Talking BeagleBoard with [Jason Kridner]

[Jason Kridner] is a member of the i3 Detroit hackerspace and during the Hackaday meet-up we were able to spend a few minutes talking about what’s going on with BeagleBoard right now. For those of you that don’t know, BeagleBoard is a non-profit foundation which guides the open hardware initiative of the same name. This includes BeagleBone which is the third iteration of the platform. [Jason's] a good guy to talk to about this as he co-founded the organization and has been the driving force in the community ever since.

Right now the organization is participating in the Google Summer of Code. This initiative allows students to propose open source coding projects which will help move the community forward. Students with accepted proposals were paired with mentors and are paid for the quality code which is produced. One of the projects this year is a 100 Megahertz, 14-channel Logic Analyzer which [Jason] is waving around in the video. It’s the GSoC project of [Kumar Abhishek] and you can learn more from his proposal.

Also of interest in the video is a discussion about the power of the BeagleBone’s PRUs, or Programmable Real-Time Units. They’re basically unused microcontrollers that have direct access to a lot of the processor’s features and are just waiting for you to bend them to your will. Having these is a huge boon for hardware hackers. If you haven’t played with them before, check out our earlier article on what PRUs are all about and then give it a whirl yourself.

After the break there’s a brief table of contents which maps the topics in the video above.

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Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum

Don’t call it an arcade. There are arcade-like things about it… like dance-based video games, Skee-ball, and tickets — oh so many tickets. But Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum is a one-of-a-kind that you need to visit next time you’re in the North suburbs of Detroit, Michigan.

[Marvin] was there in person, as he is many days. He talked with us for a few minutes and we’ve folded his interview, along with footage of many of the attractions, into the video above.

He’s been collecting for more than three decades. The attractions are packed into every bit of floor space, spilling up onto the walls, and hanging from every spot in the ceiling. There are true antiques from both home and abroad that could be referred to as automatons, rows of fortune tellers, a track of large airplane models that make a loop around the establishment when fed a quarter, and much more.

Some of the attractions were build for him, like the robot band you can make out behind [Marvin] during the interview. It is a MIDI-based build that allows songs to be selected from a touchscreen. Soon to be on exhibit is a Tesla-coil-based offering which [Marvin] commissioned after taking second place to [Nicolai Tesla] on a list of oddest museums.

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The Party was Bumping, then the Fire Dragon Showed Up

Epic Party.

I don’t use that label lightly. After the Red Bull Creation’s day of show and tell was over — winners having been presented with trophies and stuffed with barbecue over at Bert’s — people started to trickle into OmniCorp Detroit for the party.

Like all of the best parties we didn’t really see it coming. I grabbed a folding chair on the street out front with a beer in my hand and enjoyed a rotating variety of interesting people to talk with. Brian Benchoff trys out the team choice trophy -- a modified toddler's tricycle [Brian] rolled up riding one of the trophies, a modified toddler’s tricycle that proves his future with a travelling circuit is still viable. They roped off the area and set up huge speakers for the DJ. Then two guys game lumbering down the street sharing the work of hauling a tub full of ice and 12-ounce clear glass bottles with colored liquid inside. Turns out they just opened a distillery down the street and decided to donate some vodka infusions for the festivities. Yum!

Upstairs, a couple hundred square feet of area was ringed by a bar (with wide variety of kegs, slushy drinks, and one of those hot dog rollers), couches, a few work benches, a second DJ booth, and a photobooth. We only got one picture before the smoke machine reduced visibility.

Unlike a lot of ragers I’ve been at, it was easy to start up a conversation with just about anyone. Living expenses are so low in Detroit and artists are flocking to the area. This is who made up most of the group. Fascinating people who are working on a multitude of different projects and have stories of building community on their streets while rehabbing houses that cost $1-2.5k to purchase but didn’t come with most of what you’d assume a house should.

Then the fire dragon showed up

Inside was packed and outside was starting to get crowded. Then the fire dragon showed up. Named Gon KiRin, it’s the collaboration between [Teddy Lo] and [Ryan C. Doyle] who was on Team Detroitus and is artist in residence at Recycle Here!, the build venue for the Red Bull Creation. Couch on the back above the propane tankThe beast is built on the frame of a 1960′s dump truck and most of the building materials were found on the sides of the highway. The huge propane tank on the back allows it to breathe fire. I love that three daisy-chained 9-volts and two bare wires are the control mechanism for this. One thing became readily apparent; you don’t stand in front of Gon KiRin while it’s breathing fire.

