Geek Group Fire Update

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The Geek Group is in the process of cleaning up after their fire. Their small capacitor/spark gap room sustained the most damage, with the interior nearly completely incinerated, along with some structural damage to the walls and roof.  The gap room was isolated from the much larger high voltage lab by red plastic welding curtain. The curtain was fire-retardant, but when it did finally burn, it was extremely sooty. With the curtain burning, soot covered the high voltage lab. The rest of the building escaped fire damage, but nearly all of it is covered in a fine layer of soot. The group has been and are attacking the soot problem head on, with shop-vacs, rags, and elbow grease. Several of their sponsors have also promised supplies to cover the remediation.

[Chris] and [Paul] have also been doing some sleuthing as to the root cause of the fire. While the cause will never be known beyond a shadow of a doubt, they have a pretty good idea of the chain of events. Gemini, the group’s 200 kVA Tesla coil had been run about 1/2 hour before smoke was detected. The fire was concentrated in Gemini’s spark gap room. Close inspection of the rotary spark gap showed that the stationary electrodes all seemed to have sustained a mechanical impact. It appears that either while the gap was running, or as it was spinning down, one of the flying electrodes moved enough to impact the stationary electrodes. These electrodes are 3/8″ and 1/2″ tungsten, and often glowed white-hot while the gap was in operation. One set screw held each electrode in to the 12″ rotor. The set screw of one flying electrode was found to be loose, and the electrode it retained probably impacted the stationary electrodes. It’s not a far leap to guess that hot metal from these impacts could have landed in the capacitor array, smoldered, and eventually caught aflame.

A single loose screw most likely caused the entire chain of events leading up to the fire. [Chris] and [Paul] had observed the spark gap throwing out hot bits of metal even during normal operation, and had planned an encapsulation box. However, disaster struck before it was built. This is not to say that The Geek Group operates an unsafe shop. The important thing here is that no one was hurt. Everyone in the building was evacuated quickly and safely.

A quick note about the comments – we know The Geek Group and [Chris] tend to be polarizing topics. However, we’d like to at try to keep the comments constructive.

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Fail of the Week: How a Cheap USB AC Adapter Might Indirectly Burn Your House Down

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This Fail of the Week will remind our readers that every project they make, no matter how small they might be, may have big consequences if something goes wrong. Shown in the picture above is an oven that [Kevin] tweaked to perform reflow soldering. The story is he had just moved into a new place a few weeks ago and needed to make a new batch of boards. As he had cycled this oven many times, he was confident enough to leave the room to answer a few emails. A few minutes later, he had the unfortunate experience of smelling something burning as well as discovering white smoke invading his place.

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Fire Breathing Jack-O-Lantern of Death

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[Rick] is at it again, this week he has conjured up an even more dangerous Halloween hack. Thankfully [Rick] has included a warning of just how dangerous this hack can be, especially if children are around. Don’t do this hack unless you know what you’re doing and you can do it safely.

For [Rick]’s number four hack of the month he gives us the Fire Breathing Jack-O-Lantern of death! This isn’t a new idea but it is a very unique and simple implementation. We always love seeing the ingenuity of hackers to repurpose existing commercial products. In this case, [Rick] uses an automated air freshener which dispenses a flammable spray for the pumpkins breath if you dare get too close, but not so close as to get burned. The trigger distance is controlled by an Arduino and a Parallax Ping))) sensor so as to fire only when people are farther than 3 feet but closer than 5 feet. You can get a copy of the Arduino sketch from his blog posting.

A small candle is used to ignite the flammable spray, which shoots out 5 to 10 inches from the pumpkin’s mouth when triggered by the ultrasonic sensor. It couldn’t be simpler. The most challenging part was getting the large air freshener dispenser in the pumpkin with the flames coming out the mouth. A little extra whacking at the pumpkin fixed the fit, but planning for a larger pumpkin would be advised.

Theoretically the Arduino shouldn’t trigger and throw flames if people are too close, but when kids are running around they may come right into the target area unexpectedly. If this hack is used in the right place it would make for a great Halloween display item and could be used safely.

After the break you can watch [Rick’s] flame breathing Jack-o-Lantern build tutorial.

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Wrist-mounted flamethrower on the cheap

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Everyone wants to be Iron Man these days, but without a spare arc reactor lying around, you’ll have to settle on building a backup suit component. [Xavier] documents his take on the wrist-mounted flamethrower in this dirt-cheap and unquestionably dangerous build. Cobbled together from parts found at a local hardware store, this glove has the typical “ready” setting with a small flame that, upon turning one’s wrist, erupts into a loud and large swath of flames. We suspect the mask worn in the video below doubles as identity protection and to prevent accidental hair conflagrations. Skip to the end for a demonstration.

Though not the first flamethrower build at Hackaday, [Xavier's] is the only one with a guide and is certainly the cheapest. Be sure to look into the second generation of the Prometheus flame thrower and its subsequent third version that we featured a couple of years back. Not everyone’s flamethrower is wrist-mounted; some people put them inside a trombone. Remember, don’t try this at home.

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6 foot tall fire breathing piranha plant from Super Mario Brothers

 

I always thought it would be cool to build a giant fire breathing piranha plant. I never really came up with an excuse to do it though. Eventually, I just decided I didn’t really need an excuse, and thus it was born.

The plant itself is pretty much just foam and cardboard. You can see the construction process in the video, it was really easy, but a little time consuming. I wanted to go with a bit of a crazy, hyper stylized look, so it is covered in veins and has these insane looking wrinkly lips.  The plant itself would be a fun thing just to have around the house. Actually, I may turn it into a lamp.

The fire systems were very much trial and error.

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SDR as a Police and Fire radio scanner

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If you’ve lost interest in that DVB dongle you bought to give software defined radio a try you should bust it back out. [Harrison Sand] just finished a guide on how to use SDR to listen in on Police and Fire radio bands.

The project, which results in the crystal clear audio reception heard after the break, uses a whole lists of packages on a Windows box to access the emergency bands. SDRSharp, which has been popular with other DVB dongle hacks, handles the hardware work. In this case the dongle is a Newsky TV28T v2 module that he picked up for a few bucks. He’s also using some support programs including the Digital Speech Decoder which turns the data into audio.

We wonder how many areas this will work for. It was our understanding that law enforcement was moving to encrypted communications systems. But all we really know about it is that you can jam the system with a children’s toy.

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Giving an Electric RC Plane an Afterburner

RC Afterburner

The folks at Flitetest decided to add some extra power to an electric DH.100 Vampire RC plane by adding a butane afterburner. After some testing, and a bit of fire, they were able to make it fly.

Their afterburner uses a small butane canister for fuel. A servo motor actuates the valve on the canister, forcing fuel into a tube. This tube is set up to regulate the flow of butane and ensure it vaporizes before reaching the afterburner.

At the afterburner, a circular piece of tubing with holes is used to dispense fuel, much like a barbecue. This tube is connected to one side of a stun gun’s flyback generator, and the metal surrounding it is connected to the other. The stun gun creates sparks across the gap and ignites the fuel.

With the extra components added, the landing gear was removed to save weight and the plane was given a nice coat of paint. They started it up for a test run, and the plane’s body caught fire. After some rework, they managed to take off, start the afterburner, fly around, and belly land the plane. It achieved some additional thrust, but also sounds and looks awesome.

After the break, check out a video walkthrough and demo. We promise you fire.

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