IHC badge: It’s Not (Quite) a Nokia

Electronic conference badges are an integral part of our culture, and have featured many times here. The norm for a badge is an exquisitely designed printed circuit board with some kind of microcontroller circuit on it, often a display, and some LEDs.

This is not enough though for [Mastro Gippo], for he has given us an interesting alternative, the shell of a Nokia 3310 mobile phone fitted with a new motherboard holding an ESP32 module, and of course that classic display. It is to be the badge for IHC Camp, which initialism if you hadn’t guessed stands for Italian Hacker Camp, and which will run from the 2nd to the 5th of August 2018 in Padova, Italy. It’s worth reminding readers, at the time of writing IHC tickets are still available, so get ’em while they’re hot!

The board itself is a beautiful piece of work, and aside from the Nokia’s keyboard and display it holds the ESP module and an STM32F103 microcontroller that handles all the peripherals. There is no microphone, after all this is a badge rather than a phone, but there is space for a LoRa module. He’s done another fascinating post about the PCB design, including the on-board wireless antenna.

We have seen a lot about badges from the #BadgeLife scene surrounding the USA’s DEFCON courtesy of our colleague [Brian Benchoff], so it is particularly interesting to see badges from the opposite side of the Atlantic. This is an artform whose journey still has a way to go, and we’ll be along for the ride!

DIY Tiny Dyno

The geared DC motor has become the bread-and-butter of the modern-day beginner project. Unfortunately, with the advent of vast online catalogs peddling a wide assortment of these mechanical marvels, validating the claim that one DC motor will outperform the others is a challenge.

Such is the dilemma that our own [Gerrit Coetzee] faced as he set out to buy these geared motors in bulk. In his initial teardown, he quickly compares the change in design, from the original which possess the two-part clutch that extends on overloading, to the clones with the feature disabled altogether.

He then goes on to research methods of measuring the motor’s output where he discovers the Prony Brake which leads to the Rope Brake Dynamometer. This is where things get interesting and [Gerrit Coetzee] goes on to hack his own version of the machine. The idea is to have a rope wound to the wheel that is powered by the motor. With one end of the cord attached to a spring scale and the other end to a suspended weight, the motor speed affects the force on the spring scale. This change in force measured by the scale can be used to calculate the power output by the motor.

[Gerrit Coetzee] goes on to replace the weight with springs and the scale with an electronic load cell while using a stepper motor to stretch the cord thereby adding the requisite tension to the string. We thought this was a very elegant solution where the entire experiment could be controlled electronically.

This is a work in progress through the writeup is an excellent example of how to tailor a traditional experiment to the modern times. We have seen similar investigations for larger salvaged motors and dynamometers with lots of sensors.

Hackaday Links: July 22, 2018

KiCad Version 5 has been released! Footprints are going to be installed locally, and the Github plugin for library management is no longer the default. You now have the ability to import Eagle projects directly, Eeschema has a better configuration dialog, better wire dragging, and Pcbnew now has complex pad shapes. The changelog also says they’ve gone from pronouncing it as ‘Kai-CAD’ to ‘Qai-CAD’.

Kids can’t use computers because of those darn smartphones. Finally, the world is ending not because of Millennials, but because of whatever generation we’re calling 12-year-olds. (I’m partial to Generation Next, but that’s only because my mind is polluted with Pepsi commercials from the mid-90s.)

Need a NAS? The Helios4 is built around the Marvell Armada 388 SoC and has four SATA ports, making it a great way to connect a bunch of hard drives to a network. This is the second run from the team behind the Helios, and now they’re looking to take it into production.

A while ago, [Dan Macnish] built Draw This, a camera that takes an image, sends it through artificial intelligence, and outputs a cartoon on a receipt printer. It’s a camera that prints pictures of cartoons. Of course, some people would want to play with this tech without having to build a camera from scratch, so [Eric Lu] built Cartoonify, a web-based service that turns pictures into cartoons.

Grafitti is fun to spell and fun to do, and for all the proto-Banskys out there, it’s all about stencils. [Jeremy Cook] did a quick experiment with a 3D-printed spray paint stencil. It works surprisingly well, and this is due to leveraging the bridging capability of his printer. He’s putting supports for loose parts of the stencil above where they would normally be. The test sprays came out great, and this is a viable technique if you’re looking for a high-quality spray paint stencil relatively easily.

HOPE XII: Chelsea Manning

Saturday’s talk schedule at the HOPE conference was centered around one thing: the on-stage interview with Chelsea Manning. Not only was a two-hour session blocked out (almost every other talk has been one hour) but all three stages were reserved with live telecast between the three rooms.

