Hackaday Prize Entry: Robot Shore

Everyone knows the ocean is not a gigantic garbage can, but unless you live in the middle of Asia, below sea level, Utah, or some other inhospitable place, all trash eventually makes it to sea. This is a problem not only for the the sea and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but for shorelines as well. For her Hackaday Prize entry, [Erin] is building a series of robots designed to walk the shore, pick up garbage, deposit it in a bin, and do it again after the next high tide.

The key problem for a robot that picks up trash is simply finding that trash. This means cameras and a lot of computing power. Lucky for [Erin], smartphones are cheap and have excellent cameras and a ton of processing power. The brains for these robots will be built around an off-the-shelf smartphone mounted on a pan/tilt mast on the bot.

[Erin] is already testing her bot, and after a few field tests she noticed a family left behind their trash on the beach. The robot moved into action before the flying rats could choke on a bottlecap, and the cleanup operation was a success. Not bad for a prototype, and an excellent entry to the Hackaday Prize.

Struggling Robot Made With DIY Soft Limbs

[Jonathan Grizou] is experimenting with robot designs, and recently stumbled upon a neat method for making soft robots. While his first prototype, a starfish like robot, doesn’t exactly “whelm” a person with it’s grace and agility, it proves the concept. Video after the break.

In this robot the frame is soft and the motor provides most of the rigidity for the structure. The soft parts of the frame have hardpoints embedded into them for mounting the motors or joining sections together. The sections are made with 3D printed molds. The molds hold the 3D printed hard points in place. Silicone is poured into the mold and left to cure overnight. The part is then demolded and is ready for use.

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Lego-Like Chemistry and Biology Erector Set

A team of researchers and students at the University of California, Riverside has created a Lego-like system of blocks that enables users to custom build chemical and biological research instruments. The system of 3D-printed blocks can create a variety of scientific tools.

The blocks, which are called Multifluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs) appeared in the journal PLOS ONE. Each block in the system performs a basic lab instrument task (pumping fluids, making measurements or interfacing with a user, for example). Since the blocks are designed to work together, users can build apparatus — like bioreactors for making alternative fuels or acid-base titration tools for high school chemistry classes — rapidly and efficiently. The blocks are especially well suited for resource-limited settings, where a library of blocks can create a variety of different research and diagnostic tools.

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Intel Releases The Tiny Joule Compute Module

At the keynote for the Intel Developers Forum, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich introduced the Intel Joule compute module, a ‘maker board’ targeted at Internet of Things developers. The high-end board in the lineup features a quad-core Intel Atom running at 2.4 GHz, 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 16GB of eMMC, 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, USB 3.1, CSI and DSI interfaces, and multiple GPIO, I2C, and UART interfaces. According to the keynote, the Joule module will be useful for drones, robotics, and with support for Intel’s RealSense technology, it may find a use in VR and AR applications. The relevant specs can be found on the Intel News Fact Sheet (PDF).

This is not Intel’s first offering to the Internet of Things. A few years ago, Intel partnered up with Arduino (the Massimo one) to produce the Intel Galileo. This board featured the Intel Quark SoC, a 400MHz, 32-bit Intel Pentium ISA processor. It was x86 in an Arduino format. This was quickly followed by the Intel Edison based on the same Quark SoC, which was followed by the Intel Curie, found in the Arduino 101 and this year’s DEF CON badge.

We’ve seen plenty of Intel’s ‘maker’ and Internet of Things offerings, but we haven’t seen these platforms succeed. You could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in market research to determine why these platforms haven’t seen much success, but the Hackaday comments will tell you the same thing for free: the documentation for these platforms is sparse, and nobody knows how to make these boards work.

Perhaps because of the failures of Intel’s IoT market, the Joule differs significantly from previous offerings. Although it can be easily compared to the Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone, and a hundred other tiny single board computers, the official literature for the Joule makes a comparison between it and the Nvidia Jetson easy. The Nvidia Jetson is a high-power, credit card-sized ‘supercomputer’ meant to be a building block for high-performance applications, such as drones and anything that requires video or a very fast processor. The Joule fits into this market splendidly, with demonstrated applications including augmented reality safety glasses for Airbus employees and highway patrol motorcycle helmet displays. Here, the Joule might just find a market. This might even be the main focus of the Joule – it can be integrated onto Gumstix carrier boards, providing a custom single board computer with configurable displays, connectors, and sensors.

