This Is Your Epic Weekend To Hack Together Anything

Wow how the time flies. It seems like only couple of weeks ago we were unveiling the film we shot at Salton Sea to launch this, our third global hacking initiative called The Hackaday Prize. What we want is to see you use those skills of yours to Build Something that Matters. Come up with a way to solve a technology problem and score yourself some sweet prizes. This weekend, anything goes.

The current challenge is called Anything Goes and the deadline to enter your project is Monday at 7am PDT. You need to show off a prototype of your idea, and have at least four (4) build logs about your work on your project page. Use the menu in the left sidebar of your project page to enter it in the Hackaday Prize (or in the Anything Goes round if you entered it during the first challenge).

Are you confused about what is happening here? Let’s hit the high points:

  • Every five weeks we start a new Challenge Round which is basically a whole new contest. You can enter now — it’s not too late. If you entered previously you may enter again.
  • From each challenge round we will select twenty projects to move on to the final round, and award them each $1,000 for their achievement.
  • When all five rounds are complete, those hundred final projects will be viewed by our expert judges who will pick five winners who get the big cash prizes: $150k, $25k, $10k, $10k, and $5k. The Grand Prize winner will also be offered a residency at the Supplyframe Design Lab in Pasadena, CA.
  • The moral of the story is: build something awesome because that’s what you do. But this weekend, make it something that helps people and you just might be one of the twenty moving on for a shot at a much larger purse.

It’s true, we have a lot of projects in the running for this year’s prize; right about 700 entries at the time of writing. But, like I said above, each Challenge is a new contest. We are just about to hit 300 entries for Anything Goes. Twenty will be finalists, which means your entry has about a 1 in 15 chance at this point. Make this weekend your personal hackathon — build it, document it, and don’t forget to submit it.

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A Cornucopia Of High Voltage Sources

Having hacked away with high voltage for many years I’ve ended up using a large number of very different high voltage sources. I say sources and not power supplies because I’ve even powered a corona motor by rubbing a PVC pipe with a cotton cloth, making use of the triboelectric effect. But while the voltage from that is high, the current is too low for producing the necessary ion wind to make a lifter fly up off a tabletop. For that I use a flyback transformer and Cockcroft-Walton voltage multiplier power supply that’s plugged into a wall socket.

So yes, I have an unorthodox skillset when it comes to sourcing high voltage. It’s time I sat down and listed most of the power sources I’ve used over the years, including a bit about how they work, what their output is like and what they can be used for, as well as some idea of cost or ease of making. The order is from least powerful to most powerful so keep reading for the ones that really bite.

Triboelectric Effect

Triboelectric series table
Triboelectric series table

You’ve no doubt encountered this effect. It’s how your body is charged when you rub your feet on carpet and then get a shock from touching a door knob. When you rub two specific materials together there’s a transfer of electrons from one to the other. Not just any two materials will work. To find out which materials are good to use, have a look at a triboelectric series table.

Materials that are on the positive end of the table will become positively charged when rubbed against materials on the negative end of the table. Those materials will become negatively charged. The further apart they are in the table, the stronger the charging.

Powering corona motor with triboelectricity
Powering corona motor with triboelectricity

An example of where I’ve used this is to power the corona motor shown here. I vigorously rub a PVC pipe with a cotton cloth, and as the pipe emerges from the cloth, a sharp wire a few millimeters away takes the charge from the pipe. You can see this corona motor being powered by other power sources in the video here.

This would be considered an electrostatic power source because charge is accumulated on surfaces. Being insulating materials, that charge can’t move around.

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Raspberry Pi Cluster Build Shows How And What

Raspberry Pi clusters are a dime a dozen these days. Well, maybe more like £250 for a five-Pi cluster. Anyway, this project is a bit different. It’s exquisitely documented.

[Nick Smith] built a 5-node Pi 3 cluster from scratch, laser-cutting his own acrylic case and tearing down a small network switch to include in the design. It is, he happily admits, a solution looking for a problem. [Smith] did an excellent job of documenting how he designed the case in CAD, prototyped it in wood, and how he put the final cluster together with eye-catching clear acrylic.

Of interest is that he even built his own clips to hold the sides of the case together and offers all of the files for anyone who wants to build their own. Head over to his page for the complete bill of materials (we didn’t know Pis were something you could order in 5-packs). And please, next time you work on a project follow [Nick’s] example of how to document it well, and how to show what did (and didn’t) work.

If 5 nodes just doesn’t do it for you, we suggest this 120-node screen-equipped monster, and another clear-acrylic masterpiece housing 40 Pis. This stuff really isn’t only for fun and games. Although it wasn’t Pi-based, here’s a talk at Hackaday Belgrade about an ARM-based SBC cluster built to crunch numbers for university researchers.

Flame Triodes Don’t Need Any Vacuum

There is a rich history surrounding the improvisation of electronic components. From cats-whisker foxhole radio detectors using razor blades through radio amateurs trying antique quartz lenses as crystal resonators and 1950s experimenters making their own point-contact transistors, whenever desirable components have been unavailable the ingenuity of hackers and makers has always sought to provide.

In an age when any component you might wish for is only a web browser and a courier package away, you might think there would be no need for such experiments. But it is in our curious nature to push the boundaries of what can be made without a factory at our disposal, so there are still plenty of ingenious home-made components under construction.

One such experiment came our way recently. It’s a few years old, but it’s a good one. [Nyle Steiner, K7NS] made a working triode without any form of vacuum, instead its medium is a flame. He’s demonstrated it as a rectifier, amplifier, and oscillator, and while it might not be the best triode ever it’s certainly one of the simplest.

In a traditional vacuum triode the current flows as electrons released from a hot cathode and are able to cross the space because there are no gas molecules for them to collide with. The flame triode has an abundance of gas, but the gasses within it and its immediate surroundings are also strongly ionized, and thus electrically conductive. Flame ionization detectors have exploited this phenomenon in scientific instruments for a very long time.

A roaring flame might not be the most practical thing to keep in your electronic equipment, but [Nyle]’s experiment is nonetheless an impressive one. He’s posted a video showing it in action, which you can see below the break.

Continue reading “Flame Triodes Don’t Need Any Vacuum”