Hackaday Prize Entry: Lose Yourself To Dance

Not every project for The Hackaday Prize needs to solve a pressing concern, save the planet, or help people. Sometimes, it just needs to be cool. [Jeremy]’s project is certainly cool. He’s building a touch-sensitive disco floor for the awesomeness of Saturday Night Fever combined with the technical complexity of the Billy Jean music video.

We’ve seen a few disco floor builds over the years, and for the most part, [Jeremy] isn’t straying too far from a well-tread path. He’s using LED strips to light his build, cutting the frame for the floor out of plywood and translucent squares, and using an ATMega to control each panel. So far, nothing out of the ordinary.

The trick to this build is that every square has a capacitive touch sensor. Underneath each translucent panel is a bit of wire mesh. Because the disco floor has 144 nodes, running the standard capacitive sensor library just wouldn’t work; the delay in measuring each node adds up very fast. By rewriting [Paul Stoffregen]’s capacitive sensor library, [Jeremy] was able to run many panels at once.

Right now [Jeremy] has a single panel that responds equally well to bare feet as it does to motorcycle boots. It’s exactly what you need in an interactive dance floor, and we can’t wait to seen the entire floor running.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Manipulating Matter In A Digital Way

On a fundamental level a computer’s processor is composed of logic gates. These gates use the presence of electricity and lack thereof to represent a binary system of ones and zeros. You say “we already know this!” But have you ever considered the idea of using something other than electricity to make binary computations? Well, a team at Stanford University has. They’re using tiny droplets of water and bar magnets to make logic gates.

Their goal is not to manipulate information or to compete with modern ‘electrical’ computers. Instead, they’re aiming to manipulate matter in a logical way. Water droplets are like little bags that can carry an assortment of other molecules making the applications far reaching. In biology for instance, information is exchanged via Action Potentials – which are electrical and chemical spikes. We have the electrical part down. This technology could lead to harnessing the chemical part as well.

Be sure to check out the video below, as they explain their “water computer” in more detail.

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Astronaut Or Astronot: Amazingly Engineered

The latest round of community voting in The Hackaday Prize asked a simple question: which project is most likely to save the planet? The results will be posted on Monday.

Now it’s time to see if we’re giving away a $1000 gift card to the Hackaday Store, or just some prizes to people who have voted. The rules here are simple: I’m randomly selecting one person on Hackaday.io. if and only if that person has voted in the latest round of community voting, they get a thousand dollar gift card to the Hackaday store. If the randomly selected person did not vote, I select three people who have voted in the latest round of community voting. For the last few weeks, we’ve been giving out t-shirts. To sweeten the deal, we’re giving away a SmartMatrix, A Simon Says kit, and an Analog Stepper gauge to three people, just because they’ve voted.

Here’s the video:

Drat, the Hacker number randomly selected for the $1000 gift card hadn’t voted! Oh what could have been. Don’t let this happen to you next week, VOTE!

To soften the bitterness of defeat we dole out a few awesome prizes to those who had. [xanatos333] gets the Simon Says kit, [sylph.ds] gets an Analog Stepper Gauge, and [dougmsbbs] gets a Smartmatrix. Thanks to those who voted, and be sure to vote in the next round:


We’ll have to do some math and run a few scripts to figure out which projects the Hackaday.io community deemed most likely to save the planet. Until we put that data together, it’s time to start a new round of voting. This week, we’re looking for projects that are Amazingly Engineered.

Next Friday we’ll select a random person on Hackaday.io, and if they have voted, they get a $1000 gift card! For the apathetic non-voters… nada.

Color Light Painting With A 3D Printer

Light painting, or taking a few RGB LEDs, a camera with a long exposure, and turning the world into Tron, has been around for a while. We haven’t seen many people using their household CNC machines for the same effect. [ekaggrat] is the exception. He’s already used a 3D printer to do some light painting, and now he’s doing it in color.

This build is an extension of an earlier project we saw that used a white LED to draw pictures within the build volume of a delta printer. Just like the last time, [ekaggrat] wired LEDs up to a RAMPS board and toggled pins with the M42 command. This build merely triples the complexity of the wiring; the RGB LED is wired to pins 4,5, and 6 of the controller board, and the shutter release button of his camera is wired up to pin 11 with an optoisolator.

The ability to blink out Gcode is one thing, getting his two-year-old daughter to stand still for 3D scanning is another thing entirely. With the data in hand, [ekaggrat] was able to run this model through a script that would generate a light painting of his daughter. You can grab the script for that on GitHub, or check out the video below.