The Intel Joule lineup consists of the Joule 570x and 550x, with the 550x being a bit slower, a Gig less RAM, and half as much storage. They will be available in Q4 2016 from Mouser, Newegg, and other Intel reseller partners.

Solar-powered Weather Station Has the Complete Suite of Sensors

There was a time when getting weather conditions was only as timely or as local as the six o’clock news from the nearest big-city TV station. Monitoring the weather now is much more granular thanks to the proliferation of personal weather stations. For the ultimate in personalized weather, though, you might want to build your own solar powered weather station.

It looks like [Brian Masney] went all out in designing his weather station. It supports a full stack of sensors – wind speed and direction, rain, temperature, pressure, and dew point. About the only other parameters not supported (yet) are solar radiation, UV, and soil moisture and temperature. The design looks friendly enough that adding those sensors should be a snap – if fact, the 3D models in his GitHub repo suggest that he’s already working on soil sensors. The wind and rain sensor boom is an off-the-shelf unit from Sparkfun, and the temperature and pressure sensors are housed in a very professional 3D printed screen enclosure. All the sensors talk to a Raspberry Pi living in a (hopefully) waterproof enclosure topped with a solar panel for charging the stations batteries. All in all it’s a comprehensive build; you can check out the conditions at [Brian]’s place on Weather Underground.

Weather stations are popular around these parts, as witnessed by this reverse-engineered sensor suite or even this squirrel-logic based station.

Universal Serial Abuse

It’s probable that most Hackaday readers are aware of their own computer security even if they are not specialists. You’ll have some idea of which ports your machines expose to the world, what services they run, and you’ll know of a heap of possible attack vectors even if you may not know about every last one.

So as part of that awareness, it’s likely you’ll be wary of strange USB devices. If someone drops a Flash drive in the parking lot the chances of one of you blithely plugging it into your laptop is not high at all. USB ports are trusted by your computer and its operating system, and to have access to one is to be given the keys to the kingdom.

Our subject today is a DEF CON talk courtesy of [Dominic White] and [Rogan Dawes] entitled “Universal Serial aBUSe“, and it details a USB attack in which they create an innocuous USB stick that emulates a keyboard and mouse which is shared across a WiFi network via a VNC server. This gives an attacker (who can gain momentary physical access to a USB port to install the device) a way into the machine that completely bypasses all network and other security measures.

Their hardware features an AVR and an ESP8266, the former for USB and HID work and the latter to do the heavy lifting and provide WiFi. They started with a Cactus Micro Rev2, but graduated to their own compatible board to make the device more suitable to pose as a USB stick. Both hardware and software files can be found on their GitHub repository, with the software being a fork of esp-link. They go into significant detail of their development and debugging process, and their write-up should be an interesting read for anyone.

Below the break you can find a video description of the attack. It’s not a shock to know that USB ports have such little defense, but it is a sobering moment to realize how far attacks like this one have come into the realm of what is possible.

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Tips For Buying Your First Milling Machine

If you’re interested in making things (and since you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you are), you’ve almost certainly felt a desire to make metal parts. 3D printers are great, but have a lot of drawbacks: limited material options, lack of precision, and long printing times. If you want metal parts that adhere to even moderately tight tolerances, a milling machine is your only practical option. There is, after all, a very good reason that they’re essential to manufacturing.

However, it can be difficult to know where to start for the hobbyist who doesn’t have machining experience. What kind of milling machine should you get? Should you buy new or used? What the heck is 3-phase power, and can you get it? These questions, among many others, can be positively overwhelming to the uninitiated. Luckily, we — your friends at Hackaday — are here to help give you some direction. So, if you’re ready to learn, then read on! Already an expert? Leave some tips of your own in the comments!

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