Distance Learning Land

[familylovermommy] has been homeschooling her kids even before the pandemic, so she’s pretty well-versed on being a learning coach and a teacher. One of the activities she designed for her boys has them creating 3D models using Tinkercad. In the spirit of openness and cultivating freethinking, she did not give them very many constraints. But rather, gave them the liberty to creatively design whatever scene they imagined.

In the Instructable, she shares her sons’ designs along with instructions to recreate the models. The designs as you’ll see are pretty extensive, so she embedded the Tinkercad designs directly into it. You can even see a number of video showcases as well.

This is a really cool showcase of some pretty stellar workmanship. Also, maybe a bit of inspiration for some of our readers who are creating work from home activities of their own.

While you’re at it, check out some of these other work-from-home hacks.

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Fog-Free Mask Hack Solves Mask Versus Glasses Conundrum With Superb Seal

If you have worn a mask and glasses together for more than a quarter of a second, you are probably annoyed that we don’t have a magical solution for foggy lenses. Moisture-laden air is also a good indicator of where unfiltered air is escaping. Most masks have some flexible metal across the nose bridge that is supposed to seal the top, but it is woefully inadequate. The Badger Seal by [David Rothamer] and [Scott Sanders] from the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering is free to copy during the COVID-19 pandemic, even commercially. It works by running an elastic cord below the jaw and a formable wire over the nose to encourage contact all around both mouth and nose.

You can build your own in three ways. Each configuration is uniquely suited to a different situation. The first design is the easiest to make and should work for most people. The second is best for folks who need a better seal on the lower half of their face, like someone sporting a beard. It can also have ear loops, and that means your 3D printed ear savers have another use. The Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin also has fun with lock cracking and graphene experiments.
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Facing The Coronavirus

Some of us are oblivious to how often we touch our faces. The current finding is we reach for our eyes, nose, or mouth every three to four minutes. Twenty times per hour is an awful lot of poking, picking, itching, and prodding when we’re supposed to keep our hands away from glands that can transmit and receive disease. To curb this habit and enter the 2020 Hackaday Prize, [Lloyd lobo] built a proof-of-concept device that sounds the alarm when you reach for your face.

We see an Arduino Uno connected to the classic HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor, an LED, and we have to assume a USB battery pack. [Lloyd] recommends the smaller Nano, we might reach for the postage-stamp models and swap the ultrasonic module out for the much smaller laser time of flight sensor. At its soul, this is an intruder alarm. Instead of keeping siblings out of your room, you will be keeping your hands out of the area below the bill of the hat where the sensor is mounted. If you regularly lift a coffee cup to your lips, it might chastise you, and if you chew sunflower seeds, you might establish a tempo. *crunch* *chip* *beep* *crunch* *chip* *beep*

We have reviewed technology to improve our habits like a bracelet that keeps a tally, and maybe there is a book that will help shirk some suboptimal behaviors.

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Hackaday Podcast 079: Wobble Sphere, Pixelflut, Skeeter Traps, And Tracing Apps

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams gaze upon the most eye-popping projects from the past week. Who would have known that springy doorstops could be so artistic? Speaking of art, what happens if you give everyone on the network the chance to collectively paint using pixels? There as better way to catch a rat, and a dubious way to lure mosquitoes. We scratch our heads at sending code to the arctic, and Elliot takes a deep look at the contact tracing apps developed and in use throughout Europe.

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!

Direct download (~65 MB)

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COVID Tracing Apps: What Europe Has Done Right, And Wrong

Europe has been in COVID-containment mode for the last month, in contrast to the prior three months of serious lockdown. Kids went back to school, in shifts, and people went on vacation to countries with similarly low infection rates. Legoland and the zoo opened back up, capped at 1/3 capacity. Hardware stores and post offices are running “normally” once you’ve accommodated mandatory masks and 1.5 meter separations while standing in line as “normal”. To make up for the fact that half of the tables have to be left empty, most restaurants have sprawled out onto their terraces. It’s not really normal, but it’s also no longer horrible.

