Making a Nitinol Wire Inchworm

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[Steven’s] at it again with another cool science experiment that isn’t too difficult to do. This time he’s made himself a Nitinol wire inchworm, which actually moves across the table when you apply a switching electrical current to it!

Nitinol is a shape memory alloy which has a cool property that causes it to retain (and return to) a preset shape when heat (or electricity!) is applied. It’s actually quite simple — he’s wrapped the Nitinol wire tightly around a nail, and then heated it to set it to a coiled shape. Now the Nitinol spring can be stretched out flat, but as soon as it is heated, it will attempt to return to its coiled state!

Using some balsa wood and a few other odds and ends he’s taken advantage of this memory effect to make an electric inchworm — check it out after the break!

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Tennis Ball Launcher Has Puppies Running the 100m Dash

Launching Tennis Balls with Ease

[Brian] from 24 Hour Engineer has a friend with arthritis who can’t easily play ball with his new puppy — so [Brian] stepped in and built him this awesome tennis ball launcher.

You see, most tennis ball launchers require a solid flick of the wrist, and since just plain old throwing it is out of the question too, [Brian] had to make him something powerful and easy to use. After sketching out some designs he came up with the basic concept that eventually became what is pictured above.

The frame is made of 2″ PVC pipe, which serves two purposes, support, and safety. The bungee cord launching system is actually contained within the pipe, keeping it out of the way, and free from catching on anything during firing. A pair of pulleys mounted at the cord opening ensure the cord doesn’t wear out.

What we really like is the trigger mechanism [Brian] made out of some carefully cut wood,  a steel corner brace and a few nuts and bolts. It’s a simple mechanism that provides leverage and an easy way to release the bungee cord.  Continue reading “Tennis Ball Launcher Has Puppies Running the 100m Dash”

[Lenore] Eviscerates Her Racing Snail

 

You may have walked past [Lenore’s] unassuming card table at Maker Faire this year. But we’re really glad we stopped for a little chat. She went so far as to pull the working parts out of her racing snail to show them to us!

Wait, wait… racing snail? Yeah, this is a pretty neat one from a few years ago. The snail is a relatively large version of a bristlebot (incidentally, we believe bristlebots were originated by EMSL). The thing that’s missing here are the bristles. Instead of using a scrub-brush for this large version, [Lenore] discovered that velvet has a somewhat uni-directional grain. But using a piece of mouse-pad cut to the same footprint as the velvet she was able to get the flat-footed snail to move in a forward direction purely through the jiggle of a vibrating motor.

If this sparked your interest there are tons of other bristlebot variations to be found around here. One of our favorites is still this abomination which shifts weight to add steering.

Wall-Mounted Chess Set Lets You Stand and Play

wall mounted chess

Artwork on the wall is nice and all, but don’t you get bored with it sometimes? What if you could interact with it! That’s just what the [Artless Dodger] decided to do with this old  Fidelity Chess Challenger he converted to a wall-playable chess set!

The old Fidelity Chess Challenger is a fun electronic chess set that works by operating on press input. Simply move your piece, press down on its new square and then the computer knows where the piece is. The system is just begging to be hacked into a new form factor.

He’s built the new board from scratch using MDF, and then coated it with faux leather vinyl to give it a more polished look. He’s upgraded all the switches to momentary button switches and then re-soldered all of the connections. This was a bit of a challenge seeing as the original buttons looked like this:

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Plug and Play Portable Console Saves Space So You Don’t Have To!

Plug and Play console

Remember all those fun plug and play consoles they used to make? Usually just one offs with a few games here and there, typically designed to get poor old grandmothers to try buying them instead of the official Nintendo or SEGA systems for their grandchildren…

Anyway, some of the games were actually pretty good! But who wants to store a system for every individual game? [Sharon] decided to make the ultimate portable console — and jammed every plug and play console… into cartridges for safe keeping!

Wait what? [Sharon] took 12 of the plug and play consoles, hacked them to pieces, and managed to stuff the guts into custom game cartridges she made herself. She then made the HandyPNP, a “base console” with buttons and controls, video output and an LCD screen. She meticulously mapped out every consoles’ controls, and wired them accordingly, so when you plug the cartridge into the HandyPNP, it’s like your playing the original system.

It’s probably one of the most impressive handheld console hacks we’ve seen in a while, just considering the amount of work required to convert one console, let alone 12, to a standard connection for the HandyPNP to communicate with. Stick around after the break to hear [Sharon] explain the project herself!

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Pneumatic Rocket Man

rocketman

Here’s a fun May the 4th be with you project… A pneumatically powered Boba Fett jetpack-launching-mannequin!

[Rodger Cleye], best known for his crazy quadrotor projects, wanted to try experimenting with pneumatic power for a change. He managed to obtain a fire extinguisher which he’s routed through a home-made PVC air delivery system on the back of his faithful test dummy — this time decked out in a complete [Boba Fett] costume.

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Backyard Roller Coaster – Family, Physics and Fun

Coaster Dad Track Segment

This week we have been in touch with [Will Pemble], Geek Dad. After a visit to Magic Mountain in early 2013, his son [Lyle] asked “Why don’t we build our own rollercoaster, Dad?”. [Will] couldn’t think of a single reason why not. This was the start of the CoasterDad Project. Excited by the challenge of building a Backyard Roller Coaster, [Will] also thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to teach [Lyle] about physics. Family, Fun, and Physics – what could be better?

The track is made from parallel PVC pipes on a lumber frame, similar to the one we saw for the Manpowered PVC rollercoaster, but it is more varied and looks a lot sturdier. [Will] is now working on mark II of the cart made from a steel frame with skateboard wheels and has independent axles. He is planning to add a pedal mechanism with freewheel, so you can get a little extra oomph on the rises.

In [Will’s] great videos you can get a front row seat on the coaster and see that even though it is fairly compact it has enough rises, troughs and turns to keep you entertained. It may not be quite as exciting as [Jon Iver’s] homemade rollercoaster, but when finished, the rider will be able go round and round self-propelled to their heart’s content, or till they puke, whichever comes first.  [Will] also explains the theory and practicalities behind making a strong, safe, but really fun coaster. Don’t miss the videos after the fold.

Have you made a backyard roller coaster, or are thinking about building one? Have you got any questions about [Will’s] roller coaster build? He’s up for making a video to answer some of them, so please leave questions for him in the comments below. We will post the video later on.

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