Flite Test Puts a Chair in the Air

The Flite Test crew is well known for putting some crazy flying contraptions together. They’ve outdone themselves this time with a flying IKEA chair. This build began with [Josh] issuing a challenge to [Stefan]. Take a standard IKEA ladderback chair and make it fly– in less than six hours. With such a tight schedule, measuring twice and cutting once was right out the window. This was a hackathon-style “throw it together and hope it works” build.

The chair was plenty sturdy, so it became the core of the fuselage. [Stefan] grabbed the wing from a previous plane and placed it on the seat of the chair. Two carbon fiber rods drilled into the seat frame formed a tail boom. The tailfeathers were built from Flite Test foam – paper coated foam-core board.

With the structure complete, [Stefan] and his team added servos for control, a beefy motor for power, and some big LiPo batteries. The batteries hung from the bottom of the chair to keep the center of gravity reasonable.

When the time came for the maiden flight, everyone was expecting a spectacular failure. The chair defied logic and leaped into the air. It flew stable enough for [Josh] to take his fingers off the sticks. The pure excitement of seeing a crazy build that works is on full display as the entire Flite Test crew literally jumps for joy. [Alex] even throws in a cartwheel. This is the kind of story we love to cover here at Hackaday – watching a completely nutty build come together and perform better than anyone expected.

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Save the Tally Ho: Rebuilding a Historic Yacht

[Leo Sampson Goolden] is a boatbuilder and Sailor. He’s a prime example of a dwindling group of shipwrights who build sailing vessels the traditional way. In 2017, he was given the opportunity to buy Tally Ho, a Yacht built back in 1910. Once a proud ship, Tally Ho now sat as a shell under a shrink-wrap tarp. Her deck was rotted, her keel cracked. Any sane person would have moved on. Thankfully [Leo] is not quite sane, and began a quest to bring this history ship back to its former glory.

Tally Ho isn’t just an old boat. She is a 48-foot long gaff cutter yacht designed by the famous Albert Strange and built in Sussex, England. Tally Ho won the 1927 Fastnet Race (corrected time) when rough seas caused all but two boats to bow out.

To say [Leo] has his work cut out for him would be an understatement. Tally Ho lived a hard life, from racing to fishing. A complete restoration was needed. In fact, it would have been cheaper and easier to build a replica rather than restore the original. [Leo] wanted to save Tally Ho though, so he bought the boat for one dollar, and began to put all his time, effort, and funds into restoring her. This work includes carefully documenting each piece as it is removed.

Some of the tools and materials are traditional – such as chisels and red lead putty. But [Leo] is using power tools as well, including a custom-built chainsaw mount for shaping the keel. His videos are entertaining and illustrate many techniques of boat building. Wherever possible, [Leo] adds captions to explain the meanings of boat building terms, as well as explains the different terms used in England and the USA. In the latest video, you can watch along as [Leo] creates a Dutchman to fill in a knot in the keel. Can check that out in the video after the break.

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Zippo Keeps Your Bits Safe

[Laura Kampf] found a new use for an old Zippo lighter by turning it into a carrier for her screwdriver bits. There are several multitools out there which can accept standard screwdriver bits. The problem is carrying those bits around. Leaving a few bits in your pocket is a recipe for pocket holes and missing bits.

[Laura’s] solution uses her old Zippo lighter. All she needs is the case, the lighter element itself can be saved for another project. A block of aluminum is cut and sanded down to a friction fit. Laura uses a band saw and bench sander for this. The aluminum block is then drilled out to fit four bits. Small neodymium magnets are taped into the holes with double-sided tape. These magnets retain the bits, ensuring none will fall out when the lighter is opened.

This is a great quick project and an excellent way to carry four bits. We’re curious if the second set of holes (and a shorter bar) could expand this carrier to 8 bits – 4 on top and 4 on the bottom. [Laura] noticed this too, but decided to keep the build simple with 4 bits.

We love Every Day Carry (EDC) projects like this – in fact, a few years back we had our own EDC contest featuring the Adafruit Trinket. Check out the awards announcement post for some awesome pocket projects!

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Margaret Hamilton Takes Software Engineering To the Moon and Beyond

If you were to create a short list of women who influenced software engineering, one of the first picks would be Margaret Hamilton. The Apollo 11 source code lists her title as “PROGRAMMING LEADER”. Today that title would probably be something along the line of “Lead software engineer”

Margaret Hamilton was born in rural Indiana in 1936. Her father was a philosopher and poet, who, along with grandfather, encouraged her love of math and sciences. She studied mathematics with a minor in philosophy, earning her BA from Earlham College in 1956. While at Earlham, her plan to continue on to grad school was delayed as she supported her husband working on his own degree from Harvard. Margaret took a job at MIT, working under Professor Edward Norton Lorenz on a computer program to predict the weather. Margaret cut her teeth on the desk-sized LGP-30 computer in Norton’s office.

