Last weekend was Sparklecon, the premier meetup in Southern California of dorks dorking around, fire, electricity, welding, and general mischief. Just imagine a party of a hundred or so like-minded individuals at a hackerspace. Now imagine the entire party is the after party. That’s a pretty good idea of what happened.
The event was held at the 23b shop in Fullerton, a true hackerspace tucked away in a small industrial park. The people at 23b are using their location to their advantage: no one in the neighborhood really cares what happens after 5pm on a Friday. This allows for some very loud, very bright, and very dangerous hijinks.
There was something for everyone at Sparklecon, including:
Electric Pickle. Take a stick welder, and put a few hundred amps through a pickle. First, the pickle turns into a sodium light. Then, it turns into a carbon arc light. Best done after dark.
FPV drone racing. Flying around and crashing into trees in an abandoned lot. FPV from a few quads were projected onto the side of a building
Live music! Analog synths and Game Boys!
Tesla coils! This was a 300 amp monster, and completely analog. The spark gap was impressive by itself, but it gets really cool when you steal a fluorescent light from a fixture and stand 20 feet away from the Tesla coil.
Hammer Jenga! Cut some 2x4s up and make a tower of Jenga. Get a hammer, some colorful commentators, a dozen people, and make some competition brackets. Hackaday’s own [Jasmine] was the first champion of the night.
Sparklebot Death Battle! It’s like BattleBots, only things break more often and we don’t have [Bil Dwyer].
Hebocon! Battling robots, but much crappier than the Sparklebot Death Battle. These robots broke more often.
Analog synths provided the tunes
The Sparklebot Death Battle ring
Tesla Coils and Spark Gaps
A Hebocon bot, using a mouse trap as a weapon
A lady tribble, vibrating her way across the Hebocon ring
The basic premise of Hammer Jenga
Art was made out of the spare parts left over from the Hebocon build-off. This robot is named Art
The main event was, of course, Sparklecon’s own version of Battlebots. There were only four competitors the entire night, but the competition was fierce.
Three of the bots were wedge designs, in keeping with the ramp-ification of battling robots. The lone exception to this was [Charlie]’s Slow Bot, a cube design equipped with a spinning steel blade. The blade moves fast, but Slow Bot doesn’t. It’s a purely defensive design, meant to destroy bots trying for an easy kill. The test video of Slow Bot can be seen here:
The first fight of Slow Bot did not live up to the hype, unfortunately. After Slow Bot’s primary weapon got up to speed, the opposing bot moved in for the kill. The bolts on Slow Bot‘s blade sheared, ending the match, and leaving five or six people looking around the 23b shop for M5 bolts, or some larger bolts and a tap.
Is it all hilarously unsafe? Well, there were some plexiglas shields in front of the crowd, and most people viewed the fights on the projector beaming against the wall, anyway.
Is it worth it to go to Sparklecon? If you like dangerous experiments, soldering wires directly onto AA batteries, fire, electricity, electromagnetic fields, broken robots, and hanging out by a fire, yes. It’s a party at a proper hackerspace, making it the best kind of party ever. If history repeats itself, there will also be an afterparty at 23b following the LayerOne conference in May.
A few weeks ago, we took a look at the best badge hacks at the Hackaday Supercon. These were the best badge hacks anyone has ever seen – including what comes out of DEF CON and the SDR badge from the latest CCC. I’m ascribing this entirely to the free-form nature of the badge; give people a blank canvas and you’re sure to get a diverse field of builds. Now it’s time to take a look at the cream of the crop, hear what the jolly wrencher sounds like, and how to put 1000 Volts in a badge.
There were three categories for the badge hacking competition at the SuperCon – best deadbug, best blinky, and most over the top. A surprising number of people managed to solder, glue, and tape some components to a the piece of FR4 we used as a conference badge, but in the end, only three would win.
[Teodor] writes in with a unique Tesla coil he designed and built. Unlike most Tesla coils, [Teodor]’s design is able to run with a fairly low input voltage because it doesn’t use a static spark gap like most Tesla coils. Instead, his coil uses a relay in place of a spark gap.
[Teodor] built his coil using leftover components from his old school, making good use of some parts that might have otherwise been thrown away. The most critical component of his circuit, the relay, is just a standard normally-closed relay that is rated at 20A. [Teodor] wired the relay so that it energizes its own coil whenever it is shut. This causes the relay to briefly open every time the coil is energized, creating a resonant circuit. The resonant circuit charges a tank capacitor and places it in series with the primary coil inductor every time the relay closes, forming the tank circuit of his design.
