MIDI Synthesizer From A Sega Genesis

[Aidan] is really into FM synthesis chips for creating audio, and one of the most interesting chips from that era is found on the Sega Genesis. Anyone involved in the console wars at that time certainly remembers the classic, unique sound that those video game systems were able to produce, so [Aidan] built a device using a sound chip from a Genesis to play any piece of music from any game. The second iteration of that project, though, is able to use those same sound files as a MIDI synthesizer.

The interesting aspect of these chips is how they use registers to change the audio output. Essentially, there is a complicated register map (one section of his write-up is simply called “Register Hell”) that can be called in order to access the various types of effects one would normally see on a synthesizer. It’s not straightforward at all, though, and got even more complicated once [Aidan] started adding MIDI functionality to it as well. Once he finished sifting through the Sega Genesis technical manuals and a bunch of registers, though, he had a unique synthesizer working that doesn’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard, unless you’ve ever played a Genesis.

If you’d like to check out his first project, the MegaBlaster, which plays the sound files of the old Genesis games directly, we featured that a while ago. Keep in mind though that his latest project isn’t just an updated MegaBlaster, though. He built this entire thing from the ground up.

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Air Compressor From Fridge Parts Gets An Upgrade

Air compressors are often loud, raucous machines – but they don’t have to be. [Eric Strebel] built a remarkably quiet compressor using parts salvaged from an old fridge. After several years of use, it was due for an upgrade (Youtube link, embedded below}.

While performance of the original setup was good, [Eric] desired a compressor with more capacity for his resin casting activities. A 15 gallon air tank was sourced from a damaged Craftsman brand compressor, and pressed into service. The build involved plenty of sheet metal work to mount the various components, as well as an upgrade to the pressure regulator.

During the refit, [Eric] takes the time to answer questions from the audience about his original build. He notes that the fridge compressor has worked well without using any noticeable amount of oil, and that there was a problem with water build up in the original tank which has been solved in the new rig.

It’s a great example of building your own tools, which can provide years of service if done right. Check out our write up on [Eric]’s first build, or his work on photogrammetry. Video after the break.

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An Open Source ESC For Brushless Motors

For something basic like a brushed DC motor, speed control can be quite simple, and powering up the motor is a simple matter of just applying voltage. Brushless motors are much more demanding in their requirements however, and won’t spin unless driven just right. [Electronoobs] has been exploring the design of a brushless speed controller, and just released version 1.0 of his open-source ESC design.

The basic design is compact, and very similar to many off-the-shelf brushless ESCs in the low power range. There’s a small PCB packing a bank of MOSFETs to handle switching power to the coils of the motor, and a big capacitor to help deal with current spikes. The hacker staple ATMEGA328 is the microcontroller running the show. It’s a sensorless design, which measures the back EMF of the motor in order to determine when to fire the MOSFETs. This keeps things simple for low-torque, low-power applications.

It’s a tidy build, and the latest revision shows a lot of polish compared to the earlier prototypes. If you’re interested to learn more, try building it yourself, or consider building a thrust testing rig for your bench at home. Video after the break.

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Lifelike Dinosaur Emerges From The Plumbing Aisle

Despite the incredible advancements in special effects technology since the film’s release, the dinosaurs in 1993’s Jurassic Park still look just as terrifying today as they did nearly 30 years ago. This has largely been attributed to the fact that the filmmakers wisely decided to use physical models in many of the close-up shots, allowing them to capture the nuances of movement which really helps sell the idea you’re looking at living creatures.

[Esmée Kramer] puts that same principle to work in her incredible articulated dinosaur costume, and by the looks of it, Steven Spielberg could have saved some money if he had his special effects team get their supplies at the Home Depot. Built out of PVC pipes and sheets of foam, her skeletal raptor moves with an unnerving level of realism. In fact, we’re almost relieved to hear she doesn’t currently have plans on skinning the creature; some things are better left to the imagination.

In her write-up on LinkedIn (apparently that’s a thing), [Esmée] explains some of the construction tricks she used to help bring her dinosaur to life, such as heating the pipes and folding them to create rotatable joints. Everything is controlled by way of thin ropes, with all the articulation points of the head mirrored on the “steering wheel” in front of her.

