Super Massive Musical Instrument

Performing music in open spaces can be a real challenge. The acoustics of the space can play spoil-sport. Now imagine trying to play an instrument spread out over tens of kilometres. The folks at [LimbicMedia] wrote in to tell us about the project they worked on to build the The World’s Largest Musical Instrument.

The system consists of wirelessly controlled air horns deployed at remote locations. Each air horn is self contained, driven by a supply of compressed air from a scuba diving tank and battery powered electronics. The wireless link allows the air horns to be placed up to 10kms away from the base station. Each air horn is tuned to a specific note of the piano keyboard which, in turn, is configured to transmit its note data to the air horns.

HornsBeaconHill_02Currently, they have built 12 air horns, enough to let them play the Canadian and British anthems. The horns are built out of PVC piping and other off-the-shelf plastics with the dimensions of the horn determining its note. The setup was installed and performed at the Music by the Sea festival recently, by mounting the air horns on 12 boats which were stationed out at Sea in the Bamfield Inlet in Eastern Western Canada. But that was just a small trial. The eventual plan is to set up air horns all around Canada, and possibly other places around the world, and synchronise them to play music simultaneously, to commemorate the 150th Canada Day celebrations in 2017.

There aren’t many details shared about the hardware, but it’s not too difficult to make some guesses. A micro-controller to operate the air solenoid, long range radio link to connect all the air horns to the base station, and another controller to detect the key strokes on the Piano. The limiting issue to consider with this arrangement is the spatial separation between the individual air horns. Sound needs about 2.9 seconds to travel over a kilometer. As long as all the air horns are at approximately the same distance from the audience, this shouldn’t be a problem. See how they did in the video after the break. We do know of another project which handled that problem brilliantly, but we’ll leave the details for a future blog post.

This isn’t the first time [LimbicMedia] was commissioned to create audio-visual public installations. A couple of years back they built this Sound Reactive Christmas Tree in Victoria, British Columbia.

Continue reading “Super Massive Musical Instrument”

Screw Drive Tractor Is About To Conquer Canada

The incredible screw drive tractor is back. We’ve covered the previous test ride, which ended with a bearing pillow block ripping in half, but since then, again, a lot of repair work has been done. [REDNIC79] reinforced the load-bearing parts and put on a fresh pair of “tires”. The result is still as unbelievable as the previous versions, but it now propels itself forward at a blazing 3 mph (this time without tearing itself apart).

screw_drive_tractor_welding_screw_pods[REDNIC79] walks us through all the details of the improvements he made since the first version. After the last failure, he figured, that a larger screw pod diameter would give the vehicle a better floatation while smaller thread profile would prevent the screws from digging too deep into the ground, thus reducing the force required to move the vehicle forward.

[REDNIC79] found four identical 100 pounds, 16 inch diameter propane tanks to build the new pods from. The tanks were a bit too short for the tractor, so he cut open two of the tanks and used them to extend the other two before welding a double thread screw onto each. He also tapered the front ends of the tanks to make the ride even smoother. After mounting the new pods to the speedster, a pair of custom steel chain guards were added to prevent rocks from getting into the chain. And then, it was time for another test ride. Enjoy the video:

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Hackaday Invades Toronto

Next Wednesday, April 20th, Hackaday will invade Toronto.

[Sophi Kravitz] and [Michael Guilfoil] are heading north of the border to meet up with our friends at HacklabTO. They’ll be hosting a Bring A Hack meetup with drinks, snacks, and swag.

Since this is a Bring A Hack, attendees are encouraged to bring whatever project you’re working on and show it off, give a lightning talk, and pitch it to the community. [Sophi]’s last visit to Toronto brought some crazy hardware to the meetup, including a gaming glove for a Commodore 64, a demonstration of Ontario’s power plants, testing hamburgers for anything that is not beef with PCR, and analog synthesizers.

Since the Hackaday Prize is in full swing, this is an excellent opportunity to team up with fellow Torontonians for a great Prize entry, or just bounce a few ideas off people to see if your idea is feasible.

The meet and greet at the Hacklab is free, but we would request that you RSVP for the event. The event is also on, just in case you’d like to chat with [Sophi] or other attendees.

The HackadayPrize2016 is Sponsored by:

Screw Drive Tractor Hasn’t Conquered Canada Yet

[REDNIC79] lives somewhere in Canada where key terrain features include mud and snow. Half pontoon boat, half auger, screw-propelled vehicles excel in this kind of terrain as long as you’re okay with going really slow.

