Donuts of ShmooCon

This weekend is ShmooCon, a hacker convention held in Washington DC. Brian Benchoff and I will be there, both of us for the first time. We’d love your input on what talks look the most interesting. Check out the schedule of speakers, then leave a comment below to let us know which talks you think we should cover.

It’s great hearing the big presentations, but I find a lot of times great hacks can be found in smaller venues, or just by walking around. Two examples from 2015 DEF CON: the best talk I sat in on had about 10 people spectating in the IoT village, and I had a great time trying to track down everyone who had an unofficial hardware badge. If you’re at ShmooCon and have something to show off, please find us (@szczys, @bbenchoff)!

On Saturday join us for a Hackaday meetup in the lobby of the Washington Hilton. ShmooCon is well-regarded for the quality of its “lobby-con”, what better place to gather? Look for the Hackaday crowd starting Saturday 1/16 at 8:45am. We’ll bring the donuts, and some swag like Hackaday Omnibus Vol. 02 and of course, some Jolly Wrencher stickers.

FAA Bans Drones For More Than Six Million People

In recent weeks, the FAA has solicited input from hobbyists and companies in the ‘drone’ industry, produced rules and regulations, and set up a registration system for all the quadcopters and flying toys being gifted over the holiday season. Whether or not the FAA is allowed to do this is a question being left to the courts, but for now, the FAA has assuredly killed a hobby for more than six million people. The FAA has introduced an updated Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) for a 30-mile radius around Washington, DC.

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The 30-mile TFR area

Previously, there had been a blanket ban on drones, UAS, and model aircraft within a 15-mile radius of a point inside Reagan National Airport. This point covered the District of Columbia proper, and the suburbs of Bethesda, College Park, and Alexandria – basically, everything inside the beltway, and a mile or two beyond. The new flight restriction for drones covers a vastly larger area – all of the DC metro area, Annapolis, half of Baltimore, and all of northern Virginia. This area encompasses a population of more than six million people.

The DC metro area has, since 9/11, become some of the most complex airspace in the entire country. There are several military bases, Aberdeen proving grounds, the US Naval academy, and of course the White House, Capitol building, and the Pentagon. Even commercial airliners are subject to some very interesting regulations. For the same reason general aviation shuts down in southern California every time the president visits LA, you simply can’t fly model aircraft within the beltway; it’s a security measure, and until now, flying clubs in the DC area have dealt with these restrictions.

The new TFR has effectively shuttered more than a dozen flying clubs associated with the Academy of Model Aeronautics. DCRC, a club with a field in the middle of some farmland in Maryland, has closed down until further notice. The Capital Area Soaring Association has also closed because of the TFR.

Although called a Temporary Flight Restriction, this is a rule that will be around for a while. The FAA says this restriction is here for good.

Washington DC Electrified with Raw Sewage

Completely unrelated to the current political climate in the United States, did you know Washington D.C. is partially powered by a sewage plant? No, seriously.

That’s right, just this week the D.C. Water utility company has announced a bioenergy facility that makes use of resident’s waste water into producing methane gas which can than be burned to generate electricity — To the tune of 10 megawatts! The facility is saving the company an estimated $10 million a year in energy bills.

Simply put, the liquid is removed from the sewage water and the solids are refined into a type of fuel. Those solids are heated, mixed, and sterilized into a form that can be easily digested by a certain type of microbe, which then in turn produce methane for burning. For a more detailed explanation, check out the info-graphic from the Washington Post explaining the entire process.

And on a smaller scale, you could do something like this in your very own backyard.

Saturday in Washington DC: Hackaday Meetup

If you’re in the DC area, clear your schedule this Saturday night. Hackaday is hosting a Meetup at Nova Labs starting at 6pm. All you need to do is let us know you’re planning to attend.

The Reston, Virginia hackerspace is minutes away from Dulles airport. If you haven’t stopped by the hackerspace since they moved this is a great chance to see the new location. Bring along any hardware you’re working on. You can give a lightning talk about it, or just show it off casually while enjoying some food and beverage. Several members of the Hackaday crew will be on hand: [Anool Mahidharia] will be in town presenting a weekend-long workshop on PCB design using KiCAD. [Mike], [Brian], and [Sophi] will join him for the meetup on Saturday evening. For more details on what is going down that weekend take a look at the original announcement post. See you soon!

Hackaday Prize Worldwide: Washington DC

Join us for a Meetup on Saturday, September 12th near Washington DC. The Hackaday Crew is headed out to the DC area a week from Saturday and we want to hang out with you. We’ll be hosting a meetup at Nova Labs hackerspace in Reston, Virgina which is on the Northwest side of DC.