I was lucky enough to get a seat very close to the stage in the main hall. The room was packed front to back. Even the standing room — mapped out on the carpet in tape and closely policed by conference “fire marshals” — was packed with people standing shoulder to shoulder. The audience was alive with energy, and I think everyone lucky enough to be here today shares my feeling that moments like these tie our community together and help us all focus on what is important in life, as individuals and as a society.

Chelsea was very recently released from prison. So recently, that the last time this conference was held back in 2016, she and her close circle of friends were under the impression that she was very far from the end of her sentence. One such friend, Yan Zhu, joined Chelsea on stage in a comfortable armchair-setting to guide the interview.

Chelsea Manning was sentenced to serve 35 years in Leavenworth maximum-security prison, having been convicted in 2013 of violating the Espionage Act. This talk (and the article I’m writing now) was not about the events leading up to that conviction, but rather about Chelsea’s life since being released, with a bit of background on the experience of being incarcerated. Her early release came as the result of a commutation of sentence by President Barack Obama that returned her freedom just over one year ago.

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Classroom Gadget Turned Arduino Compatible

Cheap second-hand hardware is usually a fertile ground for hacking, and by looks of this project, the digital classroom aids that were all the rage a few years back are no exception. [is0-mick] writes in to tell us how he managed to hack one of these devices, a SMART Reponse XE, into an Arduboy compatible game system. As it turns out, this particular gadget is powered by an ATmega128RFA, which is essentially an Arduino-compatible AVR microcontroller with a 2.4GHz RF transceiver tacked on. This makes it an extremely interesting platform for hacking, especially since they are going for as little as $3 USD on eBay.

There’s no USB-Serial converter built into the SMART Response XE, so you’ll need to provide your own external programmer to flash the device. But luckily there’s a labeled ISP connector right on the board which makes it pretty straightforward to get everything wired up.

Of course, getting the hardware working was slightly more complicated than just flashing an Arduino Sketch onto the thing. [is0-mick] has provided his bootloader and modified libraries to get the device’s QWERTY keyboard and ST7586S controlled 384×160 LCD working.

Playing games is fun, but when his friend [en4rab] sent him the SMART Response XE to fiddle with, the goal was actually to turn them into cheap 2.4 GHz analyzers similar to what was done with the IM-ME. It seems they’re well on their way, and [is0-mick] invites anyone who might be interested in filling in some of the blanks on the RF side to get involved.

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A 3D-Printed Bowl Feeder for Tiny SMD Parts

[Andrzej Laczewski] has something big in mind for small parts, specifically SMD resistors and capacitors. He’s not talking much about that project, but from the prototype 3D-printed bowl feeder he built as part of it, we can guess that it’s going to be a pretty cool automation project.

Bowl feeders are common devices in industrial automation, used to take a big pile of parts like nuts and bolts and present them to a process one at a time, often with some sort of orientation step so that all the parts are the right way around. They accomplish this with a vibratory action through two axes, which [Andrzej] accomplishes with the 3D-printed ABS link arms supporting the bowl. The spring moment of the arms acts to twist the bowl slightly when it’s pulled down by a custom-wound electromagnet, such that the parts land in a slightly different place every time the bowl shifts. For the parts on the shallow ramp spiraling up the inside of the bowl, that means a single-file ride to the top. It’s interesting to see how changing the frequency of the signal sent to the coil impacts the feed; [Andrzej] used a function generator to find the sweet spot before settling on a dedicated circuit. Watch it in action below.

We’re really impressed with the engineering that went into this, even if we wonder what the vibration will do to the SMD components. Still, we can’t wait to see this in a finished project – perhaps it’ll be integrated like this Arduino-fied bowl feeder.

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Out Of Batteries For Your Torch? Just Use A Mini Nitro Engine

We can certainly relate to an incomplete project sowing the seed for a better one, and that’s just what happened in [JohnnyQ90]’s latest video. He initially set out to create an air compressor powered by a nitro engine, and partially succeeded – air was compressed, but not nearly enough to be useful.

Instead, he changed tack and decided to use the 1 cc engine to make a small electric generator. [JohnnyQ90] is, of course, no stranger to the nitro engine, having previously brought us the micro chainsaw conversion, and nitro powered rotary tool. This time round, the build is a conceptually simple task: connect an engine to a DC motor and you’re done. But physically implementing it in an elegant way is a different story, and this is always where [JohnnyQ90] shines; we never get tired of watching him produce precision parts on the lathe. A fuel tank is made from a modified Zippo can and, courtesy of a CNC milled fan and 3D printed shroud, the motor air cools itself.

Towards the end of the video, [JohnnyQ90] plays with the throttle a little, causing the bulb connected to the generator to brighten accordingly. It might be fun to control the throttle with a servo and try to regulate the voltage on the output under different load conditions.

We love novel ways of creating electricity; previously we’ve written about how to generate power from a coke can, as well as this 120 W thermoelectric generator (TEG) setup.

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