Custom Lego Server Case Looks As Though It Came Straight From A Data Center

The picture above appears to show two unremarkable 2U rack servers, of the kind that are probably hosting the page you’re reading right now. Nothing special there – until you look carefully and realize that the rack server case on the left is made entirely from Lego. And what’s more, the server even works.

When it comes to building Lego computers, [Mike Schropp] is the guy to call. We’ve previously featured his Lego gaming computer, a striking case wrapped around what was a quite capable machine by 2016 standards, as well as an earlier case that reminds us a little of a NeXT. His reputation for Lego-clad computers led server maker Silicon Mechanics to commission a case for a trade show, and [Mike] jumped at the challenge.

Making a home-grade machine is one thing, but supporting all the heavy drives, power supplies, and fans needed to make the machine work is something else. He used a combination of traditional Lego pieces along with a fair sampling of parts from the Lego Technics line to pull off the build, which looks nearly perfect. Sadly, the Lego unit sizes make the case slightly taller than 2U, but that’s a small quibble when everything else matches so well, even the colors. And the fact that the server works, obviously important for a trade show demo, is pretty amazing too. The power supplies are even hot-swappable!

Congratulations to [Mike] on yet another outstanding Lego creation.

Lego House: Right Next To Denmark’s Legoland, But Way Cooler

If there is one thing that most Hackaday readers will know about Denmark, it is that it’s the home of the Lego brick. The toy first appeared at the end of the 1940s from the factory of Ole Kirk Christiansen‘s Lego company in Billund, central Denmark, and has remained inseparable from both the town and the country ever since.

When spending a week in Denmark for the BornHack hacker camp it made absolute sense to take a day out to drive up to Billund and visit the famous Legoland theme park. All those childhood dreams of seeing the fabled attraction would be satisfied, making the visit a day to remember.

Your first view of the Lego House, in the centre of Billund.
Your first view of the Lego House, in the centre of Billund.

The Danes at Bornhack however had other ideas. By all means go to Legoland they said, but also take in Lego House. As a Brit I’d never heard of it, so was quickly educated. It seems that while Legoland is a kid’s theme park, Lego House is a far more Lego-brick-focused experience, and in the view of the Danish hackers, much better.

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Race RC Cars From Anywhere On Earth

Racing games have come a long way over the years. From basic 2D sprite-based titles, they’ve evolved to incorporate advanced engines with highly realistic simulated physics that can even be used to help develop real-world automobiles. For [Surrogate.tv], that still wasn’t quite good enough, so they decided to create something more rooted in reality.

The game is played in a web browser. Players are assigned a car and view the action from a top-down camera.

Their project resulted in a racing game based on controlling real RC cars over the internet, in live races against other human opponents. Starting with a series of Siku 1:43 scale RC cars, the team had to overcome a series of engineering challenges to make this a reality. For one, the original electronics had to be gutted as the team had issues when running many cars at the same time.

Instead, the cars were fitted with ESP8266s running custom firmware. An overhead GoPro is used with special low-latency streaming software to allow players to guide their car to victory. A computer vision system is used for lap timing, and there’s even automatic charging stations to help keep the cars juiced up for hours of play.

The game is free to play online, with the races currently operating on a regular schedule. We look forward to trying our hand at a race or three, and will be interested to see how the latency holds up from various parts of the world.

We’ve seen other remote RC builds before; usually featuring the power of the Raspberry Pi. We’ve also covered useful techniques for low latency video for real-time applications. Video after the break.

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The GENIAC Lives Again

[Mike Gardi] credits his professional successes in the world of software development on the fact that he had access to logic-based educational games of a sort that simply don’t exist anymore. Back in the 1960s, kids who were interested in electronics or the burgeoning world of computers couldn’t just pick up a microcontroller or Raspberry Pi. They had to build their “computers” themselves from a kit.

One of those kits was the GENIus Almost-automatic Computer (GENIAC), a product which today is rare enough to essentially be unobtainable. Using images and documentation he was able to collect online, [Mike] not only managed to create a functioning replica of the GENIAC, but he even took the liberty of fixing some of the issues with the original 60-odd year old design.

Fundamentally, the GENIAC is composed of rotary switches which feed into each other to perform rudimentary logical functions. With banks of incandescent bulbs serving as the output, users could watch how placing the switches in different positions would influence the result.

This might seem a little silly to modern audiences, but thanks to a well written manual that featured a collection of compelling projects, the GENIAC managed to get a lot of mileage out of a couple light bulbs and some wire. In fact, [Mike] says that the GENIAC is often considered one of the first examples of an interactive electronic narrative, as the carefully crafted stories from the manual allowed players to go on virtual adventures long before the average kid had ever heard of a “video game”. A video about how one of these stories, “The Uranium Shipment and the Space Pirates“, can be seen after the break. Even today it would be an interesting enough toy, but back in 1955 it would have been mind-blowing.

Construction of this replica will require access to a laser cutter so you can approximate the original’s drilled Masonite backing and rotors. From there, [Mike] has produced an array of 3D printable components which are attached to the board to serve as contacts, spacers, and various other pieces of bric-a-brac. Some of the parts he couldn’t find pictures of, so he was forced to come up with his own designs. But considering the finicky nature of the original, he thinks his printed parts may actually be better than what the toy shipped with.

