Trebuchet Sends Eggs Flying

Without any sort of restrictions on designs for trebuchets, these medieval siege weapons are known to send 90 kilogram projectiles over 300 meters. The egg-launching trebuchet contest that [AndysMachines] is entering, on the other hand, has a few limitations that dramatically decreased the size of the machines involved. The weight of the entire device is limited to no more than 3 kg, with any physical dimension no more than 300 mm, but that’s more than enough to send an egg flying across a yard with the proper design and tuning for maximum distance.

Trebuchets distinguish themselves amongst other siege weapons by using a falling weight to launch the projectile. The rules of this contest allow for the use of springs, so [AndysMachines] is adding a spring in between the trebuchet arm and the weight in order to more efficiently deliver the energy from the falling weight. More fine tuning of the trebuchet was needed before the competition, though, specifically regarding the stall point for the trebuchet. This is the point where the forces acting on the arm from the projectile and the weight are balanced, and moving this point to allow the projectile to release at a 45-degree angle was needed for maximum distance.

The video goes into a lot of detail about other fine-tuning of a trebuchet like this, aided by some slow-motion video analysis. In the end, [AndysMachines] was able to launch the egg over ten meters with this design. Of course, if you want to throw out the rule book and replace the eggs with ball bearings and the aluminum and steel with titanium, it’s possible to build a trebuchet that breaks the sound barrier.

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Bringing A Baofeng Into The Cyberpunk 2077 Universe

You’ve got to love the aesthetics of dystopian cyberpunk video games, where all the technology looks like it’s cobbled together from cast-off bits of the old world’s remains. Kudos go to those who attempt to recreate these virtual props and bring them into the real world, but our highest praise goes to those who not only make a game-realistic version of a prop, but make it actually work.

Take the Nokota Manufacturing radio from Cyberpunk 2077, for instance. [Taylor] took one look at that and knew it would be the perfect vessel for a Baofeng UV-5R, the dual-band transceiver that amateur radio operators love to hate. The idea is to strip the PCB out of a Baofeng — no worries, the things cost like $25 — and install it in a game-accurate 3D printed case. But this is far from just a case mod, since [Taylor]’s goal is to replace the radio’s original controls with something closer to what’s in the game.

To that end, [Taylor] is spinning up an interface to the stock radio’s keypad using some 7400-series bilateral analog switches. Hooked to the keypad contacts and controlled by a Mini MEGA 2560 microcontroller, the interface is able to send macros that imitate the keypresses necessary to change frequencies and control the radio’s settings, plus display the results on the yellow OLED screen that seems a dead-ringer for the in-game display. The video below shows some early testing of the interface.

While very much still a work in progress, we’ve been following [Taylor]’s project for a week or so and he’s really gaining some ground. We’ve encouraged him to enter this one in the Cyberdeck Challenge we’ve got going on now; it might not have much “deck” going for it, but it sure does have a lot of “cyber.”

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The Another World Chip

We cover many recreations of classic computer games on these pages, sometimes on original hardware, other times through ports to newer hardware, or even on emulators. But [Sylefeb]’s version of the Amiga classic Another World is in a class of its own. It doesn’t recreate an Amiga or run an emulator, instead it implements the game itself on a relatively modest Lattice UP5K FPGA.

This feat is possible because of the game’s architecture, it runs on a quite minimalist virtual machine that only needs blitter and rasterising hardware. This makes it a good candidate for the FPGA treatment. [Sylefeb] goes into a deep discussion of the hardware implemented in the FPGA, which makes a solid primer for how some of the 16-bit era games worked. In particular, we needed to read over the section about the rasterisation of polygons more than once. But it’s worth it.

The game can be run on a few dev boards featuring this FPGA, among which we’re particularly pleased to see the MCH 2023 conference badge. It requires a copy of the original to be owned for the game files, but we suspect if you’re this deep in you’d probably see that as a small price to pay.

