The Ground Beneath Your Feet: SuperAdobe Construction

Homes in different parts of the world used to look different from each other out of necessity, built to optimize for the challenges and benefits of local climate. When residential climate control systems became commonplace that changed. Where a home in tropical south Florida once required very different building methods (and materials) compared to a home in the cold mountains of New England, essentially identical construction methods are now used for single-family homes in any climate. The result is inefficient and virtually indistinguishable housing from coast to coast, regardless of climate. As regions throughout the world are facing increasingly dire housing shortages, the race is on to find solutions that are economical and available to us right now.

The mission of CalEarth, one of the non-profits that Hackaday has teamed up with for this year’s Hackaday Prize, is to address that housing shortage by building energy-efficient homes out of materials already available in the areas that they will be built. CalEarth specializes in building adobe, or earth, homes that have a large thermal mass and an inexpensive bill of materials. Not only does this save on heating and cooling costs, but transportation costs for materials can be reduced as well. Some downside to this method of construction are increased labor costs and the necessity of geometric precision of the construction method, both of which are tackled in this two-month design challenge.

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Interactive LED Dome Glows With The Best Of Them

With the price and availability of components these days, it’s easier than ever to throw a whole pile of LEDs at a build and get them flashing away. The hard part is doing it well. [Amy Goodchild] is an artist, and has a knack for producing rather beautiful LED projects. The When in Dome installation is no exception.

The build is based around a large geodesic dome, fitted with LED panels that glow and react to the occupants inside. Using the Microsoft Kinect as a sensor enables the dome to map out what’s happening in 3D space, and use this data to guide its animations. WS2812B LED strips were used, in combination with a Fadecandy controller along with Processing. This is a powerful combination which makes designing attractive LED effects easier, without forcing users to go to the effort of writing their own libraries or optimizing their microcontroller code.

For those more interested in the dome itself, you’ll be happy to know that [Amy] doesn’t skimp on the details there either. The build actually started as a commercially available kit, though there’s still plenty of manual cutting, screwing, and painting required. She does an excellent job documenting the dome build through a series of videos, and walks the reader through some of the design decisions she made (and would remake, if given the chance).

People love geodesic domes at the best of times; adding an interactive LED installation just takes things to the next level. We’ve seen them used as greenhouses too, and they make a great hackerspace project as well. Video after the break.

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Building A Geodesic Dome Greenhouse

Greenhouses are a great way to improve conditions for your plants, and are an absolute necessity for any serious gardening in colder climates. When the time came for [gentleworks] to build a new greenhouse, rather than going with a conventional design, they decided to go with a geodesic dome instead.

The greenhouse uses a few techniques that will be unfamiliar to those used to run-of-the-mill carpentry. The individual cedar struts meet at a series of hubs, constructed out of short lengths of Schedule 80 PVC pipe. The struts are attached to the pipe with steel straps, screwed into place. This doesn’t give the strongest of holds, but as most of the loads on the struts are compressive in nature, it works well in practice. Plastic sheeting is used as a covering to help let in plenty of light while keeping the cold out. The greenhouse is also heated, and can maintain a 40 deg F temperature differential with 14,000 BTUs.

It’s a build that has us wanting to throw up a dome or two in our own backyard. We’ve seen other geodesic structures before; if you’re working on one yourself, be sure to drop us a line.

Backyard Planetarium With Magnets

If you are a Hackaday reader, you probably like space in real life, fiction, or both. A trip to a planetarium is a great treat, but what if you could have a planetarium in your backyard? [Ecasill] thought so and used a Zip Tie domes kit to create just such a thing. It takes some sewing and a projector, but there’s a problem. The dome needs to come down if there is going to be bad weather. The answer? Magnetic dowel rods.

Because the magnets are brittle, plastic dip covers them after epoxy sticks them in place. The cloth has steel bolts to adhere, too. All in, the setup cost about $2,000. That includes a projector, a mirror ball, a sound system, and all the construction.

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Geodesic Dome Build At Rev Space Den Haag

[Morphje] has always wanted to build a geodesic dome. The shape and design, and the possibility of building one with basic materials interest him. So with the help of a few friends to erect the finished dome, he set about realising his ambition by building a 9.1 metre diameter structure.

The action took place at Rev Space (Dutch language site), the hackspace in The Hague, Netherlands. [Morphje] first had to create a huge number of wooden struts, each with a piece of tube hammered down to a flat lug set in each end, and with a collar on the outside of the strut to prevent it from splitting. The action of flattening the ends of hundreds of pieces of tube is a fairly simple process if you own a hefty fly press with the correct tooling set up in it, but [Morphje] didn’t have that luxury, and had to hammer each one flat by hand.

The struts are then bolted together by those flattened tube lugs into triangular sections, and those triangles are further bolted together into the final dome. Or that’s the theory. In the video below you can see they make an aborted start assembling the dome from the outside inwards, before changing tack to assemble it from the roof downwards.

This project is still a work-in-progress, [Morphje] has only assembled the frame of the dome and it has no covering or door as yet. But it’s still a build worth following, and we look forward to seeing the finished dome at one or other of the European maker events in the summer.

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The Hackaday Prize: Thinking Really, Really Big


In case you’ve been living under a rock for a few weeks, we’re giving away a trip to space for the best, most grandiose connected hardware project. [coxrandy], a.k.a. [Phillip Cox] realized the best way to build something awesome was to think big, and his plan for building a 1km dome (yes, 1000 meters) is the most ambitious project we’ve ever seen.

The BuckyBot, as [Phil] is calling his build, relies on the ideas of the great [Buckmister Fuller] and his idea to build a huge geodesic dome covering all midtown Manhattan. [Fuller] didn’t have the resources to build a structure this large in the 1950s, and to be honest, we don’t have the resources to build it nowIt would be a ludicrous effort to build something like this one beam at a time, and [Phil] concludes that to build something this big, we need to think small.

Instead of thousand ton cranes and several thousand vehicles trucking in building supplies, [Phil]’s idea uses small “BuckyBots” – a combination 3D printer and robot – that builds one structural cell of a giant dome at a time. These BuckyBots climb around the structure, build the internal and support structure, slowly climbing to the skies on their fractal-inspired creation.

The Hackaday Prize contest will end far before [Phil]’s BuckyBots will have the ability to build a kilometer-wide dome, so the current plans are to modify his RepRap Mendel to crawl. Once that’s done, he’ll have his newly built BuckyBot build a 2 meter hemisphere in his garage. From there, construction moves to the back yard where a 10 meter dome will be built.

Even if this project never makes it past the planning stages, it’s an awesome example of thinking big, something you’re going to need if you’re trying to win a trip to space.

Fowl Accommodations Provided By Mathematics

[Anthony’s] chickens happily return to roost each night thanks to the spacious house he built for them. Sadly the geodesic dome never became the home of the future despite what the people were promised. But using a bit of unorthodox joinery you can create enclosures for your chickens or other animals in need of shelter.

The construction begins with 30 isosceles triangles and nine equilateral triangles which he cut from solid wood on a chop saw. To join the pieces he used metal banding and screws, which hold the edges close together but allow them to flex. This solved the problem of precision mitres at the edge of each wood piece. Once the dome was fully assembled he filled the joints with caulk and finished it with rubber roofing compound.

Our only question is: how’s he going to automate the door of the coop?