Hack Club OnBoard

Hack Club Grants Encourage Open Source PCB Designs By Teens

[Hack Club] is a nonprofit network of coder and maker clubs for teenage high school students around the world. With an impressive reach boasting clubs in about 400 schools, they serve approximately 10,000 students. Their OnBoard program asserts, “Circuit boards are magical. You design one, we’ll print it!”

Any teenage high school student can apply for a [Hack Club] OnBoard Grant to have their Printed Circuit Board design fabricated into real hardware.  The process starts by designing a PCB using any tool that can generate Gerber files. The student then publishes their design on GitHub and submits the Gerber files to a PCB manufacturer.

A screenshot from the board house showing the completed design upload and production cost is the main requirement of the grant application.  If approved, the grant provides up to $100 to cover PCB manufacturing costs.

OnBoard encourages collaboration, community, and friends. Designers can share their projects and progress with [Hack Club] teens around the world. Those who are working on, or have completed, their own circuit board designs can share support and encouragement with their peers.

Example hardware projects from [Hack Club] include Sprig, an open-source handheld game console based on the Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller.  Teen makers can explore the example OnBoard projects and then it’s… three, two, one, go!

The Fake Moon Landing Quarantine

We aren’t much into theories denying the moon landing around here, but [Dagomar Degroot], an associate professor at Georgetown University, asserts that the Apollo 11 quarantine efforts were bogus. Realistically, we think today that the chance of infection from the moon, of all places, is low. So claiming it was successful is like paying for a service that prevents elephants from falling through your chimney. Sure, it worked — there hasn’t been a single elephant!

According to [Degroot], the priority was to protect the astronauts and the mission, and most of the engineering money and effort went towards that risk reduction. The — admittedly low — danger of some alien plague wiping out life on Earth wasn’t given the same priority.

Continue reading “The Fake Moon Landing Quarantine”

Ferrofluid Drum Synth Dances To The Beat

[Love Hultén]’s work often incorporates reactive sound elements, and his Ferrofluid drum synth is no exception. Sadly there are no real build details but have no fear: we’ve gathered plenty of DIY insights when it comes to ferrofluid-based projects.

Ferrofluid isn’t easy to work with, but there are plenty of DIY resources to make things easier.

First of all, ferrofluid is shockingly expensive stuff. But if you can get your hands on some old VHS tapes and acetone, you can make your own. Second, working with ferrofluid to make reactive elements is harder than it may look. Particularly, making the stuff dance to sound beats isn’t as simple as putting a container of the stuff in front of a speaker coil, but people have discovered a few ways that work more reliably than others.

[Love Hultén]’s drum synth was inspired by this custom Bluetooth speaker with dancing ferrofluid by [Dakd Jung], which drives an electromagnetic coil with frequencies selected from the audio with an MSGEQ7 equalizer. That way, only frequencies that work best for moving the fluid in interesting ways get used for the visualization. The MSGEQ7 spectrum analyzer chip is very useful for music-driven projects, as demonstrated by these sound-reactive LED shades which illustrate the audio element nicely.

The coils that create the electromagnetic field causing ferrofluid to move can take different forms, but two very interesting ones are this 12-layer PCB coil and for more intricate displays, there’s a 12×21 coil array that creates a dot-matrix-like display.

We have one last tip to share about enclosures. Some readers may have noticed that this drum synth project is housed in what looks like a piece of painted lumber. Wood is certainly a versatile material for making custom shapes, and for lettering and labels it turns out that toner transfer works just as well on wood as it does for making custom PCBs.

Continue reading “Ferrofluid Drum Synth Dances To The Beat”

Retrotechtacular: Circuit Potting, And PCBs The Hard Way

There was a time when the very idea of building a complex circuit with the intention of destroying it would have been anathema to any electrical engineer. The work put into designing a circuit, procuring the components, and assembling it, generally with point-to-point wiring and an extravagant amount of manual labor, only to blow it up? Heresy!

But, such are the demands of national defense, and as weapons morphed into “weapon systems” after World War II, the need arose for electronics that were not only cheap enough to blow up but also tough enough to survive the often rough ride before the final bang. The short film below, simply titled Potted and Printed Circuits, details the state of the art in miniaturization and modularization of electronics, circa 1952. It was produced by the Telecommunications Research Establishment (TRE), the main electronics R&D entity in the UK during the war which was responsible for inventions such as radar, radio navigation, and jamming technology.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Circuit Potting, And PCBs The Hard Way”

Light Meets Movement With A Minimum Of Parts

We often say that hardware hacking has never been easier, thanks in large part to low-cost modular components, powerful microcontrollers, and highly capable open source tools. But we can sometimes forget that what’s “easy” for the tinkerer that reads datasheets for fun isn’t always so straightforward for everyone else. Which is why it’s so refreshing to see projects like this LED chandelier from [MakerMan].

Despite the impressive final result, there’s no microcontrollers or complex electronics at work here. It’s been pieced together, skillfully we might add, from hardware that wouldn’t be out of place in a well-stocked parts bin. No 3D printed parts or fancy laser cutter involved, and even the bits that are welded together could certainly be fastened some other way if necessary. This particular build is not a triumph of technology, but ingenuity.

The video below is broken up roughly into two sections, the first shows how the motorized crank and pulley system was designed and tested; complete with various bits of scrip standing in for the final LED light tubes. Once the details for how it would move were nailed down, [MakerMan] switches over to producing the lights themselves, which are nothing more than some frosted plastic tubes with LED strips run down the center. Add in a sufficiently powerful 12 VDC supply, and you’re pretty much done.

As it so happens, this isn’t the first motorized lighting fixture that [MakerMan] has put together.

Continue reading “Light Meets Movement With A Minimum Of Parts”

New Wearable Detects Imminent Vocal Fatigue

“The show must go on,” so they say. These days, whether you’re an opera singer, a teacher, or just someone with a lot of video meetings, you rely on your voice to work. But what if your voice is under threat? Work it too hard, or for too long, and you might find that it suddenly lets you down.

Researchers from Northwestern University have developed a new technology to protect against this happenstance. It’s the first wearable device that monitors vocal usage and calls for time out before damage occurs. The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Continue reading “New Wearable Detects Imminent Vocal Fatigue”

The FPGA board in question which was programmed to run the algorithm. (Source: iranintl)

Iran’s Military Quantum Claim: It’s Only 99.4% Ridiculous

When Iran recently announced a quantum processing algorithm (Google translation) that would help its military to detect water surface disturbances, the instant response from Western media was one of ridicule, based on the displayed hardware. The hardware in question was the Digilent ZedBoard Zynq-7000 hybrid SoC/FPGA development board, which can be yours for less than $600.

Seems absurd, and the claim about any realistic military use absolutely is. But buried deep, deep down, there may be a tiny kernel of truth: because quantum computers are inherently parallel, FPGAs can make a good fit for small-scale quantum simulations.

Does this mean that the Iranian Navy would be better off simulating quantum circuits on an FPGA board than on a GPU or even a used laptop? Probably not. Will this hardware serve the proposed military application in the forseeable future? Absolutely not! Was this a misleading and ridiculous photo op? Yup. 100%.

But is emulating qubits in FPGA fabric a real thing? Turns out it is! Let’s have a look.

Continue reading “Iran’s Military Quantum Claim: It’s Only 99.4% Ridiculous”