Radiosondes: Getting Data from Upstairs

Ever since I first learned about radiosondes as a kid, I’ve been fascinated by them. To my young mind, the idea that weather bureaus around the world would routinely loft instrument-laden packages high into the atmosphere to measure temperature, pressure, and winds aloft seemed extravagant. And the idea that this telemetry package, having traveled halfway or more to space, could crash land in a field near my house so that I could recover it and take it apart, was an intoxicating thought.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods over the intervening years, but I’ve never seen a radiosonde in the wild. The closest I ever came was finding a balloon with a note saying it had been released by a bunch of schoolkids in Indiana. I was in Connecticut at the time, so that was pretty cool, but those shortsighted kids hadn’t put any electronics on their balloon, and they kind of left me hanging. So here’s a look at what radiosondes are, how they work, and what you can do to increase your chances of finding one.

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The Incredible Shrinking Coin Cell Battery Pack

How’s it going with your project for the coin cell challenge? You can only use a single one, but Hackaday alum [Jeremy S Cook] has a great way to package coin cells into a sleek little power packs whether you need one, two, or even four.

[Jeremy] is building a wireless Wii nunchuk, so he needs a small battery that won’t short out or get punctured in the confines of the controller body. A single coin cell holder is already a bit bulky, and he needs to use two in series. He thought, why not try shrink wrapping them together? The only downside here is that the biggest tube that came with your average heat shrink multi-pack is probably a bit too tight to fit around them, so you might have to buy more (aw, shucks!).

After trying a few ways to make a good connection between the leads and the bare coin cell faces, [Jeremy] settled on generously stripping stranded wire and wrapping the long strands around the end to form a conductive swab. This slides in nicely between the coin cell and preshrunk tube. A little more heat will make a good connection, and some hot glue secures the wires. Click past the break for his build video and the other connection methods he tried. Have you come up with something better? Let us know in the comments.

Stray a bit further from the bench and you might come up with something like this googly eye battery holder we saw a few months ago.

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Count YouTube Subscribers with this Red Play Button Award

Professional YouTubers live and die by the number of subscribers they have. It seems like a brutal way to make a living to us, but to each his own. Still, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right, and keeping track of how you’re doing with this Play Button Award subscriber counter might make sense. Or it might drive you nuts.

YouTuber [ibuynewstuff] has reached the vaunted 100,000 subscriber mark, the number required to earn the Silver Play Button award. Sadly, 100k is the bare minimum needed to get YouTube’s attention, and tales of waiting for months for the award to arrive are not uncommon. [ibuynewstuff] worked around the issue by 3D-printing his own temporary play button badge. Mounted to a picture frame with an ESP8266 and an 8 x 80 LED display behind a diffuser, [ibuynewstuff] can keep track of his progress toward the Gold Play Button award at 1,000,000 subs. Hopefully, his Silver award will arrive before then.

Want to replicate this but would rather have something a little more permanent than a plastic play button? Try casting your own Copper Play Button award.

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Car-Cade Build Drives Unthrottled Determination

Remember those dashboard-shaped racing games from the ’80s, like Tomy Turnin’ Turbo? [Daniel] has long wanted to bring one of those into the modern age. After finding that someone beat him to it, he went in another direction and built his own mini-cabinet from the ground up, dedicated to Dirt Rally.

The idea was to build the smallest possible computer than can run SteamOS and fit inside of a cabinet printed on a Prusa clone. At first, [Daniel] tried driving a MinnowBoard around. The frame rate was atrocious, so he switched to an ASUS mini-STX board and went from there.

The printed steering wheel and throttle are both analog inputs—each uses a 10kΩ pot connected to a Pimoroni PiCade controller. We love [Daniel]’s lo-tech way of using rubber bands to self-center them. We also love the post-processing he did on the steering wheel to give it that just-right grippy feel (it’s Plasti-Dip rubber paint), because it looks fantastic.

