Guerrilla Grafters Grow Great Gifts for Greater Good

If you’ve been to downtown San Francisco lately, you might have noticed something odd about the decorative trees in the city: they’re now growing fruit. This is thanks to a group of people called the Guerrilla Grafters who are covertly grafting fruit-bearing twigs to city tress which would otherwise be fruitless. Their goal is to create a delicious, free source of food for those living in urban environments.

Biology-related hacks aren’t something we see every day, but they’re out there. For those unfamiliar with grafting, it’s a process that involves taking the flowering, fruiting, or otherwise leafy section of one plant (a “scion”) and attaching them to the vascular structure of another plant that has an already-established root system (the “stock”). The Guerrilla Grafters are performing this process semi-covertly and haven’t had any run-ins with city officials yet, largely due to lack of funding on the city’s part to maintain the trees in the first place.

This hack doesn’t stop at the biological level, though. The Grafters have to keep detailed records of which trees the scions came from, when the grafts were done, and what characteristics the stock trees have. To keep track of everything they’ve started using RFID tags. This is an elegant solution that can be small and inconspicuous, and is a reliable way to keep track of all of one’s “inventory” of trees and grafts.

It’s great to see a grassroots movement like this take off, especially when it seems like city resources are stretched so thin that the trees may have been neglected anyway. Be sure to check out their site if you’re interested in trying a graft yourself. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can take this process to the extreme.

Thanks to [gotno] for the tip!

How to Rescue Your Quadcopter from a Tree

Whether it’s a new rocket, your latest quadcopter, or [Charlie Brown]’s kite, it always seems like there’s a tree waiting to catch and eat airborne projects. Sometimes you get lucky and find a way to climb up the tree to retrieve your wayward build, but most times you’re reduced to looking for rocks or sticks to fling up there in an attempt to shake it loose. But if you want to improve your chances of getting your stuff back, [U.S. Water Rockets] has a build for a retrieval tool made mostly from scrap bin parts that will help.

All you need is some PVC tubing, an old fishing reel and line, some latex surgical tubing, and a few dowels for projectiles. You can tell everything about the build from the BOM and stills, but the video after the break gives detailed instructions and shows it in action. Adding some fins to the dart or even substituting a cheap arrow from the sporting goods department of your favorite retailer might help with your aim. Even without fletching, the accuracy of the launcher is pretty good, and the range isn’t half bad either. Once the fishing line is over the branch that ate your quad it can be used to haul up successively stouter ropes, and pretty soon you’ll be shaking the tree like a boss.

Even if getting stuff out of trees isn’t on your immediate to-do list, this little hack could be put to other uses. Hams will use it to loft antennas up into trees, and tag-line placement for tree removal could be simplified with this tool. But if you still find yourself needing to retrieve stuff, you might want to be proactive and make your aerial robot tree-proof. That still won’t eliminate the need for drone-on-drone rooftop rescues.

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Why Build Furniture When you can Grow it?

[Gavin Munro] is turning the standard paradigm of furniture making on its head. Instead of harvesting trees and slicing them up into boards – or worse, turning them into sawdust to be used for particle board – [Gavin] is literally growing furniture.

Supple young willow saplings are pruned and trained using wire and plastic form work. The trees are encouraged to grow in the right directions to form legs, arms, seat and back, and eventually the individual pieces are grafted Fg_3_chairs_growingtogether to continue growing into one solid piece. When the chair is mature, the leaves are removed, the chair is cut free from the ground, and with a little seasoning and finishing, you’ve got a unique and functional chair. And what’s more, since it’s a solid piece of wood, there are no joints to loosen over time.

You’ve got to admire the dedication that goes into these chairs. The current crop is about nine years old and still a few years from harvest. There’s a lot to be learned from the organization of a project like this – planning a production line where the first finished pieces are a decade or more from the showroom is no mean feat. Looks like [Gavin] has thought that through as well, by starting a line of lamps that will be turning a profit sooner. The video after the break demonstrates not only [Gavin’s] chairs and lamps, but also features his first harvest of tables.

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Tree climber takes a page from the inchworm book

Sharp talons and a strong torso let this robot climb trees, even while carrying a heavy payload. It uses a simple principle, two gripping units allow it to grab onto the tree. These modules alternate, one grips while the torso moves the other up the tree.

You can make out the trio of rods which connect the front and back half of the robot in the image above. Watch the video after the break to see how the motors move these rods with the dexterity of an inchworm, allowing it not only to climb upwards, but to bend and flex to match the contours encountered in the wild.

This was presented at International Conference on Robotics and Automation a few weeks ago. Unfortunately we can only find an abstract for the paper so please leave a link in the comments if you know where to find the full monty.

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Snake bot climbs trees

While you are out enjoying your Labor Day festivities, keep an eye out for robot snakes in the trees. The CMU robotics lab has built a snake bot named Uncle Sam that can climb trees and poles. As you can see in the video after the break, the bot seems to have no problem at all scaling a tree. It wraps itself around the tree, then rotates down the center of its entire body. Once it has reached the top, it can take in the scenery. Though it is a little creepy looking, at least it isn’t in the water.

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Twitter based Christmas ornaments update

When we introduced you to the Twitter Christmas tree ornaments, sadly we had very little information about the project. Luckily [Rob] made contact and clued us in on the inner workings. It even turns out we were wrong about the usage of Arduinos! We invite you to check out all the juicy inner workings after the break.
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(Yet another) Twitter this controlling Arduino that

Christmas may be over, but we still have a couple of cool holiday related hacks for you. One being [Alpay’s] Twitter based interactive Christmas tree ornaments.

We tried to dig up some more information, but it thus far appears a laptop running Processing searches Twitter for specific Christmas related words (like 1337, that’s Christmas-y), sends a buffer to one of three Arduinos which in turn light up a specific ornament. You can check out a live stream here.

For those wanting a bit more information on Arduino and controlling holiday lights, check out [Alpay’s] GE health care version of Twitter lights, or our previous post on controlling Christmas trees, or you might even try [Michael’s] $10 Walmart light controller.