With [Teodor]’s design, the resonant frequency of the secondary is nearly identical to that of the primary. This creates a significant voltage boost, helping produce very high voltages from such a low input voltage. The only downside to this design that [Teodor] recently discovered is that the relay contacts get red-hot after a few minutes of operation. Not optimal, but it still works! Check out [Teodor]’s writeup for more details and instructions on how to build your own.
One of our tipsters stumbled across a pretty impressive video of a giant Tesla coil playing music — in a snowy forest! The forum showing off the video is in Finnish but Google Translate does a pretty good job getting the point across.
This massive Tesla coil dubbed the BiggerDR was built by [Kizmo], who lives way up north in Finland. He was originally inspired by another build and decided to try his hand at making one. The Tesla coil, detailed in another forum post (in English this time) has some pretty impressive specs. The coil alone has 1550 wraps! Not too mention a pretty impressive bank of capacitors in series…
His YouTube channel has some great videos of the build — in fact, he’s been messing around with Tesla coils for at least 7 years already — stick around after the break to see BiggerDR in action.
Tesla coils are always a hit around here at the office. Giant ones that play music with modern-day chain mail wearing DJ’s, ones thrown together in garages by self-proclaimed mad scientists… But have you ever seen one that can fit in the palm of your hand?
[Ludic Science] just released this tutorial video on how to make it. It’s a miniature solid state Tesla coil that’s based on the ever popular Slayer Exciter circuit that was first developed by [GBluer]. The beauty is it’s a very simple circuit to build. It consists of one power transistor, a few diodes, some resistors, and the coil. That’s it!
He even repurposes the magnet wire from a small relay, it’s literally a project you can build from scrap parts around the shop. Awesome.
Every day this month and until Christmas, [vk2zay] is (has already been!) posting a simple but useful hack in his 2nd sort-of-annual “Advent Calender of Circuits” that many of you will want to be bookmarking. For those already saturated with the season of holiday hacks, don’t worry – other than being festively generous of him to tutor and demo a new hack every day, the hacks themselves have nothing to do with Christmas. Though he missed the last couple years we here at Hackaday covered his first month of hacks back in 2011 (now in playlist).
The daily hacks posted so far cover a wide variety of useful projects (leaning towards HV) for the electronics hobbyist who might not have all the fancy tools in their shop: DIY high voltage probes, a 1-hour tesla coil from junk, measuring RF power, a stud detector, how to test an unknown transformer’s saturation, and many others. We cannot predict what will be posted the rest of the calender (the author hints to be making them up as he goes), but by now it is safe to say that they will not disappoint.
We would be stealing his thunder to cover them all, so, we will just pick our favorite for now:
The 1-hour tesla coil is a delightful all-shortcuts-taken hack project. If one were to listen to aficionados, teslacoiling is a highly precise hobby to get into. It appears to require careful planning, much calculation, special-ordered or soviet-surplus parts, custom jigs, fine tuning, etc. [vk2zay] shows otherwise.
Every single component of the assembly is itself a hack.
No fancy tungsten-infused grade 8 copper being water-cooled via heat pump here – the spark gap is just the bent leg of a capacitor hovering near the start of the primary winding. The power supply is a backlight inverter with a chain of Cockcroft-Walton voltage doublers. The high voltage resistor is a bunch of series-chained resistors shoved into a silicone tube. The topload is a couple cheap pie tins masking-taped together to “resemble something like a sphere.” The primary is a loose, unsupported spring of copper wire. The secondary was calculated to be whatever the height of the tube he had handy and coiled only as smoothly as a first attempt would allow. He does not even bother using wires or a switch – the circuit is completed by clipping a couple of test leads.
After all this hodgepodgery the circuit was then carefully tuned to optimize how little time it took to build (additional time used: zero). Since the frequencies do not match (1.7 vs. 2.6 mhz – 35% apart) the only thing this circuit resonates with is a hacker’s appeal for making do. Does not matter, still works. The streamers easily reach 2 inches and the author claims double that in dark lighting.
In the just 6 minute video he also manages to explain roughly what is going on theory-wise and suggest the time-effective things to considering upgrading. Almost a dozen hacks in the bag and over a dozen more to come before Christmas.