Where You Are Influences What You Invent

[Timon] just bought a new PCB holder setup for his desk. It’s one of those spring-loaded jobbies that uses strong magnets to hold it up off of a work surface, and is made of metal so that you can reflow solder with it. It might be a clone of the PCBite, but frankly I’ve seen similar projects everywhere — it’s hard to say who is copying whom these days. And anyway, that’s not the point.

What struck me about the holders was their tops: they’re repurposed 3D printer nozzles. That’s a fantastic idea because they’re non-magnetic, heat tolerant, relatively uniform, and probably dirt cheap in Shenzhen, where the designer of this board almost certainly lives. Maybe he or she even works in a 3D printer factory? Who knows? But the designer almost certainly looked around for something that would fit the bill, and found the nozzles.

Indeed, there’s been a lot of innovation in all things board-holding coming out of China over the last decade. I can remember when the state of the art was a vise-like affair. (I still like my homebrew Stickvise clone for low, square jobs.)

But with cell phone repairs requiring the ability to hold and reflow ever stranger board shapes, there’s been a flourishing of repositionable holders. The pawn-pillar designs are cool, but their utility rests firmly in how strong the magnets are. (I wouldn’t buy the one linked, for instance, without trying it first-hand.) I really like the look of these jobbies, which have springs to maintain tension. (Will the 3D-printed plastic jaws hold up to multiple reflows?) Anyway, it’s no coincidence that the inventors of these devices are in the cellphone-repair capital of the universe.

The old saying is that necessity is the mother of invention. But what if, like with real estate, it’s location, location, location? You dream up solutions to problems around you, using parts that you’ve got on-hand. If that sounds a little fatalistic, consider that you can also change your surroundings, either physical or even virtual. Are you in the middle of the right challenges and opportunities?

Harnessing Your Creativity Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, November 18th at noon Pacific for the Harnessing Your Creativity Hack Chat with Leo Fernekes!

(Note: this Hack Chat was rescheduled from 10/14/2020.)

You’re sitting at your bench, surrounded by the tools of the trade — meters and scopes, power supplies and hand tools, and a well-stocked parts bin. Your breadboard is ready, your fingers are itching to build, and you’ve got everything you need to get started, but — nothing happens. Something is missing, and if you’re like many of us, it’s the one thing you can’t get from eBay or Amazon: the creative spark that makes innovation happen.

Creativity is one of those things that’s difficult to describe, and is often noticed most when it’s absent. Hardware hacking requires great buckets of creativity, and it’s not always possible to count on it being there exactly when it’s called for. It would be great if you could somehow reduce creativity to practice and making it something as easy to source for every project as any other commodity.

While Leo Fernekes hasn’t exactly commoditized creativity, judging from the breadth of projects on his YouTube channel, he’s got a pretty good system for turning ideas into creations. We’ve featured a few of his builds on our pages, like a discrete transistor digital clock, the last continuity tester you’ll ever need, and his somewhat unconventional breadboarding techniques. Leo’s not afraid to fail and share the lessons learned, either.

His projects, though, aren’t the whole story here: it’s his process that we’re going to discuss. Leo joins us for this Hack Chat to poke at the creative process and see what can be done to remain rigorous and systematic in your approach but still make the process creative and flexible. Join us with your questions about finding the inspiration you need to turn parts and skills into finished projects that really innovate.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, November 18 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones baffle you as much as us, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Continue reading “Harnessing Your Creativity Hack Chat”

Add Creativity To Your BOM: Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, October 14th at noon Pacific for the Harnessing Your Creativity Hack Chat with Leo Fernekes!

You’re sitting at your bench, surrounded by the tools of the trade — meters and scopes, power supplies and hand tools, and a well-stocked parts bin. Your breadboard is ready, your fingers are itching to build, and you’ve got everything you need to get started, but — nothing happens. Something is missing, and if you’re like many of us, it’s the one thing you can’t get from eBay or Amazon: the creative spark that makes innovation happen.

Creativity is one of those things that’s difficult to describe, and is often noticed most when it’s absent. Hardware hacking requires great buckets of creativity, and it’s not always possible to count on it being there exactly when it’s called for. It would be great if you could somehow reduce creativity to practice and making it something as easy to source for every project as any other commodity.

While Leo Fernekes hasn’t exactly commoditized creativity, judging from the breadth of projects on his YouTube channel, he’s got a pretty good system for turning ideas into creations. We’ve featured a few of his builds on our pages, like a discrete transistor digital clock, the last continuity tester you’ll ever need, and his somewhat unconventional breadboarding techniques. Leo’s not afraid to fail and share the lessons learned, either.

His projects, though, aren’t the whole story here: it’s his process that we’re going to discuss. Leo joins us for this Hack Chat to poke at the creative process and see what can be done to remain rigorous and systematic in your approach but still make the process creative and flexible. Join us with your questions about finding the inspiration you need to turn parts and skills into finished projects that really innovate.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, October 14 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones baffle you as much as us, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Continue reading “Add Creativity To Your BOM: Hack Chat”

Cerebral Palsy Tool Assistant

We all deserve to create. Some people seem to have the muses hidden in their pocket, but everyone benefits when they express themselves in their chose art form. Each of us has tools, from Dremels to paintbrushes, and many folks here build their own implements. Even if we don’t have our macro-enabled mechanical keyboard or a dual-extrusion printer, we can make due. But what if you couldn’t operate your drill, or mouse, or even a pencil? To us, that would be excruciating and is the reality for some. [Laura Roth] and [Christopher Sweeney] are art teachers designing a tool holder for their students with cerebral palsy so that they can express themselves independently.

On either side of this banner image, you can see pencil drawings from [Sara], who has spastic cerebral palsy. She made these drawings while wearing the tool holder modeled after her hand. Now, that design serves other students and is part of the 2020 Hackaday Prize. The tool holder wraps around the wrist like a wide bracelet. Ribbing keeps its shape, and a tube accepts cylindrical objects, like pencils, styluses, and paintbrushes.The result is that the tip of the pencil is not far from where it would have been if held in the hand, but this sidesteps issues with grip and fine control in hands and fingers.

The print is available as an STL and should be printed with flexible filament to ensure it’s comfortable to wear. Be mindful of digital styluses which may need something conductive between the barrel and user.

Hackers are familiar with the challenges of cerebral palsy, and we’ve enjoyed seeing a variety of solutions over the years like door openers, camera gimbals, and just being altogether supportive.

M-CLE: Hacked Smart Cycle

smartcycle

M-CLE, described as ” a physical learning environment in which synergistic artificial intelligence through the use of robots(creative agents) is employed to  embellish the creativity of the child”, looks like a pretty fun toy. For those of you who haven’t figured out what it does from that quote, it is a toy that kids ride on to control a robot. That robot draws on the floor while other robots interact with it using AI. This is all made to “embellish” the child’s creative work.

To control the robot, a child rides on a Fischer Price Smart Cycle. The factory electronics were replaced with an ATMEGA168. A wireless transmitter connects to the robot, which is also powered by an ATMEGA168. While one robot is controlled by the child, the others are packed with sensors to allow them to interact with it. They use touch, ultrasonic ping detectors, and IR line detectors. You can see it all in action in the video summary.

The design is interesting, everything is bright and colorful, and the shark fins on the robots are a nice touch. We have to wonder though, with a toy to ride on, a robot to control, and 3 other robots to watch in wonder, is the child going to be too distracted to be very creative?