Coin Cell Challenge: Use Coin Cell, Win Prizes

Today, we’re calling all hackers to do the most with a single coin cell. It’s the Coin Cell Challenge, and we’re looking for everything from the most low-power electronics to a supernova in a button cell battery.

Electronics are sucking down fewer and fewer amps every year. Low power is the future, and we’re wondering how far we can push the capabilities of those tiny discs full of power. The Coin Cell Challenge is your chance to plumb the depths of what can be done with the humble coin cell.

This is a contest, and as with the tradition of the Open 7400 Logic Competition and the recent Flashing Light Prize, we want to see what the community can come up with. The idea is simple: do something cool with a single coin cell and you’ll secure your fifteen minutes of fame and win a prize.

Three Challenges

To kick this contest off, we’re opening up three challenges to all contenders to the world heavyweight champion of button cell exploits. The first, the Lifetime Award, will go to whoever can run something interesting the longest amount of time on a coin cell. The Supernova Award is the opposite – what is the most exciting thing you can do with a button cell battery, lifetime be damned? The Heavy Lifting Award will go to the project that is the most unbelievable. If you think you can’t do that with a coin cell battery — lifting a piano or starting a car, for example — odds are you probably can. We want to see it.

Prizes and Rules

All Hackaday hardware hacking challenges need prizes, and for this one, we’re rolling out the red carpet. We’re offering up cash prizes for the top coin cell hacks. There are three $500 USD cash prizes, one for each winner of the Lifetime, Supernova, and Heavy Lifting awards. We’re not stopping there, because the top twenty builds overall will each receive $100 in Tindie credit, where the winners can cash in on some artisanal electronics sold by the people who design them.

What do you have to do to get in on this action? First, you need to build something. This something must be powered by nothing more than a single coin cell battery and must include some type of electronics. We also want this to be Open Source, and you’ll need to start a project on hackaday.io. The full rules are available over here, but don’t wait — the deadline for entry is January 8th, 2018.

We’re excited to see what the community comes up with, and who will find a production coin cell that’s the size of a dinner plate. This is going to be a great contest with overheating coin cells and tiny bits of metal flying across the room. This is going to be a contest filled with blinkies and wireless devices that run for far, far too long. Someone is going to misread the rules and tape together a meter tall pile of coin cells. It’s going to be awesome, so start your project now.

Real-Life Electronic Neurons

All the kids down at Stanford are talking about neural nets. Whether this is due to the actual utility of neural nets or because all those kids were born after AI’s last death in the mid-80s is anyone’s guess, but there is one significant drawback to this tiny subset of machine intelligence: it’s a complete abstraction. Nothing called a ‘neural net’ is actually like a nervous system, there are no dendrites or axions and you can’t learn how to do logic by connecting neurons together.

NeruroBytes is not a strange platform for neural nets. It’s physical neurons, rendered in PCBs and Molex connectors. Now, finally, it’s a Kickstarter project, and one of the more exciting educational electronic projects we’ve ever seen.

Regular Hackaday readers should be very familiar with NeuroBytes. It began as a project for the Hackaday Prize all the way back in 2015. There, it was recognized as a finalist for the Best Product, Since then, the team behind NeuroBytes have received an NHS grant, they’re certified Open Source Hardware through OSHWA, and there are now enough NeuroBytes to recreate the connectome of a flatworm. It’s doubtful the team actually has enough patience to recreate the brain of even the simplest organism, but is already an impressive feat.

The highlights of the NeuroBytes Kickstarter include seven different types of neurons for different sensory systems, kits to test the patellar reflex, and what is probably most interesting to the Hackaday crowd, a Braitenberg Vehicle chassis, meant to test the ideas set forth in Valentino Braitenberg’s book, Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology. If that book doesn’t sound familiar, BEAM robots probably do; that’s where the idea for BEAM robots came from.

It’s been a long, long journey for [Zach] and the other creators of NeuroBytes to get to this point. It’s great that this project is now finally in the wild, and we can’t wait to see what comes of it. Hopefully a full flatworm connectome.

Hack Together A Whack-A-Mole In A Box!

Here’s a project that you can throw together in an afternoon, provided you have the parts on hand, and is certain to entertain. Hackaday.io user [SunFounder] walks us through the process of transforming a humble cardboard box into a whack-a-mole game might be just the ticket to pound out some stress or captivate any children in the vicinity.

