DIY 9V Battery

Volta’s pile — the first battery — was little more than silver and zinc discs separated by paper soaked in salt water. A classic classroom experiment is to build a pile from copper pennies, tin foil, and vinegar or lemon juice. [Omars2] has a different take on this old experiment. He creates a 9V battery using some zinc screws, copper wire, and salt water. There’s a video of the battery, below.

A syringe piston serves as a substrate for the cells, and each cell is just a screw with paper wrapped around it and then 35 turns of copper wire on top of that. The battery is soaked in salt water, although we suspect vinegar or lemon juice would work even better. Heating the electrolyte is also a good idea.

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Cheap RC Truck Mod Is Slightly Risky Fun

The world of RC can be neatly split into two separate groups: models and toys. The RC models are generally big, complex, and as you’d imagine, more expensive. On the other hand, the RC toys are cheap and readily available. While not as powerful or capable as their more expensive siblings, they can often be a lot of fun; especially since the lower costs means a crash doesn’t put too big of a ding into to your wallet.

With his latest mod, [PoppaFixIt] has attempted to bridge the gap between toy and model by sticking a considerably overpowered battery into a $10 RC truck from Amazon. He reports greatly improved performance from his hacked together truck, but anyone looking to replicate his work should understand the risks before attempting to hack up their own version.

The principle is pretty simple; the truck is designed to run on two AA batteries, providing 3 volts. But by swapping the AAs out for a 3.7 volt 1S LiPo of the type that’s used in small airplanes and quadcopters, you can get an instant boost in power. As a happy side effect, the LiPo batteries are also rechargeable and fairly cheap, so you won’t have to keep burning through alkaline AAs.


The mod itself is a basic job that only requires a few bucks in parts, and for which [PoppaFixIt] has helpfully provided Amazon links. Essentially you just crack open the truck, solder a JST connector pigtail to the positive and negative traces on the PCB, and then pop a hole in the roof to run the new battery wires out.

Right about now the RC purists are probably screaming obscenities at their displays, and not without reason. As fun as these supercharged little trucks are to drive, there are a number of real issues here which need to be mentioned.

First, while the motor will probably be alright with a bit higher voltage running through them, the gears won’t be liking it one bit. In fact, [PoppaFixIt] even mentions they shredded a few gears when they tried to take one off-road. The second issue is that since these vehicles were not designed with LiPo batteries in mind, there’s no low voltage cutoff to prevent over discharge. If you aren’t careful, a setup like this will cook those cute little batteries in short order. But hey, at least it’s all cheap.

If you are more interested in control than power, you may want to check out the previous hacks we’ve featured. Seems like these little RC trucks are the platform of choice for hackers who want to get stuff moving on the cheap.

A Web-Based Modem

If you are beyond a certain age, you will recall when getting on the Internet was preceded by strange buzzing and squawking noises. Modems used tones to transmit and receive data across ordinary telephone lines. There were lots of tricks used to keep edging the speed of modem up until — at the end — you could download (but not upload) at a blazing 56,000 bits per second. [Martin Kirkholt Melhus] decided to recreate a modem. In a Web browser. No kidding.

We started to say something about a modem in the cloud, but that wouldn’t really be accurate. The modem uses the HTML 5 audio API, so it really runs in the browser. We would have been really surprised if [Martin] had cooked up a modem able to interact with a real modem, but as you might expect, the browser modem only communicates with other instances of itself. If you want a brief introduction to HTML 5 audio, you might enjoy the video below.

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Motion Activated Super-Squirter Stands Guard

Thieves beware. If you prowl around [Matthew Gaber]’s place, you get soaked by his motion activated super-squirter. Even if he’s not at home, he can aim and fire it remotely using an iPhone app. And for the record, a camera saves photos of your wetted-self to an SD card.

ESPino, ArduCAM UNO and voltage converter boards
ESPino, ArduCAM UNO and voltage converter boards

The whole security system is handled by three subsystems for target acquisition, photo documentation, and communications. The first subsystem is centered around an ESPino which utilizes a PIR sensor to detect motion. It then turns on a windscreen washer pump and uses pan and tilt servos to squirt water in a pattern toward the victim.

The target acquisition hardware also sends a message to the second subsystem, an ArduCAM ESP8266 UNO board. It takes a burst of photos using an ArduCAM Mini Camera mounted beside the squirter outlet. The UNO can also serve up a webpage with a collection of the photos.

The final subsystem is an iPhone app which talks to both the ESPino and the UNO board. It can remotely control the squirter and provide a video feed of what the camera sees.

