Gamify Your Workout with this Wearable Console Controller

‘Tis soon to be the season when resolutions falter and exercise equipment purchased with the best of intentions is cast aside in frustration. But with a little motivation, like making your exercise machine a game console controller, you can maximize your exercise gear investment and get in some guilt-free gaming to boot.

Honestly, there is no better motivation for keeping up with exercise than taking classes, but not many people have the discipline — or the pocketbook — to keep going to the gym for the long haul. With this in mind, [Jason] looked for a way to control PS4  games like Mario Karts or TrackMania with his recumbent bike. In an attempt to avoid modifying the bike, [Jason] decided on a wearable motion sensor for his ankle. Consisting of an Uno, an MPU9250 accelerometer, and a transmitter for the 433-MHz ISM band, the wearable sends signals to a receiver whenever the feet are moving. This simulates pressing the up arrow controller key to set the game into action. Steering and other game actions are handled by a regular controller; we’d love to see this expanded to include strain gauges on the recumbent bike’s handles to allow left-right control by shifting weight in the seat. Talk about immersive gameplay!

While we like the simplicity of [Jason]’s build and the positive reinforcement it provides, it’s far from the first exercise machine hack we’ve seen. From making Google Street View bike-controlled to automatically logging workouts, exercise machines are ripe for the hacking.

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The Chemistry and Engineering of DIY Photochromic Glass

[Ben Krasnow] is no stranger to exploring the more arcane corners of hackerdom, and the latest video on his “Applied Science” channel goes into a field few DIYers have touched: homemade glass, including the photochromic variety.

That DIY glassmaking remains a largely untapped vein is not surprising given what [Ben] learned over the last months of experimenting. With searing temperatures bordering on the unobtainable, volatile ingredients that evaporate before they can be incorporated, and a final product so reactive that a platinum crucible is the best vessel for the job, glassmaking is not easy, to say the least. Glassmaking doesn’t scale down from an industrial process very well, it seems. Nonetheless, [Ben] came up with a process that could be replicated using common enough ingredients and a simple electric kiln modded with a PID controller for pinpoint temperature setting. And while Luxottica has nothing to worry about yet, he did manage to get some clearly if subtly photochromic samples, despite the challenges.

Without a doubt, [Ben] crossed over into “mad scientist” territory a while back, and we think it’s great. What other way is there to describe a guy who has an electron microscope, a high-power ruby laser, a CT scanner, and a cookie making robot in his basement? Whatever you call it, we like the results.

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Tricked-Out Tablet Becomes Workbench Tool

The workbench of the typical electronics hobbyist today would probably be largely recognizable by Heathkit builders back in the 60s and 70s. But where the techs and tinkerers of yesteryear would have had a real dead-tree SAMS Photofact schematic spread out on the bench, today you’ll get more use out of a flat-screen display for data sheets and schematics, and this handy shop Frankentablet might be just the thing to build.

Tablets like the older Nexus 9 that [enginoor] used as the basis for this build have a little bit of a form-factor problem because unlike a laptop, a tablet isn’t very good at standing up on its own. To fix that, they found a suitable silicone skin for the Nexus, and with some silicone adhesive began bedazzling the back of the tablet. A bendy tripod intended for phones was added, and with the tablet able to stand on its own they maximized the USB port with a right angle adapter and a hub. Now the tablet has a USB drive, a mouse, and a keyboard, ready for perusing data sheets online. And hackers of a certain age will appreciate the eyeball-enhancing potential of the attached USB microscope.

[enginoor]’s bench tablet is great, but we’ve seen full-fledged bench PCs before too. Take your pick — wall mounted and floating, or built right into the workbench.

Thanks to [ccvi] for the tip.

A Minimalist Weather Clock with a Unique Display

If you’re looking for a home hub to display weather, time, and important family information, the formula is pretty simple: build yet another “magic mirror” project. We’re not complaining — magic mirrors look great. But if all you need is time and weather, this elegant pixel display is something just a little bit different.

Among his many criteria for the perfect hack, [Dominic] lists usefulness, visual appeal, and low cost. We’ll agree that his minimalist weather clock hits all those marks, and with the careful selection of a 16 x 32-pixel RGB display module, [Dominic] ended up giving back to the community by developing an Arduino driver for it. He points out that strips of Neopixels could have been used for the display, but they’d have ended up costing more, so the LED matrix was a sensible choice. A 3D-printed separator grid and a paper diffuser provide the proper pixelated look, and some simple animated icons display the two-day weather forecast. We find the time and temperature numerals a little hard to read, but it’s not bad considering the limited resolution of the display. And the case is a nice bit of woodworking too. Not a bad result for only €43.

We’re intrigued by the P10 LED matrix module [Dominic] used for this one. It might be a good choice for a word clock and weather station, or with his driver, a display for just about anything.

