South African [Afrorack] claims to have built the first home-built modular synthesiser in Africa. Whilst we can’t be sure of this (and to be frank, it doesn’t actually matter) what we can be sure of is that the latest additions to this rig sound pretty rad. (video, embedded below) There really isn’t much doubt that the African nations are the kings of rhythm, and that living in the less well-to-do areas you need to have a certain resourcefulness to use the materials around you. It’s not like you can just pop down to the local electronics store for a missing part, even if you had the funds for it.
The modular synth looks pretty nice, rough and ready like a real homebrew, and the use of an oil can as a bass drum and rice in a plastic skiff as an instrument might look crude, but sound pretty good. All three additions to the rig are simple spring-loaded solenoid affairs, but since off the shelf stuff is an expensive luxury, hand wound coils were in order. With a bobbin formed with a metal rod and two suitably trimmed fanta bottle lids, a wire spool holder sitting on what looks like a cake stand, a drill powered coil winder was constructed. We did smirk a little when in an early shot, wire was guided by hand, which was rapidly followed by an adjustment to guiding with a rag. Darn friction burns! We’re watching this with interest to see what the next additions will be, but for now, just sit back and nerd out to some sick African techno tunes!
Want to see a mess-o-wires turn into something meaningful? Got some Game Boys lying around needing something to do? How about a chiptune synth?
Continue reading “Get Down To Some African Tunes With This HomeBrew Synth”
For institutions with high traffic, such as schools and movie theaters, it can be difficult to keep track of individuals moving in and out, especially without a critical mass of security. For schools especially, keeping track of student attendance and preventing kids from leaving campus in the middle of the day can be a costly problem.
The solution that Tunisian engineers [Michael Djimeli], [Darius Koliou], and [Jinette Tankoua] came up with was to create a smart gate that only turns when checks are carried out by designated security officers. The design is retrofitted to existing school turnstiles in his hometown of Monastir, Tunisia, and uses an RFID card, biometric devices, and a host of access controls to ensure that the student attempting to turn the turnstile is validated first.
The smart gate uses a few methods for identification – either by RFID, fingerprint, facial recognition, or by reading a QR code. An external database stores each user’s data and their transaction history, effectively storing their attendance data. In addition to relaying the information to an administrator, the smart gate also checks the credit of the user — whether they’ve paid the entrance fee for a movie theater, or whether they’re permitted to exit school grounds as a student.
A Raspberry Pi is used as the card collector, relaying information on transaction data over WiFi. Meanwhile local identification information via biometric devices and key fobs are relayed to the processor over Bluetooth. There are also plans to develop a mobile app to track the status of the smart gate remotely.
While the full systems integration isn’t published yet, there are several photos of the control box, which shows the components used for the first smart gate. The mechanical design was successfully tested on the IUC Douala Cameroon university campus (with 35-45 students identified per minute), and the project will hopefully be repeated within more schools in the coming year.
Amidst the vast expanse of sand dunes in the Namib desert, there now exists a sound installation dedicated to pouring out the 1982 soft rock classic “Africa” by Toto. Six speakers connected to an MP3 player all powered by a few solar powered USB battery packs, and it is literally located somewhere down in Africa (see lyrics). The whole project, known as TOTO FOREVER, was the creation of film director [Max Siedentopf] who himself grew up in Namibia.
“I set up a sound installation which pays tribute to probably the most popular song of the last four decades…and the installation runs on solar batteries to keep Toto going for all eternity.”
– Max Siedentopf, Creator of TOTO FOREVER
[Siedentopf] certainly chose a song that resonates with people on a number of levels. Toto’s “Africa” was one of the most streamed songs on YouTube in 2017 with over 369 million plays. The song continues to reach a new generation of fans as it has also been the subject of a number of internet memes. Though those local to the sound installation have had some less than positive things to say. [Siedentopf] told BBC, “Some [Namibians] say it’s probably the worst sound installation ever. I think that’s a great compliment.”
The idea of the installation “lasting for all eternity” will certainly be difficult to achieve since the components most certainly lack any serious IP rating. The audio player itself appears to be a RHDTShop mp3 player that according to its Amazon listing page, has three to four hours of battery life per charge. Considering the size of those solar cells the whole thing will probably be dead in a week or two (it is in a desert after all), but no one can deny the statement TOTO FOREVER makes. Below is some footage of the art piece in action taken by the artist himself.
