Dyson engineers’ hacks traverse robot obstacle course

2012-dyson-challenge

These guys are all engineers who are employed by Dyson. They’re holding remote control creations made from Dyson parts. This time around the object of the challenge was to build a bot based on a the Dyson ball and race it through an obstacle course.

This sort of thing is right up our alley, but unlike the last time Dyson engineers shrugged off the daily grind to hack their own hardware, this doesn’t show off nearly enough of the festivities. Sure the pair of videos embedded after the break make a great trailer for the event, but we would love to have seen 90 seconds devoted to each of the entries. Alas, you do get to see most of the winning unit’s obstacle course run which includes a distance route, navigating through rough terrain, and negotiating a high path where falling off the edge is a real threat.

Maybe the engineers themselves will post details about their own builds like the contestants in Sparkfun’s autonomous vehicle contest do.

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RC truck has working windows, steering wheel, and much more

This truck is not simply a drive train and a radio module. Great care was taken to fabricate every part to work like a full-sized vehicle. NSFW WARNING: The forum on which the details have been posted is Russian and may have sidebar ads you don’t want on your screen at work. That being said, here’s the link (translated).

The build starts with a custom-made frame which looks like it’s aluminum. The gearbox is assembled from a huge number of parts, with power is transferred to the wheels through a proper differential. But hey, why not go that extra mile? The rope and hook hanging off the front are connected to a functional winch. The doors have windows that crank down, the steering wheel moves when the wheels turn, and where would this thing be without windshield wipers and headlights? Don’t miss the pair of demo videos after the break.

We remember seeing a pretty neat stirling engine come out of the same forums earlier this year.

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$5 toy car upgraded to record the ride in HD

We hope [Kabir’s] driving skills are top-notch because the camera stuck to the front of this toy is a high-ticket item. It’s ironic, since the donor toy for this hacked RC car only cost about five bucks. It had been gathering dust in the dark reaches of his bedroom until he sat down and gave it a proper upgrade.

He started the project by getting rid of the stock battery and moving to a pair of Lithium Polymer cells. They give the vehicle more power and more than twice the running time between charges. A couple of springs were added to the suspension system for a smoother ride. Turning had been a problem since the original design offered no control over how far the wheels turn. You can just make out the body of the servo motor he rolled into the system to allow for more precise turning.

The most recent addition is the HackHD camera on the front of the vehicle. It records to an SD card rather than streaming the video in real-time. Check out the clip after the break to see the interesting perspective achieved by filming so low to the ground. The one thing we would add is a cage around that board which retails at around $165.

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RC car upgraded to Bluetooth control

[Chet] is showing off the Bluetooth controller upgrade for this RC car. The donor vehicle is a rather inexpensive Porche which he purchased to make sure he didn’t start hacking up his more expensive toys.

He took a bit different route than the IOIO RC truck we saw earlier in the week, but the concept is basically the same. That build used an IOIO board with a USB Bluetooth dongle. This one uses an Arduino Mini with a serial Bluetooth module. He patched into the motor driver circuits on the original PCB. While he was at it he also soldered in some LEDs to use as switchable headlights.

There was one issue which he had to overcome. The current draw from the motor starting up would sometimes dip the voltage low enough to reset the Arduino. He tried using a bigger capacitor to feed the board, but in the end opted to add a boost converter.

IOIO controller replacement for an RC truck

This RC truck can be controlled with the tip of your thumb or the tilt of a wrist. That’s thanks to the IOIO which was inserted in place of the toy’s original controller. [Exanko] made the hardware changes in order to use his Android phone as the controller. The white circle is a software joystick that acts as throttle when your thumb moves along the Y axis, and steering when it moves along the X axis. But while he was at it he also included accelerometer input as an alternative control option.

The IOIO board has a Bluetooth dongle connected to its USB port as a means of wireless communication. The dongle was hacked to accept an external antenna, thereby increasing the truck’s range. There is also some on-board flair like LEDs for lights and even a laser diode for… well we’re not sure what that’s for. Get a better look at the hardware internals in the clip after the break.

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Adding features to a DX6i transmitter

About thirty cents and some wire are all it takes to start hacking extra features into this DX6i transmitter. The DX6i is a six-channel, two-mode transmitter used to control hobby airplanes and helicopters. There are several built-in features but [Ligius] found an easy way to add a few more. In the upper left portion of the case you can see the eight-pin microcontroller he brought to the project.

It’s a PIC 10F222 mounted in a DIP socket so that it may be removed for reprogramming. The hardware page of the wiki shows the connections he made. By reading from the throttle, and tapping into the trainer wire, he is able to add features without any apparent alterations to the controller (no extra buttons, etc). You can see in the clip after the break that the throttle position when power is switched on selects between different modes. This can be the delay for turning off the LCD backlight, or presets for helicopter or airplane modes. [Ligius] thinks there’s a lot more potential here, even the possibility of fixing a bug in this particular model of transmitter.

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Excavate Your Basement Using RC Equipment

basement excavation

Although it could be debated as to whether or not this is a “hack,” since the equipment used is built for excavation, the scale of it seems deserving of a mention. In the linked article, [Joe] is quoted as saying, “the common misconception here is that the RC’s are not here to excavate my basement, but rather the basement excavation project is here for the RC’s.”  This could be a motto for most makers/hackers in that projects are frequently not done for the resulting product, but for the experience of making something your own.

According to [Joe], he excavates 2 – 3 cubic yards per year with his little RC vehicles.  Living in Canada as a rancher and farmer, he’s required to be near his home to feed his hungry animals even during the cold winter months. During this time, there can be very little to do. After sometimes working 16 hour days during the summer, he needed something to keep him occupied close to home. Be sure to check out the excavation video after the break, or check out the original article for even more pictures and video! Continue reading “Excavate Your Basement Using RC Equipment”