Hackaday Prize Entry: Arduino MPPT Controller

Imagine you’re building a small solar installation. The naive solution would be grabbing a solar panel from Horror Freight, getting a car battery and AC inverter, and hoping everything works. This is the dumb solution. To get the most out of a solar you need to match the voltage of the solar cell to the voltage of the battery. How do you do that? With [Debasish]’s entry for The Hackaday Prize, an Arduino MPPT Solar Charge Controller.

This Maximum Power Point Tracker uses a buck converter to step down the voltage from the solar cell to the voltage of the battery. It’s extremely efficient and every proper solar installation will need a charge controller that does something similar.

For his MPPT, [Debasish] is using an Arduino Nano for all the math, a DC to DC buck converter, and a few MOSFETs. Extremely simple, but [Debasish] is connecting the entire controller to the Internet with an ESP8266 module. It’s a great example of building something for much less than it would cost to buy the same thing, and a great example for something that has a chance at making the world a little better.

 


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Hackaday Prize Entry: Biopotential Signal Library

With prosthetics, EEG, and all the other builds focused on the body and medicine for this year’s Hackaday Prize, it might be a good idea to take a look at what it takes to measure the tiny electrical signals that come from the human body. Measuring brain waves or heartbeats indoors is hard; AC power frequencies easily couple to the high impedance inputs for these measurements, and the signals themselves are very, very weak. For his entry to The Hackaday Prize, [Paul Stoffregen] is building the tools to make EEG, ECG, and EMG measurements easy with cheap tools.

If the name [Stoffregen] sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the guy behind the Teensy family of microcontroller boards and several dozen extremely popular libraries for everything from displays to real time clocks. The biopotential signal library continues in [Paul]’s tradition of building very cool stuff with just code.

The hardware used in this project is TI’s ADS1294, a 24-bit ADC with either 4 or 8 channels. This chip is marketed as a medical analog front end with a little bit of ECG thrown in for good measure. [Paul] is only using the ADS1294 initially; more analog chips can be added later. It’s a great project in its own right, and when you include the potential applications of this library – everything from prosthetics to body sensors – it makes for an awesome Hackaday Prize entry.


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Hackaday Prize Entry: A Broke Hackers’ Model Train

Model railroads are the wellspring of hacker culture; the word itself comes from the MIT Tech Model Railroad Club sometime in the early 60s. These old timers at MIT had incredible resources available to them – multimillion dollar computers, vast amounts of plywood, and real metal tracks to run their trains on. [Szabolcs] doesn’t have any of this, so for his Hackaday Prize entry he’s building the Broke Hackers’ Model Train layout.

Nothing except for the most basic components in this train layout is pre-bought. The tracks are 3D printed, motor control is done through homebrew electronics, and the locomotives will be controlled through a custom protocol. It’s the apex of a hacker’s model train layout, and when you consider how much effort goes into building a normal train layout, [Szabolcs] is looking at a lot of work.

With all the work ahead of him, things haven’t exactly gone smoothly for [Szabolcs]. To print off all the parts for this project, he bought a Makibox, one of the biggest failures in the world of crowdfunded 3D printers ever. The company doesn’t exist anymore, so [Szabolcs] shelled out the cash for an i3 clone. The new printer works great and plastic parts are coming out. A little hiccup, but a great example of what it takes to put a project together for The Hackaday Prize.


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$50k in Play: 20 Bulbdial Clock Kits

For this week we’re veering away from our habit of giving away things to help with your build and giving away something fun. 20 Hackaday Prize entries will receive a Bulbdial Clock kit. Getting into the running is easy, start your project on Hackaday.io and make sure you officially submit it to the Hackaday Prize. Get it in by next Wednesday to be considered for this week’s prizes, and you’ll also be in the running each week after that as we work our way through $50,000 in prizes this summer before giving away the big stuff like a Trip into Space and $100,000 in cash.

The Bulbdial Clock has been a favorite of ours for years. Developed by Hackaday Prize Judges [Windell] and [Lenore] at Evil Mad Scientist Labs, it uses three rings of colored LEDs to cast shadows as clock hands. It’s a fun solder kit that will take time to assemble. In keeping with that ideal, your best bet at scoring one this week is to post a new project log showing off the solder work you’ve done on your prototype. If you don’t have one soldered yet, that’s okay too. Just post a new project log that talks about the component assembly you’ll be working on. This would be a great time to finally draw up a basic schematic, right?

