Hackaday at Berlin Maker Faire

The first-ever Berlin Maker Faire was last weekend, and Hackaday was there. Berlin’s a city with an incredible creative vibe, so it’s no surprise that there was good stuff on display. What was surprising, though, was how far many of the presenters traveled to be there. I wandered around with a camera and a notebook, and here’s what we saw.

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World Maker Faire 2015: Prometheus and The New Air Quality Egg

There were plenty of projects and products to be seen at the 2015 World Maker Faire. In the maker pavilion, we found [Rocco Tuccio] showing off Prometheus, his PCB CNC router. Machines like this make prototyping circuits easy. Just place a blank piece of copper clad in the machine, load up your design, and a few minutes later you’ll have a board ready to stuff. Prometheus spspindleorts some impressive specs: 7 mil (0.18 mm) trace and space, and a Total Indicated Runout (TIR) of .0001 inches (2.5 micron). Not bad for a spindle turning 40,000 RPM. [Rocco] has spent the last two years designing this machine, and has sourced most of the parts from local US vendors. The unique part of Prometheus is the spindle design. Like many other small PCB routers, Prometheus uses a brushless quadcopter motor for power. Rather than go with a belt system, [Rocco] simplified things to a simple friction drive. The only precision parts he has to worry about are the bearings which hold the cutting bits in place. Prometheus isn’t for sale yet. [Rocco] plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in the coming months.


egg1A few minutes later we ran into [Victor Aprea] from Wicked Device, showing off the Air Quality Egg V2. [Victor] and his partner [Dirk] ran the design and manufacturing side of the Air Quality Egg, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2012. The eggs from that campaign can be found online at the project’s website. [Victor and Dirk] have greatly improved on the Egg since then. The biggest update are the sensors. Sensors for ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide are now much more sensitive units from SpecSensors. These sensors don’t come cheap though. To keep costs down, [Victor and Dirk] have released three separate versions of the product with different sensor suites. On the connectivity side, the egg is now based upon Wicked Device’s Wildfire, allowing it to connect to WiFi networks. These Eggs mean business too – [Victor  and Dirk] obtained permission to co-locate a trio of eggs alongside an official New York State/EPA air quality sensing unit. The Eggs all read within 2 parts per million for carbon monoxide, and 10 parts per billion for sulfur dioxide. As with the original Egg, these devices are open source hardware. Source code is available on Wicked Device’s Github.

Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Berlin, Germany

Join the Hackaday Crew in Berlin this Saturday for a meetup!

This weekend in Berlin, Germany, there are at least two events happening and [Sophi], [Elliot] and [Bilke] are going to check them all out. The Vintage Computing Festival is one of the big events, and it looks like there will be lots of geeky magic to play with. This weekend is also Maker Faire Berlin where we’re looking forward to hanging out with our friends from Hackaday.io and we’re excited about meeting new people and projects.

Hackaday often throws a party after Maker Faire to celebrate all of our community projects and we’re doing it again Saturday night. We are co-hosting a party with the Vintage Computing Festival, on the same site as the festival, and all are welcome. We’ll have drinks and snacks, and the VCF has live music planned for the evening. This event is free, but we’d like you to RSVP so we know how many refreshments are needed.

Your first drink is on us, and naturally, if you bring a project,your second one is on us too! Please help spread the word by telling your friends, sharing on social media, and mobilizing all the people at your Hackerspace. See you on Saturday!

berlin meetup

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

World Maker Faire 2015: Automatic Photo Collage

We’re on the ground here at the 6th Annual World Maker Faire in Queens, New York. This year the Faire is even bigger, extending out from the New York Hall of Science towards Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

Just itommynside the gates, we ran into [Tommy Mintz] who was showing off his improved portable automated digital photo collage (IP-ADC). Tommy has connected a Raspberry Pi and its camera on a long extension cable. The camera resides high up on a monopod, giving it a bird’s eye view of the area. The Pi first captures a background image, then grabs shots of things that change within the scene. The resulting collages range from hilarious to the surreal. The entire system is mounted on a cart and powered by batteries.

[Tommy] hooked us up with the WiFi password, so we were able to download photos directly from the IP-ADC. Less technologically inclined folks would be able to grab physical prints from the on-board Epson photo printer.

We’ll be reporting what we see here at the faire, so drop us a tweet @hackaday if you want us to stop by!

Maker Faire Kansas City: That’s A Wrap

The 5th annual Kansas City Maker Faire was as fun as ever, but it definitely felt different from previous years. There seemed to be an unofficial emphasis on crafts this year, and I mean this in the broadest sense of the word. There was more exposure for the event in the local media, and this attracted a wider variety of faire-goers. But the exposure also brought more corporate sponsorship. This wasn’t an exclusively bad thing, though. For instance, several people from Kansas City-based construction firm JE Dunn were guiding mini makers through a birdhouse build.

