Adventures in Hackerspacing: GA Tech’s Invention Studio

 

GaTech's Invention Studio

We feature hacker/makerspaces of all kinds here at Hackaday, and these days, encountering a hackerspace at a college or university isn’t uncommon. School-backed spaces are often mildly impressive, too, with plenty of room and better-than-most equipment.

Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio, however, is different. This space is nothing short of staggering.

Once you’ve walked past the wall of commercial-grade 3D printers lining the entryway, you’ll find yourself in the Electro-lounge, a general meeting and hangout room with some basic tools. Each room beyond has a specific purpose, and is packed full of equipment. We aren’t just going on a tour, though, because this is Adventures in Hackerspacing. Click through the break for a behind-the-scenes look at how this hackerspace provides a top-rate experience for its makers and how Invention Studio thrives with an entirely student-run leadership.

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LEDs Turn This Paper Map into a Tram Tracker

Subway radar

Public transit can be a wonderful thing. It can also be annoying if the trains are running behind schedule. These days, many public transit systems are connected to the Internet. This means you can check if your train will be on time at any moment using a computer or smart phone. [Christoph] wanted to take this concept one step further for the Devlol hackerspace is Linz, Austria, so he built himself an electronic tracking system (Google translate).

[Christoph] started with a printed paper map of the train system. This was placed inside what began as an ordinary picture frame. Then, [Christoph] strung together a series of BulletPixel2 LEDs in parallel. The BulletPixel2 LEDs are 8mm tri-color LEDs that also contain a small controller chip. This allows them to be controlled serially using just one wire. It’s similar to having an RGB LED strip, minus the actual strip. [Christoph] used 50 LEDs when all was said and done. The LEDs were mounted into the photo frame along the three main train lines; red, green, and blue. The color of the LED obviously corresponds to the color of the train line.

The train location data is pulled from the Internet using a Raspberry Pi. The information must be pulled constantly in order to keep the map accurate and up to date. The Raspberry Pi then communicates with an Arduino Uno, which is used to actually control the string of LEDs. The electronics can all be hidden behind the photo frame, out of sight. The final product is a slick “radar” for the local train system.

Welcome to the Garage of the Future

20140812_171900_resized

Over the last several years, hackerspaces have cropped up all over the world. These places have become a home base for hackers, tinkerers, makers, designers, and engineers alike. One of the biggest problems associated with these creative environments is the hours that are typically available. A lot of the time you just can’t walk in at odd hours of the night and expect to do anything at all. Granted, the best hackerspaces give out 24 hour access keys to those that pay for it, but sometimes it just feels better to do the work from the comfort of one’s home. Also, if a person doesn’t have the privilege of having a hackerspace in the area, then transforming a garage into a work shop can provide a nice entry point into the continuation of the maker revolution.

A trend is emerging where garages are being turned into hackerspace-like workshops that are neatly packed away within ordinary neighborhoods. A great example is EdsJunk Home Shop. His two car garage was converted into a maker shop complete with 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, and more tools than one can dream of. The key, as [Ed] states, to creating such a useful home shop is organizing everything strategically.

This project has been a 5 year venture so far and there is still plenty to do. Years of experience have taught [Ed] to coordinate the tools in out-of-the-box ways. His air compressor, for instance, is stored in the attic with a retractable hose descending from the roof down into the garage which helps to save space and reduce noise.

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Hackerspace Tour: Syn Shop, Las Vegas

While we were at DEFCON, we had the chance to visit a few places in the area that are of interest to the Hackaday readership. We made it over to Syn Shop, the Las Vegas hackerspace.

Years ago, this area of town was home to the Greyhound bus depot, complete with all the adventures associated with that. Since then, Zappos set up their HQ nearby, massive amounts of money flowed in, and gentrification got a big thumbs up from the decaying casinos in the area. Syn Shop is just down the street from the Denny’s with a bar and the twelve story tall slot machine with a zip line, making this space perfect for the community outreach that is lacking in so many other hackerspaces. In the hour or so I was there, no fewer than two groups of people took a gander through the plate glass asking themselves if this was ‘one of those makerspaces or something’. It’s a far cry from hackerspaces found tucked away in business parks, and something that has worked well for the members of the shop.

[Andrew Bogerri] took me around the space, first showing off the PDP-11/23 which you can drive around with a remote control. Yes, it works. No, not Unix. Yes, the entire stack should weigh about 500 pounds, but the guts of the RL02 drives were replaced with something considerably more modern. Just think of it as a 200 pound remote control car, with the momentum that goes along with that.

