Hacklet 72 – Burning Man Projects

Burning Man is almost here! In just a few days, artists, hackers, makers, and engineers will converge on the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada. They’ll endure the heat, the dust, and possibly a few bugs to create one of the largest outdoor art festivals in the world. Every year, the playa is covered with art cars, giant rolling barges, and fire-breathing animals covered in RGB LEDs. With so many projects to work on, it’s no surprise that quite a few Hackaday.io members (and Hackaday staffers) are burners. This week’s Hacklet is about some of the best Burning Man projects on Hackaday.io!

thedeepWe start with [David Nghiem] and “The Deep” – DC’s Sonic Jellyfish Art Cart. There’s just something calming about a watching a luminescent jellyfish floating serenely through the dark ocean. [David] and his team are recreating that effect in the desert with The Deep. They’re hanging a giant jellyfish in front of a golf cart. The medusa will be festooned with yards of silk and other types of fabric to create a flowing effect. Lighting will come from 8 RGB LED strips, controlled by 15 Teensy LCs. The Teensys will keep the lights flashing to the beat of the music. Burners can dance inside the sculpture, because this jellyfish thankfully has no sting.

anglerfishBicycles are the preferred mode of personal transportation at Burning Man. As you might imagine, it can be pretty hard to find your bike among all the other parked cycles. [Bob Baddeley] has made this a bit easier with Anglerfish for Bikes. Real anglerfish have an illicium, which is a stalk with a lighted tip that hangs just in front of their mouth. The bioluminescent light lures prey to the fish. [Bob] is using an RGB LED illuminated ball to lure him to his bike. This anglerfish started life as a blinky globe from Amazon. [Bob] removed the original electronics and replaced them with a Bluetooth radio on his own custom PCB. A simple press of a button gets the ball shimmering and blinking, leading [Bob] to his ride.

danceNext up is [Jeremy] with Interactive Disco Dance Floor. Inspired by Saturday Night Fever and the music video for Billy Jean, [Jeremy] is creating a dance floor that responds to those dancing on it. The floor is lit by 80 meters of 5050 RGB LEDs, controlled by ATmega168s. The ATmega168’s are connected to a capacitive sensor made up of a chicken wire grid. The system is sensitive enough to pick up feet even when wearing thick motorcycle boots. All the processors connect to a central computer via an RS-485 network. This allows the computer to take over and drive pre-programmed patterns to the floor. The PC side code is written in JavaScript, so it’s easy to modify.

jacketFinally, we have Hackaday.io’s own [Jasmine] with Glow Jacket. Walking around at night in Black Rock City can be dangerous. People running from party to party, high cyclists flying across the playa, you never know who might run into you! Having something to make sure you’re visible is a great start of a project. Keeping warm through the cold nights in the desert would be an added bonus. [Jasmine] sewed 32 feet of electroluminescent (EL) wire onto the back of a black parka. The wire ran to two AA battery-powered inverters hidden in the jacket. The hardest part turned out to be sewing all that EL wire to a jacket. Once all the stitching was done though, her husband [Ben] glows like a beacon in the night.


Burners unite! [Jasmine] has set the Hacker Burners project page as a meeting place for all burners and fans of Burning Man. If you’re interested, join up! If you’d like to see more Burning Man projects, I’ve got you covered with our new Burning Man project list. If I missed your project, don’t hesitate to 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!

16 thoughts on “Hacklet 72 – Burning Man Projects

  1. The environmental nightmare that is Burning Man. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good party but I’d like to see them drop the “burning” and concentrate on Art and Culture in a more sustainable, less wasteful way. It seems to be shifting that way, but they could and should do better.

      1. My comment adds that more projects and installations should be moving toward being responsible and sustainable. Maybe you should read it again, or are you too busy gluing glitter to things? Building something then burning it down “adds what, exactly” to humanity? If you’re going to spend time and money stretching your engineering and creative muscles then why not make it count for something. That’s exactly what HaD is doing with the HaD Prize, Burnout Man could learn something here.

  2. That disco floor needs to be flat and rollable so you can transport it and put it in existing locations, then you can rent it out or have it in big theaters and dance halls when there is an even that calls for it. Including televised events (where bigger money is to be had). All without modifying the existing structure.

  3. You should see what I-80 coming out of the bay area and headed up the hill towards BM looks like these past couple days… You want to see what an environmental nightmare looks like, you’ve found it there in the endless line of exhaust-belching jalopys sloooowly climbing 6000 feet of elevation over the course of 200+ miles. It’s at once laughable, mildly entertaining, and repulsive.

          1. Making a statement of fact, germain to the general topic. No assholery intended. When something gains momentum and size as BM has, it evolves into something commercial. Which is ironic, given the premise of BM. Doubly ironic is that for a group composed (at upper levels) of so many well-heeled folks frequently found making pro-environmental statements and gestures, the festival itself is responsible for so much pollution/emissions and such a large impact footprint at its venue. If you’ve kept up with any of the coverage of the behind-the-scenes politicking, you’re familiar with the issues.

            Those of us that live in the area are familiar with the growing concerns surrounding BM. It’s a great many things, but it isn’t what it used to be. Those attending have a much better platform to urge positive change than those of us who merely live in the area.

            If this post gets the attention of those who can effect change, then it will have served its purpose. If posting what I have makes me an asshole, than so be it, but that’s not the intent.

            And yes, on an individual level the projects featured in this post are pretty cool/innovative. I’m all in favor of such creativity and I’m glad to see it featured here.

    1. Rob,

      If the jalopys weren’t headed to BM, they’d be headed somewhere else for a party.

      We should just ban cars. And roads. And parties. And freedom, for that matter; does anyone really need freedom?

      1. Highly overrated, at that.

        Somewhere else wouldn’t involve that kind of hill climb and that much gumming up of a major 2 lane interstate highway when those jalopys keep breaking down. Seriously. P.I.T.A.

      2. Ahh, the good ol’ “ALL OR NOTHING” argument, and he even threw in the word Freedom. Freedom is doing just fine. Please just stop and think about 65,000 people heading to Burnout Man. Just think about it and all the waste they generate just to go see some blinking lights.

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