Now to be fair, it takes more than a bundle of PVC pipes to create a convincing dinosaur. Obviously a large part of why this project works so well is the artistry that [Esmée] demonstrates at the controls of her creation. Judging by her performance in the video after the break, we’re going to assume she’s spent a not inconsiderable amount of time stomping around the neighborhood in this contraption to perfect her moves.

In the past we’ve seen the Raspberry Pi used to upgrade life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, but even with the added processing power, those dinos don’t hold a candle to the smooth and organic motion that [Esmée] has achieved here. Just goes to show that sometimes low-tech methods can outperform the latest technological wizardry.

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Perfecting the Open Source RC Controller

Over the last few months we’ve seen an influx of homebrew RC controllers come our way, and we’re certainly not complaining. While the prices of commercial RC transmitters are at an all-time low, and many of them can even run an open source firmware, there’s still nothing quite like building the thing yourself. How else are you going to get exactly what you want?

For this entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, [Vitor de Miranda Henrique] is working on his own version of the ultimate open source remote control. His design follows some of the trends we’ve already seen in terms of outward design and hardware expandability, but also branches off into some new territory with features such as dual integrated displays.

Why does your controller need two displays? The top 4.3 inch TFT is linked up to a 5.2 GHz video receiver, which makes it perfect for controlling vehicles in “first-person” view, such as drones. The lower screen is a 2.8 inch touch screen from Adafruit, which is intended to be used for navigating through menus and options once the firmware is fully fleshed out.

Powering the controller is a ESP32 and dual MCP23017 GPIO expanders to connect up to the array of input devices available to the user. The current iteration of the controller has ten switches, two encoders, some buttons, and a pair of scroll wheels for good measure. Oh, and of course there are a couple of joysticks in the mix as well. All the devices terminate at a custom PCB in the back of the controller which looks to make modifying and adding input devices simple and neat.

We’ve previously seen the Alpha V1, an open source controller with a fairly similar setup, albeit without the dual displays. If even that one is a bit more complex than you’d like, you can always just do it with an Arduino.

2019 Cornell Cup Winners Include Autonomous Boat, Flapping UAV, and Leaping Rover

For college-aged engineers and designers, finding a problem they’re truly passionate about early on could very well set the trajectory for an entire career. This is precisely the goal of the Cornell Cup, a competition that tasks applicants with solving a real-world problem in a unique and interesting way. From what we saw this is definitely working, as teams showed up with ornithopter-based quadcopters, robotic dinghies, forest fire sniffers, and high-jumping rovers.

With such an open ended approach, individual entries have a tendency to vary wildly, running the gamut from autonomous vehicles to assistive technology. No team feels pressured to pursue a project they aren’t truly invested in, and everyone’s the better for it.

Given such lofty goals, Hackaday was proud to sponsor the 2019 Cornell Cup. Especially as it so closely aligns with the product design focus of this year’s Hackaday Prize. Designing something which solves a real-world problem is definitely part of the formula when the goal is to reach large scale production. And after seeing the entries first-hand during the Finals at Kennedy Space Center, we think every one of them would be a fantastic entry into the Hackaday Prize.

I don’t envy the judges who ultimately had to narrow it down to just a few teams to take home their share of the nearly $20,000 awarded. Join me after the break for a closer look at the projects that ended up coming out on top.

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This Saturday: Meetup with Hackaday, Tindie, and Kickstarter

If you’re near San Francisco this weekend, this is what you should be doing. It’s The 6th Annual Hackaday x Tindie MFBA Meetup w/ Kickstarter.

Come hang out with the hardware hackers and bring along a project of your own to get the conversation going. We’re excited to move to a new, larger venue this year. All the good of the past five years will come along with us, plus many benefits of exclusively booking out an entire venue. You can catch up with people who have been on their feet all day running booths — and usually see the stuff they can’t show you at the Faire. The crew from Hackaday, Tindie, and Kickstarter will be on hand. And you’ll get a glimpse of a lot of the cool people and projects you’ve admired on the pages of Hackaday over the years. It’s fun, you should go!

First beer is on us if you RSVP using the link at the top of this article. But we’re mainly publishing this today to show off the poster art. Deposit your adoration for this exquisite illustration in the comments below.

Amazing Art by Joe Kim

We love all of the original art that Joe Kim creates for Hackaday articles. It’s impossible to look at his poster for this event and be anything but overjoyed. Here’s a link to the full size image, but be warned that the file is 14.4 MB