Hamilton soon moved on to the SAGE program, writing software which would monitor radar data for incoming Russian bombers. Her work on SAGE put Margaret in the perfect position to jump to the new Apollo navigation software team.

The Apollo guidance computer software team was designed at MIT, with manufacturing done at Raytheon. To say this was a huge software project for the time would be an understatement. By 1968, over 350 engineers were working on software. 1400 man-years of software engineering were logged before Apollo 11 touched down on the lunar surface, and the project was lead by Margaret Hamilton.
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Leap Motion Announces Open Source Augmented Reality Headset

Leap Motion just dropped what may be the biggest tease in Augmented and Virtual Reality since Google Cardboard. The North Star is an augmented reality head-mounted display that boasts some impressive specs:

  • Dual 1600×1440 LCDs
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 100 degree FOV
  • Cost under $100 (in volume)
  • Open Source Hardware
  • Built-in Leap Motion camera for precise hand tracking

Yes, you read that last line correctly. The North Star will be open source hardware. Leap Motion is planning to drop all the hardware information next week.

Now that we’ve got you excited, let’s mention what the North Star is not — it’s not a consumer device. Leap Motion’s idea here was to create a platform for developing Augmented Reality experiences — the user interface and interaction aspects. To that end, they built the best head-mounted display they could on a budget. The company started with standard 5.5″ cell phone displays, which made for an incredibly high resolution but low framerate (50 Hz) device. It was also large and completely unpractical.

The current iteration of the North Star uses much smaller displays, which results in a higher frame rate and a better overall experience.  The secret sauce seems to be Leap’s use of ellipsoidal mirrors to achieve a large FOV while maintaining focus.

We’re excited, but also a bit wary of the $100 price point — Leap Motion is quick to note that the price is “in volume”. They also mention using diamond tipped tooling in a vibration isolated lathe to grind the mirrors down. If Leap hasn’t invested in some injection molding, those parts are going to make the whole thing expensive. Keep your eyes on the blog here for more information as soon as we have it!

Bring Deep Learning Algorithms To Your Security Cameras

AI is quickly revolutionizing the security camera industry. Several manufacturers sell cameras which use deep learning to detect cars, people, and other events. These smart cameras are generally expensive though, compared to their “dumb” counterparts. [Martin] was able to bring these detection features to a standard camera with a Raspberry Pi, and a bit of ingenuity.

[Martin’s] goal was to capture events of interest, such as a person on screen, or a car in the driveway. The data for the events would then be published to an MQTT topic, along with some metadata such as confidence level. OpenCV is generally how these pipelines start, but [Martin’s] camera wouldn’t send RTSP images over TCP the way OpenCV requires, only RTSP over UDP. To solve this, Martin captures the video stream with FFmpeg. The deep learning AI magic is handled by the darkflow library, which is itself based upon Google’s Tensorflow.

Martin tested out his recognition system with some cheap Chinese PTZ cameras, and the processing running on a remote Raspberry Pi. So far the results have been good. The system is able to recognize people, animals, and cars pulling in the driveway.  His code is available on GitHub if you want to give it a spin yourself!

3D Printed Skateboard Mount for Bikes

[Matt Obal] had a problem. The local skatepark was too far to skateboard, but close enough to bike. Carrying a skateboard on a bicycle is a rather awkward (and unsafe) maneuver. [Matt’s] answer to the problem is Truck Stop, a bicycle mounted skateboard carrier he developed and is manufacturing himself.

[Matt’s] work on Truck Stop began about a year ago, with his purchase of a 3D printer. He designed a seat back mounted device that secures the skateboard by wedging between the truck and the board itself. The design is printed in PLA and is hollow. Truck Stop’s strength comes from being filled with resin and fiberglass cloth.

If you’ve worked with resin, you probably know that some formulas get hot while they harden. This caused a few melted prints until [Matt] figured out that a dunk in cold water at the right time would allow the resin to complete it’s hardening process while keeping the heat below the melting temperature of PLA. He’s since switched to a different resin formula that generates less heat.

[Matt] is selling the Truck Stop at his website, and spent quite a bit of time working on a silicon mold so he could cast as many mounts as he wanted. The problem was fiberglass poking through the final cast part. In the end, he decided to stick with the resin filled PLA of his prototypes.