The Circuit Sculpture Contest

Many artists are inseparably associated with their medium: Vincent Van Gogh had oil paint, Auguste Rodin had bronze, and Banksy has the spraycan and stencil. You have ICs, passives, wire, and solder. So often electronics are hidden away, but not today! We want to see you build electronic circuits that are beautiful in and of themselves.

This is Hackaday’s Circuit Sculpture Contest and we bet you already have everything you need to enter. Leave behind the drab flatland of 2D PCBs and break out into the third dimension! Or break away from the PCB entirely. Our inspiration comes from a few recently featured projects by Mohit Bhoite and by Eirik Brandal that show functional electronic circuits supported by their own wiring:

There’s something beautiful in these works. They take what would be unnoticed traces and bring them to the forefront of the project. The core of the challenge is simple: built a sculpture where an electronic circuit is the main building material (or medium if you prefer the artistic vernacular).

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Dexter Robotic Arm Wins the 2018 Hackaday Prize

Dexter, an open-source, high-precision, trainable robotic arm has just been named the Grand Prize winner of the 2018 Hackaday Prize. The award for claiming the top place in this nine-month global engineering initiative is $50,000. Four other top winners were also named during this evening’s Hackaday Prize Ceremony, held during the Hackaday Superconference in Pasadena, California.

This year’s Hackaday Prize featured challenges with five different themes. Entrants were asked to show their greatest Open Hardware Design, to build a Robotics Module, to design a Power Harvesting Module, to envision a Human Computer Interface, or to invent a new Musical Instrument. Out of 100 finalists, the top five are covered below. Over $200,000 in cash prizes have been distributed as part of this year’s initiative where thousands of hardware hackers, makers and artists compete to build a better future.

Dexter: High Precision Robotic Arm

Dexter is the Grand Prize winner of the 2018 Hackaday Prize. This remarkable robotic arm design brings many aspects of high-end automation to an open source design which you can utilize and adapt for your own needs. In addition to impressive precision, the design is trainable — you can move the joints of the arm and record the motion for playback.

The image here shows position data from one arm being moved by a human, controlling another arm in real time. Each joint utilizes a clever encoder design made up of a wheel with openings for UV sensors. Sensing is more than merely “on/off”. It tracks the change in light intensity through each opening for even greater granularity. The parallel nature of an FPGA is used to process this positioning data in real time.

Hack a $35 Wearable to Build Mental Health Devices

Manufacturing custom electronics is a tricky, costly, and time-consuming process. What if you could sidestep most of that by starting with a powerful, proven consumer good that is modified to your specifications? This project takes existing fitness trackers and customizes the hardware and software to become sensor suites for mental health research. Dig into this one and see how they can help patients become aware of unconscious behaviors (like trichotillomania which is compulsive hair pulling) and change them over time.

Portal Point Generator

This project focuses on an alternative power source for times when traditional infrastructure is not functioning or simply not available. You may be familiar with generators made using DC motors. The Portal Point Generator replicates that simplicity, but goes beyond with instructions for building the generator itself for far greater efficiency. A winding jig is used to make the coils which are placed inside of the 3D printed generator parts along with permanent magnets to complete the build. Here you can see it in testing as a wind generator in Antarctica, but it is easily adapted to other applications like using water wheels.

EmotiGlass

There is a body of research that suggest a link between cardiac cycle and anxiety-producing visuals; you may have a different emotional reaction to the things you see based on what part of a heartbeat is occurring when your brain process information from your eyes. This could have profound implications in areas like PTSD research. EmotiGlass uses LCD screens to selectively block the wearer’s vision. This can be synchronized with heat beat, avoiding the instant where a negative emotional response is most likely. Think of them as 3D shutter glasses for mental health research.

PR-Holonet: Disaster Area Emergency Comms

Recovering from natural disasters is an enormous challenge. The infrastructure that supports the community is no longer in place and traditional communications simply cease to exist. PR-Holonet was inspired by the recovery process after hurricanes in Puerto Rico. It leverages the availability of commercial electronics, solar power sources, and enclosures to build a communications system that can be deployed and operated without the need for specialized training. Once in place, local devices using WiFi can utilize text-based communications transferred via satellite.

Congratulations to all who entered the 2018 Hackaday Prize. Taking time to apply your skill and experience to making the world better is a noble pursuit. It doesn’t end with the awarding of a prize. We have the ability to change lives by supporting one another, improving on great ideas, and sharing the calling to Build Something that Matters.

What the Hack Is This Thing?

Let’s play a guessing game. Shown here is a sneak peek at the rear view of a hardware demo being built specifically for the Hackaday Superconference in Pasadena this November 2-4. It’s sure to be a crowd pleaser when finished, but if you’re anything like us, studying what’s behind the finished face of a project like this is even more satisfying than seeing the final product.