Last Week’s 40 Winners of $50 Shapeways Gift Cards

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Congratulations to these 40 projects who were selected as winners from last week. You will receive a $50 gift card from Shapeways so that you can get your custom parts 3D printed. We were on the lookout for projects that we thought would benefit most from custom parts. Some of these are far along in their development, some have just started, but all of them are awesome so browse the list and make sure to skull and follow the ones you like!

Each project creator will find info on redeeming their prize as a message on Hackaday.io.


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Hackaday Prize Entry: The MultiSpork

If you’re working on a mobile project – a robot, something outside, or even your car – you don’t want to bring an oscilloscope, logic analyzer, signal generator, or any other piece of equipment that should stay on the bench. For his Hackaday Prize Entry, [Pierce Nichols] is working on the electronic equivalent of a Leatherman: something small and portable that also does just enough to get by in a pinch.

The MultiSpork, as [Pierce] calls his device, is a single WiFi enabled board that’s completely portable. With the addition of a $50 Android tablet, it’s very close to a complete electronics lab in a box.

The heart of the MultiSpork is a new chip from Maxim, the MAX 11300. This chip has 20 pins that can be used as a 12-bit ADC, a 12-bit DAC, or as GPIOs. it’s a logic analyzer, signal generator, oscilloscope, and a Bus Pirate in a single chip. As far as the rest of the board goes, [Pierce] is forgoing any notion of a hardware freeze and changing the Atmel microcontroller over to a TI CC3200 chip that will be coming out soon.

[Pierce] put together a short video describing the MultiSpork; you can check that out below.


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Hackaday Prize Entry: A BeagleBone Logic Analyzer

If you have a BeagleBone, you already have a lot of tools. We’ve seen them used in driving hundreds of LEDs at a very high frame rate, used as a video card for ancient computers, and as a software defined radio. For his entry to The Hackaday Prize, [Kumar] turned his BeagleBone into a 14-channel, 100Msps logic analyzer that’s good enough to debug just about all those hobby electronics projects you’re working on.

The BeagleBone is only able to have this sort of performance as a logic analyzer because of its PRUs, those fancy peripherals that make the Beagle great at blinking pins really, really fast. [Kumar] is using both PRUs in the BeagleBone for this project. PRU1 reads from the input probes, and PRU0 writes all the samples into DDR memory directly. From there, the samples are off to kernel modules and apps, either sigrok, dd, or something you coded up in Python.

Compared to the cheap logic analyzers we have today like the Salae Logic and the DSLogic, [Kumar]’s project is just as good as any commercial offering (provided you can live with 14 channels instead of 16), and because it’s based on a BeagleBone, the software is infinitely expandable.

UPDATE: After this post was written but before it was published, [Kumar] finished up a blog post on how he’s building a logic analyzer with the BeagleBone’s PRUs. It’s a true tutorial, with enough code demos to allow anyone to build their own 8-bit analyzer on a BeagleBone, and there are more updates coming.


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Hackaday Prize Entry: Density Altitude Gauge

Despite what extraordinarily overpowered quadcopters suggest, the air pressure of whatever a flying machine flys at is extremely important. Pressure is dependent on altitude and temperature, and there are hundreds of NTSB investigations that have concluded density altitude – pressure altitude corrected for nonstandard temperature variations – was the reason for a crash. Normally density altitude is computed through a slide rule or a flight computer, with the pilot entering in altitude and temperature, but somehow accidents still happen. For his entry to The Hackaday Prize, [Neil McNeight] is building an automated density altitude calculator to automate the process entirely.

Instead of having a pilot enter the altitude and temperature into a flight computer manually, [Neil]’s device grabs the current altitude from a GPS unit, and reads the temperature with a tiny sensor acquired from SparkFun. With just a little bit of math, this device will spit out the altitude an airplane or ‘copter thinks it’s at.

While the FAA won’t allow instruments that are cobbled together on a breadboard, this does have a few applications in the RC world. There are extremely high performance racing quadcopters out there now, and knowing how the craft will perform before flying it will save a few props.


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