THP Semifinalist: fNIR Brain Imager

565281406845688681 The current research tool du jour in the field of neuroscience and psychology is the fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging. It’s basically the same as the MRI machine found in any well equipped hospital, but with a key difference: it can detect very small variances in the blood oxygen levels, and thus areas of activity in the brain. Why is this important? For researchers, finding out what area of the brain is active in response to certain stimuli is a ticket to Tenure Town with stops at Publicationton and Grantville.

fMRI labs are expensive, and [Jeremy]‘s submission to The Hackaday Prize is aiming to do the same thing much more cheaply, and in a way that will vastly increase the amount of research being done with this technique. How is he doing this? Using the same technology used in high-tech vein finders: infrared light.

[Jeremy]‘s idea is much the same as a photoplethysmograph, better known as a pulse oximeter. Instead of relatively common LEDs, [Jeremy] is using near infrared LEDs, guided by a few papers from Cornell and Drexel that demonstrate this technique can be used to see blood oxygen concentrations in the brain.

Being based on light, this device does not penetrate deeply into the brain. For many use cases, this is fine: the motor cortex is right next to your skull, stretching from ear to ear, vision is taken care of at the back of your head, and memories are right up against your forehead. Being able to scan these areas noninvasively with a device you can wear has incredible applications from having amputees control prosthetics to controlling video game characters by just thinking about it.

[Jeremy]‘s device is small, about the size of a cellphone, and uses an array of LEDs and photodiodes to assemble an image of what’s going on inside someone’s head. The image will be somewhat crude, have low resolution, and will not cover the entire brain like an fMRI can. It also doesn’t cost millions of dollars, making this one of the most scientifically disruptive entries we have for The Hackaday Prize.

You can check out [Jeremy]‘s intro video below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize. 

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THP Semifinalist: Level, The Ultrawideband Radio Module

LEVEL

When you start looking into the Internet of Things, the first thing you realize is that despite there being grand ideas for Internet connected everything, nobody knows how these things will actually connect to the Internet. There are hundreds of different radio protocols being pushed, and dozens of networking schemes currently in development. The solution to this is a radio module that can do them all, talking to all these modules and serving them up to the Internet. This is the idea of [Hunter Scott]‘s Level, a radio module with a frequency range of 30 MHz to 4.4 GHz. That’ll cover just about everything, including some interesting applications in the TV whitespace.

[Hunter]‘s module is based around TI’s CC430, basically an MSP430 microcontroller and a CC1101 transceiver smooshed together into a single piece of silicon. There’s bit of filtering that makes this usable in the now sorta-empty TV whitespace spectrum, something that a lot of IoT and wireless networking protocols are looking at.

If the form factor of the device looks familiar, that’s because it is; the board itself is Arduino compatible, but not with Arduinos themselves; it will accept shields, though, meaning building a bridge to Ethernet or WiFi to whatever radios this board is talking to is really just a change in firmware.

This board is excellent for experimenting with different radio modules, yes, but it’s also great for experimenting with different radio protocols. [Hunter] has been looking around at different mesh networking protocols.

You can check out [Hunter]‘s two minute video overview, along with a more detailed overview of the schematic below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

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THP Semifinalist: Theta Printer

thetaThe early 3D printers of the 80s and 90s started off as cartesian bots, and this is what the RepRap project took a cue from for the earliest open source 3D printer designs. A bit later, the delta bot came on the scene, but this was merely a different way to move a toolhead around build plate. We haven’t really seen a true polar coordinate 3D printer, except for [Tyler Anderson]‘s incredible Theta printer.

[Tyler]‘s theta printer is designed to print in as many different materials as possible, without the reduction in build volume that comes with multiple toolheads on more traditional printers. It will be able to lay down different colors of plastic in a huge build volume, and even some of the weirder filaments out there, all in a single print.

The theta printer is based on a polar coordinate system, meaning instead of moving a hot end around in the X and Y axes, the build plate rotates in a circle, and the extruders move along the radius of the circle. This spinning, polar coordinate printer is the best way we’ve seen to put multiple extruders on a printer, and has the added bonus of being a great platform for a 3D scanner as well.

With four extruders, four motors to control the position of each extruder, a rotation motor, and the Z axis (that’s 10 steppers if you’re counting), this is very likely the greatest number of motors ever put in a 3D printer. Most electronics boards don’t support that many stepper drivers, and the one that will won’t be ready for the end of The Hackaday Prize. Right now, [Tyler] is running a fairly standard RAMPS board, running two extruders and R axes in parallel. Still, it’s good enough for a proof of concept.