Many of the this year’s booths were focused on a particular handicraft.  A local music shop that makes custom brass and woodwind instruments had material from various stages of the building process on display. Several tables away, a man sat making chainmaille bags. At one booth, a girl was teaching people how to fold origami cranes. Several makers had various geek culture accessories for sale, like a shoulder bag made from a vintage Voltron sweatshirt. The guys from SeeMeCNC made the 12-hour drive with the Part Daddy, their 17-foot tall delta printer. They printed up a cool one-piece chair on Saturday, then made a child-sized version of it on Sunday.

The entire lower level of the venue was devoted to a series of exhibits related to the film and television industry. Collectively, they covered the entire production process from the casting call to the red carpet. Several local prop and costume makers were showing off their fantastic creations, including [Steven] of SKS Props. He started making video game props for fun a few years ago. These days, his work adorns the offices of some of those same game companies.

Of course, there was plenty to see and do outside, too. All the kids playing human foosball were having a blast. LARPers larped next to lowriders and food trucks, power wheels raced, and a good time was had by all.

Maker Faire Kansas City: Coming To Grips With The Mechanics Of Dexterity

There is always a great variety of things to see and experience at the Kansas City Maker Faire. This is the fifth year for the event which is held at historic Union Station, a beautiful art deco train depot from a bygone era. With a multitude of booths and exhibits across two floors and a vast outdoor area, there is something for pretty much everyone. Often times, the interesting things are mobile conversation-starting creations. When we saw [Dan] walking around with a giant wooden contraption on his arm, we knew we must find out more about it.

The impetus for [Dan]’s project was his desire to pick up a soda can using a mechanical grip. He now believes this to have been a lofty goal, given the weight of a full can of the stuff. This prosthetic hand is made from wooden finger segments that are connected by small, continuous hinges. Each of [Dan]’s gloved fingers curls around a metal ring to control that digit’s large wooden analog. On the inside of the hand, sections of paracord run underneath strategically placed eye bolts on each finger segment and are tied off at the fingertips. A second set of eye bolts on the back of the hand anchor the network of rubber bands that provide resistance. Although he made it look easy to open and close the hand, [Dan] said that it’s pretty heavy to lug around and somewhat strenuous to use. Next time, he’ll probably go with foam or 3D-printed pieces.

My Robot Army @ Maker Faire

For a few years now I’ve been developing an interactive army of delta robots. This ongoing project is fueled by my desire to control many mechanical extremities like an extension of my body (I’m assuming I’m not the only one who fantasizes about robots here).

IMG_1846Since my army doesn’t have a practical application… other than producing pretty light patterns and making the user feel extremely cool for a minute, I guess you’d call it art. In the past I’ve held a Kickstarter to fund the production of my art which I can now happily show at cool events with interesting people; Maker Faire being one of them.

Interactivity and Sprawling Crowds

Last year, for our debut at the big Bay Area Maker Faire, my collaborator, [Mark], and I displayed a smaller sampling of 30 robots for our installation. We also decided to create an interactive aspect for others to experience. After the end of our crowdfunding period last March, we had a little over a month to do any development before the big event, so our options were slim. The easy solution was to jam our delta code into the hand tracking demo which comes with the Xbox Kinect’s Open NI within Processing. This was cool enough to exhibit, but we hadn’t really anticipated how it would go over in an environment as densely packed as the dark room at Maker Faire.

We should have known better. Both of us were aware that there would be many, many children… all with micro hands to confuse and bewilder the Kinect, but we did it anyway. Our only resolve was to implement the feature that would force the Kinect to track one hand at a time, only after being waved at in a very particular fashion. After needing to explain this stipulation to every person who stopped by our booth over the course of the weekend, we decided never to use the Kinect for crowds ever again; lesson learned.

Delta Robots and DMX

Over the past year since that experience, we’ve tripled the size of the installation and brainstormed some better demo ideas. As of now, the robots are all individually addressable over an RS485 bus, and we use the DMX protocol over a CAT5 cable to send commands. If you aren’t familiar with it, DMX is used in show production to control stage lighting… to which there is a super neat and free application called QLC+ that allows you to effectively orchestrate the motion and color of many individual light units; perfect for our cause.

qlcDeltasFunctionally, each of the 84 delta robots in the installation believes that it is a stage light (robots with identity issues). We mapped the X and Y axis of the end effector to the existing pan and tilt values, and the z axis to the beam focus value. The RGB of the LED mounted in the end effector of each delta maps directly to the RGB value of the stage light.

By using the sliders in the QLC+ GUI, I could select groups of robots and create presets for position and color. This was great, someone like me who doesn’t really write a lot of code could whip up impressive choreography with little sweat. Additionally, the program comes with a nice visualizer, where you can layout virtual nodes and view your effects as you develop them.

This is the layout of our installation mapped in QLC+. The teal and purple sliders around each light represent pan and tilt (or in our case X and Y):


Lighting control was an interesting solution. Having autonomous robots this year changed how people responded to them, as they were less like an army you’d command and more of a hypnotic field of glowing grass.

[Mark] and I are considering picking up some flex sensors and maybe playing with the Leap or an EEG headset as a means to reintroduce the interactive aspect. Bottom line, I have this cool new toy that I can’t wait to play with over the summer!

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