But even a country that’s doing very well like Germany, where I live, has a few hundred to a thousand new cases per day. If these are left to spread unchecked as before, the possibility of a second wave is very real, hence the mask-and-distance routine. The various European COVID-tracing apps were rolled out with this backdrop of a looming pandemic that’s tenuously under control. While nobody expects the apps to replace public distancing, they also stand to help if they can catch new and asymptomatic cases before they get passed on.

When Google and Apple introduced their frameworks for tracing apps, I took a technical look at them. My conclusion was that the infrastructure was sound, but that the implementation details would be where all of the dragons lay in wait. Not surprisingly, I was right!

Here’s an update on what’s happened in the first month of Europe’s experience with COVID-tracing apps. The good news is that the apps seem to be well written and based on the aforementioned solid foundation. Many, many people have installed at least one of the apps, and despite some quite serious growing pains, they seem to be mostly functioning as they should. The bad news is that, due to its privacy-preserving nature, nobody knows how many people have received warnings, or what effect, if any, the app is having on the infection rate. You certainly can’t see an “app effect” in the new daily cases rate. After a month of hard coding work and extreme public goodwill, it may be that cellphone apps just aren’t the panacea some had hoped.

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A Face Mask That’s Functional And Hacker-Certified

[splat238] needed a mask for going out in public, but wanted something that fit his personal style a bit better than the cloth masks everyone else was wearing. So, he upcycled his old airsoft mesh mask using an impressive 104 NeoPixels to create his NeoPixel LED Face Mask.

The NeoPixels are based on the popular WS2812b LEDs. These are individually addressable RGB LEDs with a pretty impressive glow. [splat238] purchased a 144 NeoPixel strip to avoid having to solder each of those 104 NeoPixels one-by-one. He cut the 144-LED strip into smaller segments to help fit the LEDs around the mask. He then soldered the power and data lines together so that he could still control the LEDs as if they were one strip and not the several segments he cut them into. He needed a pretty bulky battery pack to power the whole thing. You can imagine how much power 104 RGB LEDs would need to run. We recommend adding a battery protection circuit next time as these LEDs probably draw a hefty amount of current.

He designed his own controller board featuring an ESP8266 microcontroller. Given its sizable internal memory, the ESP8266 makes it easy to store a variety of LED patterns without worrying about running out of programming space. He’s also hoping to add some WiFi features in later revisions of his mask, so the ESP8266 is a no-brainer. Additionally, his controller board features three pushbuttons that allow him to toggle through different LED patterns on the fly.

Cool project [splat238]! Looking forward to the WiFi version.

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Quickly Mute And Unmute Yourself Using The Physical Mute Button

With many conferences moving to fully virtual this year, video conferencing will continue to be a mainstay in our lives for the foreseeable future. [Elliot] wanted to spice up his video conferencing experience just a bit and make his experience a bit more ergonomic. We’ve all had the problem of looking for our Zoom window buried behind any number of other applications, desperately searching for the mute button. Furthermore, when we get called on, we’re desperately trying to give the impression that we’ve been paying attention the entire time, even when we haven’t been.

To solve all these problems, he built a physical mute button to easily toggle the mute option on and off during Zoom calls. The device takes advantage of the native USB feature of his Digispark board, and a few built-in keyboard shortcuts in Zoom. With native USB, the Digispark board can act like a keyboard, making it really simple to emulate keyboard presses using the microcontroller. Throw in an arcade-style button and do a bit of handcrafting and you have yourself your own physical mute button.

We were really impressed by the simplicity of the design as well as the elegance of the mechanical assembly. [Elliot] even made a revamped version with a second button allowing him to control his video as well. Cool button(s) [Elliot]!

What’s your favorite work-from-home hack? Check out some of our favorites here on Hackaday.

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