If you like his work with GENIAC, be sure to check out the 3D printed replica of “The Amazing Dr. Nim” that [Mike] made last year, or his breathtaking recreation of the Minivac 601.

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Build Your Own LED Glow Poi

Spinning poi is an entertaining pastime, and LEDs can make a great addition to the experience. [MilanDer] built some LED poi of their very own, using a few maker staples along the way.

A 3D printed enclosure is first created, using “clear” PLA that in practice produces translucent white parts. This acts as a great diffuser for the APA102 LEDs inside. The LEDs are driven by an Arduino Pro Mini, which is fitted inside the enclosure along with a buck-boost converter, lithium battery and charge board. Finally, a strap is added to allow the poi to be spun easily by the user.

The visual effect is great, and through the use of an infrared receiver, the poi can be remotely controlled to deliver different RGB animations at the touch of a button. We’d love to see a group of spinners with synchronized colored poi thanks to a master controller, and this hardware would be more than capable of the task.

We’ve seen some advanced networked Poi before, too. If you’ve got a great LED build, be sure to let us know.

Project Perceives Pondering, Prints Poetry

If poetry is your thing, this hack might convince you that your brain is more advanced than the rest of us poor sots. [Roni Brandini] designed a system that prints lines of poetry when you concentrate. The Mind Poetry project uses an EEG headset from Mattel’s Mindflex toy and pipes your brain’s signals to an Arduino Mega 2560. The system then looks for patterns of brain waves that indicate concentration. As you maintain your concentration, the system continues to print lines of poetry to a small display.

Tapping into the mindflex

[Roni] follows the standard Mindflex hack process by tapping into the data transmission pin on the Mindflex board. Optoisolation is provided by a PC817 to make sure wall power can’t accidentally bleed over into your own wetware. You could get away with just using batteries, but isolation is still a best practice.

The Arduino Brain Library is used to decipher the signal. The Mindflex picks up brain waves from roughly 1 Hz to 50 Hz, which is enough bandwidth to approximately determine mental state. For example, Theta waves are in the 4 Hz to 7 Hz range and can indicate a relaxed, meditative state. Low Beta waves range from 13 Hz to 17 Hz and indicate an alert, focused mental state. The Mindflex system is also generous in that it provides derived meditation and attention scores, ranging from 0 to 100.

It’s difficult to get a high level of precision with this sensor and sampling system, so the code uses [Roni]’s custom recipe of meditation score, attention score, and Low Beta value. He finds it most effective to trigger actions based on a relationship of these scores instead of focusing on the readings themselves. For example, an uptick in both Low Beta waves and the attention score indicate concentration.

Mindflex Brainwave Chart

If the wearer is concentrating, the system prints lines of poetry to the display and charts the three values. As an added gamification, it’ll tell you how many times you broke concentration before you completed the poem. One can imagine a game that tries to break concentration by printing other phrases or even activating an array of mechanical distractions.

If poetry isn’t your thing, you’re in luck. The “Mind Poetry” project also makes some headway (pun intended) with processing the EEG headset’s signals and triggering actions This means you don’t have to be into the poetry scene to reap the benefits. You now have the bones of a hack that lets you control things with your brain muscles and without your muscle muscles.

For inspiration, check out some other Mindflex hacks that let you order drinks with your mind (recommended), shock the heck out of people (not recommended), or even move around your skirt (uh… you do you?).

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Custom Bases Make LEGO Spacecraft Even Cooler

If you’re reading Hackaday, we’re willing to bet that you either own the LEGO Saturn V and Lunar Module models, or at the very least know somebody who does. Even if you thought you’d finally outgrown playing with little plastic bricks (a critical mistake, but one we’ll ignore for now), these two kits just have an undeniable appeal to them. You might never get a chance to work for NASA, but you can at least point to the Saturn V rocket hanging on your wall and say you built it yourself.

[Ben Brooks] thought these fantastic models deserved equally impressive stands, so he built “exhaust plumes” that both craft could proudly perch on. With the addition of some RGB LEDs and a Particle Photon to drive them, he added incredible lighting effects that really bring the display to life. There are also sound effects provided by an Adafruit Audio FX board, and for the Lander, an LCD display that mimics the Apollo Guidance Computer DSKY that astronauts used to safely navigate to the Moon and back.

In his write-up on Hackaday.io, [Ben] makes it clear that he was inspired by previous projects that added an illuminated column of smoke under the LEGO Saturn V, but we think his additions are more than worthy of praise. Playing real audio from the Apollo missions that’s synchronized to the light show honestly makes for a better display than we’ve seen in some museums, and he even rigged up a wireless link so that his neighbor’s kids can trigger a “launch” that they can watch from their window.

For the Lunar Module, he 3D printed an enclosure for the Photon and Adafruit quad alphanumeric display that stands in for the DSKY. There’s even lighted indicators for the 1201/1202 program alarms that popped up as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface 50 years ago.

While many of us aren’t old enough to have our own first hand memories of the Moon landing, projects like this prove that the incredible accomplishments of the Apollo program never fail to inspire. Who knows? Those kids that are watching [Ben]’s Saturn V from next door might one day get to make the trip themselves.

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