Use A Digital Key To Deter Lockpicking

Spending an hour or two around any consumer-level padlock or house deadbolt lock with a simple lockpicking kit will typically instil a good amount of panic and concern about security. While it’s true that any lock can be defeated, it’s almost comically easy to pick basic locks like this. So, if you’re looking for a level of security that can’t be defeated in two minutes with a tiny piece of metal, you might want to try something a little more advanced.

This project stemmed from an idea to use a YubiKey, a USB hardware token typically used for two-factor authentication, for physical locks instead. The prototype was built around an Arduino UNO, and all of the code and build instructions are available on the project’s site. The creator, [rprinz08], does not have one built inside of a secure enclosure so that would remain an exercise for the reader, but the proof-of-concept is interesting and certainly useful.

While digital keys like this can have their own set of problems (as all locks do), this would be a great solution for anyone needing to lock up anything where physical keys are a liability or a nuisance, where logging is important, or where many people need access to the same lock. The open source code and well-known platform make it easy for anyone to build, too.


Another Take On Harvesting Energy While Walking

Harvesting energy from the human body may sound scary, but fortunately a Matrix-style setup exists only as a cinematic fiction. Instead a typical path lies in external contraptions that use the body’s natural motions to drive a small generator, a bit of flexible piezo material, and so on. A popular target for harvesting the body’s kinetic energy is the knee joint, as this has a comparatively large range of motion and is fairly easy to use.

Thus a team from Hong Kong university opted to pick this part of the human anatomy for their experiment as well. While at first glance their results do not seem particularly impressive, with up to 1.6 mW of power generated, a look at their published results in the Applied Physics Letters journal showed their reasoning behind this setup. While one generator-based setup referenced produces on average 4.8 Watt of power, the device itself weighs 1.6 kg and increases the rate at which the person wearing it burns calories by a significant amount.

The goal for this device was to have a way to generate significant amounts of power without having the user exerting themselves more than usual. This led to them using flexible piezoelectric composites, resulting in a weight of just 307 grams, based upon two M8514-P2 pieces (Smart Materials Corp. manufacturer). Tests with volunteers on a treadmill show that users do not burn more calories than without.

As with all piezo materials, they can flex a bit, but not too much, so a lot of time and effort went into calculating the optimal bend radius in different usage scenarios. While around 1 mW of power is not massive, it is a reliable source of power for individuals who do any amount of walking during the day and doesn’t require any effort beyond strapping the device onto one’s legs.

Custom Bases Make LEGO Spacecraft Even Cooler

If you’re reading Hackaday, we’re willing to bet that you either own the LEGO Saturn V and Lunar Module models, or at the very least know somebody who does. Even if you thought you’d finally outgrown playing with little plastic bricks (a critical mistake, but one we’ll ignore for now), these two kits just have an undeniable appeal to them. You might never get a chance to work for NASA, but you can at least point to the Saturn V rocket hanging on your wall and say you built it yourself.

[Ben Brooks] thought these fantastic models deserved equally impressive stands, so he built “exhaust plumes” that both craft could proudly perch on. With the addition of some RGB LEDs and a Particle Photon to drive them, he added incredible lighting effects that really bring the display to life. There are also sound effects provided by an Adafruit Audio FX board, and for the Lander, an LCD display that mimics the Apollo Guidance Computer DSKY that astronauts used to safely navigate to the Moon and back.

In his write-up on, [Ben] makes it clear that he was inspired by previous projects that added an illuminated column of smoke under the LEGO Saturn V, but we think his additions are more than worthy of praise. Playing real audio from the Apollo missions that’s synchronized to the light show honestly makes for a better display than we’ve seen in some museums, and he even rigged up a wireless link so that his neighbor’s kids can trigger a “launch” that they can watch from their window.

For the Lunar Module, he 3D printed an enclosure for the Photon and Adafruit quad alphanumeric display that stands in for the DSKY. There’s even lighted indicators for the 1201/1202 program alarms that popped up as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface 50 years ago.

While many of us aren’t old enough to have our own first hand memories of the Moon landing, projects like this prove that the incredible accomplishments of the Apollo program never fail to inspire. Who knows? Those kids that are watching [Ben]’s Saturn V from next door might one day get to make the trip themselves.

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DIY Scintillation Detector Is Mighty Sensitive

Geiger counters are a popular hacker project, and may yet prove useful if and when the nuclear apocalypse comes to pass. They’re not the only technology out there for detecting radiation however. Scintillation detectors are an alternative method of getting the job done, and [Alex Lungu] has built one of his own.

Scintillation detectors have several benefits over the more common Geiger-Muller counter. They work by employing crystals which emit light, or scintillate, in the presence of ionizing radiation. This light is then passed to a photomultiplier tube, which emits a cascade of electrons in response. This signal represents the level of radioactivity detected. They can be much more sensitive to small amounts of radiation, and are more sensitive to gamma radiation than Geiger-Muller tubes. However, they’re typically considered harder to use and more expensive to build.