Syn Shop has a huge space for classes, and the tutors to go along with it. Classes range from CAM design and CNC operation, to tutorials on how to use the huge ShopBot in the space. There’s also a craft night, plenty of help available for running the laser cutter, and enough electronics paraphernalia to work on anything in the sub-Gigahertz range.

Even though most of the Syn Shop members were away at the Rio getting geared up for the con when I went through, you could still tell the space is constantly buzzing with energy and spurious emissions. I caught up with a few of the other regular members at the Hardware Hacking village at the con, but that’s a subject for another post.

Pics below.

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Makers’ Mountain House Promises Productivity Without Distraction

Maker's Mountain House Retreat

Ever wish you could take your projects with you on vacation? Do you ever take time off from your job just to work on things at home? What if you could combine an actual vacation retreat, with the thing you love most — making? A group of people are starting to plan the Maker’s Mountain House, and it sounds pretty interesting!

Makers Mountain House will be a  mountain retreat and makerspace, whose purpose is to provide time and space for makers to create. Makers Mountain House will be open to the public June through October, and reserved exclusively for makers and artists, November through May.

It’s still completely in the planning stages, but the organizers sound pretty serious about making it a reality. It’s planned for somewhere in Upstate New York (unconfirmed) – so if you’re interested in something like this, do them a favor and fill out the quick survey they’ve posted.

And no – just in case you’re wondering – the picture above is just a stock image of a barn. It is rather pretty though! They plan on having shared work spaces in larger buildings, as well as private cabins for people to stay in.

[Thanks KwartsLab!]

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.

Hacklet #5 – Hackerspaces and DIY Laptops

The Hacklet #5

Hackerspaces

sector67Did you know that Hackaday.io has a hackerspace index? That’s right, you can enter your local hackerspace’s info, pictures, videos, and social media links. Members and crew can link their hackaday.io profiles and drop comments about their latest projects.

The map up at the top of the hackerspace index’s page is interactive too – zoom in on your country and local area to see any spaces nearby. It’s like one-stop shopping for awesome. Well, except that this awesome is free.

It really is great to see all the pictures of spaces large and small. Some of the most stunning shots are from c-base, in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1995, the c-base crew have created an incredible space. Take a look at the workstation in the photo. Is it Steampunk? Matrix-punk? Heck no, that’s 100% c-base.

c-base

 

Do It Yourself Laptops

You don’t have to be Bunnie Huang to build your own laptop. All it takes is some time, ingenuity,and a good hot glue gun.

opentech-laptop

Our first laptop is actually inspired by Bunnie’s Novena. The OpenTech-Laptop uses two binders as it’s shell, but inside hides some decent computing power. [OpenTech] used a miniITX motherboard with an ATOM N2800 CPU. The screen came from an old laptop (long live matte 4:3 screens!) [OpenTech] even hand wired a Low Voltage Differential Signaling (LVDS) cable so the motherboard can push those pixels. A wireless keyboard, hard drive, and speakers round out the build. [OpenTech] is still looking for a portable power solution.Why not follow Bunnie’s lead and grab some R/C Plane LiPo batteries, [OpenTech]?

minibsd

Next up is a MiniBSD laptop computer created by [Jaromir]. MiniBSD is based on RetroBSD, a PIC32 based BSD single board computer. Rather than use a premade platform like the Fubarino, [Jaromir] laid out his own board with everything he wanted – a microSD socket, SDRAM, real-time clock, and all the trimmings. He then added a graphical LCD, a LiPo battery, and a sweet retro keyboard from an old Czech computer company called Tesla. [Jaromir's] next task is a 3D printed case. The only problem is the case is 2cm wider than his current printer’s bed!

http://hackaday.io/project/1559-Laptop-pi

You didn’t think we’d leave the Raspberry Pi out, now did you? Laptop-pi is [Bram's] project to convert an old DVD player (remember those?) into a Pi Laptop. Not only did [Bram] build a QWERTY keyboard from scratch on perfboard, he also hacked together an on-screen keyboard so he can type with just a D-pad. He’s currently fighting with a dodgy audio amp, but we’re sure that’s just a temporary setback. We think Laptop-pi will be a killer portable for retro gaming!

 

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, stay tuned for next week when we bring you more of what’s happening at Hackaday.io!

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