1956 (PDF).

Have a good time digging through the archives, and if you find something you really like, let us know in the comments.

Smartphone VR Viewer Roundup


In June 2014, Google revealed a low-cost Smartphone Adapter and VR SDK at their annual software developer conference in San Francisco, California. During the event, Google handed out 6,000 cardboard kits and released a tutorial online, which prompted homemade versions to surface on the web within three hours. This then sparked an iPad case manufacturer to fashion together their own cardboard VR kit that could be bought for $25. After a week, Google gained over 50,000 downloads of their cardboard Android app.

Although the popularity of this VR viewer skyrocketed extremely fast, the idea for a cheap VR solution is nothing new. Developers have been experimenting with these types of objects for years. In fact, a group of Cupertino high school sophomores debuted a similar device called ‘Face Box’ at an entertainment and technology conference at Stanford University on June 17, more than a week before Google’s I/O presentation. A few months earlier, researchers at the Mixed Reality Research Lab (MxR) at USC launched an open source DIY VR website that showed how to create virtual reality headsets with a 3D printer. The smartphone enabled head-mounted display had schematics for both Android and iPhone. The MxR lab was where [Palmer Luckey] worked at as an engineer before founding Oculus (the company that Facebook eventually acquired for approximately $2 billion). So when [Palmer] saw that Google released their cardboard kit, he vocalized his opinion by calling it a clone of his colleagues’ research on Reddit.

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NPR Science Friday Roundup


UPDATE: Listen to the segment here.

Did you know I’m going to be a guest on NPR Science Friday today? If this is the first you’re hearing about it you need to sign up for the mailing list (there’s a sign-up form in the right hand column of this page).

If you’ve already listened to the show and found your way here for the goods on the projects, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Join us after the break for project links and details.

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Best robot demos from ICRA 2013


The 2013 IEEE International Conference of Robotics and Automation was held early in May. Here’s a video montage of several robots shown off at the event. Looks like it would have been a blast to attend, but at least you can draw some inspiration from such a wide range of examples.

We grabbed a half-dozen screenshots that caught our eye. Moving from the top left in clockwise fashion we have a segmented worm bot that uses rollers for locomotion. There’s an interesting game of catch going on in the lobby with this sphere-footed self balancer. Who would have thought about using wire beaters as wheels? Probably the team that developed the tripod in the upper right. Just below there’s one of the many flying entries, a robot with what looks like a pair of propellers at its center. The rover in the middle is showing off the 3D topography map it creates to find its way. And finally, someone set up a pool of water for this snake to swim around in.

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A collection of hands to inspire your Halloween animatronics

Jump scares are a lot of fun, but if you want to hold the attention of all those trick-or-treaters we’d suggest a creepy prop. One of the best choices in that category is a ghoulishly lifelike hand. You can draw some inspiration from this roundup of robot hands which Adafruit put together.

We’ve chosen four examples for the image above but there are more to be had than just these. In the upper left there is a laser-cut acrylic hand that actually features some force sensitive resistors on the fingertips to help implement some haptic feedback. This project was inspired by the hand seen in the lower right which uses flex sensors on a glove to control the bot’s movement. If you’re looking for something more realistic the 3D printed parts on the lower left are the best bet. But if you’re looking to put something together by Halloween night the offering in the upper right is the way to go. It’s hacked together using cardboard templates to cut out plastic parts and using polymorph to form joints and brackets.