This wind tunnel is a pile of junk and we love it! When making science and engineering accessible to kids, it really helps to show that it doesn’t require a fancy research lab. [Jelly & Marshmallows] show kids that it takes little more than cardboard, duct tape, and dumpster-diving to up your paper airplane game to NASA levels of engineering.
[Jelly & Marshmallows] built their wind tunnel for a Maker Faire using the aforementioned cheap and free materials for the straightener, collector, diffuser, and fan sections. We especially love the efficient hack of using stacked ceiling light diffusers rather than hundreds of straws for the straightener.
The most time went into the working section, custom-built from plywood frames and acrylic windows. Many 3D printed parts came together to convert a smoke-ring gun to emit smoke trails and LEDs were employed to make those trails a little easier to see. We think the magnetic clips for quick changes of aircraft and their position along a steel ruler were inspired.
The kids attending the Maker Faire (we miss those!) loved the exhibit, having the best time hitting a big green arcade button to spin up the fan. It’s the little things in life. How would you get the kids even more involved with analyzing aerodynamics and make the smoke trails more visible?
We speak from experience when we say that making pinball targets is harder than you might think. The surface area of the part of the ball that touches is oh-so-small, and you really need to have gravity on your side for best results. Luckily, [TechnoChic] did the work for us and came up with these three versatile sensor designs that would be good for any game, not just pinball. They all use fresh, pristine cardboard from the Bezos Barn and a conductive fabric tape made by Brown Dog Gadgets that they call maker tape.
With the possible exception of not being solderable (can you solder it? ours hasn’t showed up yet), maker tape is seemingly superior to copper tape because it is designed to be conductive in the Z-direction, and if you’ve ever laid out a copper tape circuit, you know that tape overlaps are pretty much par for the course.
First on the list is the track switch, which we think is pretty much necessary. After all, what fun is a pinball machine without at least one pair of rails to ride? Might as well score some points at the same time. This one looks to be the trickiest since the rails have to be consistently spaced, otherwise the ball will fall. The drawbridge target uses a cardboard hinge and the weight of the ball to force two pieces of tape together to complete the circuit.
The flappy hole target is probably our favorite because it’s the most adaptable. You could use it for all kinds of things, like getting the ball to a basement level of a pinball game, or if you want to be evil, set it up in the drain area and deduct points every time you lose the ball, or just use it to trigger the next ball to drop. This one would also be really good for something like Skee-Ball and would really keep the BoM cost down compared to say, IR break-beam targets or coin slot switches.
You can check out these sensors in a brief demo after the break, and then see how [TechnoChic] put these ideas to use in this winter-themed pinball machine we showed you a few weeks ago.
Google giving up on one of their projects and leaving its established userbase twisting in the wind hardly counts as news anymore. In fact, it’s become something of a meme. The search giant is notorious for tossing out ideas just to see what sticks, and while that’s occasionally earned them some huge successes, it’s also lead to plenty of heartache for anyone unlucky enough to still be using one of the stragglers when the axe falls.
So when the search giant acknowledged in early March that they would no longer be selling their Cardboard virtual reality viewer, it wasn’t exactly a shock. The exceptionally low-cost VR googles, literally made from folded cardboard, were a massive hit when they were unveiled back in 2014. But despite Google’s best efforts to introduce premium Cardboard-compatible hardware with their Daydream View headset two years later, it failed to evolve into a profitable business.
Of course if you knew where to look, the writing had been on the wall for some time. While the Daydream hardware got a second revision in 2017, and Google even introduced a certification program to ensure phones would work properly with the $100 USD headset, the device was discontinued in 2019. On the software side, Android 7 “Nougat” got baked-in VR support in 2016, but it was quietly removed by the time Android 11 was released in the fall of 2020.
With Cardboard no longer available for purchase, Google has simply made official what was already abundantly clear: they are no longer interested in phone-based virtual reality. Under normal circumstances, anyone still using the service would be forced to give it up. Just ask those who were still active on Google+ or Allo before the plug was pulled.
But this time, things are a little different. Between Google’s decision to spin it off into an open source project and the legions of third party viewers on the market, Cardboard isn’t going down without a fight. The path ahead might be different from what Google originally envisioned, but the story certainly isn’t over.
