Kenyan Teen’s Invention Protects Cattle and Lions

Lion Scarecrow

[Richard's] community in Kenya had a problem. The people depended on local livestock for survival, but the local lion population had started consuming that very same food source. The result was that people suffered from loss of the livestock, but the lions also suffered when the people killed them to protect their source of food. [Richard] knew he could do something to help both his community, and the lion population. He ended up building a lion attack prevention system.

He first tried a sort of scarecrow, to keep the lions away from the cattle. Unfortunately the lions proved to be too “tricky” and quickly realized that the scarecrows were no threat. Then one day, [Richard] was working with a flashlight. This led him to realize that the lions seemed to be afraid of moving light. That gave him the idea for his invention.

He had previously taken apart his mothers new radio, much to her dismay. He learned a lot about electronics in the process. He combined his electronics knowledge with this new knowledge about lions, to create his lion attack prevention system. The core component is the turn signal circuit from a motorbike. The circuit is hooked up to a rechargeable battery and a solar cell. This all runs through a switch so [Richard] can turn it on only when needed. The circuit is switched on at night to keep the lions away. [Richard] claims that they have experienced no lion attacks since the system was put in place two years ago!

This protects both the local cattle as well as the lions themselves. The whole thing is powered from the sun, so it’s likely to last a very long time. This kind of project may seem simple to many readers, but it’s a great example of the good ideas and ingenuity that can grow out of necessity. Oh, did we mention that [Richard] is only 13 years old? His invention is now reportedly being used all over Kenya and has led [Richard] to receive a scholarship to what he calls “one of the best schools in Kenya”.

While this hack has clearly changed the lives of many people in [Richard's] region. You don’t have to make something overly complicated to change the world.

[Read more...]

Unlocking silk for uses as an optical, digital, biological, or food storage device

[Fiorenzo Omenetto] gave a TED talk early last year to illustrates a lot of intriguing uses for silk. Before watching his presentation we would have been hard pressed to come up with a use for silk other than in clothing. But it turns out that investigating how silk worms create the material has led to a range of other applications. You can see the full talk embedded after the break.

One of the first things he shows off is a transparent film made of silk. The material looks almost like cellulose film, and can function in a similar way. [Fiorenzo] shines a laser through a silk slide that has a micro-dot of words embedded in it. the result is a clearly readable message projected on the wall. The film can also be used for holographic images.

But it’s the biodegradable aspects that are clearly the breakthrough here. A slide of silk can be doped with pharmaceuticals and programmed for a very specific time release. This way the drugs no longer need to be stored under refrigeration, and can be reclaimed using only water. The same properties allow one to manufacture disposable objects that will quickly and completely degrade. But there’s even more, if you dope the material with a conductor like gold it becomes a disposable circuit.

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Human flight at 190 MPH with no steering

It’s been a while since we looked in on a TED talk but this one is fantastic. [Yves Rossy] is interviewed about his jet-powered flight wing at the TED conference. He designed the unit as a form of personal flight. He straps it on, jumps out of a plane, then flies across the sky until he runs out of fuel. There’s no steering mechanism; it’s more of a fixed-wing hang glider plus jet turbine engines. But the pilot can affect the direction of the wing by moving his body.

We’ve embedded the video after the break. The first five minutes are all flight footage (which you’re going to want to watch… we specifically kept the banner image vague so as not to spoil it for you). After that, you’ll enjoy the interview where details about the hardware and its operation are shared.

The wing itself is about 2 meters across, hosting four kerosene-powered turbine engines. There’s about eight minutes worth of fuel on board, which [Yves] monitors with a clock while also keeping an eye on the altimeter. Landings are courtesy of a parachute, with a second on board as a backup. If things go badly–and they have as you’ll hear in the interview–an emergency release frees the pilot from the machine.

Want to build your own? Maybe this will get you started.

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Die bloodsuckers – pew pew

In a bid to combat malaria, Intellectual Ventures is developing a method of killing mosquitoes with lasers. The system is called a Photonic Fence and identifies the beasties by the frequency of their wing flapping (hey, that’s exactly how we know when they’re dive-bombing our heads). Once locked-on, it’s death to the filthy blood-suckers.

This story was latched onto by the gambit of news sources in the middle of 2009. Since then, the development team has added some pretty interesting info on their webpage. Last Feburary several videos of mosquito flight were posted. These were shot at 6000 fps using specially designed photographic rigs (probably much like this one) to make sure the shots were in focus. Now they’re slated to give a talk at the 2010 TED conference. The publication of these talks sometimes lags behind by several months so be patient. Watch the video after the break to get some abstract shots of the hardware being used; they’re not giving up the goods until the conference.

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Pranav Mistry’s cool input devices

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/685

This new video about [Pranav Mistry's] SixthSense project doesn’t bring us much that we haven’t seen before. At least, not on that project. What really caught our eye was the device he shows off at the beginning of the video. Using two old ball mice, he constructed a grip style input device. It is simple and elegant and we can definitely see using this in future hacks. Not only is it cheap and apparently effective, it seems as though it could be constructed in a very short amount of time. all you need are the wheels that spin when the ball moves, 4 springs and some string. Why didn’t we think of that?

[thanks Sean]

William Kamkwamba talks windmills with Jon Stewart

circuit_breaker

Last night [Jon Stewart] interviewed [William Kamkwamba] on The Daily Show. [William] is the young man from Malawi who at the age of 14 built a windmill generator out of discarded items. Now at 22 years old, [William] is working on his SAT scores in hopes that he can attend college in the US. We get a bit more insight about him and his build as he promotes his new book.

[William] was 14 when he completed the three month long build of his generator. He had previously dropped out of school because “my country was experiencing some famine”. The only resource he had at his disposal was a library that is funded by the US government (sounds like that turned out to be a good investment!).

After seeing a photograph of a windmill he was driven to succeed by the mantra: “somewhere somebody did it, it didn’t fall from the sky”. He goes on to explain how he built a circuit breaker (pictured above) to prevent a short circuit from burning his house down. Two nails are wrapped in wire with a magnet in the middle. If there is a short circuit, one of the nails will repel the magnet while the other attracts it. The nail is connect to a switch and when it moves to one side the switch is opened, breaking the circuit. Upon hearing this, [Stewart] makes the obvious comparison between [Macgyver] and [Kamkwamba].

One of the most endearing points in the interview is a story [William] shares about his first experience with the Internet. He was invited to the TED conference in 2007 and someone asked him if he’d used the Internet. Of course he hadn’t and they then started talking about using Google. When the search engine was explained to him he suggested that “windmill” be entered as a query. When millions of hits were returned his revelation was “Where was this Google all this time?”.

This is an amazing story that we can’t get enough of here at Hack a Day. Make sure you don’t miss the interview which starts 12:25 into the episode.

Hacker rewarded for creating electricity

diy_windmill

[garhol] tipped us off about a self-taught hacker who brought a little light to his tiny home. [William Kamkwamba] dropped out of school because his family lacked the $80 per year for tuition. At the age of 14 he read books from the library and gained the knowledge he needed to built a 12 watt wind generator from junk parts. Wow!

We’re pretty used to hearing about creative people who end up getting punished for their hacks. Fortunately he has been rewarded for his brilliance. He’s now studying at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg with a well-deserved scholarship.

His story comes to the surface now because a book about his experiences has just been released. We need more people like this, and they should be rewarded for their efforts like he has been. We’ve put the book on our hold list at our Public Library and can’t wait to gain some knowledge from [William's] experiences.

Check out his short talk at the TED conference, embedded after the break. [Read more...]