Nolan Bushnell and Hackaday on the Latest Episode of The Tomorrow Show

Back in June when Hackaday attended LA Tech Day I met [Gray Bright]. He’s been a big fan of Hackaday for years and recently started producing and hosting The Tomorrow Show, a Late Night Talk Show focused on Science and Technology. [Gray] invited me on the show to talk about Hackaday and the 2015 Hackaday Prize.

[Gray’s] approach is to view scientists and engineers as the new rock stars. In each episode he invites some of the biggest names from the worlds of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics (STEAM) and conducts a thought-provoking and entertaining interview. There’s a healthy dose of comedy from future correspondent [Ant Simpson] and [SupernoVanGirl], live musical performances, and it’s all filmed in front of a live studio audience.

Tomorrow Show -Nolan Bushnell StandUp

Filming the show in the Hollywood studio on a Friday night in July was a hoot. I was honored that our segment was on the same episode as the legendary engineer and entrepreneur [Nolan Bushnell], founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese’s‎. [Nolan] even did an impromptu standup set when there was a short technical delay.

You can watch the full episode (below the fold) to see antics from The Tomorrow Show team, [Nolan’s] anecdotes about the early days of Atari and being [Steve Jobs’] boss, as well as my first TV appearance spreading the word about the Hackaday Prize. It’s also hilarious to see [Nolan] hooked up via electrodes controlling [Gray] to play Brain Pong just like when we toured Backyard Brains last year.

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School Kids Build Ontario Power Generation System Model

The STEAMLabs community makerspace teamed up with a grade 6 class from Vocal Music Academy, a public elementary school in downtown Toronto, to create a working model of the Ontario Power System. It pulls XML files and displays the live power generation mix from renewable and other sources on a 3D printed display on RGB LED strips. Arduino coding on a Spark Core provides the brains.

The kids learned HTML, CSS and Javascript to build a web interface to send commands to the Spark and explain how the system works. Their project was accepted as an exhibition at the TIFF DigiPlaySpace. The kids presented their project to adults and other kids at the event. STEAMLabs has also published a free, open source Internet of Things teaching kit to enable other educators to make projects with Internet brains.

STEAMLabs is currently crowd-funding a new makerspace in Toronto. They’re almost there, a few hundred dollars short of their target, with a couple of days to go. Help them help kids and adults make amazing things! When Hackaday visited Toronto recently, [Andy Forest] dropped in to show off this project. Projects like these which let kids become creators of technology, rather than mere consumers, is one of the best ways to get them hooked to hacking from an early age.

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Steam Controller: Open and Hackable?


The folks over at Valve Corporation have been busy. Just this week they have made three announcements regarding the future of their company; SteamOS, a linux-based operating system, Steam Machines (for running SteamOS), and the one we’re most interested in, the Steam Controller, an open controller. Not to worry though, the controller is not exclusive to the Steam Machines!

This is why we’re intrigued:

The Steam Controller was designed from the ground up to be hackable … We plan to make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering.

We’re curious to see what that exactly means, but it definitely sounds promising! We know that Valve already takes in tons of customer feedback through their Steam Community and Workshop contributors, but how open is this controller really going to be? To read more about it as the information unfolds, check out the topics in the Steam Universe forum.

If you’re interested in joining the hardware beta, head on over here, but space is very limited.

[Thanks Adam!]

How to convert an internal combustion engine to run from steam power

We had no idea that what’s needed to convert an internal combustion engine to steam power is actually rather trivial. [David Nash] shows us how it’s done by performing the alterations on the engine of a string trimmer. These are the tools used to cut down vegetation around obstacles in your yard. The source of the engine doesn’t really matter as long as it’s a 2-cycle motor.

This engine had one spark plug which is threaded into the top of the block. [David] removed this and attached his replacement hardware. For now he’s using compressed air for development, but will connected the final version to a boiler.

There are only a couple of important parts between the engine and the boiler. There’s an in-line oil reservoir to help combat the corrosive nature of the steam. There is also a check valve. In the video after the break [David] shows the hunk of a ball-point pen that he uses to actuate the check valve. It’s really just a spacer that the piston pushes up to open the valve. This will be replaced with a metal rod in the final version.

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Steam-powered hexapod

This all-mechanical hexapod (translated) was meticulously planned and beautifully constructed. It’s not craning its neck to see what’s ahead. That’s a smoke stack for the steam engine which propels the machine.

Mechanically the legs were the hardest part. That’s only because the steam engine was not built from scratch. It’s a Wilesco D14 which is powered by solid fuel tablets. It puts out high RPM but low power so the gear ratio was set at 286:1 to make the most of its output.

The legs themselves are made of brass rods. These are anchored on one side of a larger gear, with a pivot point that allows the leg to slide vertically. The result is best seen in the clip after the break. As the drive wheel rotates, the pivot point moves the body forward until the foot is lifted by the sliding motion of the rod. It ends up looking more elegant than some of the more dexterous hexapods, but it lacks the ability to turn.

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Baking better bread with steam

It’s not often we see a build that turns you into a better cook without any electronics whatsoever. [Chris]’s method of baking better bread with steam is one of those builds, and we’re more than willing to test it out on our own.

If you’ve ever tried to bake bread at home, you’ll quickly notice the crust is much thicker and harder than a loaf available at a bakery. The thickness of the crust can be controlled, however, with a careful application of steam. To make a better crust, [Chris] used a pressure cooker fitted with a valve to inject steam into an oven through his oven’s exhaust. Not only does this gelatinate the starches in the bread crust, but it keeps this gelatin from hardening too quickly.

The end result is a thin, golden brown crust that makes for the perfect loaf of bread. Of course, the proper application of steam does take a little bit of practice. If someone is up to the task of Arduinofying this hack with a few solenoid valves, PID sensors, and a high-temperature humidity sensor, send it in and we’ll put it up.

Steam fife

This auto-flute does it with steam. Well, electricity gets its piece of the action too as the tone holes are opened and closed using a set of solenoids.

We’re at a loss on how the sound is actually produced. We would think that a penny whistle has been used here, except if that were the case the solenoid nearest the kettle would have no use. Then again, after watching the demo after the break we’re not sure that it does have much of an effect. It may be meant to stop the sound but it doesn’t really work all that well.

At any rate we’d love to see some spin-off hacks. Assuming the plastic can stand up to the steam heat this would be a perfect robot controller for recorder controlled snake. You can get a recorder for a buck at the right dollar store, and solenoids can be made out of simple materials. If you know of a way to produce the sound yourself, all it takes are a few careful calculations to place the tone holes.

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