[Alex]’s build uses a 2-inch sodium iodide scintillator, in combination with a cheap photomultiplier tube he scored at a flea market for a song. [Jim Williams]’s High Voltage, Low Noise power supply is used to run the tube, and it’s all wrapped up in a tidy 3D printed enclosure. Output is via BNC connectors on the rear of the device.

Testing shows that the design works, and is significantly more sensitive than [Alex]’s Geiger-Muller counter, as expected. If you’re interested in measuring small amounts of radiation accurately, this could be the build for you. We’ve seen this technology used to do gamma ray spectroscopy too.

Hackaday Prize Mentor Session: Beau Ambur

Beau Ambur can often be found hosting hardware events and offering help all around the Bay Area. Now he’s turned it into a career and travels the west coast helping hackers and creators effectively leverage Kickstarter’s platform. Beau’s mentor session covers everything from, “is this project a good fit for venture capital?” to, “is open source a good fit for my project?”.

For this year’s Hackaday Prize we’ve found experts in a wide range of fields so you can take your entries to the next level regardless of the stage the project is in. The sessions are on a first come basis so sign up now for a chance to get some valuable feedback on your entry.

Your Robot Language Coach

The first project is a Personal English Trainer by the lonely programmer. As a student he noticed a need for a more interactive and portable language learning aid. Solutions do exist on the market but they are along the lines of a pocket dictionary, instructional phone app, or a full on translator. These break the flow of thought and conversation. The lonely programmer envisioned something that you can conversationally ask for help as you’re using a new language.

As many have discovered, the best way to see if there’s a need for something is to build a minimum viable product (MVP). The platform offered the perfect foundation to quickly test out the idea. It’s working on a few words and he wants to get it ready for more people to play with the idea. The majority of the lonely programmer’s questions centered around making the project interesting for other hackers so that it could one day turn into a product.

Bolt-On Bike Assist

Rob and Shushanik are developing a project called BikeOn. It bolts to any bicycle and converts it to an electric assist bike without tools or replacing any components. BikeOn has already won some accolades such as Editors Choice at the last 2019 Makerfaire Bay Area. Rob had a few questions on how to transition a project from the proof of concept stage to the product stage. The discussion went over using open source as a tool for product promotion as well as getting funding for taking a hardware product to market.

He also wanted to know if there was anything the team could do to have a better shot at winning the prize. There were a few good tips such as directly focusing on the five categories the judges would be looking at: Concept, Design, Production, Benchmark, and Communication. It is also important to cover the development journey. Why did you make the choices you made when designing the project?

No-Spill Trash Can Concept

Rounding out this mentor session, Jeannie and her team of highschool students demonstrate SEAL. In the area around the Granada Hills Charter High School there are winds mighty enough to blow over full trashcans. This trash travels to the ocean and disrupts local ecosystems. The team is working on a device which can detect a tipping trashcan and keep the lid from opening.

Prototyping started with Arduinos, but they’ve already escalated to designing their own PCBs. Their hope is to produce a run of fifty devices and try them out with a local commercial partner. Beau recommended they look into the Micropython ecosystem. Not only would the students get the advantage of using the STM32 chips in their board layouts (reducing the number of support components they would need), micropython would make it easier for students to jump in and help rather than having to learn the nuances of C first.

The Hackaday Prize mentoring sessions continue through the summer so don’t forget to sign up and check out the list of mentors who are here to share their knowledge and experience.

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Inside The Mysterious Global Navigation Outage You Probably Didn’t Notice

The entire world has come to depend on satellite navigation systems in the forty or so years since the first Global Positioning System satellites took to orbit. Modern economies have been built on the presumption that people and assets can be located to within a meter or better anywhere on, above, or even slightly under the surface of the planet. For years, GPS was the only way to do that, but billions have been sunk into fielding other global navigation systems, achieving a measure of independence from GPS and to putting in place some badly needed redundancy in case of outages, like that suffered by the European Union’s Galileo system recently.

The problem with Galileo, the high-accuracy public access location system that’s optimized for higher latitudes, seems to be resolved as of this writing. The EU has been tight-lipped about the outage, however, leaving investigation into its root cause to a few clever hackers armed with SDRs and comprehensive knowledge of exactly how a constellation of satellites can use the principles of both general and special relativity to point you to your nearest Starbucks.

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Hackaday Podcast 027: Confusingly USB-C, Glowey Displays, Logically VGA, Hackers Who Changed Gaming

Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys dive into the most interesting hacks of the week. Confused by USB-C? So are we, and so is the Raspberry Pi 4. Learning VGA is a lot easier when abstract concepts are unpacked onto a huge breadboard using logic chips and an EEPROM. Adding vision to a prosthetic hand makes a lot of sense when you start to dig into possibilities of this Hackaday Prize entry. And Elliot gets nostalgic about Counter-Strike, the game that is a hack of Half-Life, grew to eclipse a lot of other shooters, and is now 20 years old.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (52 MB)

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