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.
For the average person, a government order to shelter in place or stay at home comes with some adjustments. Many changes are cerebral: we navigate vast expanses of togetherness with our families while figuring out how to balance work, life, and newfound teaching roles. Other changes are physical, like giving each other enough space to be successful. A lucky few can say that not much has changed for them personally. No matter what your position is in this thing, if you have a place to shelter, you’re doing better than 20% of the world’s population.
An estimated 1.6 billion people, including those who are homeless and those who are refugees, are living without adequate shelter. The need for shelter is a cornerstone of human well-being, and yet building a home for oneself can seem totally out of reach. After all, most people aren’t qualified to build a habitable structure without an architect, an engineer or two, and a team of construction workers with heavy equipment. Or are they?
It all depends on the design and materials. Dome structures have been around for centuries, and the idea of using packed earth to build walls is a tried and true concept. Architect Nader Khalili perfected a blend of the two concepts with his SuperAdobe construction system, which employs long sandbags filled with moistened earth. Khalili opened the California Institute of Earth Architecture (CalEarth) in 1991 to explore the possibilities of SuperAdobe and to educate others in the building process.
I grew up among the poor. I am one of nine children, and constantly knew need. I never forgot, so now I’m responding. — Nader Khalili
This year, the Hackaday Prize is teaming up with CalEarth to push their widely accessible concept of sustainable living into the future. As with our other three non-profits, this effort is twofold. The open call challenge invites you to design sustainable add-ons for SuperAdobe homes that expand their livability and are simple to build and use. Throughout June and July, our CalEarth Dream Team members are working to find ways to automate the process so that these homes can be built much faster, and in turn help more people.
With the June solstice right around the corner, it’s a perfect time to witness first hand the effects of Earth’s axial tilt on the day’s length above and beyond 60 degrees latitude. But if you can’t make it there, or otherwise prefer a more regular, less deprived sleep pattern, you can always resort to simulations to demonstrate the phenomenon. [SimonRob] for example built a clock with a real time rotating model of Earth to visualize its exposure to the sun over the year.
The daily rotating cycle, as well as Earth’s rotation within one year, are simulated with a hand painted plastic ball attached to a rotating axis and mounted on a rotating plate. The hand painting was done with a neat trick; placing printed slivers of an atlas inside the transparent orb to serve as guides. Movement for both axes are driven by a pair of stepper motors and a ring of LEDs in the same diameter as the Earth model is used to represent the Sun. You can of course wait a whole year to observe it all in real time, or then make use of a set of buttons that lets you fast forward and reverse time.
Terrestrial globes are almost a thing of the past in an era of Google Earth, but they can still be an exciting object worth hacking together, as [Ivan Miranda] shows with his glow-in-the-dark globe. It’s a globe, it’s a display, and it’s a great use of glow in the dark filament.
For the mechanical part of this build, [Miranda] used glow in the dark filament to 3D print a sphere and a reinforcing ring that hides inside. A threaded rod through the middle secured with screws and bearings make an appropriate spindle, and is attached to a stepper motor in the 3D printed stand. So far, it’s a sphere made of glowey plastic. Where’s the ‘globe’ part coming from?
To project a globe onto this sphere, [Miranda] used a strip of WS2812B LEDs stuck to the inside of the stand’s arc are programmed to selectively illuminate the globe as it rotates on its axis. After a brief hiccup with getting the proper power supply, he was ready to test out his new….. giant light ball.
It turns out, the filament was a bit more transparent than he was expecting so he had to pull it all apart and cover the interior with aluminium tape. [Miranda] also took the chance to clean up the wiring, code, and upgrade to a Teensy 3.1 before another test.
Despite the resulting continental projection being upside-down, it worked! [Miranda] added a USB cable before he closed it up again in case he wanted to reprogram it and display anynumber of imagesdown the line.
While Mars is currently under close scrutiny by NASA and other space agencies, there is still a lot of exploring to do here on Earth. But if you would like to explore a corner of our own planet in the same way NASA that explores Mars, it’s possible to send your own rover to a place and have it send back pictures and data for you, rather than go there yourself. This is what [Norbert Heinz]’s Earth Explorer robots do, and anyone can drive any of the robots to explore whatever locations they happen to be in.
A major goal of the Earth Explorer robot is to be easy to ship. This is a smaller version of the same problem the Mars rovers have: how to get the most into a robot while having as little mass as possible. The weight is kept to under 500g, and the length, width, and height to no more than 90cm combined. This is easy to do with some toy cars modified to carry a Raspberry Pi, a camera, and some radios and sensors. After that, the robots only need an interesting place to go and an Internet connection to communicate with Mission Control.
[Norbert] is currently looking for volunteers to host some of these robots, so if you’re interested head on over to the project page and get started. If you’d just like to drive the robots, though, you can also get your rover fix there as well. It’s an interesting project that will both get people interested in exploring Earth and in robotics all at the same time. And, if you’d like to take the rover concept beyond simple exploration, there are other machines that can take care of the same planet they explore.
This somewhat odd-looking apparatus is being used to measure earth’s rotation. At the heart of the system is a PlayStation Move controller, used because of its dual-axis gyroscope which has the highest dynamic range compared to other available products like the Wii Motion Plus. It rests on a column perched atop a record player that was chosen because of its precision rotation rate. The two rings that flank the controller make up a Helmholtz coil which is used to cancel out the earth’s magnetic field which was found to be interfering with measurements taken by the Move controller. By recording data over time the experimenter can prove that the earth is indeed rotating, as well as ascertain longitude data and find true north. Check out the data-packed video after the break.