We’ll get things rolling at 6pm on Saturday, September 12. The event includes a few lightning talks, some food and drink, and a lot of socializing. This is free to all but you do need to RSVP to let us know you’re coming. We want you to bring a hack to show off. We love to see what people are working on no matter the level of complexity or stage of completion.

Breakout board laid out in KiCAD
Breakout board laid out in KiCAD

This all started when [Anool Mahidharia] mentioned that he’d be at Nova Labs on September 11-13 to lead a KiCAD PCB design workshop. This 2.5 day boot-camp starts with installing the Open Source EDA software on your laptop and ends when you have a completed PCB design ready to be submitted to a board fab. There is a charge for the workshop and attendance is limited so if you’re interested in it you should sign up now. Our events page is a good collection of information on both events as well as directions to get to Nova Labs.

The workshop is being organized by our friend [Bob Coggeshall] who we first met (and interviewed about his work on the Linux ‘sudo’ command) back in 2014 at Bay Area Maker Faire. Since then, [Brian Benchoff] swung by and visited [Bob] to talk about his company Small Batch Assembly and to tour Nova Labs. He will be conducting his own surface mount soldering workshop, will speak about Design For Manufacturing, and will show his Pick and Place machine during the weekend.

It will be fun to visit with [Bob] and to meet everyone who can make it to the Saturday evening meetup. So far  [Mike Szczys], [Brian Benchoff], and [Sophi Kravitz] are all planning to be there. [Anool Mahidharia] will of course be there since he’s leading the workshop. The following weekend [Anool] and [Brian] will both be headed to Philadelphia for the 2015 Open Hardware Summit for which Hackaday is a proud sponsor. [Matt Berggren] and [Amber Cunningham] will both be at OSH as well, talking all things Tindie.

Hackaday At MakeDC

makedc

Last Wednesday, our Hackaday travels took us to the Washington, DC area for a visit to NOVA Labs near Dulles and a yet-to-be opened Metro stop. Also on our itinerary was a visit to MakeDC, an informal get together for people around the nation’s capitol to show off their latest projects and builds.

The highlight of the evening was a pair of talks from [Julian] and [Taylor] on a project they did for work: a social cooler, or a locked box holding cool drinks that will only open when enough people send a text to a certain number. We’ve got [Julian]’s talk on video, but despite our fancy new camera gear for this sorta thing, [Taylor]’s demo of what an Electric Imp can do was lost to the digital wastes.

Aside from [Julian]’s talk on APIs and [Taylor]’s talk on the Electric Imp, there were a few impromptu presentations from the attendees. One of the most thorough was the duo from Shiny & Jackal Cosplay, crafters of EVA foam and LEDs. Truth be told, Hackaday doesn’t see many of these ‘softer’, cosplay and prop making builds in the tip line, and that’s a shame; the amount of skill that goes into these costumes is at least as equal as a woodsmith that can build fine furniture using only hand tools.

Perhaps a little premature, but TechShop is opening a new location in Arlington, VA at the end of the month. The GM [Addam Hall] was there scoping out the hacks and letting the attendees know there’s going to be a huge, awesome shop that’s down town in Crystal City. Close enough to public transportation, anyway, because anyone who drives in DC is certifiable.

The last item of note isn’t a build yet, but it’s shaping up to be pretty cool. It’s BRWRY – pronounced, ‘brewery’ – and will be a semi-automated beer making machine. Robots and beer, what can’t you love?

We’d like to thank [Zach], [Julian], [Taylor], and all the other guys from iStrategyLabs for putting together a nice evening of hanging out, drinking beer, eating pizza, and talking about what you’ve built. We had a great time, and we’re looking forward to the next one, as well as any other similar get together in other cities.

Searching For Makers In Washington DC

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Despite there being an inordinate amount of techies and tech companies in the Washington, DC/Northern Virginia area, there aren’t really that many hacker/makerspaces, or really anywhere else for tinkering, building, and generally futzing around with a soldering iron. [Zach] thought it was time for a change and is now organizing the second Make DC an informal get together to show off your latest projects and builds. Here’s the best part: Hackaday is coming, and we’re bringing some sweet swag.

Right now [Matt] has two talks lined up focused on bringing APIs into the physical world. There’s space for plenty more speakers, so if you have something to show off be sure to sign up.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, March 19, 6:30 PM, half a block away from the Dupont Circle Metro station. Be there. You’ll get a sticker at least.