What have you been doing to ward off the winter blues? [TechnoChic] decided to lean in to winter and make a really fun-looking game out of it by combining the awesome PinBox 3000 cardboard pinball sandbox with a couple of Micro:bits to handle and display the player’s score. Check it out the build and gameplay in the video after the break.
The story of Planet Winter is a bittersweet tale: basically, a bunch of penguins got tired of climate change and left Earth en masse for a penguin paradise where it’s a winter wonderland all year round. There’s a party igloo with disco lights and everything.
[TechnoChic] used a Micro:bit plugged into a Brown Dog Gadgets board to keep track of scoring, control the servo that kicks the ball back out of the igloo, and run the blinkenlights. It sends score updates over Bluetooth to a second Micro:bit and a Pimoroni Scrollbit display that sit opposite the pinball launcher. She went through a few switch iterations before settling on conductive maker tape and isolating the ball so it only contacts the tape tracks.
There are two ways to score on Planet Winter — the blizzard at the end of the ball launcher path nets you ten points, and getting the ball in the party igloo is good for thirty. Be careful on the icy lake in the middle of the playfield, because if the ball falls through the ice, it’s gone for good, along with your points. It’s okay, though, because both the party igloo and the ice hole trigger an avalanche which releases another ball.
Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys check in on the best hacks from the past week. All the buzz is the algorithm that can reverse engineer your house keys from the way they sound going into the lock. Cardboard construction goes extreme with an RC car build that’s beyond wizard-level. Speaking of junk builds, there’s a CNC mill tipped on its side grinding out results worlds better than you expect from something made with salvaged CD-ROM drives. And a starburst character display is a clever combination of laser cutting and alternative using UV-cured resin as a diffuser.
Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!
[Kryzer Channel] takes making a DIY RC car to a whole new level with this prop-driven electric car that is made almost entirely out of cardboard (YouTube video, also embedded below.) By attaching an electric motor with a push prop to the back of the car, [Kryzer] avoids the need for any kind of drive system or gearing. Steering works normally thanks to some scratch-built linkages, but the brake solution is especially clever.
Braking is done by having a stocky servo push a reinforced stub downward, out of a hole in the center of the car. This provides friction against the road surface. After all, on an RC car a functional brake is simply not optional. Cutting the throttle and coasting to a stop works for a plane, but just won’t do for a car.
Layers of corrugated cardboard and hot glue make up the bulk of the car body, and some of the assembly techniques shown off are really slick and make the video really worth a watch. For example, the construction of the wheels (starting around 2:24) demonstrates making them almost entirely out of cardboard, saturated with CA glue for reinforcement, with a power drill acting as a makeshift lathe for trimming everything down. A section of rubber inner tube provides the tire surface and a piece of hard plastic makes a durable hub. Wraps of thread saturated in CA glue, shown here, is another technique that shows up in several places and is used in lieu of any sort of fasteners.
As time marches on and a good percentage of us are still isolating from society at large, the progress of technology isn’t kept as stagnant. Earlier this year we featured a project about a much-needed small telepresence robot with an exceptionally low barrier for entry, and with the progress of time it has received several upgrades and some crowdfunding, all while preserving its original intent of a simple and easily-operated way of keeping in contact with others.
The new robot is still based on the cardboard design that holds a smartphone and drives it around using a microcontroller platform, but thanks to its small size and low power requirement this seems to suit it nicely. Improvements over the original design include a more robust one-size-fits-all phone mount and a more refined cardboard body. Also, since the small size is a little bit of a downside when navigating anywhere that isn’t a desk or counter, the new version makes it easier to make modifications such as adding a pedestal which can elevate the phone and improve the experience of the remote driver. A number of other optional modifications are possible as well, including a grabbing arm.
While telepresence robots unfortunately are needed now more than ever, we are happy to see people like [Ross] take on projects like this which will hopefully help improve our shared situation by allowing us to have a more involved level of contact with people we would otherwise prefer to see in person. If you’d like to build your own without waiting on the crowdfunding, be sure to check out the original project we featured back in April.