Open-Source LAMP Instrument Aimed At Clinicians And Biohackers Alike

Over the last few years, we’ve all been given a valuable lesson in both the promise and limitations of advanced molecular biology methods for clinical diagnostics. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was held up as the “gold standard” of COVID-19 testing, but the cost, complexity, and need for advanced instrumentation and operators with specialized training made PCR difficult to scale to the levels demanded by a pandemic.

There are other diagnostic methods, of course, some of which don’t have all the baggage of PCR. RT-LAMP, or reverse transcriptase loop-mediated amplification, is one method with a lot of promise, especially when it can be done on a cheap open-source instrument like qLAMP. For about 50€, qLAMP makes amplification and detection of nucleic acids, like the RNA genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a benchtop operation that can be performed by anyone. LAMP is an isothermal process; it can be done at one single temperature, meaning that no bulky thermal cycler is required. Detection is via the fluorescent dye SYTO 9, which layers into the base pairs inside the amplified DNA strands, using a 470-nm LED for excitation and a photodiode with a filter to detect the emission. Heating is provided by a PCB heater and a 3D-printed aluminum block that holds tubes for eight separate reactions. Everything lives in a 3D-printed case, including the ESP32 which takes care of all the housekeeping and data analysis duties.

With the proper test kits, which cost just a couple of bucks each, qLAMP would be useful for diagnosing a wide range of diseases, and under less-than-ideal conditions. It could also be a boon to biohackers, who could use it for their own citizen science efforts. We saw a LAMP setup at the height of the pandemic that used the Mark 1 eyeball as a detector; this one is far more quantitative.

Listening To Bats As They Search For Food

The range of human hearing goes up to about 20 kilohertz, which is fine for our purposes, but is pretty poor compared to plenty of other animal species. Dogs famously can hear up to about 60 kHz, and dolphins are known to distinguish sounds up to 100 kHz. But for extremely high frequencies we’ll want to take a step into the world of bats. Some use echolocation to locate each other and their food sources, and bats like the pipistrelle can listen in to sounds up to 350 kHz. To listen to them you’ll need a device like the π*pistrelle. (Ed Note: a better explanation is available at the project’s website.)

The original implementation of the bat detector was based on a Raspberry Pi Pico, from which it gets its name. But there have been several improvements on it in the years since it was first developed. The latest can detect bats when it hears their 350 kHz sonar calls thanks to an ultrasonic microphone and op amp. The device then records the bat sounds and then either heterodynes the sound down or time-expands it to human-audible range so the calls can actually be heard. There’s an LED display on the board as well as three input buttons, but an iOS companion app is available to interact with the device as well.

If you want to know for sure which species is flying around at night, you can use machine learning to help figure that out.

Ask Hackaday: Learn Assembly First, Last, Or Never?

A few days ago, I ran into an online post where someone pointed out the book “Learn to Program with Assembly” and asked if anyone had ever learned assembly language as a first programming language. I had to smile because, if you are a certain age, your first language may well have been assembly, even if it was assembly for machines that never existed.

Of course, that was a long time ago. It is more likely, these days, if you are over 40, you might have learned BASIC first. Go younger, and you start skewing towards Java, Javascript, or even C. It got me thinking, though: should people learn assembly, and if so, when?

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Hackaday Podcast 227: Open Source Software, Decoupling Caps, DIY VR

Elliot Williams and Tom Nardi start this week’s episode by addressing the ongoing Red Hat drama and the trend towards “renting” software. The discussion then shifts to homebrew VR gear, a particularly impressive solar-powered speaker, and some promising developments in the world of low-cost thermal cameras. Stay tuned to hear about color-changing breadboards, an unofficial logo for repairable hardware, and five lines of Bash that aim to unseat the entrenched power of Slack. Finally, we’ll take the first steps in an epic deep-dive into the world of DisplayPort, and take a journey of the imagination aboard an experimental nuclear ocean liner.

Check out the complete show notes below, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments.

Or download the episode directly in glorious DRM-free MP3.

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