Build an Efficient Inverter, Win a Million Dollars

Little Box Challenge

Google and the IEEE are giving away a million dollar prize to an individual or team, that can build the most efficient and compact DC to AC inverter. The goal is to design and build a 2kW inverter with a power density greater than 50W per cubic inch. To put that in perspective, conventional solar string inverters have power densities around 0.5-3W per cubic Inch, and microinverters around 5W per cubic Inch. So in other words, an order of magnitude more efficient than what we have now.

For the challenge, the inverter needs to convert 450VDC, with a 10 ohm series resistor simulating a solar array, to 240VAC @ 60Hz. Testing will consist of powering various resistive, inductive and capacitive loads ranging from 0-2kVA. The inverter is expected to regulate voltage within 5%, and frequency within 0.05%, while keeping the enclosure below 60 degrees C, and conforming to FCC Part 15 B (Unintentional radiators).

If you and/or your team can figure out the most efficient topology, switching frequency, novel use of high power wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, physically reduce the size of the input and output filters, and keep the whole thing running cool. Then get registered before the September 30, 2014 deadline. Inverters need to be functional and the results of this test procedure (PDF warning) sent in before July 22, 2015, then 18 finalists will be chosen to bring their inverters in person to a testing facility in the United States by October 21, 2015. The grand prize winner will be announced sometime in January, 2016

[Thanks for the tip Dmytro]

This Arduino power inverter would need a serious upgrade to enter. And speaking of entering challenges, it’s still not too late to enter our very own Hackaday Prize!

Hackaday Reader [David] Wins a Camera from Make and Nikon

 

Make the shot fixed[David Schwarz] whipped up this moving time-lapse camera rig and won himself a sweet Nikon setup. You might remember our post about the Nikon Make:The Shot Challenge. [David] saw our post, and started thinking about what he wanted to enter. Like a true engineer, he finally came up with his idea with just 3 days left in the contest.

[David] wanted to build a moving time-lapse rig, but he didn’t have the aluminum extrusion rails typically used to build one. He did have some strong rope though, as well as a beefy DC motor with a built-in encoder. [David] mounted a very wide gear on the shaft of the motor, then looped the rope around the gear and two idler pulleys to ensure the gear would have a good bite on the rope. The motor is controlled by an Arduino, which also monitors the encoder to make sure the carriage doesn’t move too far between shots.

[6__pulley_systemDavid] built and tested his rig over a weekend. On Monday morning, he gave the rig its first run. The video came out pretty good, but he knew he could get a better shot. That’s when Murphy struck. The motor and controller on his rig decided to give up the ghost. With the contest deadline less than 24 hours away, [David] burned the midnight oil and replaced his motor and controller.

Tuesday morning, [David] pulled out his trump card – a trip to Tally Lake in Montana, USA. The equipment worked perfectly, and nature was cooperating too. The trees, lake, and the shadows on the mountains in the background made for an incredible shot. Once the time-lapse photos were in the can, [David] rushed home, stitched and stabilized the resulting video. He submitted his winning entry with just 2 hours to spare.

Click past the break for more on [David's] time-lapse rig, and to see his final video.

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Astronaut Or Astronot: Givin’ Away Scopes

Remember how we said we’d give away an oscilloscope to a random person on hackaday.io if they have voted on projects for The Hackaday Prize? Last week we tried that and no one won. This week we tried it and no one won. Then, because we’re awesome, we picked another person at random on Hackaday.io. [Rafael] is the winner, with a very nice oscilloscope heading to his doorstep. We’re going to need some contact info, hacker no. 13951, and if anyone has any advice on sending expensive electronics to Brazil, I think we’re going to need it.

We’re doing this again next week, so head on over to hackaday.io and vote. Also, pay no attention to the people who say voting is too hard and complicated and ill planned: they are wrong, and if you suck up enough the Prime Overlord will command that t-shirts and stickers be sent out to you.

Star Wars Training Droid Uses The Force

Star Wars Training Droid

We all know the scene, Obi-Wan Kenobi gives Luke a helmet with the blast shield down. He tells Luke “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them. Stretch out with your feelings!” Easy for Obi-Wan to say – he doesn’t have a remote training droid flying around and shooting at him. [Roeland] and his team are working to create a real-life version of the training droid for Hackday’s Sci-Fi contest.