One detail of the build we really enjoyed is the vacuum relief valve he fabricated himself. It prevents siphoning through the pump when it’s not on. Don’t miss a demo of the squirter in action after the break.

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Hassle-Free Classical Conditioning for Honey Bees

When you’re sick or have a headache, you tend to see things a bit differently. An ill-feeling human will display a cognitive bias and expect the world to punish them further. The same is true of honey bees. They are intelligent creatures that exhibit a variety of life skills, such as decision-making and learning.

It was proven back in 2011 that honey bees will make more pessimistic decisions after being shaken in a way that simulates an attack by varroa destructor mites. The bees were trained to associate a reward of sugar-water with a particular odor and to associate foul-tasting punishment water with another odor—that of formic acid, a common treatment against varroa mites. When a third stimulus created by mixing the two odors was presented, the experimenters found that the aggravated bees were more likely to expect the bad odor. Sure enough, they kept their tongues in their mouths when they smelled the third odor. All the bees that weren’t shaken looked forward to sucking down a bit of sugar-water.

So, how does one judge a honey bee’s response? Whenever their antennae come in contact with something appetizing, they stick out their proboscis involuntarily to have a taste. This is called proboscis extension reflex (PER), and it’s the ingrained, day-one behavior that leads them to suck the nectar out of flower blossoms and regurgitate it to make honey.

[LJohann] is a behavioral biologist who wanted to test the effects of varroa mite treatment on bee-havior by itself, without agitating the bees. He built a testing apparatus to pump odors toward bees and judge their response which is shown in a few brief demo videos after the break. This device enables [LJohann] to restrain a bee, tantalize its antennae with sucrose, and pump a stimulus odor at its face on the cue of an LED and piezo buzzer. A fan mounted behind the bee helps clear the air of the previous scents. We especially like the use of a servo to swing the tube in and out of the bee’s face between tests.

[LJohann] and his colleagues concluded that the varroa mite treatment by itself does not make the bees pessimistic. This is great news for concerned apiarists who might be skeptical about using formic acid in the fight against the honey bee’s worst predator. Check out the brief demo videos after the break.

Hackaday has long been abuzz about bees whether they produce honey or not. We’ve covered many kinds of sweet projects like intelligent hives, remote hive weight monitoring, and man-made bee nest alternatives. Continue reading “Hassle-Free Classical Conditioning for Honey Bees”

Exploiting Weak Crypto on Car Key Fobs

[tomwimmenhove] has found a vulnerability in the cryptographic algorithm that is used by certain Subaru key fobs and he has open-sourced the software that drives this exploit. All you need to open your Subaru is a RasPi and a DVB-T dongle, so you could complain that sharing this software equates to giving out master keys to potential car thieves. On the other hand, this only works for a limited number of older models from a single manufacturer — it’s lacking in compatibility and affordability when compared to the proverbial brick.

This hack is much more useful as a case study than a brick is, however, and [tomwimmenhove]’s work points out some bad design on the manufacturer’s side and as such can help you to avoid these kind of mistakes. The problem of predictable keys got great treatment in the comments of our post about an encryption scheme for devices low in power and memory, for instance.

Those of you interested in digital signal processing may also want to take a look at his code, where he implements filtering, demodulation and decoding of the key fob’s signal. The transmission side is handled by rpitx and attacks against unencrypted communications with this kind of setup have been shown here before. There’s a lot going on here that’s much more interesting than stealing cars.

[Via Bleeping Computer]

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Unlock Your PC The RFID Way

Sometimes we see projects whose name describes very well what is being achieved, without conveying the extra useful dimension they also deliver. So it is with [Prasanth KS]’s Windows PC Lock/Unlock Using RFID. On the face of it this is a project for unlocking a Windows PC, but when you sit down and read through it you discover a rather useful primer for complete RFID newbies on how to put together an RFID project. Even the target doesn’t do it justice, there is no reason why this couldn’t be used with any other of the popular PC operating systems besides Windows.

The project takes an MRFC-522 RFID module and explains how to interface it to an Arduino. In this case the Arduino in question is an Arduino Pro Micro chosen for its ability to be a USB host. The supplied code behaves as a keyboard, sending the keystroke sequence to the computer required to unlock it. The whole is mounted in what seems to be a 3D printed enclosure, and for ease of use the guts of the RFID tag have been mounted in a ring.

As we said above though, the point of this project stretches beyond a mere PC unlocker. Any straightforward RFID task could use this as a basis, and if USB is not a requirement then it could easily use a more run-of-the-mill Arduino. If you’re an RFID newbie, give it a read.

Plenty of RFID projects have made it here before, such as this door lock. And we’ve had another tag in a ring, too.