Tracking the Hamster Marathon

[Michelle Leonhart] has two Roborovski hamsters (which, despite the name, are organic animals and not mechanical). She discovered that they seem to run on the hamster wheel all the time. A little Wikipedia research turned up an interesting factoid: This particular breed of hamster is among the most active and runs the equivalent of four human marathons a night. Of course, we always believe everything we read on Wikipedia, but not [Michelle]. She set out to determine if this was an accurate statement.

She had already added a ball bearing to the critters’ wheel to silence it by cannibalizing an old VCR. What she needed was the equivalent of a hamster pedometer. A Raspberry Pi and a Hall effect sensor did the trick. At least for the raw measurement. But it still left the question: how much distance is a hamster marathon?

01_hamster_stride_measurement[Michelle] went all scientific method on the question. She determined that an average human female’s stride is 2.2 feet which works out to 2400 strides per mile. A marathon is 26.2 miles (based on the distance Pheidippides supposedly ran to inform Athens of victory after the battle of Marathon). This still left the question of the length of a hamster’s stride. Surprisingly, there was no definitive answer, and [Michelle] proposed letting them run through ink and then tracking their footsteps. Luckily, [Zed Shaw] heard about her plan on Twitter and suggested pointing a webcam up through the plastic bottom of the cage along with a scale. That did the trick and [Michelle] measured her hamster’s stride at about 0.166 feet (see right).

Now it was a simple matter of math to determine that a hamster marathon is just under 10,500 steps. Logging the data to SQLite via ThingSpeak for a month led [Michelle] to the conclusion: her hamsters didn’t run 4 marathon’s worth of steps in a night. In fact, they never really got much over 2 marathons.

Does [Michelle] have lazy hamsters, or did she just add to our body of scientific knowledge about rodents? We don’t know. But we couldn’t help but admire her methods and her open source data logging code would probably be useful for some non-hamster activities.

If you are super competitive, you could use [Michelle’s] data to handicap yourself and challenge your pets to a race. But it would probably be cooler to build them their own Starship Trooper-style walkers. Either way, you can check out [Michelle’s] little marathon runners in the video below.

Rodent-based power generation

Your hamster lives to good life, with food delivery and a maid service that cleans up after him. [DanF] helped to brighten up this hamster’s life even more by improving its exercise equipment and giving it a small night-light as well. This project adds a low RPM alternator to the hamster wheel.

The first part of the process was to reduce energy lost to friction by fitting the wheel with a bearing. From there a ring of permanent magnets was added which will pass by a stationary coil and induce a current. It works, but unfortunately there’s not enough power generated to charge a battery. That means the light is only on when the hamster is running. But maybe you can figure out a way to use a super-capacitor like we saw in that exercise bike hack.

One nice finishing touch to the setup is a bicycle computer to track how much time was sent on the wheel, and the distance traveled.

[Thanks Dizzy]

New pet, Project 413

I wonder if anyone ever mouses over images anymore. Oh silly me, xkcd reference.

[Jacob] sent in his teams final project, Project 413. While sounding like something straight out of an action movie, don’t worry, it’s not the next terminator. Rather a combination of an eBox (in place of an EEE pc), omni wheels, motors, batteries, and the finishing touch – a hamster ferret ball. If this is sounding familiar to a certain web comic, then right you are, as XKCD was their main inspiration. Sadly, the web cam and ‘having a soul’ functions didn’t make it into their version, but being controlled via Wii remote is always a plus.  Check out a video after the break. Continue reading “New pet, Project 413”

Hack a Day Fail Contest Winner

We had a lot of entries for our Fail contest; there can only be one winner though. We liked [Gordon LaPlante]’s entry pictured above most of all. It’s big, it’s broken, and it’s black and white; that certainly sounds like us. [Gordon] wins $100 worth of No Starch Press merchandise.

There were plenty of other honorable entries. You can view them in the Hack a Day Flickr photo pool. We saw a couple themes emerge during the contest and have highlighted some of them after the break. Continue reading “Hack a Day Fail Contest Winner”