Cheap and Easy Helmet Lights for the Kids

Bikes are a great way to get around and get exercise at the same time, and are widely popular with human children due to the fact that they’re generally not allowed to drive. However, riding on or next to the road can be dangerous, particularly at night, when even adults on bikes are hard to see. It’s far worse for the youngest children, who can be incredibly small and difficult to spot. [Patrick]’s children enjoy riding, but it can get a little sketchy at night, so he developed a solution.

The project relies on cheap, commonly available LED strip lights. Rather than any fancy addressable strips, these are just simple strings of LEDs with current limiting resistors already fitted in a convenient, adhesive backed format. This makes the job as easy as peeling off the backing tape, sticking the strips to the helmet, and providing a power source. In clsasic entry-level hack style, everything’s running off a single 9V battery. Is it as versatile as a rechargable lithium pack with integrated controller? No, but it’s a swift way to get a project off the ground.

The trick here isn’t so much the hardware side of things – there’s nothing fancy about a battery and some LEDs. The key here is that [Patrick] identified that his children are small and difficult to see, thus it made sense to fit helmet lights rather then more typical bike lights to make them more visible to surrounding traffic.

For something at the other end of the spectrum, check out this amazingly professional LED bike light.

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Microsoft Quantum Simulator Goes to Linux and Mac

Everyone seems to be gearing up for the race to be the king of quantum computers. The latest salvo is Microsoft’s, they have announced that their quantum simulator will now run on macOS and Linux, with associated libraries and examples that are now fully open source. They have produced a video about the new release, which you can see below.

Microsoft also claims that their simulator is much faster than before, especially on large simulations. Of course, really large simulations suffer from memory problems, not speed problems. You can run their simulator locally or on their Azure cloud.

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Monitor Power Consumption of Low-Power Devices

Perhaps the most important consideration to make when designing a battery-operated device of any kind is the power consumption. Keeping it running for longer between battery changes is often a key design point. To that end, if you need to know how small programming changes will impact the power consumption of your device then [Daniel] has a great tool that you might find helpful: an ESP8266-based live power meter.

The power meter itself is battery-powered via a 600 mAh battery and monitors an e-paper module, which also displays information about power consumption. It runs using a NodeMCU and measures voltage and current across a 100-ohm resistor to calculate the power use, although the resolution does start to get noisy when the device is in standby/sleep mode. One presumes this could be solved by changing the value of the resistor in order to get more accurate measurements at the expense of losing accuracy during moments of high power consumption.

While this power monitor was built specifically to monitor power consumption on this particular e-paper display project, it should be easily portable into other battery-based systems that need fine tuning in order to maximize battery life. As a bonus, the display is already included in the project. There are ways of getting even more information about your battery usage, although if power consumption is important than you may want to stick with a more straightforward tool like this one.

FPGA Calculator Uses Joystick

FPGAs are great fun, but sometimes you need a few starter projects under your belt. These projects might be something you could just as well do with a CPU, but you have to start somewhere. [LambdaPI] recently shared a 4-bit calculator created using an FPGA, and you can see it in the video below.

The calculator uses a Papilio FPGA board and a LogicStart accessory board for the display and switches. The Papilio normally uses schematic-based entry and Arduino code, but [LambdaPI] used VHDL. You enter the two 4-bit numbers on the 8 switches and then the joystick selects one of four operations (add, subtract, multiply, and divide).

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Repairs You Can Print Contest: Meet the Winners

Six weeks ago, we asked you to show us your best 3D printed repairs for a chance to win $100 in Tindie credit and other prizes. You answered the call with fixes for everything from the stuff everyone has, like zippers and remotes, to the more obscure stuff, like amazing microscopes scavenged from dumpsters.

It was hard to whittle down the entries we received into the top 20 because you came up with so many awesome fixes. A few of them had us thinking hard about the definition of repair, but are brilliant in their own way.

So without further ado, we are pleased to announce the winners of our Repairs You Can Print contest. We also want to give honorable mention to those projects that wowed us with ingenuity.

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Katherine Johnson: Computer To The Stars

In 1962, John Glenn sat in his capsule waiting for his rocket engines to light-up and lift him to space. But first, he insisted that Katherine Johnson double-check the electronic computer’s trajectory calculations. While that’s the dramatic version of events given in the recent movie, Hidden Figures, the reality isn’t very far off. Glenn wasn’t sitting on the launchpad at the time, but during the weeks prior to launch, he did insist that Johnson double-check the computer’s calculations.

So who is this woman who played an important but largely unknown part of such a well-known historical event? During her long life, she was a wife, a mother, an African-American, a teacher, and a human computer, a term rarely used these days. Her calculations played a part in much of early spaceflight and in 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. She also has a building named after her at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

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Friday Hack Chat: Everything PCB

It was not too long ago that all PCB design packages were proprietary. Getting PCBs made was expensive, and if you tried to do this over the Internet, the best way was to download a board house’s proprietary software, design your board in their software suite, and send your boards off to be made. A 5 cm square board would cost two hundred dollars. I know this to be true because I’ve said it before, and no one has corrected me.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re talking Everything PCB with OSH Park. OSH Park is the leading creators of perfect purple PCBs. They have POGs, and for the last two weeks, they’ve been one of the few places you can send some Gerbers to and have it manufactured in a timely manner if you live in the US. Because China was closed.

For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re going to be talking about everything PCB. How do you do castellated holes? How do you mill slots and square or otherwise non-round holes? Internal cutouts? Stop mask expansion? Artwork? Panelization? Why purple? More POGs!

Our guests for this chat will be [Dan Sheadel] and [Drew Fustini] of OSH Park, and they’re going to be there answering all your questions. [Dan] has been around OSH Park from the beginning and enjoys designing tiny useless robots and mentoring students building better ones. [Drew] is an Open Source hardware developer, firmware designer, a BeagleBoard board member, and is usually found at hardware meetups wearing purple.


Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hack Chat group messaging. This Hack Chat is going down Friday, March 2nd at noon, Pacific time. Want to know what time this is happening in your neck of the woods? Have a countdown timer!

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.