The global COVID-19 pandemic has kept many of us socially isolated from friends, family, and colleagues for several months at this point. But thanks to modern technology, the separation has only been in the physical sense. From job interviews to grade school book reports, many of the things we’d previously done in person are now happening online. The social distancing campaign has also shown that virtual meetups can be a viable alternative to traditional events, with several notable hacker conventions already making the leap into cyberspace.
With this in mind, we’re proud to announce HackadayU. With weekly online videos and live office hours, these online classes will help you make the most of your time in isolation by learning new skills or diving deeper into subjects with experienced instructors from all over the world. Whether you’re just curious about a topic or want to use these classes to help put yourself on a new career path, we’re here to help.
In a community like ours, where so many people already rely on self-study and tutorial videos, these four week classes are perfect for professional engineers and hobbyists alike. To make sure HackadayU is inclusive as possible, classes will be offered on a pay-as-you-wish basis: we’ll pick up the tab for the instructor’s time, and you kick in whatever you think is fair. All money collected will be donated to charities that help feed, house, and educate others. We know these are tough times, and the hope is that HackadayU can not only benefit the members of our core community, but pass on some goodwill to those who are struggling.
Classes will be rolling out through the rest of 2020, but here’s a look at some of what we’ve got planned: Continue reading “School’s In Session With HackadayU”
For modern students, the spiral notebook has given way to the laptop and the pocket calculator has been supplanted by the smart phone. We’re not just talking about high school and college, either. Today, the education of even grade school children is intrinsically linked with technology. While some might question the wisdom of moving away from the pencil and pad at such a young age, there’s little question that all the kids stuck at home right now due to COVID-19 would have had a much harder time transitioning to remote learning otherwise.
But that certainly wasn’t the case when Advanced Keyboard Technologies released the Writer in 2003. Back then, five years before the first netbooks hit the market, you’d be hard pressed to find a laptop cheap enough to give to a grade school student. In comparison, these small electronic word processors could be purchased for as little as $150. Not only was the initial price low, but the maintenance costs were almost negligible. They ran for hundreds of hours on a standard AA batteries, and didn’t require schools to have any IT staff to manage them. Sure they couldn’t get on the Internet or even run any software, but they would give students a chance to hone their keyboarding skills. Continue reading “Teardown: The Writer Word Processor”
Augmented reality (AR) in the classroom has garnered a bit of interest over the years, but given the increased need for remote and virtual learning these days, it might be worth taking a closer look at what AR can offer. Purdue University’s C Design Lab thinks they’ve found a solution in their Meta-AR platform. The program allows an instructor to monitor each student’s work in real-time without being in the same classroom as the student. Not only that, but the platform allows students to collaborate in real-time with each other giving each other tips and feedback while also being able to interact with each other’s work, no matter where they may be physically located.
What we find really cool is the real-time feedback the software provides to the students. The system can sense what the students are touching and can help students in their given task, providing real-time feedback on what they are doing, how things should fit together, and what type of outcomes the students can expect given their trajectory. It also appears the system isn’t limited to AR markers but provides a very expansive toolbox for instructors and students to build on. C Design Lab is doing quite a bit of user feedback studies, continually incorporating input from students to further the platform. That’s definitely critical to ensuring the system is user-friendly.
We can easily see how something like this might scale to an industrial setting for training people how to use complex machinery, to a medical school to help prepare students to do surgery or to help develop molecular diagnostics tools. Check out the other learning tools C Design Lab is developing.
Moore’s law may have reached its physical limit for transistor density, but plenty of other technologies are still on that familiar path of getting smaller and smaller as time passes. It looks like LIDAR is no exception to this trend either. This project from [Owen] shows a fully-functional LIDAR system for about $20 and built almost entirely on top of an ESP32.
The build uses a Time-Of-Flight IR laser range sensor controlled by the ESP32, and the sensor is much smaller than even the ESP32’s footprint so it takes up very little extra space. To get it to function as a LIDAR system instead of just a simple rangefinder it does need a motor in order to rotate itself to see its entire space. Besides its small form factor and low cost, it also has a handy user interface that can run anywhere an HTML5 browser can run, making the use of the system easy and straightforward as well. All of the code is available on the project’s GitHub page.
We wouldn’t expect a system like this to be driving an autonomous car anytime soon, it’s update rate is far too slow, but its intent for small robots and even as an educational demo for learning LIDAR is second to none. If you do need a little more power in a LIDAR system but still don’t want to break the bank, we featured this impressive setup a few weeks ago.
The ARM series of processors are an industry standard of sorts for a vast array of applications. Virtually anything requiring good power or heat management, or any embedded system which needs more computing power than an 8-bit microcontroller is a place where an ARM is likely found. While they do appear in various personal computers and laptops, [Pieter] felt that their documentation for embedded processors wasn’t quite as straightforward as it could be and created this development board which will hopefully help newbies to ARM learn the environment more easily.
Called the PX-HER0, it’s an ARM development board with an STM32 at its core and a small screen built in. The real work went in to the documentation for this board, though. Since it’s supposed to be a way to become more proficient in the platform, [Pieter] has gone to great lengths to make sure that all the hardware, software, and documentation are easily accessible. It also comes with the Command Line Interpreter (CLI) App which allows a user to operate the device in a Unix-like environment. The Arduino IDE is also available for use with some PX-HER0-specific examples.
[Pieter] has been around before, too. The CLI is based on work he did previously which gave an Arduino a Unix-like shell as well. Moving that to the STM32 is a useful tool to have for this board, and as a bonus everything is open source and available on his site including the hardware schematics and code.
We wish we had met [Mr. Mueller] when we were in high school. After 20 years as a digital design engineer, he decided to teach a digital electronics class at the high school level at LASA high school in Austin, Texas. He’s been doing it for seven years and has made his course material available via Google Docs.
Don’t let the high school level fool you. Topics range from simple electronics to Spice. There’s coverage of discrete devices, oscilloscopes, and Arduinos. There’s plenty of digital logic, of course, and a simple 16-bit microprocessor, too. There are labs for FPGAs using Verilog and talks about ARM. It’s pretty comprehensive and we wonder if they can really cram all this into a single school year. One thing we saw that caught our eye was the simulation of a transistor using Play-Doh. Turns out it isn’t an electrical simulation, but a simulation of how photolithography creates transistors. Still good stuff.
This would be great for teaching students of pretty much any age, even if you took only parts of it. It would also be worthwhile for self-study. We know how much work it takes to put something like this together, and we can’t commend [Mr. Mueller] and the LASA high school enough for making it available to everyone.
There is more and more course material out there at all levels and we think that’s a great thing. If you need something for a younger set, try a blindfold.
If you wanted to learn about creating modern computer games, 3DBuzz had some of the best tutorials around. In fact, some of the tutorials about C#, C++, Android, and math would be useful for anyone, while the ones about game art and modeling in Maya are probably mostly for game developers. While these were once available only by subscription, the company — now defunct — has left them available for download via this BitTorrent file.
We don’t know enough about things like Blender and Maya to evaluate the material, but it is well regarded and the ones we do know something about seem very high quality. There are, for example, many videos about C++ and C# that are very professional and cover quite a few topics.
Continue reading “3DBuzz Closes With A Final Gift”