The lovely blue cabinet is an homage to [Daniel]’s Dirt Rally destroyer of choice, the rally blue ’95 Subaru Impreza. He had an arduous print/sand/prime/paint plan all worked out for the prototype, but ultimately printed the parts in different colors to get the look right. [Daniel] went through four different blue filaments alone before he was satisfied.

Motor around the break for a quick walk around the completed cabinet, and park it for the teaser video that scored [Daniel] a swag bag from the Dirt Rally devs through the magic of social media. Now that it’s cold and flu season in the northern hemisphere, maybe you’d prefer to play driving games without touching anything.

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Gamify Your Workout with this Wearable Console Controller

‘Tis soon to be the season when resolutions falter and exercise equipment purchased with the best of intentions is cast aside in frustration. But with a little motivation, like making your exercise machine a game console controller, you can maximize your exercise gear investment and get in some guilt-free gaming to boot.

Honestly, there is no better motivation for keeping up with exercise than taking classes, but not many people have the discipline — or the pocketbook — to keep going to the gym for the long haul. With this in mind, [Jason] looked for a way to control PS4  games like Mario Karts or TrackMania with his recumbent bike. In an attempt to avoid modifying the bike, [Jason] decided on a wearable motion sensor for his ankle. Consisting of an Uno, an MPU9250 accelerometer, and a transmitter for the 433-MHz ISM band, the wearable sends signals to a receiver whenever the feet are moving. This simulates pressing the up arrow controller key to set the game into action. Steering and other game actions are handled by a regular controller; we’d love to see this expanded to include strain gauges on the recumbent bike’s handles to allow left-right control by shifting weight in the seat. Talk about immersive gameplay!

While we like the simplicity of [Jason]’s build and the positive reinforcement it provides, it’s far from the first exercise machine hack we’ve seen. From making Google Street View bike-controlled to automatically logging workouts, exercise machines are ripe for the hacking.

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The Chemistry and Engineering of DIY Photochromic Glass

[Ben Krasnow] is no stranger to exploring the more arcane corners of hackerdom, and the latest video on his “Applied Science” channel goes into a field few DIYers have touched: homemade glass, including the photochromic variety.

That DIY glassmaking remains a largely untapped vein is not surprising given what [Ben] learned over the last months of experimenting. With searing temperatures bordering on the unobtainable, volatile ingredients that evaporate before they can be incorporated, and a final product so reactive that a platinum crucible is the best vessel for the job, glassmaking is not easy, to say the least. Glassmaking doesn’t scale down from an industrial process very well, it seems. Nonetheless, [Ben] came up with a process that could be replicated using common enough ingredients and a simple electric kiln modded with a PID controller for pinpoint temperature setting. And while Luxottica has nothing to worry about yet, he did manage to get some clearly if subtly photochromic samples, despite the challenges.

Without a doubt, [Ben] crossed over into “mad scientist” territory a while back, and we think it’s great. What other way is there to describe a guy who has an electron microscope, a high-power ruby laser, a CT scanner, and a cookie making robot in his basement? Whatever you call it, we like the results.

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A Minimalist Weather Clock with a Unique Display

If you’re looking for a home hub to display weather, time, and important family information, the formula is pretty simple: build yet another “magic mirror” project. We’re not complaining — magic mirrors look great. But if all you need is time and weather, this elegant pixel display is something just a little bit different.

Among his many criteria for the perfect hack, [Dominic] lists usefulness, visual appeal, and low cost. We’ll agree that his minimalist weather clock hits all those marks, and with the careful selection of a 16 x 32-pixel RGB display module, [Dominic] ended up giving back to the community by developing an Arduino driver for it. He points out that strips of Neopixels could have been used for the display, but they’d have ended up costing more, so the LED matrix was a sensible choice. A 3D-printed separator grid and a paper diffuser provide the proper pixelated look, and some simple animated icons display the two-day weather forecast. We find the time and temperature numerals a little hard to read, but it’s not bad considering the limited resolution of the display. And the case is a nice bit of woodworking too. Not a bad result for only €43.

We’re intrigued by the P10 LED matrix module [Dominic] used for this one. It might be a good choice for a word clock and weather station, or with his driver, a display for just about anything.