If you think you know what it is, you can score yourself a free hardware badge from the conference! Leave a comment below with your best guess about what this is — we’ll pick whoever is closest to win the badge.

Want a closer look? Click here to embiggen.

Update: We have a winner!

It didn’t take long at all for Zardam to realize this a replicate of the console for the Hal 9000 computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Congrats!

Some comments on the build from Voja Antonic:

The red round board at the bottom is the PIR motion sensor, the part of another project which is not related neither to HAL nor to the badge. There is a clearly visible 915 MHz module, which is disconnected and has no function in this project.

It is connected to the lower left Raspberry just because it has to be supplied with about 3V and it uses Raspberry’s LDO. It also generates Reset signal for all four Raspis, as it turned out that the 5V supply (bottom right) delivers the slow-rise voltage when turned on, so Raspis won’t boot at all without the external Reset.

When someone walks in front of HAL, motion sensor randomly triggers one of 30 HAL’s sentences from the movie. That’s why the lower left Raspberry is connected to the amplifier and has an extra wire from the motion sensor board to GPIO 24.

And the demo video:

The Prize for Guessing Correctly:

Voja Antonics builds beautiful hardware. The Hackaday Superconference badge is a piece of art, as is the Hal 9000 console. Voja will be at Supercon along with hundreds of other awesome hackers. Come join us for a weekend you’ll never forget!

Contest Results: Raspberry Pis Put on a Show

Some of the most satisfying projects of all are the ones that do something visual. All the network routers, data loggers, and thermostats are great. But we are visual creatures and even a humble blinking LED is enough to give you a little rush even compared to finding a large prime number. We wanted to see what our community could do visually with a Raspberry Pi so we challenged you with the Visualize it with Pi contest.

As always, the competition was brisk, with a lot of great projects. This contest showed off the trend towards using LED modules and assemblies to add visuals to projects. Why not? They are cheap enough and a well-integrated module can make a project simple to wire and integrate.

We didn’t see as many media-related projects as you might expect, although there was one tied into Stranger Things, one to Tron, and the virtual reality lighting project did have some Star Wars images. Projects ranged from the practical storage box labels to the whimsical lemonade bottle that strobes to the beat of the music. If none of that is hardcore enough for you, there was even a Raspberry Pi-controlled radio telescope. You can find all the entries over on Hackaday.io. Now let’s see which entries managed to turn the head of the judging panel.

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Programming A RISC-V Softcore With Ada

We were contacted by [morbo] to let us know about a project on the AdaCore blog that concerns programming a PicoRV32 RISC-V softcore with Ada. The softcore itself runs on a Lattice ICE40LP8K-based TinyFPGA-BX FPGA board, which we have covered in the past.

The blog post describes how to use the Community edition of the GNAT Ada compiler to set up the development environment, before implementing a simple example project that controls a strip of WS28212b RGB LED modules. There are two push buttons changing the animation and brightness of the lights.

The source can be found at the author’s Github repository, and contains both the Ada source and the Verilog source for the PicoRV32 softcore. To build the project one needs the GNAT compiler, as well as the open-source iCE40 development tools to compile the softcore.

There is a video demonstrating the finished example project, that we’ve placed below the break.

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Packing 10 into 1: A Square Inch Dekatron Replacement

One of the things that always attracts our eye in old movies is how many kinds of displays you see on old gear both real and imaginary. Really old stuff usually had meters or circular recorders. But slightly newer movies often had some kind of exotic digital display with Nixes or Numitron tubes. One of the really exotic display devices was a Dekatron. While these are pretty rare, you can make a stand-in using modern LEDs and [Dave] did just that in an entry into our square inch competition.

These were gas-filled tubes with ten positions. You had to reset the tube and then the tube would visibly count pulses providing a visual indicator from zero to nine. Depending on the tube configuration, you could use them to count or to act as a divider. Those with neon fill looked sort of orange, although there were argon-based ones that had a purple glow. You can see what an older version of the board looks like in the video below or skip to the second video if you want to see the real ones in action.

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One Square Inch Expanded in the Time Dimension

No, we’re not talking about spooky feats of General Relativity. But you should know that the Return of the Square Inch Project just got its deadline extended.

If you missed the call the first time around, our favorite user-contributed contest on Hackaday.io is up and running again. Hackaday.io tossed in some good money for prizes, and folks started thinking about what functionality they could cram inside a 25.4 mm x 25.4 mm square. But while one constraint can help bring out creativity, adding a tight deadline to a tight squeeze caused a number of our entrants to ask for an extension.

If you’re working on the Square Inch Project, you’ve got until October 1st to get your boards ready. Breathe a quick sigh of relief and then get back to soldering! We’re looking forward to seeing all the great entries.