A multi-control board and nine arcade buttons are the critical pieces of hardware here, with wires and a USB cable rounding out  the rest of the electronics. Separate the button core from the upper shell, mounting the shell in the box, and connect the button core’s LED cathode to the button’s ON terminal. Repeat eight times. Solder the buttons in parallel and add some more wire to the buttons’ ON terminals to extend their reach. Repeat eight more times.

Place the finished LED+cores into the buttons and connect their ON terminals to their respective buttons on the multi control board. Now for the hard step: use a mini-USB to USB cable to connect the controller to a computer you want to use to run the game’s code in the Arduino IDE. Modify the key-mappings and away you go! Check out the build video after the break.

Continue reading “Hack Together A Whack-A-Mole In A Box!”

brdMaker, a DIY Pick and Place Machine

A small, desktop pick and place machine has obvious applications for hackerspaces, small companies, and even home labs. However, despite multiple efforts, no one has come up with a solution that’s both better and cheaper than buying a used, obsolete pick and place machine. [Mika]’s brdMaker is yet another attempt at a desktop chipshooter, and while the prototype isn’t done yet, it’s a fantastic build that might soon be found in your local electronics lab.

The easy part of any pick and place machine is a Cartesian frame. This has been done over and over again by the 3D printing and CNC communities, and the brdMaker is no exception. [Mika]’s robot is a 600 by 600 mm CNC frame powered by NEMA 23 motors. So far, so good.

The tricky part of a pick and place machine is working with the fiddly bits. This means feeders and machine vision. There are several different options for feeders including a ‘drag’ feeder that uses the vacuum nozzle tip to move a reel of parts along, and a slightly more complicated but vastly more professional feeder. A machine needs to see the parts it’s putting down, so [Mika] is using two cameras. One of these cameras is mounted on the toolhead and looks surprisingly similar to a USB microscope. The other camera is mounted in the frame of the machine to look at the bottom of a part. This camera uses 96 LEDs to illuminate the component and find its orientation.

[Mika]’s brdMaker still has a long way to go, but there are indications the market is ready for a cheap, easy to use desktop pick and place machine. The Chipsetter, an exquisitely designed pick and place machine revealed at last year’s NY Maker Faire had an unsuccessful Kickstarter, but they’re still chugging along.

The Improved Luggable PC

There are exactly two types of personal computers available today. If you need a lot of horsepower, a powerful GPU, or a full-power CPU, you’re going to end up with a desktop. If you need something portable, you’re getting a laptop with a wimpy CPU and an underpowered GPU. Historically, there has been a third type of PC, the luggable. The luggable is a desktop PC crammed into a case that makes it slightly more portable than a desktop and a monitor.  You cannot buy a luggable PC case right now. They simply do not exist as a commercial product you can shove your own hardware into. This is a form factor an entire industry forgot.

Now there’s a DIY luggable PC. This project from [Roger] packs a standard ATX motherboard, a full-size GPU, a full-size power supply, and everything else that makes a desktop PC powerful into a case that can be stored in an overhead bin.

[Roger] has been working on this project for a while, and it was featured on Hackaday back when it looked like a RepRap Mendel. There have been some significant improvements over the earlier iterations of this project, including a very, very cool hinge mechanism that allows the display to fold in when the computer isn’t being used. It’s a mechanical wonder that prevents scratches. Neat. The rest of the case is constructed out of 2020 aluminum extrusion, and about a one kilogram spool of filament.

Since this is a portable case, there are a few compromises. There are no 5.25″ bays, no 3.5″ bays, and few 2.5″ bays. M.2 SSDs and USB-powered CD drives exist, so this isn’t a big deal.

This is a truly fantastic case in a form factor you can’t buy anywhere else. If you have a spare monitor and a bit of extrusion sitting around, this is one to build yourself.

Hackaday.io User Reviews Six STM32 IDEs

One of the issues with getting started with any Arm-based project is picking a toolset. Some of us here just use the command line with our favorite editor, but we know that doesn’t suit many people–they want a modern IDE. But which one to choose? User [Wassim] faced this problem, evaluated six different options for STM32 and was kind enough to document his findings over on Hackaday.io.