The training droid in Star Wars may not have had the Force on its side, but it was pretty darn agile in the air. To replicate this, the team started with a standard Walkera Ladybird micro quadcopter. It would have been simple to have a human controlling the drone-turned-droid, but [Roeland and co] wanted a fully computer controlled system. The Ladybird can carry a small payload, but it just doesn’t have the power to lift a computer and sensor suite. The team took a note from the GRASP Lab and used an external computer with a camera to control their droid.

Rather than the expensive motion capture system used by the big labs, the team used a pair of Wii Remote controllers for stereo vision. A small IR LED mounted atop the droid made it visible to the Wii Remotes’ cameras. A laptop was employed to calculate the current position of the droid. With the current and desired positions known, the laptop calculated and sent commands to an Arduino, which then translated them for the droid’s controller.

Nice work guys! Now you just have to add the blaster emitters to it!

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Sci-Fi Contest Prizes Make You Drool Like a Rancor

sci-fi-contest-v1000

It’s been awhile since we hosted a contest, now is the time to up our game. You have a few weeks to come up with the best Sci-Fi themed hack. We’ve amassed a number of prizes well worth fighting for, and the challenge will be won by a combination of clever, collaborative, and open. The booty includes rad (yeah, we said it) tools like Oscilloscopes, Logic Sniffers, Solder Stations, and Dev Boards, as well as themed offerings like classic Sci-Fi films and tchotchkes from our favorite fictional universes.

Yesterday we announced that Hackaday Projects is open for public registration and now we’re taking the new site for a spin. Previous contests like the Trinket and Fubarino versions became unwieldy for the Hackaday crew just because of the sheer volume of entries. The new interface will make it much easier. We also want to test out the collaborative features so one of the requirements for entry is to participate as a team. The winners will be picked based on how well the project is documented, how open (as in software and hardware) it is, how it fits the theme, and on how well the team worked together.

The contest starts right now and ends at 12:00:00am Pacific time (we know a lot of you like to push deadlines) on April 29th, 2014. Head over to the contest page to see all of the details. Let the games begin!

[Official Contest Page]

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Fubarino Contest: A Dutch Word Clock

dutchclock

[Gerben] started on his adventure into the world of electronics about a year ago. His first big project is this magnificent word clock. It’s Dutch, if you’re wondering.

As a web developer, the first thing [Gerben] did was build a web-based mockup of this clock. After that, he went crazy with power tools crafting the wooden frame. Perhaps too crazy, as he forgot the space for the electronics. This oversight was solved by making his own PCBs, first using peroxide and vinegar, then giving up and moving to peroxide and HCl.

The easter egg for this word clock is a scrolling URL when the time is 13:37. A clever egg that is really completely original.

From the looks of the video, the fit and finish of this word clock is beyond anything we’ve seen before. The entire front of the clock is glass, with capacitive touch buttons down by the four-LED ‘minute’ display.

Video below, Pics over here, and all the code and board files are here.


This is an entry in the Fubarino Contest for a chance at one of the 20 Fubarino SD boards which Microchip has put up as prizes!

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Watching 50 teams build something cool

Last summer, we here at Hackaday participated in the Red Bull Creation Contest. Basically, twelve teams were given webcams and instructions to build something cool. The teams live streamed their build process, and the best of the bunch won a trip to the New York Maker Faire. [Jason Naumoff], the guy behind this build-off is doing it again right now. It’s called The Deconstruction and it pits 50 teams on 6 continents to build something cool while streaming their project to the Internet.

The Deconstruction is a little bit different from Red Bull’s contest – first, the teams don’t have access to ludicrous amounts of energy drinks. Secondly, there’s no set theme for the group entries. It’s a free-for-all build off where teams can make anything they’d like.

We’ve really got to hand it to [Jason] for pulling this off. He MC’d the Red Bull Creation Contest live stream – nearly all 72 hours of it – and was entertaining right up to the very end. You can check out the official stream on the main Deconstruction site, or you can check out the individual team streams here.

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