Chromatic Clocks With A Steampunk Twist

There’s nothing like a good clock project, and tacking the steampunk modifier on it only makes it better. [José] built a steampunk clock that does it much better than just gluing some gears on an enclosure and calling it a day. This build includes glowing jewels displaying the time in different colors while displaying the a steampunker’s prowess with a pipe cutter.

The body of the clock is a piece of finely lacquered wood, hiding a perfboard construction with a DS3231 real time clock, a DHT22 temperature and humidity sensor, and a light sensor for dimming the WS2812 LEDs according to the ambient light level.

The rest of the clock is a bunch of 12mm copper pipe, elbows, and t couplers. The end of these pipes are capped off with marbles, with the RGB LEDs behind each of the ‘digits’ of the clock. This is a chromatic clock, with the digits 0 through 9 assigned a different color, based on the resistor color code scheme with exceptions for black and brown. Once you’ve figured out how to tell time with this clock, you should have no problem finding that single 56k resistor in your junk box.

You can check out the video of the clock below.

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Smart Coaster Informs You When Your Drink Is Ready

How many times have you made a cup of coffee or tea and it’s been too hot to drink, and then by the time you get to it, it’s become too cold? While very much a #firstworldproblem, [ToniTheAxe] decided to fix it — and enter a contest at the same time. He calls it the µCoaster, and essentially, it is a temperature sensing alarm clock.

The coaster uses a TMP006 infrared temperature sensor which measures the temperature of whatever you place on the coaster indirectly. It also doesn’t use much power. He designed the PCBs around this and created a very nice looking coaster that’s powered off of a button cell battery — he thinks it’ll last for around 6 months with daily usage — though that depends on how bad your caffeine addiction is.

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Volvo Trucks: Kid Tested, Mother Approved

If that looks like a four year old with a remote control driving a full-size dump truck — that’s because it is. As part of their Live Test Series, Volvo made a ridiculous obstacle course, and then let a four year old take the wheel of one of their heavy duty dump trucks. Viral advertising maybe — but too awesome not to share.

And don’t worry, there is a hack involved! The remote control setup in the truck isn’t that polished, and can’t possibly be a commercial “RC kit”. Which means some lucky hacker got to build a remote control system for a freaking dump truck. Consider us jealous.

Surprisingly (or maybe not), the truck seems to withstand everything the four year old throws at it. Including rolling it sideways down a hill, and of course smashing through an entire building. It’s well worth the watch and had us grinning from ear to ear.

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Alvaro Prieto’s Laser-Shooting Robots

[Alvaro Prieto]’s talk at the Hackaday Supercon began with a slide that asks the rhetorical question “Why Laser-Shooting Robots?” Does a rhetorical question need an answer? [Alvaro] gives one anyway: “Because lasers are awesome.” We concur.

But it doesn’t hurt that DEFCON holds a laser robot contest to give you an excuse, either. You see, [Alvaro]’s laser-wielding robot was the First Place finisher in the 2014 DEFCONBOTS contest, and a much more ambitious design came in third in 2015. His Supercon talk is all about the lessons he’s learned along the way, because that’s really the point of these contests anyway, right?

“I have no idea what I’m doing.”

[Alvaro] started off with a disclaimer, but when [Alvaro] says he doesn’t know what he’s doing, what he means is that he hasn’t received formal training in building laser-wielding, autonomous turret robots. (How did we miss that class in school?)


He’s a true hacker, though; he didn’t know what he was doing when he started out but he started out anyway. [Alvaro]’s takes us from the first prototypes where he used servo motors with inadequate angular resolution mounted to balsa wood frames that he (obviously) cut with a knife by hand, through laser-cut frames with custom gearing and stepper motors, all the way to his DEFCONBOTS 2015 entry, based on OpenBeam aluminum extrusions and using professional laser-show galvos capable of swinging the beam around to thousands of points per second.

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AirAsia Crash Analysis: Who Or What Failed?

Just a few days after Christmas last year AirAsia Flight 8051 traveling to Singapore tragically plummeted into the sea. Indonesia completed its investigation of the crash and just released the final report. Media coverage, especially in Asia is big. The stories are headlined by pilot error but,as technologists, there are lessons to be learned deeper in the report.

The Airbus A320 is a fly-by-wire system meaning there are no mechanical linkages between the pilots and the control surfaces. Everything is electronic and most of a flight is under automatic control. Unfortunately, this also means pilots don’t spend much time actually flying a plane, possibly less than a minute, according to one report.

Here’s the scenario laid out by the Indonesian report: A rudder travel limit computer system alarmed four times. The pilots cleared the alarms following normal procedures. After the fifth alarm, the plane rolled beyond 45 degrees, climbed rapidly, stalled, and fell.

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Toward The Optionally Piloted Aircraft

Aviation Week and Space Technology, the industry’s leading magazine, has been publishing “pilot reports,” on new aircraft for decades. Its pilot report on an aircraft called Centaur ⁠was the first in which the pilot doing the test never touched the controls. Centaur is an optionally-piloted aircraft, or OPA.

The reporter conducted the test while sitting in the back seat of the small, twin engine aircraft. Up front sat a person acting as the safety pilot, his arms calmly resting on his lap. Sitting beside him, in what is ordinarily the co-pilot’s seat, was an engineered series of linkages, actuators, and servos. The safety pilot pulled a lever to engage the mechanisms, and they began moving the pilot’s control stick and pressing the rudder pedals. The actuators are double and redundant; if one set fails another will immediately take over. The safety pilot can disengage the mechanism with a single pull of the lever if something goes wrong; unless something goes wrong he does not touch the controls.

In the back seat, the “operator,” commanded the plane through a laptop, using an interface identical to that of the ground control station for an unmanned vehicle. Through the screen, he could change altitude, fly to waypoints, takeoff or land. Pushing the “launch” button began an autonomous takeoff. The computer held the brakes, pushed the throttles forward, checked the engines and instruments, and released the brakes for the takeoff roll. The plane accelerated, took to the air, and began to climb out on a semi-autonomous flight.

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Increasing Cable Length In Precision Video Applications

Transmitting video signals over long distances can be tricky. Cheap co-ax cables won’t do the job. You either need amplifiers along the path, or need to use expensive, high quality shielded co-ax cables – both of which can end up costing a lot. [Maurizio] built a low cost solution to transmit video over long distances using twisted pair cables.

The system is cheap and uses readily available parts. The idea is to convert the video signal into a differential output using a pair of op amps and transmit them over a pair of twisted pair wires, then extract the signal at the receiving end using another amplifier.

twisted-pair-03A differential amplifier usually requires a dual-polarity power supply, which may not be available when adding this upgrade to an existing system. To over come this limitation, [Maurizio] uses a bias voltage equal to half of the power supply value. This bias voltage is added to the non-inverting amplifier signal, and subtracted from the inverting amplifier signal. The resultant differential signal is then fed into the twisted pair cable through impedance matching resistors. At the receiving end, a single amplifier receives the differential signals and outputs a signal that corresponds to the original video signal.

This symmetrical configuration renders the system immune to external noise. The design was tested for transmitting video on inexpensive CAT-3 twisted pair wire. According to him, when transmitting on 300m of wire, good quality color video was displayed on a monitor with an NTSC input. He used LMH6643 op-amps for this experiment, but other devices with similar characteristics can be used. Here’s a useful PDF document that discusses signals, cables and connections.

If you want to check out more of [Maurizio]’s work, see how he figured out how to send serial data from Excel.