One interesting aspect of [Tyler]‘s design is something even he might not have realized yet: with a single bed and four extruders, he’s effectively made a 3D printer geared for high-volume production; simply by printing the same part with all the extruders, he’s able to quadruple the output of a 3D printer with the same floor space as a normal one. This may not sound like much, but when you realize Lulzbot has a bot farm producing all their parts, the Theta printer starts to look like a very, very good idea.

Videos of [Tyler]‘s Theta below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize.

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THP Semifinalst: Laser Solder Paste

laser

A relative latecomer to The Hackaday Prize, [AltMarcxs] has nevertheless come up with a very interesting tool for fabrication, the likes of which no one has ever seen before. It’s a rotating laser soldering paste applicator, meant to be an add-on to a CNC machine. What does it do? RIght now it looks extremely cool while being an immense time sink for [AltMarcxs], but the potential is there for being much more than that, ranging from a pick and place machine that also dispenses solder paste, to the closest thing you’ll ever get to a carbon fiber printer.

[AltMarcxs]‘s build consists of two 3W laser diodes focused just beyond the tip of the syringe. The syringe dispenses solder paste, and rotating the diodes around, [Alt] is able to put a melted solder blob anywhere on a piece of perfboard. He put up a reasonably well focused video demonstrating this.

With a few homebrew pick and place machines making the semifinalist cut for The Hackaday Prize, it’s easy to see the utility of something like this: Putting a board in a machine, pressing a button, and waiting a bit for a completely populated and soldered board is a dream of the electronic hobbyist rivaled only by a cheap and easy way to make PCBs at home. [AltMarxcs]‘s machine could be one step on the way to this, but there are a few other ideas he’d like to explore first.

The build also has wire feeders that allow a bit of copper wire to be soldered to the newly formed metal blob. There are plans to replace this with a composite fiber, replace the paste in the syringe with a UV resin, cut the fiber and cure the resin with the laser, and build something much better than other carbon fiber 3D printers we’ve seen before.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize. 

50 Semifinalists Selected for Next Stage of The Hackaday Prize

thp-semifinalists

Who cares about Open Design and building the next generation of Connected Devices? It turns out a lot of people do!

The Hackaday Prize put out the call for Open, Connected design ideas and around 800 projects were posted over the last few months to answer that call. The cutoff for documenting your concept and making entry to the contest was just before midnight last Wednesday. Since then our crew has been going through the entries to select 50 to move on as Semifinalists. Here’s who made the cut:

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The Hackaday Prize: Unofficial Statistics

Hackaday Prize entries over time. You people really know how to procrastinate. Click to embiggen.

Hackaday Prize entries over time. You people really know how to procrastinate. Click to embiggen.

What is the Hackaday crew doing this weekend? Judging Hackaday Prize entries, of course! We need to pare down the hundreds of entries we received to 50 primo entries for the quarterfinals round. We’re going to be slammed the entire weekend, so don’t expect any news on who’s in and who’s out of the competition until Monday.

Each of us has about 15 hours of video to go through (multiply the number of entries by two minutes. It’s a lot), and of course we need to read each entry and rate them. We’re literally looking at more than a man-month of work here, and yes, we’ve all read the book.

Until then, here’s some totally unofficial statistics, courtesy of [Greg Kennedy] and his web scraping skills. The graph above shows the number of Hackday Prize entries over time, from the first announcement of the contest to the cutoff time. You people really, really like to procrastinate. The day with the most entries was August 20th, the deadline to get your project in. The day with the most validated entries (i.e. meeting the requirements of a video and four project logs) was August 19th. Needless to say, it’s been a busy week on Hackaday.io.

As a side note, the rules for THP say you must upload a video to qualify for the quarterfinals. This video may be uploaded to YouTube or Youku. Only one project uploaded a video to Youku. Now you know what to do next time to get some free publicity.

It’s highly unlikely we’re going to publish this many official stats, especially now that [Greg] has it pretty much covered. We’ll get the list of all the quarterfinalists out on Monday. Until then you can entertain yourself by watching nearly 15 hours of Hackaday Prize entry videos, all embedded below.

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12 Hours of Hacking

arrow-down-rightIf you’re better working under a deadline you should be at your best RIGHT NOW. That timer is counting down the last 12 hours to enter The Hackaday Prize.

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