In his 11-and-counting part video series, [REDNIC79] goes through the conversion of a lawn tractor into a slow, theoretically unstoppable, Canadian screw-propelled tractor. He welds a frame, plonks some beefy chains on it, and throws a few hefty looking bearing mounts on there to boot. Then he makes some screws out of gas tanks; which was an enormous amount of work.

It was time to fire up the tractor. On the first muddy incline encountered, the tractor ceased to move. The culprit? A cracked transmission housing. Ouch. The end of the shaft holding the chain for the right screw was unsupported. When the shaft turned, it imparted its rotational force, but there was also an unconsidered down force on the end of the shaft, which resulted in a moment the bell housing wasn’t designed for.

Undeterred, [REDNIC79] welded the housing back together and threw a bearing on the end of the offending shaft to balance the moments. He fired it up, engaged the transmission, and the right screw bearing pillow block completely shattered. Ouch again. We can safely begin to assume that screw-propelled vehicles see a lot of forces.

[REDNIC79] hasn’t shelved the project yet. His next plan is to beef up the supports and build a much larger set of screws with smaller blades out of some propane tanks. This should reduce the force the power house needs to put out. Video of the first fail after the break. Continue reading “Screw Drive Tractor Hasn’t Conquered Canada Yet”

Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Toronto

Tomorrow, April 15th at 7pm, join Hackaday at the Toronto HackLab.

Our own Mythical Creature, [Sophi Kravitz] is headed North of the border to talk about all things hardware hacking! As always, we love to see what people are working on in their labs, basements, garages, and workplaces. Make sure to bring your builds with you to show off to the rest of the crowd. [Sophi] will have her Breathe project on hand. Solenoids, balloons, compressed air, and visualizations are the secret sauce behind this clever interactive build.

Since there will be snacks, hacks, drinks, and swag we’d appreciate a quick RSVP (use the link at the top of this post) just so we know you’re incoming. Apart from seeing a slew of cool builds there will be lightning talks, some information about the 2015 Hackaday Prize, and if you haven’t been to the Hacklab before this is the perfect time for your first tour. We know there’s a lot of awesome to be seen there!

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Four Cable Drawing Machine Pulls Our Strings


[David] has created a four cable drawing machine for the Telus Spark Science Centre in Canada. Hackaday has featured [David’s] unconventional drawing contraptions before, specifically his center pivot pen plotter. The drawing machine is a new take on a drawbot, and could be considered to be close cousins with [Dan’s] SkyCam. The premise is simple: A stepper motor with a reel of string is placed at each corner of a square. The strings for all four motors come together at a center weight. When all four strings are taut, the weight is lifted off the drawing surface. When a bit of slack is added into the strings, gravity pulls the weight down to touch the sand.

It’s at this point that a simple premise becomes a complex implementation. Moving the weight in one direction is a matter of reeling out string on one motor, and reeling in string on the other. But what about the two “un driven” strings? They have to be slack enough to allow movement in the driven direction, but not so slack that the weight can dig in and tumble on the sand, causing a tangle. To handle some of these questions, [David] called on [Kevin] to write some software. [Kevin] created a custom kinematics module for LinuxCNC to control the drawing machine. The drawing machine runs on Gerber Code, similar to a CNC. Simply feed the machine Cartesian coordinates, and [Kevin’s] module converts to steps.

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Hackerspace intro: Skullspace and AssentWorks in Winnipeg

The signs on the front door might be a little small, but the space which AssentWorks and Skullspace inhabit is anything but. [Matt] takes us on a tour of the Winnipeg, Canada makerspace and hackerspace.

The two spaces occupy one floor of the building but are partitioned for different purposes. AssentWorks, which is called a makerspace, is a business incubator. The tour shows it as a large and tidy area where small businesses can pool resources to maintain and stock the various shop and work areas. We can’t help but think of it as an OSB jungle as it seems all the interior walls have been built from Oriented Strand Board.

The second part of the video shows off the hackerspace: Skullspace. This is much less polished, but shows a lot of promise. There are several work spaces for electronics, machining, and woodworking. There is also an arcade room, a classroom, and a few other offerings. All in all there’s 8350 square feet of space between the two.

You can see the ten-minute tour embedded after the break. Continue reading “Hackerspace intro: Skullspace and AssentWorks in Winnipeg”