Continue reading “Somewhere Down In Africa Toto Is Playing On Loop”
Here at Hackaday, we often encourage people to hack for the greater good through contests. Sure, it is fun to create a wireless barbeque thermometer or an electronic giant foam finger. At the end of the day, though, those projects didn’t really change the world, or maybe they just change a little corner of the world.
I recently saw a commercial device that made me think about how more hacker-types (including myself) ought to be working more on big problems. The device was Watly. The Italian and Spanish start up company claims the car-sized device is a “solar-powered computer.” No offense to them, but that’s the worst description for Watly that you could pick and still be accurate.
So what is Watly? It looks like some sort of temporary shelter or futuristic campsite equipment. However, it contains an array of solar cells and a very large battery. I know you are thinking, “Great. A big solar charger. Big deal.” But there’s more to Watly then just that.
The first Watly rolled out in Ghana, in Sub-Saharan Africa. About 67% of the population there–over 600 million people–do not have electricity. Nearly 40% do not have safe water. Watly uses a graphene-based filter and then uses its electricity to distill safe drinking water by boiling it. The company claims the device can deliver about 5,000 liters of safe drinking water per day.
If you read Hackaday, it is a good bet you have easy access to safe drinking water, electricity, and Internet. Think for a minute what it would be like if you didn’t. Here on the Gulf Coast of the United States, we sometimes have hurricanes or other storms that show us what this is like for a week or two. But even then, people come with water in trucks or cans. Generators show up to let you run your fridge for a few hours. Even more important: you know the situation is only temporary. What if you really thought those services would never be restored?
The portable device can provide power, water, and wireless Internet service and can last for 15 years. Watly intends to create a larger version with even more capacity. The project received funding from the EU Horizon 2020 program that we’ve mentioned before. Creating clean water is something that can help lots of people. So is using less water. If you want some more inspiration for tackling water problems, we’ve got some links for you.
We are now just three days away from Hackaday World Create Day. On Saturday, April 23rd, the Hackaday community around the world will come together in real life to have fun, share their stories, and to do a little bit of engineering.
A few weeks ago, we put out the call for local meetup organizers and were overwhelmed by the response. The World Create Day events in Europe and Africa span pretty much from pole to pole with meetups in Salangen and Cape Town.
If you are near any of the events on the map, please join in the camaraderie on Saturday If you don’t see a marker near you, it’s not too late, you can still host your own meetup. Follow these easy steps to get your town on the map!
What can you expect from World Create Day? At its simplest, gather together and talk about solving a technology problem facing humanity. This can be submitted as your Challenge 1 entry for the 2016 Hackaday Prize. But many organizers have more planned. We’ve heard from groups who are hosting hardware show-and-tell, others have lined of speakers or workshops, and we always suggest hosting lightning talks where anyone at the meetup can speak for around two minutes.
Hackaday is made up of doers. It’s time we all got together and celebrated what that means. Don’t miss out this Saturday!
A lot of hacker projects start with education in mind. The Raspberry Pi, for example, started with the goal of making an affordable classroom computer. The Shrimp is a UK-based bare-bones Arduino targeted at schools. We recently saw an effort to make a 3D printed robotic platform aimed at African STEM education: The Azibot.
Azibot has 3D printed treads, a simple gripper arm, and uses an Arduino combined with Scratch. Their web site has the instructions on how to put together the parts and promises to have the custom part of the software available for download soon.
Continue reading “Open Source Tracked Robot Supports STEM In Africa”
Valentine’s Day is about a month away, long enough for everyone to
butcher upgrade their 3D printers to squirt out chocolate. Food printing was a hot item at this year’s CES, but it is hardly new. Before many of you were born [Hans] left his job at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to produce chocolate out of his garage in South Africa. This one prints 8 at a time!
Many years before he was extruding lawnmowers from raw pellets, [Hans] built the 8-tentacled Choctopus. He gets away with using only one chocolate pump – from some experience, by far the most challenging component – by simply splitting the ooze pipe with three tiers of T intersections. The whole design is actually patented and revolutionary for 19 years ago but to our readers probably unremarkable.
There is a business lesson here too. Once upon a time the Choctopus was a 3D printer but economic constraints have led to him downgrading to 2D. Any 3D requirements are served from an alternate RepRap. The purpose of an 8-armed printer is to mass produce, but for the price, most clients were only interested in a one-off. The products that pay the bills are the much more affordable 2d extrusions in bulk.
Any of our readers looking to
impress their date make lots of money next month, consider this the kick in your pants to get started.
Check out these videos of the Choctopus churning out delicious delicatessens.
Continue reading “Choctopus Chocolate Printer X8”