DC Zia 30-in-ONE Badge for DEF CON 30

Nostalgic 30-in-ONE Electronics Badge For DEF CON 30

[hamster] and the DC Zia crew offered up a throwback 30-in-ONE Learn Electronics indie badge for DEF CON 30. The badge is inspired by the Radio Shack “100-in-1” style project kits that so many of us cut our teeth on back in the 70s and 80s.

DC Zia is a hacker group loosely associated with New Mexico who have been working together to make an indie badge for DEF CON each year.  If you aren’t familiar with the badgelife community of hardware hackers and programmers who make electronic indie conference badges, check out our BadgeLife Documentary.

The 30-in-ONE badge is provided in the form of a kit, so the learning and fun begins with assembling the badge. From there, an included booklet guides the badge holder through building and experimenting with 30 different circuits.

The included components include resistors, capacitors, LEDs, transistors, switches, transformer, speaker, OLED display, battery box, and a bundle of jumper wires for making any desired circuit connections.  The documented circuits have compelling titles such as the Electric Cat, Light Theremin, Grandfather Clock, and Frequency Counter.

Flashback to what DC Zia, and other groups, were up to five years prior in our expose on The Hardware Badges of DEF CON 25.

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Nucleo-F429ZI development board with STM32F429 microcontroller

Epic Guide To Bare-Metal STM32 Programming

[Sergey Lyubka] put together this epic guide for bare-metal microcontroller programming.  While the general concepts should be applicable to most any microcontroller, [Sergey]s examples specifically relate to the Nucleo-F429ZI development board featuring the ARM-based STM32F429 microcontroller.

In the realm of computer systems, bare-metal programming most often refers to programming the processor without an intervening operating system. This generally applies to programming BIOS, hardware drivers, communication drivers, elements of the operating system, and so forth. Even in the world of embedded programming, were things are generally quite low-level (close to the metal), we’ve grown accustomed to a good amount of hardware abstraction. For example, we often start projects already standing on the shoulders of various libraries, boot loaders, and integrated development tools.

When we forego these abstractions and program directly on the microprocessor or microcontroller, we’re working on the bare metal. [Sergey] aptly defines this as programming the microcontroller “using just a compiler and a datasheet, nothing else.” His guide starts at the very foundation by examining the processor’s memory map and registers including locations for memory mapped I/O pins and other peripherals.

The guide walks us through writing up a minimal firmware program from boot vector to blinking an LED connected to an I/O pin. The demonstration continues with setup and use of necessary tools such as the compiler, linker, and flasher. We move on to increasingly advanced topics like timers, interrupts, UART output, debuggers, and even configuring an embedded web server to expose a complete device dashboard.

While initially more time consuming, working close to the metal provides a good deal of additional insight into, and control over, hardware operations.  For even more on the subject, you may like our STM32 Bootcamp series on bare-metal STM32 programming.

tiny surface mount seven segment display

Nano-Sized 7-Segment LED Display On A Surface Mount Module

Inspired by a prank tweet, [Sam Ettinger] endeavored to create an SMD seven-segment display.  The NanoRaptor NanoSegment implements a panel of seven-segment display modules sized at “0806” each or just a bit wider than a standard 0805 SMD footprint.  Each of the seven segments is a single 0201 LED.  Six I/O lines and three resistors are required to operate each module.

To demonstrate the operation of his tiny display modules, Sam also created the “6Pin 7Seg” development board featuring an ATtiny84 microcontroller coupled to PCB footprints sized to receive the NanoRaptor NanoSegment display modules.  A demonstration of the board counts through digits displayed on one of the tiny seven-segment modules.

Hoping to reduce the module’s interface to two pins, Sam is now experimenting with a seven-segment display on a flex PCB that folds up into a 1208 footprint.  He is attempting to fold the resistors and a ATtiny20 microcontroller into an “origami PCB” configuration.

If these hacks are getting a little too small for your tastes, we’ve got you covered with this giant seven-segment display.


AI simulated drone flight track

Human Vs. AI Drone Racing At The University Of Zurich

[Thomas Bitmatta] and two other champion drone pilots visited the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich. The human pilots accepting the challenge to race drones against Artificial Intelligence “pilots” from the UZH research group.

The human pilots took on two different types of AI challengers. The first type leverages 36 tracking cameras positioned above the flight arena. Each camera captures 400 frames per second of video. The AI-piloted drone is fitted with at least four tracking markers that can be identified in the captured video frames. The captured video is fed into a computer vision and navigation system that analyzes the video to compute flight commands. The flight commands are then transmitted to the drone over the same wireless control channel that would be used by a human pilot’s remote controller.

The second type of AI pilot utilizes an onboard camera and autonomous machine vision processing. The “vision drone” is designed to leverage visual perception from the camera with little or no assistance from external computational power.

Ultimately, the human pilots were victorious over both types AI pilots. The AI systems do not (yet) robustly accommodate unexpected deviation from optimal conditions. Small variations in operating conditions often lead to mistakes and fatal crashes for the AI pilots.

Both of the AI pilot systems utilize some of the latest research in machine learning and neural networking to learn how to fly a given track. The systems train for a track using a combination of simulated environments and real-world flight deployments. In their final hours together, the university research team invited the human pilots to set up a new course for a final race. In less than two hours, the AI system trained to fly the new course. In the resulting real-world flight of the AI drone, its performance was quite impressive and shows great promise for the future of autonomous flight. We’re betting on the bots before long.

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Word Tour Map of High Altitude Balloon Launched at Hackaday Supercon.

Supercon Balloon W6MRR-26 Continues Its World Tour

[Martin Rothfield] and other amateur radio operators from San Francisco High Altitude Ballooning (SF-HAB) treated conference attendees to the 2022 Hackaday Supercon to the launch of two High Altitude Balloons (HABs). On the morning of November 6th, the two balloons were launched from a park across the street from Supplyframe DesignLab in Pasadena, California.

Seven days after its launch from Southern California, one of the balloons was over Tajikistan cruising eastward at an altitude of 42,000 feet (12,800 meters). Balloon W6MRR-26 was already approaching China where it will continue its wonderful world tour to parts unknown. The second balloon (call sign W3HAC-11) landed in northern Arizona where it has continued transmitting whenever it receives power from the sun.

Each balloon carries a tiny payload — a printed circuit board powered only by small photovoltaic cells. The board includes a microcontroller, a GPS module, and a Weak Signal Propagation Reporter (WSPR) radio transmitter.  The transmitted operates on the 20 meter amateur radio band at around 14 MHz.

WSPR beacons can provide time, altitude, and location information.  The WSPR telemetry is then relayed via WSPRgates using Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) onto the Internet. The collected information can be viewed and mapped on websites such as aprs.fi.

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