Hackaday Prize Entry: A Cheap, Portable Incubator

Millions of premature babies are born every year, and more than a few of these births occur hours away from any hospital with a NICU. [Manoj]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize is a simple, but very useful primitive incubator. Is it as good as the incubators you would find in a world-class hospital? No, but that’s not the point. This is an incubator for the rest of the world, where neonatal care is lacking.

You’re not going to get mechanical respiration or even oxygen into a device that is meant for the most far-flung areas on the planet, so this incubator focuses almost solely on monitoring. Packed inside a premie-sized sleeping bag is enough electronics to measure heart rate, blood oxygen, temperature and respiration. Also, there are a few resistive fabric elements to turn electricity into warmth.

Of course, anything you would find in any hospital or clinic would greatly outclass what this project has to offer. That’s really not the point, though; this incubator is cheap, can be deployed anywhere, and provides enough information to hopefully keep a preterm child alive. That’s good enough for us, and makes for a great entry into the Hackaday Prize.

Pneumatic Launcher Gets Ham Antennas Hanging High

Amateur radio is an eclectic hobby, to say the least. RF propagation, electrical engineering, antenna theory – those are the basics for the Ham skillset. But pneumatics? Even that could come in handy for hanging up antennas, which is what this compressed-air cannon is designed to do.

[KA8VIT]’s build will be familiar to any air cannon aficionado. Built from 2″ Schedule 40 PVC, the reservoir is connected to the short barrel by a quarter-turn ball valve. Charging is accomplished through a Schrader valve with a cheap little tire inflator, and the projectile is a tennis ball weighted with a handful of pennies stuffed through a slit. Lofting an antenna with this rig is as simple as attaching a fishing line to the ball and using that to pull successively larger lines until you can pull the antenna itself. [KA8VIT] could only muster about 55 PSI and a 70′ throw for the first attempt shown below, but a later attempt with a bigger compressor got him over 100 feet. We’d guess that a bigger ball valve might get even more bang for the buck by dumping as much air as quickly as possible into the chamber.

Looking to launch a tennis ball for non-Ham reasons? We’ve got you covered whether you want to power it with butane or carbon dioxide.

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Keep Tabs on the Weather with rpi_status

[Facelessloser] is interested in glanceable information. Glancable devices are things like your car’s dashboard, your wristwatch, or widgets on a smartphone lockscreen. The glanceable information distribution system in this case is rpi_status, [facelessloser’s] entry in the Enlightened Raspberry Pi Contest.

[Facelessloser] coupled a ring of eight WS2812 RGB LEDs with a small OLED screen managed by a the common ssd1306 controller. Since he was rolling his own board for this project, [faceless] some buttons and a BMP180 temperature sensor. Going with popular parts like this meant libraries like the Pimoroni unicorn hat library for the WS2812 were readily available.

A simple display like this can show just about anything – from status of a nightly software build, to traffic along your morning commute. [Facelessloser] is using it for weather data. His data source is Weather Underground’s API. Weather information is displayed on the OLED. The WS2812’s display the temperature. A single blue light means cold. The ring fills as the temperature warms up. After eight degrees of blue, the color changes to orange, followed by red.

Check out the video after the break for a short demo of the board.

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Watch The Diesel Effect in Ballistic Gelatin

A striking video appears to demonstrate an explosion via the diesel effect in clear ballistic gel. The diesel effect or “dieseling” refers to when a substance ignites from the effects of pressure, and it’s the operating principle behind the gadgets known as Fire Sticks or Fire Pistons.

diesel-effect-ballistics-gelBallistic gel is a broad term referring to a large chunk of dense gel generally used in firearms-related testing to reliably and consistently measure things like bullet deformation, fragmentation, and impact. It’s tough, elastic, and in many ways resembles a gigantic gummi bear. Fans of Mythbusters (or certain DIY railguns) will recognize the stuff. Water-based blocks made with natural gelatin can be easily made at home, but end up with a yellow-brown color and have a limited shelf life due to evaporation. Clear blocks exist that are oil-based and don’t dry out like the water-based ones. It’s one of these that is in the embedded animation below.

