Hackaday Prize Entry: A Low-Cost Robot Arm

Robot arms are cool, and to judge from the SCARA arms and old Heathkit robots tucked away in a cupboard of every computer science department in every university in the world, they’re still remarkably educational. You can learn a lot about control systems with a robot arm, or you could build a clone of the old Radio Shack Armatron; either way, you’re doing something very cool. Right now, there aren’t many educational robot arms available, and the ones you can get are tiny. For [Jonathan]’s Hackaday Prize project, he’s building a low-cost robot arm with a one meter reach.

There’s a reason you won’t find many large, low-cost robot arms: the square cube law. An ant can carry many times its own body weight, but if you scaled that ant up to the size of a human, its legs couldn’t support itself. Likewise, a small, handheld robot arm will work perfectly well with hobby servos, but scaling this up requires big heavy stepper motors.

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Chibiterm Is A Tiny Low-Cost VGA Terminal

A common sight in the days before cheap PCs conquered the world was the dumb terminal. A keyboard and a monitor with a serial port on the back that was usually hooked up to a minicomputer or even a mainframe, these were simple devices. Anything that came into the serial port was rendered on the screen, anything typed on the keyboard was sent out through the serial port. They didn’t need to contain a microprocessor. If you are old enough, you may remember electronics magazines of the 1970s and early 1980s publishing terminal designs based entirely on 74 series logic.

The serial terminal might seem like a redundant historical footnote when viewed from 2016, but they can still find a use among those working with systems such as small embedded microcontrollers that only possess a serial port. To address this application, Hackaday.io user [K.C.Lee] has created a low-cost terminal module for a VGA monitor and a PS/2 keyboard based around an inexpensive STM32F030F4 processor.

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We’re Headed to Maker Faire, Will You Be There?

The Hackaday Crew will be descending on San Mateo next weekend for Bay Area Maker Faire. Will you be there? Gerrit and I will be looking in every booth and byway for amazing hacks, new hardware, and anything else that tickles the fancy of hackers everyone.

We certainly didn’t miss the massive tin spider seen above at last year’s event. But it’s a huge venue, and I’m always afraid we’re going to miss something epic. If you’re exhibiting and want us to stop by, leave a comment below. If you know of something awesome that we shouldn’t miss this year, we’d love to hear about that too.

I’d also like to invite you to hang out with Hackaday on Saturday night. When the Faire closes its gates, something amazing happens every year at O’Neil’s Irish Pub. Don’t miss it!

Need a Ticket?

Texas Instruments sent us 4 Friday passes, and 9 weekend passes which we want to give away. The fairest way of doing that is a drawing using Twitter.

To enter, simply Tweet something about your favorite 2016 Hackaday Prize entry, including @Hackaday @TXinstruments #FairePass in the message. Here’s what an example Tweet looks like (don’t worry, I’m not eligible to win).

On Sunday, 4pm PDT we’ll make a list of all the Twitter handles that sent out a Tweet, then use random.org to choose 6 random numbers from that list. The second giveaway will happen at 4pm PDT on Wednesday 5/18, using the same procedure to choose the remaining 7 winners.

All of the obvious contest stuff applies: employees and family of Hackaday, Supplyframe, and TI are not eligible. Results of the drawing are final. We can’t substitute other prizes (we’re just giving away extra tickets) and this giveaway has no bearing on any other contests or winner selection.

Robot Cheerleader Just Needs A Hand To Learn Basic Tricks

This robot may have the fastest hand we’ve ever seen. It’s only a hand at the moment, but it’s certainly good with it.

The hand comes from a research project out of the University of Washington. The researchers didn’t just want to program the robot to do tricks, they wanted it to learn. Some tasks are just by nature too complex and tedious to program all the details for. Look at all those tendon activators. You want to program that?

The current focus of the robot is twirling a stick. While they’re probably a ways away from a robot cheerleading squad or robot drum major, the task itself is extremely difficult. This can be proven by just how many YouTube videos there are on the art of pencil twirling.

While the video didn’t show the robot dramatically twirling the stick at high speed, it did show the robot rotating it a little bit without dropping it. And this is a behavior that it has learned. For anyone who has ever had a run-in with robotics, or the art of convincing a robot not to discard all the data it collects in order to not run directly into a wall, this is a pretty big achievement. Video after the break.

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Boost Around Town with This 3D Printed Bicycle Assist

[MechEngineerMike]’s bike boost is just a pleasure to look at, and, we’re certain, a relief to use. While it’s not going to rocket you down the street, it will certainly take some of the pain away. (Just like the professionals!)

It’s one thing to design a device that can fit one bicycle. It’s quite another feat if it can support multiple frames. On top of that, it’s even simple. It attaches at one point and transfers the power to the wheel easily. There’s even just one wire to connect, an RCA cable, to engage the boost.

We really like the clever way [Mike] used the rotating shell of an outrunner motor as the surface that presses against the wheel. We wonder if a cast polyurethane rubber tire for the motor would help, or just help overheat the motor?

The parts for the device are 3D printed and pretty chunky. They should hold up. Check out the video of it boosting [Mike] to the grocery store, where he can, presumably, buy less with all the calories he saved after the break.

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Phoenix Perry: Forward Futures

There were a lot of very technical talks at Hackaday Belgrade. That’s no surprise, this is Hackaday after all. But every once in a while it’s good to lift our heads up from the bench, blow away some of the solder smoke, and remind ourselves of the reason that we’re working on the next cool project. Try to take in the big picture. Why are you hacking?

image5[Phoenix Perry] raised a lot of big-think points in her talk, and she’s definitely hacking in order to bring more women into the field and make the creation of technology more accessible to everyone. Lofty goals, and not a project that’s going to be finished up this weekend. But if you’re going to make a positive difference in the world through what you love to do, it’s good to dream big and keep the large goal on your mind.

[Phoenix] is an engineer by training, game-coder by avocation, and a teacher for all the right reasons. She’s led a number of great workshops around the intersection of art and technology: from physical controllers for self-coded games to interactive music synthesis devices disguised as room-sized geodesic domes. And she is the founder of the Code Liberation Foundation, a foundation aimed at teaching women technology through game coding. On one hand, she’s a hacker, but on the other she’s got her eyes on a larger social goal.

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Captain America’s Mighty Shield with 7200N of Powerful Electromagnets!

At Hackaday, sometimes we nerd out a bit too hard over comic book movies. With Captain America: Civil War in theaters, I knew I had to do a project dedicated to the movie — so I made a ridiculously over powered electromagnet bracer. The hope? To attract a Captain America replica shield from short distances.

electromagnet bracerI had the idea for this project a while ago after watching Avengers: Age of Ultron.

If you’re not familiar, it appears Captain America gets a suit upgrade (presumably from Stark himself) that features some pretty awesome embedded electromagnets allowing him to call his shield back to him from afar.

Now unfortunately, electromagnets aren’t that strong and I knew I wouldn’t be able to achieve quite the same effect as good ol’ CGI — but I’d be darned not to try!  Continue reading “Captain America’s Mighty Shield with 7200N of Powerful Electromagnets!”