Truck-Sized Star Destroyer Takes Flight

While some of you may have been to see the new Star Wars movie, you might be sad that everything happened a long time ago in a galaxy far away. But there’s a group of RC enthusiasts called [Flite Test] who are trying to bring at least a little bit of that fantasy into real life. They’ve created a truck-sized Star Destroyer that actually flies. It looks kind of terrifying, too.

While it’s not as big as a “real” Star Destroyer, it’s certainly one of the biggest we’ve ever seen in real life. Built out of foam, this monstrosity is 15 feet long and powered by two huge electric motors and a large lithium polymer battery. Of course they didn’t start out by building this huge flying spaceship; they created a smaller model as proof-of-concept and flew that one around for a while to make sure everything was shipshape. While it’s exciting to see the small model in flight, it’s another thing to see the 15-foot version swooping around.

We’re sad to report that the Star Destroyer did meet a similar fate as the one that Rey was scavenging at the beginning of the movie (spoilers: it crashed), we hope that the RC team rebuilds it so it’s space worthy again. Maybe they can even add a real-life ion drive or a few lasers to make it even more real.

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The Scientific Implausibility of Starkiller Base

This post contains spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. These spoilers won’t affect you if you haven’t seen the movie; they’re equivalent to saying, “in A New Hope there’s a moon sized battle station with a superlaser” and “someone gets a hand amputated with a lightsaber in a Star Wars movie”

A lot has happened in the Star Wars universe since the battle of Endor. The Empire is in ruins, and Yavin 5 and the forest moon of Endor both have new planetary ring systems. The Rebellion has given way to a new Galactic Republic, but there is a spectre of evil looming in the unknown areas of the galaxy: the First Order, a malevolent force that has built a planet-sized superweapon capable of destroying entire planetary systems from across the galaxy. The Starkiller gets its energy from harvesting entire suns, moving from one solar system to another to feed this massive weapon of terror.

We’ve had nearly forty years to argue the plausibility of the Death Star, lightsabers, parsecs as a unit of time, and hyperdrives. It’s time to pass the hallowed tradition of arguing over fictional spacecraft to a new generation. Starkiller Base is a cool idea, but does the science behind it hold up? No. It’s completely implausible. It makes for a great story, but it’s completely implausible.

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MIT Robots Fight with Lightsabers

Students of the MIT Robotics Lab decided to have some fun this holiday season with the big release of Star Wars. They built a lightsaber wielding delta-bot, and some very interesting hip-mounted lightsaber robot arms, akin to General Grievous.

First up in the video though is their Jedi Training robot, which is a variation of the delta-bot robot we’re all familiar with thanks to 3D printers. With a lightsaber mounted on top, it’s not too fast, but has a large range of motion to allow you to practice your lightsaber form. They call it the Triple Scissor Extender — and as you can imagine, it was built for something completely different. You can check out the designer’s personal blog here, though he doesn’t have any info on this particular project — yet.

Second is a robot they designed for a project called Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRL), which is literally designed to give you extra robotic arms — it was the next logical step to give them lightsabers…

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Hacklet 89 – Star Wars Projects

Star Wars is an inspirational force to be reckoned with. Few movie franchises have quite so many fans creating everything from elaborate cosplay outfits to fully functional robots. At the 2015 Hackaday SuperCon, former R2D2 driver Grant Imahara mentioned that LucasArts used to maintain a fleet of robots to be deployed at events. Once the execs realized hacker, maker, and hobbyist robots are now more advanced than the machines they built for the actual films, they mothballed the fleet. If you see R2 at a Star Wars event this season, it’s probably an enthusiast behind the controls. This week’s Hacklet is dedicated to the best Star Wars projects on!

targetshootWe start with [Nathan Gray] and Star Wars Nerf Targets. [Nathan] needed a Star Wars themed game for an event for the kids, and he needed it fast. [Nathan] built a Nerf shooting gallery game with a Star Wars twist. The idea is to shoot the bad guys with Nerf darts. Targets have two sides, so you never can be sure if you’ll see a storm trooper or a friendly Wookie. Hits are detected by piezoelectric disks on each target. A control panel starts the game, keeps score, and plays some great sound effects. An Arduino compatible Teensy 2.0 keeps everything running smoothly. [Nathan] reports that the game was a hit with the kids, and everyone else at the party. Even Grandma had to give the Star Wars Nerf Targets game a try!


