The Modding, Restoration, And Demise Of A $3M Analog Computer

How do you rapidly record the output from your three million dollar analog computer in the 1940s when the results are only available on analog meters? The team responsible for the Westinghouse 1947 AC Network Calculator at Georgia Tech was faced with just this problem and came up with a nifty solution — hack the control panel and wire in a special-purpose drafting table.

What Is It?

What is this beast of a computer? Machines of this type were developed during and after World War 2, and strictly speaking, belong in the category of scale models rather than true computers. Although these machines were very flexible, they were primarily designed to simulate power distribution grids. There is a lot of theory under the hood, but basically a real world, multi-phase distribution system would be scaled to single-phase at 400 Hz for modeling.

The engineers would “program” the machine by connecting together the appropriate circuit elements (like capacitors, inductors, transmission lines, generators, etc.) on big patch panels. Thus programmed, a 10 kW motor-generator located in the basement would be started up and the simulation was underway. Continue reading “The Modding, Restoration, And Demise Of A $3M Analog Computer”

Adventures In Hackerspacing: GA Tech’s Invention Studio

We feature hacker/makerspaces of all kinds here at Hackaday, and these days, encountering a hackerspace at a college or university isn’t uncommon. School-backed spaces are often mildly impressive, too, with plenty of room and better-than-most equipment.

Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio, however, is different. This space is nothing short of staggering.

Once you’ve walked past the wall of commercial-grade 3D printers lining the entryway, you’ll find yourself in the Electro-lounge, a general meeting and hangout room with some basic tools. Each room beyond has a specific purpose, and is packed full of equipment. We aren’t just going on a tour, though, because this is Adventures in Hackerspacing. Click through the break for a behind-the-scenes look at how this hackerspace provides a top-rate experience for its makers and how Invention Studio thrives with an entirely student-run leadership.

Continue reading “Adventures In Hackerspacing: GA Tech’s Invention Studio”

Biological-inspired Robotic Eye Movements

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a biologically inspired system to control cameras on board robots that simulate the Saccadic optokinetic system of the human eye. Its similarity to the muscular system of the human eye is uncanny.

Joshua Schultz, a Ph.D candidate, says that this system has been made possible in part to piezoelectric cellular actuator technology. Thanks to the actuators developed in their laboratory it is now possible to capture many of the characteristics associated with muscles of the human eye and its cellular structure.

The expectation is that the piezoelectric system could be used for future MRI-based surgery, furthering our ability to research and rehabilitate the human eye.

[via engadget]

Robots Listen Only To The Leader When Building A Roving Quadcopter Landing Pad

Swarm robotics is really starting to produce some interesting results. This image is from the video embedded after the break that show a group of five robots creating a landing platform for a quadrotor helicopter. The four that actually make up the platform are not in contact with each other, but instead following commands from the leader. We’re impressed by the helicopter’s ability to target and land on the moving platform. Takeoff appears to be another issue, as the platform bots stop moving until the quadcopter is airborne again.

These robots are part of a Graduate project at Georgia Tech. [Ted Macdonald] has been working along with others to implement an organizational algorithm that guides the swarm. The method requires that the robots have an overview of the location of all others in the swarm. This is done with high-speed cameras like we’ve seen in other robotic control projects. But that doesn’t discourage us. If you already have a flying robot as part of the swarm, you might as well add a few more to serve as the eyes in the sky.

Continue reading “Robots Listen Only To The Leader When Building A Roving Quadcopter Landing Pad”