Vintage Artificial Horizon Is Beautiful In Motion

Attitude indicators are super useful if you’re flying a plane, particularly in foggy conditions or over water. They help you figure out which way the plane is pointing relative to the unforgiving ground below. [Hack Modular] has been toying with a few, and even figured out how to get them powered up!

The attitude indicators use spinning gyroscopes to present a stable artificial horizon when a plane is in motion. Airworthy models are highly expensive, but [Hack Modular] was experimenting with some battered surplus examples. He sets about opening the delicate gauges, noting the seals and other features intended to protect the equipment inside. We get a great look at the gimbals and the reset mechanism used to zero out the device. He then pulls a classic mechanic’s trick, robbing a few screws from Peter to reassemble Paul.

We wouldn’t trust the gauges for flight duty, but they look great when powered up, all lit and spinning. They have the beautiful vintage glow that you only get from filament bulbs and deftly painted instrumentation.¬†While avionics don’t come cheap off the shelf, it’s worth tinkering with cheap older gear if you can find it. The engineering involved, even in older equipment, is truly impressive. Video after the break.

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Dielectric Mirror Shines Bright

We knew the mirrors in our house were not really very good mirrors, optically speaking. Your mirror eats up 20 to 40 percent of the light that hits it. High-quality first-surface mirrors are better, but [Action Lab] has a video (see below) of something really different: a polymer dielectric mirror with 99.5% reflectivity. In addition, it has no Brewster angle — light that hits it from any angle will reflect.

Turns out something that thin and reflective can be hard to find. It also makes a little flashlight if you roll a tube of the material and pinch the back end together. The light that would have exited the rear of the tube now bounces around until it exits from the front, making it noticeably bright. The film comes from 3M, and apparently, they were surprised about the optical properties, too.

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2023 Cyberdeck Challenge: A Ham Radio Cyberdeck

Cyberdecks rock because their homebrewed nature lets them feature all kinds of nifty additional functionality. [Kaushlesh] has built his deck with an eye to ham radio use, and it’s a rugged and impressive thing.

The deck is built into a weatherproof enclosure, with various 3D-printed parts helping to integrate the components into the clamshell enclosure. It runs on a Raspberry Pi 4, with [Kaushlesh] springing for the hefty model with 8GB of RAM. It has a 10-inch LCD screen and a rechargable battery pack with an impressive 20 hour battery life, and is intended for use when [Kaushlesh] is out camping or participating in ham radio field days. To that end, it’s equipped with a USB software-defined radio module and a BNC connector for hooking up an external antenna. It also has a game controller that mounts inside, just in case he desires playing a few games on Retropie while he’s out and about. It’s even got storage for a mouse and rocks a decent-sized keyboard inside.

We’d love to tote this to a hamfest for a bit of hacking on the side. It’s not the first ham-themed cyberdeck we’ve seen, either. Now we just need one built for prosciutto. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Prize 2023: PAROL6 – A GPL Desktop Robotic Arm

Parol 6 is a 3D-printed six-axis robot arm created by [Petar Crnjak] as a combination of the principles from a few previous projects. Aside from a pneumatic gripper, each axis is driven by a stepper motor, with at least a few of these axes being driven through a metal planetary gearbox for extra precision and torque.

From what we can glean from the work-in-progress documentation, there are some belt drives on four of the relevant axes and a mix of NEMA17 format steppers driving either 20:1 or 10:1 reduction boxes. There appears to be a mix of inductive sensors and traditional microswitches used, but it’s not so easy to work out where these are placed. Continue reading “Hackaday Prize 2023: PAROL6 – A GPL Desktop Robotic Arm”

Mobile phone reading an NFC tag with information on a garden plant

NFC Puts A Stake In The Ground

Sometimes we have a new part or piece of tech that we want to use, and it feels like a solution looking for a problem. Upon first encountering NFC Tags, [nalanj] was looking for an application and thought they might make a great update to old-fashioned plant markers in a garden. Those are usually small and, being outside 24/7, the elements tend to wear away at what little information they hold.

traditional plant marker

[nalanj] used a freeform data structuring service called Cardinal to set up text information fields for each plant and even photos. Once a template has been created, every entry gets a unique URL that’s perfect for writing to an NFC tag. See the blog post on Cardinal’s site for the whole process, the thought behind the physical design of the NFC tag holder, and a great application of a pause in the 3D print to encapsulate the tags.

NFC tags are super hackable, though, so you don’t have to limit yourself to lookups in a plant database. Heck, you could throw away your door keys.

Illustrated Kristina with an IBM Model M keyboard floating between her hands.

Keebin’ With Kristina: The One With The QWERTY Drum Set

What does portability in a keyboard mean to you? For Hackaday’s own [Brian McEvoy], the image evokes that quintessential 80s instrument, the keytar.

But those left-hand keys aren’t just for show — they’re macro keys. It runs on an Adafruit Feather 32u4 Bluefruit, so [Brian] can forego the cord and rock out all over the room.

I love the construction of this keyboard, which you can plainly see from the side. It’s made up of extruded aluminum bars and 2 mm plywood, which is stacked up in layers and separated with little wooden donuts acting as spacers. Unfortunately, [Brian] accidentally made wiring much harder by putting the key switches and the microcontroller on different planes.

Although you could theoretically use any key switches for this build, [Brian] chose my personal and polarizing favorite, browns. If you’re going to use a travel keyboard, you’re probably going to be around people, so blues are probably not the best choice. With browns, you kind of have yourself a middle ground, best-of-both-worlds thing going on. The keycaps are among the best parts of this build, and it seems [Brian] chose them because the legends are on the sides, which makes it much easier to type on while wearing it. Kismet!

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UChaser Follows You Anywhere

If you’ve been making up for lost years of travel in 2023, you might have seen a fellow traveler in the airport terminal or train station walking with their luggage happily careening behind them. [Jesse R] and [Brian Lindahl] wanted more of that. They wanted an open-source, low-cost system that could be put in anything.

The basic principle is that they will have a transmitter that sends both a radio signal and an ultrasonic pulse. The receiver receives the radio signal and uses it as a reference for the two ultrasonic sensors. The time since the radio signal is compared between the two, and a distance and direction are established.

In practice, the radio is an ESP32-S3 using ESP-NOW (which we’ve seen relatively recently on another project), a protocol from Espressif that offers low latency 250 bytes payloads. The ultrasonic transceiver is based on Sparkfun’s HC-SR04. For prototyping purposes on the receiver, they just removed the transmitter to avoid populating the airwaves, as to listen, you had to transmit. The prototype was an electric wheelbarrow that would happily follow you around the yard wherever you go.

With the concept validated, they moved to a custom ultrasonic setup with a custom buffer amp and damp transistor, all centered around 20kHz. The simulations suggested they should have been better than the HC-SR04 from Sparkfun, but the 30-foot (9 meters) range went to 10 feet (3 meters). They ultimately returned to using Sparkfun’s circuit rather than the custom amp.

We’re looking forward to seeing the project continue. There are various challenges, such as variability in the speed of sound, echos and reflections, and ultrasonic line of sight. We love the peak behind the curtain that allows us to see what decisions get made and the data that informs those decisions. All the code and PCB design files are available on GitHub under an MIT and Creative Common license, respectively. This project was submitted as part of the 2o23 Hackaday Prize.

Video after the break.

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