Hackaday Prize And Conservation X Labs Issue Design Challenges To Address Extinction Crisis

When most people think of extinct species, they likely imagine prehistoric creatures such as dinosaurs or woolly mammoths. Extinction is something you read about in history books, nature’s way of removing contestants in the great game of life. It’s a product of a cruel and savage world, and outside of a few remaining fringe cases, something that humanity’s advanced technology has put a stop to.

Unfortunately, the truth is far more complicated than that. The planet is currently going through its sixth major extinction event, and this time, it’s our fault. Humanity might not be willfully destroying the natural habitats of the plants, fish, birds, and other lifeforms that have been eradicated, but we’re responsible for it just the same. Humans are an apex predator unlike any the world has ever seen before, and the only force that can stop us is ourselves.

Founded in 2015, Conservation X Labs is devoted to doing everything it can to end this sixth wave of extinction. Unsatisfied with the pace of traditional conservation, they leverage technology and open innovation to develop unique new ways of combating the damage our species has done to life on this planet. After all, it’s the only one we’ve got.

We’ve partnered with this organization to help develop solutions to some of these problems. This includes an open call challenge that anyone can enter, and a Dream Team program that you can get involved with if you act quickly. Let’s take a look at what Conservation X Labs is all about, and what is involved with the challenges at hand.

Continue reading “Hackaday Prize And Conservation X Labs Issue Design Challenges To Address Extinction Crisis”

Start Your Engines!

Here we go again: The 2020 Hackaday Prize has just been announced! And as usual, we want to see you all using your powers for good, to help make the world a better place. The twist this year is that four nonprofits have been selected, and your job is to help them with their goals: developing solutions to aid ocean conservation, creating or redesigning open-source assistive tools for people with cerebral palsy, designing modular housing for communities in need, and engineering open-source medical and technical tools that can be easily built in the field.

How often have you wanted to help, but been held back by lacking the background knowledge of which problems to tackle, or where to start? That’s the point of teaming up with non-profits that already have a very tangible need right now.

Oh, and did we mention the prize money? Not only can you do good, but you’ll also do well! The Best All Around Solution gets $50,000, there are four $10,000 prizes, one for each non-profit, $3,000 honorable mentions, a $5,000 wildcard, twenty $500community-chosen prizes, and then the twelve two-month Dream Team grants.

Pshwew! There’s something for everyone, and that’s made possible by our sponsors:Supplyframe, Digi-Key, Microchip, and ARM.

We’ve got four good ways for you to do good. Get out there and get hacking!

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2020 Hackaday Prize Reveals Four Open Challenges And New Dream Team Program

The 2020 Hackaday Prize begins right now. Our global engineering challenge seeks solutions to real-world problems. If you like to come up with creative solutions to tough problems, four non-profits can use your help. We need hackers, designers, and engineers throughout the world to work on designs for conservation, disaster relief, renewable resources, and assistive devices.

This is the seventh year of the Hackaday Prize, and like past years we want to see your ideas take shape, so share your design process in detail as a project page on Hackaday.io. Over $200,000 in prizes are at stake, with a $50,000 prize for the all around best solution which will then be designed for manufacture at Supplyframe’s DesignLab, produced in a limited run, and deployed in the field.

New this year is our partnership with non-profits that have each outlined challenges they are facing. Eight projects, one top finisher, and one runner up from each of the four categories of challenges, will receive $10,000 and $3,000 respectively. As with previous years, the bootstrap round offers some seed money for getting your prototype off the ground: up to $500 for each of the top twenty during early entry judging. There’s even a $5,000 wildcard prize for entries that don’t specifically address challenges from the four categories. Here’s a taste of the categories you can work on:

  • Develop solutions to combat invasive species in marine and island environments, and help craft tools for protecting our natural ocean landscapes
  • Low cost tools for use in the field like a heat sealers/welders, and medical devices like IV fluid warmers
  • Adaptive technologies for workstations like trackballs, joysticks, and large button controllers
  • Modular add-ons for earthen housing for connectivity, light, heating, and water storage

Continue reading “2020 Hackaday Prize Reveals Four Open Challenges And New Dream Team Program”

Dexter Robot Arm Embraces New Manufacturing With First Micro-Factory

Haddington Dynamics, the company behind the Dexter robot arm that won the 2018 Hackaday Prize, has opened its first microfactory to build robot arms for Australia and Southeast Asia.

You may remember that the combination of Dexter’s makeup and capabilities are what let it stand out among robotics projects. The fully-articulated robot arm can be motion trained; it records how you move the arm and can play back with high precision rather than needing to be taught with code. The high-precision is thanks to a clever encoder makeup that leverages the power of FPGAs to amplify the granularity of its optical encodes. And it embraces advanced manufacturing to combine 3D printed and glue-up parts with mass produced gears, belts,  bearings, and motors.

It’s a versatile robot arm, for a fraction of the cost of what came before it, with immense potential for customization. And did I mention that it’s open source? Continue reading “Dexter Robot Arm Embraces New Manufacturing With First Micro-Factory”

DIY Scalar Network Analyzer

[Steven Merrifield] built his own Scalar Network Analyzer and it’s a beauty! [Steve]’s SNA has a digital pinout matching a Raspberry Pi, but any GPIO could be used to operate the device and retrieve the data from the ADC. The design is based around a few tried and true chips from Analog Devices. He’s taken some care to design it to be nice and accurate which is why he’s limited it to 1kHz to 30Mhz. We think it’s quite a fetching board once the shielding is in place.

We’ve covered network analyzers and their usefulness before. If you want to know how, for example, a mystery capacitor from your junk bin will respond to certain frequencies, a network analyzer could tell you. We’ve even taken a stab at hacking together our own.

There is more documentation on his website as well as some additional example curves. The board is easily ordered from OSHpark and the source code is available for review.

Listen To Your Feet, They Have A Lot To Tell You

[Umar Qattan] is in tune with his sole and is trying hard to listen to what it has to say.

At a low level, [Umar] is building an insole with an array of force sensors in it. These sensors are affixed to a flexible PCB which is placed in a user’s shoe. A circuit containing a ESP32, IMU, and haptic feedback unit measure the sensors and send data back to a phone or a laptop.

What’s most interesting are the possibilities opened by the data he hopes to collect. The first application he proposes is AR/VR input. The feedback from the user’s feet plus the haptics could provide all sorts of interesting interaction. Another application is dynamically measuring a user’s gait throughout the day and exercise. People could save themselves a lot of knee pain with something like this.

[Umar] also proposes that an insert like this could record a user’s weight throughout the day. Using the data on the weight fluctuation, it should be possible to calculate someone’s metabolism and hydration from this data.

Building A Limitless VR Desktop

[Gabor Horvath] thinks even two monitors is too little space to really lay out his windows properly. That’s why he’s building a VR Desktop straight out of our deepest cyberpunk fantasies.

The software runs on Windows and Android at the moment. The user can put up multiple windows in a sphere around them. As their head moves, the window directly in front grows in focus.  Imagine how many stack overflow windows you could have open at the same time!

Another exciting possibility is that the digital work-spaces can be shared among multiple users. Pair programming isn’t so bad, and now the possibility of doing it effectively while remote seems a little more possible. Even pair CAD might be possible depending on how its done. Imagine sharing your personal CAD session on another user’s screen and seeing theirs beside yours, allowing for simultaneous design.

Overall it’s a very cool tech demo that could turn into something more. It makes us wonder how long it is before tech workers on their way to lunch are marked by a telltale red circle on their face.