The crowd piled onto the couches on top of the tail and at either rear hip. The dragons back also bore a continually rotating set of people. After midnight the guests really started to flood in. [Caleb] and I tried to close down the party but a few hours after midnight it didn’t seem to be getting any slower.

Capping off the weekend like this really proves that you need to get your team into next year’s Red Bull Creation. I got in the easy way — judges don’t have to stay up for 72 hours building stuff. Despite the sleep deprivation for contestants I didn’t come across anyone who wasn’t having a blast during the build, while goofing off, or trying to stay awake as this party got moving.

Bravo Detroit, you’re now on my short list of best party towns. Who else wants to be added to that list? Hackaday’s going to be in Las Vegas for DEFCON in a few weeks. Anyone know of parties planned that weekend and how we can get in?

Red Bull Creation: i3 Detroit

If there’s one thing I learned about Detroit last weekend, it’s that it is freaking huge. It’s an unbelievably large city, and looking at the population numbers, you can really start to see the problem of providing city services to such a large area. With such a sparse population, it’s the ideal environment for experimentations in urban farming, after a few seasons of planting crops that will leech everything out of the soil of course.

If you have a farm, you’re going to need some means of irrigation, and you might as well throw a scarecrow in there as well, giving i3 Detroit the idea for RoboCrop, the perfect project for an urban farm or anyone who is putting on a production of The Wizard Of Oz but is a little shorthanded for a full cast.

RoboCrop is an all-in-one irrigation and bird and small mammal scaring device, controllable with webcam video streamed right to the remote. It’s a fun project, and fits right into the apparent unofficial “urban gardening” theme of this year’s Red Bull Creation.

i3 is also the largest and arguably the best equipped hackerspace in the Detroit region. They were kind enough to let us throw a little get together there last weekend where we gave away a 3D printer for The Hackaday Prize. Good times all around. We’ll have a video tour of i3 up a little bit later.

Red Bull Creation: Omnicorp: This Time, They’re Not Evil

While the bulk of the building for the Red Bull Creation happened at a recycling center/art space in Detroit, the judging was at Detroit’s Eastern Market, a huge farmer’s market that has just about everything. The Omnicorp hackerspace is just off Eastern Market, so this is their territory: they know what will work. For their entry for this year’s RBC, they’re going local: a wheeled information kiosk that’s also a great place to make smoothies and grill up a few veggies and dogs.

While the information kiosk the team is commendable, the idea of giving all the visitors to the Red Bull Creation event a halfway decent lunch is a great idea: all the ingredients are already there, so all that’s needed is an extension cord and a little bit of charcoal.

After the Red Bull Creation event is where this project would have really shined: hundreds of people going through at least six kegs, fireworks, a friggin’ dragon dump truck, and a DJ loud enough to be heard a half mile away. We’ll get to that in a post tomorrow. Let’s just say our head editor had fun.

Red Bull Creation: Giant Cannons Shooting Salt

Hackaday took a trip to Detroit last weekend for the Red Bull Creation Contest. It was a blast, we had a lot of fun, and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse at seven teams hacking, grinding, sawing, and soldering their way through the 72 hour buildoff.

Team Detroitus started their build with the idea of building a giant air cannon. The theme of the build was ‘reinventing the wheel’, but they apparently didn’t let that get in the way of building a giant double barrel air cannon, filling it with candy and stuffed animals, and shooting it, point blank, at children. I was wanged by a lemon Starburst, but that’s my favorite flavor anyway.

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Hamtramck Disneyland

Mike posing near the central part of the build... lots to see here!

With a few hours of down time I convinced [Caleb Kraft] to go to Hamtramck Disneyland with me. You’ve heard of it, right? I certainly hadn’t. I sounded like gibberish when [Chris Thompson] suggested it to us. Just a 10 minute drive away from Recycle Here! (where the Red Bull Creation is being held).

Without a street address we never would have found it. The spectacle is simply a house on a normal looking street in Hamtramck, Michigan. We were just a few doors down, creeping down the street, before we spied a flash of color between the houses. Swinging around the corner and into the alley this marvel opened up to us. The work of [Dmytro Szylak] started about twenty years ago. He built and built and built for years, a produced some backyard art that impossible to view without beaming with joy. You won’t spend much time there, but seeing for yourself is worth a few minutes side trip. For those that will never have a chance, here are the pictures I snapped.

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