Erika Earl: Manufacturing Hacks

Many of us will have casually eyed up the idea of turning a project into a product. Perhaps we’ve considered making a kit from it, or even taking it further into manufacture. But building a single device on the bench is an extremely different matter from having a run of the same devices built by someone else, and in doing so there are a host of pitfalls waiting for the unwary.

[Erika Earl] is the Director of Hardware Engineering at Slate Digital, and has a lengthy background in the professional audio industry. Her job involves working with her team to bring high-quality electronic products to market that do not have the vast production runs of a major consumer electronic brand, so she has a lot of experience when it comes to turning a hacked-together prototype into a polished final device. Her talk at the 2017 Hackaday Superconference: Manufacturing Hacks: Mistakes Will Move You Forward examined what it takes to go through this process, and brought her special insights on the matter to a Hackaday audience.

She started her talk by looking at design for manufacture, how while coming up with prototypes is easy, the most successful products are those that have had the ability to manufacture as a consideration from the start of the design process. Starting with the selection of components, carrying through to the prototype stage, and through design reviews before manufacture, everything must be seen through the lens of anyone, anywhere, being able to build it.

At the selection of components for the Bill of Materials level, she made the point that high quality certified components can be the key to a product’s success or failure, contributing not only to reliability but also to it achieving certification. In her particular field, she often deals with components that can be close enough to the cutting edge to be prototypes in their own right. She mentioned the certification angle in particular in the context of exporting a product, as in that case there is often a need to be able to prove that all components used to meet a particular specification.

When it comes to the prototype stage, she made the point that documentation is the key. Coming back to the earlier sentence about anyone anywhere being able to build the product, that can only be achieved if all possible stages of manufacture are defined. She mentioned an example of a product in which the prototypes had had PCB fixing screws tightened by hand; when the factory started using electric screwdrivers the result was damaged PCBs and broken tracks.

The design review should look at everything learned through the prototype stage, and examine everything supplied to the manufacturer to allow them to complete their work. She describes finding support documentation containing a poorly hand-drawn schematic, and seeing an electronic assembly in which a piece of gum had been used to secure something. She also made the point that another function at this point is to ensure that the product is affordable to produce. If any parts or procedures are likely to cost too much, they should be re-examined.

After the talk itself as described above there is a Q&A session where she reveals how persistent and cheeky she sometimes has to be to secure sample parts as a small-scale manufacturer and delivers some insights into persuading a manufacturer to produce prototypes at a sensible price. And yes, like most people who have tried their hand at this, she’s had the nightmare of entire runs of prototype boards returned with a component fitted incorrectly.

The talk is embedded in its entirety below the break, and represents an extremely interesting watch for anyone starting on the road to manufacturing, particularly in the electronic world. If this describes you, take a look!

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Marguerite Perey: When The Lab Assistant Gets The Credit

Most people obtain a bachelor’s degree before getting their masters, and even that is a prerequisite for a doctorate. Most people, however, don’t discover a new chemical element.

Marguerite Perey graduated with a chemistry diploma from Paris’ Technical School of Women’s Education in 1929, and applied for work at the Curie Institute, at the time one of the leading chemistry and physics labs in the world. She was hired, and put to work cataloging and preparing samples of the element actinium. This element had been discovered thirty years before by a chemist who had also been working in the Curie laboratory, but this was the height of the chemical revolution and the studies and research must continue.

When Marie Curie died in 1934, the discoverer of actinium, André-Louis Debierne, continued his research and Perey kept providing samples. Marguerite’s work was recognized, and in time she was promoted from a simple lab assistant to a  radiochemist. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Marguerite was, at the time, the world’s leading expert in the preparation of actinium. This expertise would lead her to the discovery of the bottom left corner of the periodic table: francium, element 87, the least electronegative element, and arguably the most difficult naturally occurring element to isolate.

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HJWYDK: the Journal our Community Has Been Awaiting

We’re excited to announce the Hackaday Journal of What You Don’t Know. This will be a peer-reviewed journal of white papers that goes well beyond “look what I did” and will provide full design, data, and everything else needed to reproduce the most interesting things the engineering world has to offer. It’s a complete description of your knowledge offered up for the benefit of all.

Topics will include original and creative research, engineering, and entertainment in the areas of interest to the Hackaday community. These papers should embody original insight, experience, or discovery in any sufficiently challenging domain knowledge. This will be the manual for the things you need to know, but probably don’t. HJWYDK makes that knowledge freely available using the Open Access model for publications. It will be a journal without paywalls or frustration. It’s the journal you will reach for whenever you need to do something that feels impossible.

Useful information doesn’t just happen. It’s won through struggle and leads to unique knowledge. Have your accomplishments recognized at a higher level, and make sure they live on and are freely available.

All papers accepted by the editorial and review process will be immediately published online. They will also be printed in the annual Proceedings of the Hackaday Superconference, with the best submissions invited to present in person at the conference. Submit your papers now!

We are currently seeking Associate Editors and Peer Reviewers. Editors should send your background info to Reviewers should join the team on the HJWYDK project page and mention your areas of expertise in the join request.