Many of the tools are Windows-only and at least two of them are not totally free, but it is still a good list with some great observations. Of course, the choice of an IDE is a highly personal thing, but just having a good list is a great start.

Continue reading “Hackaday.io User Reviews Six STM32 IDEs”

Hackaday.io Passes 200,000 Registered Users

Hackaday.io just welcomed the 200,000th registered user! We are the world’s largest repository of open hardware projects and Hackaday.io is proving its worth as the world’s most vibrant technology community. This is where you go to get inspiration for your next project, to get help fleshing out your product ideas, to build your engineering dream team, and to tell the tales of the workbench whether that be success, failure, or anything in between.

Over the past six months, as we’ve grown from the 150k member milestone to this one, our movement has enjoyed ever-increasing interaction among this amazing group of people. Thank you for spending so much time here and making Hackaday.io a great place for everyone!

Hack Chat Bring Experts from Many Fields

bunnie03-01It’s always great when you can watch a conference talk or interview online. But if you weren’t there in person the opportunity for meaningful interaction has already passed. With this in mind, we’ve been inviting experts from numerous fields to host discussions live in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat room.

This is a great way to further our goal of forming a global virtual hackerspace. It’s common to have talks and workshops at a hackerspace, where you can not only learn from and ask questions of the person leading the event, but meet others who share your interests. This has happened time and again with recent guests including Bunnie Huang who talked about making and breaking hardware, a group of Adafruit engineers who discussed their work extending the MicroPython libraries, Sprite_tm who covered the continuing development of ESP32 support, and many more.

This Friday at Noon PST Hackaday’s own Jenny List will be leading the Hack Chat on RF Product design. See you there!

Amazing Projects

It’s pretty amazing to see a guide on building a smartphone for $50 in parts. If that exists anywhere, it’s probably on Hackaday.io — and it’s actually pushing about 80,000 views so far! Arsenijs is a regular around these parts and his ZeroPhone — a 2G communications device based on the Raspberry Pi Zero — is a project that he’s been updating as his prototype-to-production journey progresses. It has a big team behind it and we can’t wait to see where this one goes.

zerophone-thumbWorking on your own is still a great way to learn and we see all kinds of examples of that. Just4Fun is learning the dark arts that went into early personal computing with a $4 project to build a Z80 system on a breadboard.

We revel in the joy of seeing great hardware art come to life. FlipFrame is a great example; it’s a digital picture frame project that goes far beyond that simple description. It rotates the entire screen to fit the layout of the image while showing off all of the hardware that makes this possible rather than hiding it away inside a case.

In addition to our registered users milestone, we’re just about to pass our 20,000th published project. There are so many projects to celebrate and draw inspiration from, and that collection grows every day!

The Rise of Build Contests

This winter we’ve seen a ton of interest in the build contests hosted on Hackaday.io. Of course, nothing can compare to the reach of the Hackaday Prize, our worldwide engineering initiative that challenges people to Build Something That Matters. The 2016 winners were announced in November; even so, people have been tripping over themselves to get a project built for the numerous contests we’ve hosted since then.

enlightenpiOf note is the 1 kB Challenge — a contest dreamed up by our own Adam Fabio which challenged entrants to build an embedded project whose compiled code was 1 kB or less. It was a joy to dive into the entries for this and it will certainly return again.

Running right now is the revival of my favorite build contest: the Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest. Bring your favorite Sci-Fi tech to life — it just needs to be recognizable from a book, movie, or TV show and include some type of electronics.

Meet Your Friends in Real Life

Some of my closest friends in life were first met online. But eventually, you just want to hang out in the same room. This is becoming more and more common with Hackaday.io. In November we celebrated our second Hackaday SuperConferece where hundreds of people who love hardware creation gathered in Los Angeles for two days of amazing talks, workshops, and hands-on hacking challenges. This is a good one to add to your calendar but tickets do sell out so consider some other options.

We have regular meetups in LA and New York. If you are ever traveling there, make sure to look up the schedule and see if it can be part of your trip. Perhaps the most interesting was World Create Day. In 2016, we had 80 groups across the world plan meetups on the same day so that the Hackaday community could hang out in real life. We’re not ready to share the details quite yet, but you should plan for that to happen again this year. Something to look forward to!