You probably wouldn’t expect to see somebody making astronomical observations during a cloudy day in the center of a dense urban area, but that’s exactly what was happening at the recent 2019 Philadelphia Mini Maker Faire. Professor James Aguirre of the University of Pennsylvania was there demonstrating the particularly compact Mini Radio Telescope (MRT) project built around an old DirecTV satellite dish and a smattering of low-cost components, giving visitors a view of the sky in a way most had never seen before.
Thanks to the project’s extensive online documentation, anyone with a spare satellite dish and a couple hundred dollars in support hardware can build their very own personal radio telescope that’s capable of observing objects in the sky no matter what the time of day or weather conditions are. Even if you’re not interested in peering into deep space from the comfort of your own home, the MRT offers a framework for building an automatic pan-and-tilt directional antenna platform that could be used for picking up signals from orbiting satellites.
With the slow collapse of satellite television in the United States these dishes are often free for the taking, and a fairly common sight on the sidewalk come garbage day. Perhaps there’s even one (or three) sitting on your own roof as you read this, waiting for a new lease on life in the Netflix Era.
Whether it’s to satisfy your own curiosity or because you want to follow in Professor Aguirre’s footsteps and use it as a tool for STEM outreach, projects like MRT make it easier than ever to build a functional DIY radio telescope.
Continue reading “A Miniature Radio Telescope In Every Backyard”
For many of us, it’s difficult to imagine a world without Maker Faire. The flagship events in California and New York have served as a celebration of the creative spirit for a decade, giving hackers and makers a rare chance to show off their creations to a live audience numbering into the hundreds of thousands. It’s hard to overstate the energy and excitement of these events; for anyone who had the opportunity to attend one in person, it’s an experience not soon forgotten.
Unfortunately, a future without Maker Faire seemed a very real possibility just a few months ago. In May we first heard the events were struggling financially, and by June, we were saddened to learn that organizer Maker Media would officially be halting operations. It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen to the flagship Maker Faires, and when Maker Media reluctantly admitted that production of the New York Faire was officially “paused”, it seemed we finally had our answer.
But as the recent Philadelphia Maker Faire proved, the maker movement won’t give up without a fight. While technically an independent “Mini” Faire, it exemplifies everything that made the flagship events so special and attracted an impressive number of visitors. With the New York event left in limbo, the Philadelphia Faire is now arguably the largest event of its type on the East Coast, and has the potential for explosive growth over the next few years. There’s now a viable option for makers of the Northeast who might have thought their days of exhibiting at a proper Maker Faire were over.
We’ll be bringing you detailed coverage of some of the incredible projects that were on display at the Philadelphia Maker Faire over the coming days, but in the meantime, let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights from this very promising event.
Continue reading “Maker Spirit Alive And Well At The Philly Maker Faire”