Rocket Bullets: The Flame and Fizzle of the Gyrojet

In the 1950’s and 60’s, the world had rocket fever. Humankind was taking its first steps into space and had sights on the moon. Kids could build rockets at the kitchen table and launch them in the schoolyard. On the darker side, the arms race was well underway with the US and USSR trying to close the fictional missile gap.

All around the world, engineers were trying to do new things with rockets. Among these were Robert Mainhardt and Arthur T. Biehl, who thought rockets could be useful as small arms. Together they formed MBA (short for Mainhardt and Biehl Associates), with an eye toward future weapons – – specifically rocket bullets.

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Vlogging With Vintage 1980s Equipment

[Dan Mace] decided to try vlogging 1980s style. To do this, he built Pram Cam — a one-man mobile video recording setup using vintage gear. [Dan] is a YouTuber from Cape Town, South Africa. His goal for this project was to motivate people to get out there and make videos. Smartphones, action cams, and modern video equipment all have made it incredibly easy to create content.

[Dan] reminds us of this by grabbing a vintage 1984 video camera – a Grundig vs150 VHS recorder. He couples the camera with a sturdy video tripod, blimp microphone, CRT TV as a monitor, and everything else needed for a period-accurate recording setup.

In a build sequence even the A-Team would appreciate, [Dan] tears down a rusty old three wheel pram, or baby carriage for the Americans out there. He then mounts the video setup to the pram frame using duct tape, zip ties, and a few odd pieces of wood. The result is a proper hacked off-road rolling video studio.

He then uses Pram Cam to film some of the great scenery in Cape Town — beaches, rocky cliffs, and even a helicopter ride. To say the pram was a bit more cumbersome than a cell phone would be the understatement of the year.

The video quality from the camera looks quite a bit worse than we would expect. Some of this may be due to Dan’s digitizing system though the chances are it’s from the camera itself. The Grundig captured video using a Saticon, which was Hitachi’s version of the video camera tube. That’s right, this is a tube based camera – no CMOS sensor, nor CCD. Tubes might not have Jello effect, but they do have all the blooming, motion blur, and other problems one might expect from a 34-year-old device.

What becomes of the Pram Cam? You’ll have to watch the video below to find out. Dan’s message is clear though: get out there and film something. Of course this is Hackaday, so if we’ll add that you should build something — then film it!

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The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Train Whistles

In Northern England, the hills used to be home to steam trains. The trains have long faded into history, but the sound of their whistle is making a brief return. Artist [Steve Messam] has created “Whistle” as part of The Great Exhibition of the North. [Steve] doesn’t cover the installation on his website yet, but there have been a few great articles about it in the local press.

Whistle consists of 16 steam engine whistles around Newcastle. From June 22 to September 9, you can hear the whistles at 1pm. First one whistle sounds, then another, then another after that. In all, 16 whistles are included in the art installation, all controlled by Raspberry Pi computers. The Pi’s were programmed by Nebula Labs. Tech details are slim on this one, but we’re guessing each Pi has a Cellular radio built-in.

The whistles used in this installation aren’t old train whistles. They are brand new cast brass whistles based upon the original steam train sounders. The compressed air available today doesn’t sound exactly like steam though, so the brass whistles were modified to sound more authentic. [Steve’s] idea is to get the whistle as perfect as possible, which will trigger the memories of those who are old enough to have heard the originals.

Want to know more about steam engines? Check out this Retrotechtacular about repairing steam locomotives!

When Vortex Rings Collide

Intrigued by a grainy video from 1992, [Destin] from Smarter Every Day decided to jump in and fund his own research into the strange phenomenon of vortex ring collisions.

This hack started with a scientific publication and a video from back in 1992. The paper, written by Dr. T T Lim and TB Nichols, illustrated what happens when two vortex rings collide perfectly head-on. The rings collide and spread out forming a thin membrane. Then smaller rings form at a 90-degree angle to the original collision. It’s a beautiful effect when created with multicolored dye in water. But what causes it? There are theories about the fluid mechanics involved, but not much research has gone on since Dr. Lim’s paper.

[Destin] wanted to find out more about the effect, and get some video of it. Being the guy behind Smarter Every Day, he had the high-speed photography equipment and the funds to make that happen. Little did he know that this passion project would take four years to complete.

The initial prototype was built as part of a senior design project by a group of college students. While they did show the phenomenon, it was only barely visible, and not easily repeatable. [Destin] then got an engineer to design and build the experiment apparatus with him. It took numerous prototypes and changes, and years of development.