vaporatorNext up is Hackaday’s own [Brian Benchoff] with The Hackaday Prize Moisture Vaporator. The 2015 Hackaday Prize promo video called for something space related. Since Southern California has plenty of desert around, a moisture vaporator straight out of Tatooine was just what the doctor ordered. [Brian], [Matt], [Rich] and [Alek] handled most of the construction at the Hackaday Hackerspace in Pasadena. Final assembly was a team effort out in the field. The basic frame of the vaporator consisted of 1 x 3 lumber joined with pocket screws. An iron pipe served as the spine. [Brian] added plenty of greebles to give the vaporator just the right look. The result makes us long for a trip to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters.

life-signs[Davedarko] is up next with Towani Lifesign Wristdevice – Star Wars Ewoks. This was one of [Dave’s] earliest projects on, way down at project #616. He originally built it for the Sci-Fi contest we held in 2014. The Towani family was in the Ewoks movies, which were lesser known spinoffs of the original Star Wars films. The wristbands showing the family’s vitals were featured a few times in the movies. [Dave’s] version is more than a movie prop, it actually works. He’s using an open hardware pulse sensor along with an Arduino Mini to display status on a trio of LEDs.

bb8Finally, we have [Enrico] with Our own BB-8 droid. BB-8 made a splash when he rolled out on stage during Star Wars Celebration. Everyone wondered how the original was done. We’ve since found out that the BB-8 uses Sphero’s technology to get around. However, many of the movie scenes were done with good old-fashioned puppeteer work. [Enrico] is building his own version of BB-8 using holonomic wheels inside the sphere, with a magnetically attached head. He’s planning to 3D print the major parts of his droid. So far, [Enrico] has started testing with magnets. A few printed plastic parts from his R2D2 build have been standing in for the BB-8 shell.

If you want to see more Star Wars projects, check out our new Star Wars project list! If I missed your project due to a great disturbance in the force, don’t be a nerf herder! Just drop me a message on That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of! May the force be with you.

A Scam of Galactic Proportions

Here at Hackaday we see a lot of technological hoaxes looking for funding. Some are on Kickstarter, others are firms looking for investors. And unlike a lot of the press, we’re both skeptical and experienced enough to smell the snake oil. When you read about a laser-powered razor blade that looks too good to be true, you know we’ve got your back.

The background: [Zachary Feinstein] is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who studies financial engineering, and in particular systemic financial risk in the banking sectors. So he’s just exactly the guy you’d tap to write a paper on the financial repercussions of the destruction of the Death Stars in Star Wars (PDF). Wait, what?

The central argument of the paper is that, since the Empire has so much money wrapped up in building the Death Stars, it’s economic suicide for the Rebels to destroy it. To quantify any of this, [Feinstein] runs financial crisis models. The idea is that the Rebels win, but they inherit an economy that’s so dysfunctional that they’d have been better off not destroying the Death Stars.

We’re not saying that the rest of the press is gullible, but we are saying that they’re not putting their best economists onto articles about financing Death Stars. But here at Hackaday, we are. And we’re calling it a hoax. So let’s look into what the paper gets right, and what makes less sense even than Chewbacca’s infernal growling. Spoiler: we’ll get wrapped up in numbers because it’s fun, but the whole thing is moot for Econ 101-style reasons.

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Capture the Flag with Lightsabers

There’s a great game of capture-the-flag that takes place every year at HITCON. This isn’t your childhood neighborhood’s capture-the-flag in the woods with real flags, though. In this game the flags are on secured servers and it’s the other team’s mission to break into the servers in whatever way they can to capture the flag. This year, though, the creators of the game devised a new scoreboard for keeping track of the game: a lightsaber.

In this particular game, each team has a server that they have to defend. At the same time, each team attempts to gain access to the other’s server. This project uses a lightsaber stand that turns the lightsabers into scoreboards for the competition at the 2015 Hacks In Taiwan Conference. It uses a cheap OpenWRT Linux Wi-Fi/Ethernet development board, LinkIt Smart 7688 which communicates with a server. Whenever a point is scored, the lightsaber illuminates and a sound effect is played. The lightsabers themselves are sourced from a Taiwanese lightsabersmith and are impressive pieces of technology on their own. As a bonus the teams will get to take them home with them.

While we doubt that this is more forced product integration advertisement from Disney, it certainly fits in with the theme of the game. Capture-the-flag contests like this are great ways to learn about cyber security and how to defend your own equipment from real-world attacks. There are other games going on all around the world if you’re looking to get in on the action.

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Star Wars Car that Never was: Obi-Shawn’s Custom Z-Wing

Star Wars never had cars. Sure, there was the Landspeeder, and the Speeder Bike, but both point to a lack of wheels a long time ago. So those who want to drive around a Star Wars craft are left to their own imagination to come up with one. This is exactly what [Obi-Shawn], aka [Shawn Crosby], did to build his Z-Wing.

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