Diurnal Reef Control Realistically Insolates Your Aquarium

[Phillip]’s project is not just great for learning new words, it also shows just how complex natural systems can be. 

As we know from news around the word, reefs are delicate systems prone to damage from just about any imaginable threat. Escaped aquarium fish, sunscreen, and the wayward feet of well meaning tourists to name a few. So it’s no wonder that aquarium hobbyists sometimes go to incredible lengths to simulate the natural environments these creatures live in.

While [Phillip] is still tinkering with his designs for this project, we found the data he included really interesting. His goal is to be able to plug in any coordinate on the earth and have the lights replicate the location. That includes not just the sun, but also the light from the moon as many corals seem to only spawn during certain tides. Of course no LED is perfect so he’s even experimenting with putting light sensors under the water to provide a feedback loop to make it perfect.

We really like the ambition of this project and we hope he continues.

Tracking Vaccination History With Invisible Tattoos

Nowadays, we still rely on medical records to tell when our last vaccinations were. For social workers in developing countries, it’s an incredibly difficult task especially if there isn’t a good standard in place for tracking vaccinations already.

A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be providing a solution – they’ve developed a safe ink to be embedded into the skin alongside the vaccine, only visible under a special light provided by a smartphone camera app. It’s an inconspicuous way to document the patient’s vaccination history directly into their skin and low-risk enough to massively simplify the process of maintaining medical records for vaccines.

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Voltmeter Clock Looks Great On Display

Voltmeters are cheap, and have a great industrial aesthetic about them. This makes them prime candidates for hackers looking to do a clock build. [Brett Oliver] went down this very road, and built a very stylish timepiece along the way.

[Brett] initially wanted to go with 240-degree voltmeters, however the cost was prohibitive, so settled for the more common 90-degree models. New dials were produced by first sanding down the old dials, repainting in an old-fashioned off-white, and then applying the new graphics with inkjet transfer paper.

The attention to detail continues with the case. [Brett] aimed to build the clock with an old-school lab equipment aesthetic. A large piece of mahogany was crafted into the base.  A clear plastic cover was sourced from eBay, which really makes the piece. Large buttons and toggle switches were chosen to complete the look.

On the electronic side of things, it’s all run by a PIC16F628A, which controls the voltmeters via PWM. Running with a 20MHz crystal, the PIC is not a great timekeeper. Instead, the whole show is synchronized to [Brett]’s master clock we featured a few years back.

Building a clock is a rite of passage for a hacker, and [Brett]’s example goes to show how craftsmanship can really pay off in this pursuit. Video after the break.
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Unique 3D Printer Turned CNC Engraver

As we’ve said in the past, one of the most exciting things about the proliferation of low-cost desktop 3D printers (beyond all the little boats we get to see on Reddit), is the fact that their motion control systems are ripe for repurposing. Outfitting a cheap 3D printer with a drag knife, pen holder, or even a solid-state laser module, are all very common ways of squeezing even more functionality out of these machines.

But thanks to the somewhat unusual nature of his printer, [Hammad Nasir] was able to take this concept a bit farther. Being considerably more rigid than the $99 acrylic-framed box of bolts we’ve become accustomed to, he was able to fit it with a basic spindle and use it for CNC engraving. He won’t be milling any steel on this rig, but judging by the pictures on the Hackaday.io page for the project, it does a respectable job cutting designs into plastic at least.

The IdeaWerk 3D printer that [Hammad] used for this project is phenomenally overbuilt. We don’t know whether the designers simply wanted to make it look futuristic and high-tech (admittedly, it does look like it could double as a movie prop) or they thought there was a chance it might get thrown down the stairs occasionally. In either event, it’s built like an absolute tank.

While the frame on lesser printers would likely flex as soon as the bit started moving across the workpiece, this thing isn’t going anywhere. Of course this machine is presumably still running on the standard GT2 belt and NEMA 17 arrangement that has been used in desktop 3D printers since the first wooden machines clattered to life. So while the frame might be ready to take some punishment, the drive system could respectfully disagree once the pressure is on.

Modification was simplified by the fact that the hotend and extruder assembly on the IdeaWerk is mounted to the X axis with just a single bolt. This makes it exceptionally easy to design alternate tool mounts, though arguably the 3D printed motor holder [Hammad] is using here is the weak link in the entire system; if it’s going to flex anywhere, it’s going to be there.

If you’re more photonically inclined, you might be interested in this similarly straightforward project that sees a 2.5 W laser module get bolted onto an entry level 3D printer.

You Could Be A Manufacturing Engineer If You Could Only Find The Time

Let’s be honest, Ruth Grace Wong can’t teach you how to be a manufacturing engineer in the span of a twenty minute talk. But no-one can. This is about picking up the skills for a new career without following the traditional education path, and that takes some serious time. But Grace pulled it off, and her talk at the 2019 Hackaday Superconference shares what she learned about reinventing your career path without completely disrupting your life to do so.

Ruth got on this crazy ride when she realized that being a maker made her happy and she wanted to do a lot more of it. See wanted to be “making stuff at scale” which is the definition of manufacturing. She took the hacker approach, by leveraging her personal projects to pull back the veil of the manufacturing world. She did a few crowd funding campaigns that exposed her to the difficulties of producing more than one of something. And along the way used revenue from those projects to get training and to seek mentorships.

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The Quadratic Equation Solution A Few Thousand Years In The Making

Everyone learns (and some readers maybe still remember) the quadratic formula. It’s a pillar of algebra and allows you to solve equations like Ax2+Bx+C=0. But just because you’ve used it doesn’t mean you know how to come up with the formula itself. It’s a bear to derive so the vast majority of us simply memorize the formula. A Carnegie Mellon mathematician named Po-Shen Loh didn’t expect to find a new way to derive the solution when he was reviewing math materials for middle school use to make them easier to understand. After all, people have been solving that equation for about 4,000 years. But that’s exactly what he did.

Before we look at the new solution, let’s talk about why you want to solve quadratic equations. They are used in many contexts. In ancient times you might use them to determine how much more crop to grow to cover pay tax payments without eating in to the crop you needed to subsist. In physics, it can describe motion. There’s seemingly no end to how many things you can describe with a quadratic equation.

Babylonians, in particular, would solve simultaneous equations to find the roots of a quadratic. Egyptians, Grecians, Indians, and Chinese peoples used graphical methods to solve the equations. The entire history is a bit much to get into, but still a great read. For this article, let’s dig into how the new derivation was discovered.

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Hackaday Podcast 048: Truly Trustworthy Hardware, Glowing Uranium Marbles, Bitstreaming The USB, Chaos Of Congress

Hackaday editors Elliot WIlliams and Mike Szczys kick off the first podcast of the new year. Elliot just got home from Chaos Communications Congress (36c3) with a ton of great stories, and he showed off his electric cargo carrier build while he was there. We recount some of the most interesting hacks of the past few weeks, such as 3D-printed molds for making your own paper-pulp objects, a rudimentary digital camera sensor built by hand, a tattoo-removal laser turned welder, and desktop-artillery that’s delivered in greeting-card format.

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 (69 MB)

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