The heart of the build is an ESP32-CAM board, which combines the capable wireless-enabled microcontroller with a small lightweight camera. It’s paired with a TinyML machine learning board, and it’s all wrapped up in a 3D printed enclosure that serves as a backpack to fit African Giant Pouched rats.
The RatPack can provide a live video feed. However, its main purpose is to track the rat’s movements through the use of an accelerometer. This data is then fed to the machine learning subsystem, which analyzes it to detect certain gestures the rats have been trained to make. The idea is that when the rat identifies an object of interest, such as a landmine, it will perform a predetermined gesture. The RatPack would then detect this, and transmit a signal to the rat’s handlers. Given a rat’s limbs are all on the bottom of its body, this approach is useful. It’s kind of hard to ask a rat to press a button on its own back, after all.
We are spoiled for choice when it comes to single board computers, whether they be based around a microcontroller or a more capable SoC capable of running an operating system such as GNU/Linux. They can be had from well-established brands such as Arduino, Adafruit, or Raspberry Pi, or from a Wild West of cheaper Far Eastern modules carrying a plethora of different architectures.
Everyone has their own favourite among them, and along with that comes an ecosystem of operating systems and software development environments. There’s another aspect to these boards which has evolved; certain among them have become de facto interface connector standards for hardware peripherals. Do these standards make any sense? Let’s talk about that.
After laying low during the height of the pandemic, the East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) is just days away from making its triumphant return to Bel Air, Maryland. This two-day celebration of all things extruded is packed with talks, exhibits, and demonstrations that you won’t want to miss if you’ve got even a passing interest in 3D printing. You can purchase advance tickets now — adult admission for both days (Oct 8 & 9) will set you back just $10 USD, while anyone under 17 gets in for free.
When we visited in 2019, ERRF was only in its second year, but it was already obvious that it was becoming a major event in the 3D printing world. The schedule included talks from 3D printing luminaries such as Adrian Bowyer, Josef Průša was on hand to personally unveil the Prusa Mini, and it seemed everyone who ever squirted out a bit of hot plastic on YouTube was there to stream live from the show floor. But then COVID-19 came around and jammed the extruder, as it were.
We’re glad to see that an event as young as ERRF managed to weather the pandemic and return to an in-person show. There was naturally a risk of loosing momentum, especially as the organizers opted not to go the virtual route these last two years — but with palpable online buzz about the event and a stacked lineup of speakers, vendors, and exhibitors, it seems like even a global pandemic couldn’t hold these hackers and makers down for long.
If you make the trip to Maryland this weekend and happen to run into a roving Hackaday writer, there just might be some special edition swag in it for you. But for those who can’t make it to ERRF in person, don’t worry. As always, we’ll make sure to bring you plenty of pictures and details from the show.
For those of us with science and engineering backgrounds, opening the character map or memorizing the Unicode shortcuts for various symbols is a tedious but familiar part of writing reports or presentations. [Magne Lauritzen] thought there had to be a better way and developed the Mathboard.
With more than 80 “of the most commonly used mathematical operators” and the entire Greek alphabet, the Mathboard could prove very useful to a wide number of disciplines. Hardware-wise, the Mathboard is a 4×4 macro pad, but the special sauce is in the key set implementation firmware. While the most straightforward approach would be to pick 16 or 32 symbols for the board, [Magne] felt that didn’t do the wide range of Unicode symbols justice. By implementing a system of columns and layers, he was able to get 6+ symbols per key, giving a much greater breadth of symbols than just 16 keys and a shift layer. The symbols with a dot next to them unlock variants of that symbol by double or triple-tapping the key. For instance, a lower or capital case of a Greek letter.
The Mathboard currently works in Microsoft Office’s equation editor and as a plain-text Unicode board. [Magne] is currently working on LaTeX support and hopes to add Open Office support in the future. This device was an honorable mention in our Odd Inputs and Peculiar Peripherals Contest. If you’d like to see another interesting math-themed board, check out the one on the MCM/70 from 1974.