Slow motion video capture is a natural companion to just about anything that you’d need ballistic gel for, and good thing — because the video captured what appears to be a diesel effect! The block is hit with a bullet, and as the bullet rapidly expands and dumps its energy into the gel, a cavity expands rapidly. During this process, some of the (oil-based) material in the cavity has been vaporized. After the expanded bullet exits (to the right of the gif above but easier to see in the video below), the cavity in the block begins to collapse. The resulting pressure increase appears to ignite the vaporized material, which explodes with a flash followed by some exhaust.

This effect has been observed in ballistic gel before, but this video shows a particularly clear ignition, followed by a secondary expansion of the cavity, then a flatulent-ish ejection of exhaust as the cavity collapses. If nothing else, it’s a very striking effect clearly captured on film. Slow-motion capture of destructive forces makes visible many things that would otherwise happen too quickly to perceive.

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3D Printed Nozzles Turbocharge Microsphere Production

Researchers at MIT have used 3D printing to open the door to low-cost, scalable, and consistent generation of microencapsulated particles, at a fraction of the time and cost usually required. Microencapsulation is the process of encasing particles of one material (a core) within another material (a shell) and has applications in pharmaceuticals, self-healing materials, and dye-based solar cells, among others. But the main problem with the process was that it was that it was slow and didn’t scale, and it was therefore expensive and limited to high-value applications only. With some smart design and stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing, that changed. The researchers are not 3D printing these just because they can; they are printing the arrays because it’s the only way they can be made.

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Skynet Takes Over…Academia?

A telescope isn’t an unusual thing to own if you are technically inclined. You might have even made one, at some point. However, despite improvements in optical technology and computer aiming devices, your four to twenty-inch instrument is never going to show you images like you see from big giant telescopes. The problem is, going really big requires a lot of investment in time, money, and sometimes even real estate. The big scopes get buildings constructed for them, and in exotic locations; why would you build a 24-inch scope only to try to see through the light pollution in your backyard?

Here’s an idea: take an astronomy class at a college and use their big telescope. Well, who has the time and money for that? Actually, you do. Skynet is a global network of telescopes headquartered at the University of North Carolina. As part of their mandate, they offer several tuition-free astronomy classes over the Internet. The best part? You also get free time on Skynet’s telescopes to complete your class assignments. There is a small fee (between $45 and $65) to a “benefit corporation” to administer assignments. You do get a certificate upon graduation. If you don’t want to do the assignments and you don’t want a certificate, you can still “take” the classes by simply watching them on YouTube. You can see one of the classes in the video below.

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From CRT TV To All-In-One Console

When the Raspberry Pi first appeared there was some excitement among Raspberry Jam attendees at the prospect of a computer with a video output on a board small enough to be concealed inside a TV. But while the idea is a good one the prospect of poking around among the high voltages of an older CRT model has meant that surprisingly few such ideas turned into reality.

One person who made the idea into a reality was [Jon], who took a [Dora] The Explorer branded CRT/DVD combo in a fetching shade of red and turned it into an all-in-one retro console gaming system with an embedded Raspberry Pi.

nintendo-crt-tv-thumbnailThis is however not merely a Pi stuffed inside the rear casing with a few holes for cables, instead he took away the substantial part of the DVD mechanism and mounted his Pi safely in a plastic box. Some USB extension cables bring all four USB sockets to the front panel through the DVD slot with a bit of Sugru to hold them in place. An HDMI panel-mount extension goes to the TV’s rear connector panel, as does a power switch for the Pi which is wired to a USB charger mounted on a trailing mains socket inside the case. The composite video from the Pi is wired to the TV’s AV in video socket.

We don’t blame [Jon] for not looking at the TV’s power rails to find power for his Pi, though a TV of this recent age would have safely mains-isolated rails that’s still a task fraught with hazards. The resulting unit is a high quality retro console, and as a final touch he’s given it a Nintendo logo and some storage for his gamepads on the rear.

We’ve had a few CRTs with integrated computers before here at Hackaday, but not all have been as they seemed. This Pi for instance sat in a vintage Singer TV, but the CRT was replaced with a modern LCD. Our favourite though it this Chromecast driving a 1978 GE model.