There can be few readers who were young in the 1970s who did not want to share in the adventures of the fearless animated ghost-hunting young crime-fighters of Scooby-Doo. What do you remember from the series though? The Mystery Machine van? Scooby snacks? Or perhaps the improbably haunted theme parks whose owners would have got away with it if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids? For [Alex Shakespeare] it seems to have been the trope of haunted pictures whose subject’s eyes would follow the protagonists around the room, because when he made a wall-mounted weather indicator he gave it an owl with eyes doing just that.
The weather part of the device is straightforward enough, an ESP8266 board drives a set of servos that move dial indicators according to data from the Dark Sky API. The owl’s moving googly eyes are the party piece though, for them the ESP takes input from an Adafruit AMG8833 thermal sensor array and drives a servo and lever arrangement to do the moving. Finally, the thermal camera’s output is available to see on the ESP’s web server. All the details of the project can be found via a GitHub repository.
The result is shown in the video below the break, and as you might expect in the spirit of its inspiration it’s more comedic than haunting. But maybe there’s the root of the popularity of artworks that follow the viewer, of which this is merely the latest in a long line.
Continue reading “Let A Spooky Owl Tell You The Weather”
When I got the call asking if I’d be willing to fly down to Kennedy Space Center and cover an event, I agreed immediately. Then about a week later, I remembered to call back and ask what I was supposed to be doing. Not that it mattered, I’d gladly write a few thousand words about the National Crocheting Championships if they started holding them at KSC. I hadn’t been there in years, since before the Space Shuttle program had ended, and I was eager to see the exhibit created for the fourth member of the Shuttle fleet, Atlantis.
So you can imagine my reaction when I learned that the event Hackaday wanted me to cover, the Cornell Cup Finals, would culminate in a private viewing of the Atlantis exhibit after normal park hours. After which, the winners of the competition would be announced during a dinner held under the orbiter itself. It promised to be a memorable evening for the students, a well deserved reward for the incredible work they put in during the competition.
Thinking back on it now, the organizers of the Cornell Cup and the staff at Kennedy Space Center should truly be commended. It was an incredible night, and everyone I spoke to felt humbled by the unique experience. There was a real, palpable, energy about it that you simply can’t manufacture. Of course, nobody sitting under Atlantis that night was more excited than the students. Though I may have come in as a close second.
I’ll admit it was somewhat bittersweet to see such an incredible piece of engineering turned into a museum piece; it looked as if Atlantis could blast off for another mission at any moment. But there’s no denying that the exhibit does a fantastic job of celebrating the history and accomplishments of the Space Shuttle program. NASA officially considers the surviving Shuttle orbiters to be on a “Mission of Inspiration”, so rather than being mothballed in a hangar somewhere in the desert, they are out on display where the public can get up close and personal with one of humanities greatest achievements. Judging by the response I saw, the mission is going quite well indeed.
If you have the means to do so, you should absolutely make the trip to Cape Canaveral to see Atlantis and all the other fascinating pieces of space history housed at KSC. There’s absolutely no substitute for seeing the real thing, but if you can’t quite make the trip to Florida, hopefully this account courtesy of your humble scribe will serve to give you a taste of what the exhibit has to offer.
Continue reading “An Evening With Space Shuttle Atlantis”
The origin story of software takes us back past punch card computers and Babbage’s Difference Engine to a French weaver called Joseph Marie Jacquard. Jacquard created a way to automate mechanical looms, giving weavers the ability to change a loom’s pattern by simply switching punch cards. This invention not only made it possible to produce detailed fabrics in a vastly simplified way, it was an extremely important conceptual step in the development of computer programming, influencing Babbage’s development of the Analytical Engine amongst many other things.
So, when [Kurt] saw his son’s enthusiasm for weaving on a simple loom, he started thinking about how he could pay homage to the roots of software by designing and building an open source computer controlled loom. He knew this was going to be difficult: looms are complex machines with hundreds of small parts. [Kurt] wrestled with wonky carriage movements, cam jams, hook size disasters and plenty of magic smoke from motor control boards. After a year and a half of loom hacking he succeeded in making a 60 thread computer controlled loom, driven by an iPhone app using Bluetooth.
As well as writing up the story of this build on his blog, linked above, [Kurt] has also has made all of his design files, PCB layouts, firmware and code available on GitLab.
We’ve featured a few weaving hacks over the years, including this cheap, simple 3D printable loom and a Jacquard inspired bitmap display.
Fun, informative build video after the cut.
Continue reading “Open Source Computer Controlled Loom Weaves Pikachu For You”
In any mechanical field of work, accurate measurement is key to success. [Patrick Panikulam] knows this well, and decided to build a device that would be useful for some of the more tricky measurement tasks he was encountering.
[Patrick]’s digital multi-functional measurement tool packs a bunch of useful hardware into a pocket-sized form factor. There’s a Sharp IR distance sensor for non-contact measurements, a rotary wheel encoder for measuring distances along curved lines, and an MPU6050 IMU packing accelerometers and gyroscopes for measuring angles and surface levels. Control is via touch buttons, so measurements can be taken without disturbing the position of the device.
The use cases for such a device are many and varied. [Patrick] reports using it to verify that his 3D printer bed is leveled, as well as using it to measure curved surfaces in order to accurately cut stickers to suit. It’s got the hardware to serve as a digital protractor, too.
Combining a variety of useful hardware into a compact form factor, while also taking into account usability, has netted [Patrick] a handy tool. It’s not dissimilar from commercial measurement tools available online, and yet is completely built from off-the-shelf parts. Truly a handy device to have in any hacker’s toolbox!