The final “vortex cannons” are driven by a computer controlled pneumatic cylinder which ensures both cannons get a perfect pulse of air. The air pushes a membrane which moves the dye and water out through an orifice. It’s a very finicky process, but when everything goes right, the result is a perfect collision. Just as in Dr. Lim’s video, the vortexes crash into each other, then form a ring on smaller vortexes.

Destin didn’t stop there. He’s made his data public, in the form of high-speed video – nearly 12 hours worth when played at normal speed. The hope is that researchers and engineers will now have enough information to better understand this phenomenon.

You can check out the videos after the break. If you’re a Smarter Every Day fan, we’ve covered [Destin’s] work in the past, including his backwards brain bike and his work with magnets.

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Bunnie Weighs in on Tariffs

[Bunnie] has penned his thoughts on the new 25% tariffs coming to many goods shipped from China to the US. Living and working both in the US and China, [Bunnie] has a unique view of manufacturing and trade between the two countries. The creator of Novena and Chumby, he’s also written the definitive guide on Shenzen electronics.

All the marked items are included in the new tariffs

The new US tariffs come into effect on July 6th. We covered the issue last week, but Bunnie has gone in-depth and really illustrates how these taxes will have a terrible impact on the maker community. Components like LEDs, resistors, capacitors, and PCBs will be taxed at the new higher rate. On the flip side, Tariffs on many finished consumer goods such as cell phone will remain unchanged.

As [Bunnie] illustrates, this hurts small companies buying components. Startups buying subassemblies from China will be hit as well. Educators buying parts kits for their classes also face the tax hike. Who won’t be impacted? Companies building finished goods. If the last screw of your device is installed in China, there is no tax. If it is installed in the USA, then you’ll pay 25% more on your Bill of Materials (BOM). This incentivizes moving assembly offshore.

What will be the end result of all these changes? [Bunnie] takes a note from Brazil’s history with a look at a PC ISA network card. With DIP chips and all through-hole discrete components, it looks like a typical 80’s design. As it turns out the card was made in 1992. Brazil had similar protectionist tariffs on high-tech goods back in the 1980’s. As a result, they lagged behind the rest of the world in technology. [Bunnie] hopes these new tariffs don’t cause the same thing to happen to America.

[Thanks to [Robert] and [Christian] for sending this in]

Automatic Sunglasses For the Lazy Hacker

[Andreas] may have created the ultimate lazy hacker accessory: automatic sunglasses, or “Selfblending sunglasses” as he creatively titled his video. If you can’t tell from the name, these are glasses that you never have to take off. If the light is dim, they move away from your eyes. Going back outside to bright light? The glasses move to protect your eyes.

The glasses consist of a couple of micro servos which move tinted lenses toward or away from the user’s eyes. A side-mounted Arduino Uno reads a CdS cell light sensor and drives the servos.  Why an Uno rather than a much more wearable Arduino Nano? It’s what [Andreas] had lying around.

Yes, a good portion of the fun of this build is [Andreas’] comedy. But the best part comes when he tests the glasses out — in an actual car on the highway. The glasses work better than expected — moving the lenses into and out of [Andreas] field of view as he drives through tunnels. You can actually see how surprised [Andreas] is that it works so well.

These aren’t the first automatic sunglasses we’ve seen, nor are they the most peril-sensitive. Still, it’s a fun project and the video gave us a few chuckles.

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Monotron Gets All the Mods

[Harry Axten] turned the diminutive Korg Monotron into a playable analog synthesizer, complete with a full-sized keyboard spanning two octaves and a MIDI interface.

Korg Introduced the Monotron analog mini-synthesizer back in 2010. They also dropped the schematics for the synth. Hackers wasted no time modifying and improving the Monotron. [Harry] incorporated several of these changes into his build. The Low-Frequency Oscillator (LFO) has been changed over to an envelope generator. The ribbon controller is gone, replaced with a CV/gate interface to sound notes.

The CV/gate interface, in turn, is connected to an ATMega328P which converts it to MIDI. MIDI data comes from one of two sources: A two-octave full-sized keyboard pulled from a scrapped MIDI controller or a MIDI connector at the back.

The user interface doesn’t stop with the keyboard. The low-cost pots on the original Monotron have been replaced with much higher quality parts on the front panel. The tuning pot is a 10-turn device, which allows for precision tuning. All the mods are mounted on a single board, which is connected to the original Monotron board.

The fruit of all hard work is an instrument that is a heck of a lot of fun to play. Check it out in the video below. Want more? You can read all about hacking about the Monotron’s bigger brother, the Monotribe.

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