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Hacklet 53 – Quick Tool Hacks

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Have you ever been right in the middle of a project, when you realize that you could hack up a simple tool which would make your current task easier? Maybe it’s a coil winder, or a device to hold .100 headers straight in their holes. Faster than you can say “Arabian Nights”, you’re working on a project within a project. It might not be pretty, but it gets the job done. This week’s Hacklet is all about quick tool hacks – little projects that help out around the shop or hackerspace.

lampieWe start with [theonetruestickman] and Magnificent Magnifier LED Coversion. [theonetruestickman] picked up an articulated magnifier lamp at Goodwill for $4. These lamps are a staple of benches everywhere. The only problem was the switch and fluorescent tube were both failing. [theonetruestickman] didn’t feel bad for the lamp though. He pulled out the tube, ballast, and starter, replacing them with LEDs. He used 12 V 3 watt LED modules to replace the tube. Three modules provided plenty of light. An old wall wart donated its transformer to the effort. Since these LED modules are happy running on AC, no bridge rectifier was necessary. The modernized lamp is now happily serving on [theonetruestickman’s] workbench.

toolNext up is [Kwisatz] with Pick Up tool hack. [Kwisatz] is a person of few words. This whole project consists of just two words. Specifically, “syringe” and “spring”. Thankfully [Kwisatz] has provided several pictures to show us exactly what they’ve created. If you’ve ever used one of those cheap pickup tools from China, you know [Kwisatz’s] pain. The tiny piece of surgical tube inside the tool creates a feeble vacuum. These tools only hold parts for a few seconds before the vacuum decays enough to drop the part. [Kwisatz] kept the tip of the tool, but replaced the body with a syringe. A spring is used to create just the right amount of vacuum to hold parts on while they are being placed.

fume[Dylan Bleier] made his shop air a bit safer to breathe with a simple fume extractor for $20. Solder and flux create some nasty smoke when heated. Generally that smoke wafts directly into the face of the hacker peeking at the 0402 resistor they are trying to solder. A bit of smoke once in a while might not be so bad, but over the years, the effects add up. [Dylan] used two 120V AC bathroom fans, some metal ducting, plywood, and a bit of time to make this fume extractor. [Dylan] is the first to say it’s not UL, CE, or ROHS compliant, but it does get the job done. He even added a screen to keep bugs from flying in from the outdoor exhaust port.

helix[ftregan] needed to wind a helical coil for an antenna, so he built Helix Winder. Helices are essentially springs, so that should be easy, right? Turns out that making a nice uniform helix is not the easiest thing in the world. The helix winder is a jig which makes winding these special coils much easier. Holes are drilled at a specific angle in a wooden block. The wire is fed through that block and rolled onto an aluminum tube. Rotating the block on the tube forces the wire into the helix shape. The only downside is that each winder is only good for once dimension of helix.

I’ve noticed that some of these quick hacks don’t get as much love as they deserve over on hackaday.io. So if you notice a cool hack like this, drop a comment and give the project a skull. If you want to see more of these hacks, check out our new quick tool hacks list! See a project I might have missed? Don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Swollen Clock Build Demostrates All Engineering Shoulds

[Steve Gardner] wants an accurate clock for his bench. Of course the only option most engineers will accept for something like this a clock they’ve built themselves. In fact, this is his second time around as his first was an OLED based system using one of those sweet Maxim TCXO’s that keep time for years with negligible drift.

This build is going to be dead accurate as well since he plans to roll in a GPS source. But for now he’s covering the display build itself and will use another clock source IC at first. The display is a set of six 2.3″ 7-segment displays on protoboard. Bonus points for all the tidiness in his point to point soldering!

You may think this is a super simple project, and in a way it is. But [Steve] does an amazing job of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s in a way that is beneficial to learn for all of your prototyping. For instance, he’s combining some 7-segment displays with 5mm LEDs as the colons. He mentions checking the peak wavelength of the displays to match the LEDs when choosing components. The design is also well-planned on graph paper. This may be just for use in illustrating the video but is a great practice in your own prototyping.

We’re not sure if there’s some movie magic involved here as his first burning of code to the PIC microcontroller results in a fully working device — impressive. Looking at his entire presentation, if you follow the workflow that [Steve] uses in his engineering, you’re doing it right!

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New Part Day: STM32F7, An ARM Cortex-M7

It was announced last year, but ST is finally rolling out the STM32F7, the first microcontroller in production that is based on the ARM Cortex-M7.

The previous go-to part from the ST catalog was the STM32F4, an extremely powerful chip based on the ARM Cortex M4 processor. This chip was incredibly powerful in its time, and is still a respectable choice for any application that needs a lot of horsepower, but not a complete Linux system. We’ve seen the ~F4 chip pump out 800×600 VGA, drive a thermal imaging camera, and put OpenCV inside a webcam. Now there’s a new, even more powerful part on the market, and the mind reels thinking what might be possible.

Right now there a few STM32F7 parts out, both with speeds up to 216MHz, Flash between 512k and 1MB, and 320kB of RAM. Peripherals include Ethernet, USB OTG, SPDIF support, and I²S. The most advanced chip in the line includes a TFT LCD controller, and a crypto processor on-chip. All of the chips in the STM32F7 line are pin compatible with the STM32F4 line, with BGA and QFP packages available.

As with the introduction of all of ST’s microcontrollers, they’re rolling out a new Discovery board with this launch. It features Ethernet, a bunch of audio peripherals, USB OTG, apparently an Arduino-style pin layout, and a 4.3 inch, 480×272 pixel LCD with capacitive touch. When this is available through the normal distributors, it will sell for around $50. The chips themselves are already available from some of the usual distributors, for $17 to $20 in quantity one. That’s a chunk of change for a microcontroller, but the possibilities for what this can do are really only limited by an engineer’s imagination.