Hackaday Prize 2022: Solar Harvesting Is Better With Big Capacitors

The sun is a great source of energy, delivering in the realm of 1000 watts per square meter on a nice clear day. [Jasper Sikken] has developed many projects that take advantage of this power over the years, and has just completed his latest solar harvesting module for powering microcontroller projects.

The concept is simple. A small solar panel is used to charge up a lithium ion capacitor (LIC), which can then be used to power other projects. We first saw this project last year, when it was one of the winners of Hackaday’s 2021 Earth Day contest. Back then, it was only capable of dishing out 80 mA at 2.2V.

However, the latest version ups the ante considerably, delivering up to 400 mA at 3.3V. This opens up new possibilities, allowing the module to power projects using technologies like Bluetooth, WiFi and LTE that require more current to operate. It relies on a giant 250 F capacitor to store energy, and a AEM10941 solar energy harvesting chip to get the most energy possible out of a panel using Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT).

It’s a useful thing to have for projects that you’d like to run off the sun, and you can score one off Tindie if you don’t want to build your own. We’ve seen [Jasper] pull off other neat solar-powered projects before, too. Video after the break.

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Remoticon 2021 // Jay Bowles Dips Into The Plasmaverse

Every hacker out there is familiar with the zaps and sizzles of the Tesla coil, or the crash and thunder of lighting strikes on our hallowed Earth. These phenomena all involve the physics of plasma, a subject near and dear to Jay Bowles’s heart. Thus, he graced Remoticon 2021 with a enlightening talk taking us on a Dip Into the Plasmaverse.

Jay’s passion for the topic is obvious, having fallen in love with high voltage physics as a teenager. He appreciated how tangible the science was, whether it’s the glow of neon lighting or the heating magic of the common microwave. His talk covers the experiments and science that he’s studied over the past 17 years and in the course of running his Plasma Channel YouTube channel. Continue reading “Remoticon 2021 // Jay Bowles Dips Into The Plasmaverse”

The Weirdest Hack

I was on the FLOSS podcast (for the Episode of the Beast no less!) and we were talking all about Hackaday. One of the hosts, secretly Hackaday’s own Jonathan Bennett in disguise, asked me what the weirdest hack I’d ever seen on Hackaday was. Weird?!?!

I was caught like a deer in headlights. None of our hacks are weird! Or maybe all of them are? I dunno, it certainly depends on your perspective. Is it weird to build a box that makes periodic meowing noises to hid in a friend’s closet? Is it weird to design new and interesting wheels for acrobats to roll themselves around in? Is it weird to want a rainbow-colored USB DIP switch? Is it weird that these are all posts from the last week?

OK, maybe we are a little bit weird. But that’s the way we like it. Keep it weird and wonderful, Hackaday. You’ve got enough normal stuff to do eight hours a day!

Mike Szczys at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference

Today Is My Last Day At Hackaday; Thanks For All The Hacks!

I have decided to make a career move and have accepted a position as Developer Relations Engineer at Golioth.io. I’m happy to announce that Elliot Williams will be the next Editor in Chief of Hackaday.

Right now I’m in my 13th year at Hackaday, having started in the summer of 2009. But like all of the Hackaday writing crew, I began as a loyal reader of the site. I remember hearing about Hackaday when Kevin Rose mentioned in on an episode of the old CNET TV program The Screensavers early in 2005. Having already been building robots and just starting on 8-bit AVR microcontrollers, Hackaday was exactly the source of new and interesting projects I was looking for.

Remember when all Hackaday photos looked like this? This one is actually the first time I had a project featured on the site!

An enormous amount has changed since then. When I started as a writer we had just stopped using black and white photos. A few articles later, we removed the CSS that forced all articles to be lowercase. When I became head editor in 2013 we stopped calling it Hack a Day in favor of Hackaday, and about a year later we overhauled the site, moving from green-on-black to yellow-on black and expanding the 470 pixel content width to 800. Progress.

What hasn’t changed is how we stay fresh. Hackaday has always trusted our writers to guide us by following their own interests. The people who write for Hackaday have far better things to do, but they use their writing as a creative outlet to focus on leveling up their skills, to discover new uses of available technology, and to share that energy with the greater Hackaday community. They live all over the world and work in many different fields. These experiences come together in there collective writings. I’m lucky to have this great group of writers, and so are you. When their time has ended, the hope is that a new group of readers will step up to the plate and make sure the good times never end.

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How Best To Get Your Project On Hackaday

We’re blessed to have such a great community at Hackaday. Our tipline often overfloweth with all manner of projects and builds of all stripes. We see it all here, from beginners just starting out with their first Arduino to diehard hackers executing daringly complex builds in their downtime, and everything in between.

If you’re sitting there in the grandstands, watching in awe, you might wonder what it takes to grace these hallowed black pages. In life, nothing is guaranteed, but I’ve been specially authorised to share with you a few tips that can maximise your chances of seeing your project on Hackaday.

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Hackaday Passes 1,000,000 Comments

For just over sixteen years we’ve been publishing fresh hacks every day. We’ve just passed another milestone: the one millionth Hackaday comment was made just a few minutes ago.

A million of anything is impressive, but it’s not the sheer volume that’s on my mind today, but how time and again I’m gobsmacked by the insightful comments I find on these pages, and the people who put them there. We find leads for futures stories, answers to unknowns voiced in the articles, and have conversations with thousands of people whose paths we never would have crossed otherwise.

Not a week goes by that I don’t lose myself in a comment thread, usually taking me down the rabbit hole of exploring a bit of technology previously hidden to me but revealed by a few words. How many Hackaday articles were spawned by someone posting just the right link in the comment section?

Too often the people who moved the world with interesting technologies move through their careers and beyond without anyone to really tell their stories to, and those are some of the best stories from the people working with the tech on a daily basis for decades. But then we publish an article that puts a spotlight on their corner of knowledge and we get to hear how it was from their perspective. It’s so gratifying to get these moments of insight on who and what have kept humanity’s relay-race of science forward.

So thank you! Keep those comments and those stories coming!

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Skylight In Any Room

Despite a glut of introvert memes, humans need sunlight. If vitamin D isn’t your concern, the sun is a powerful heater, and it helps plants grow. Sadly for [mime], their house is not positioned well to capture all those yummy sunbeams. Luckily for us, their entry into the 2020 Hackaday Prize is their sun-tracking apparatus that redirects those powerful rays throughout the house. It uses a couple of mirrors to redirect the light around their shed and into the house. For those who work in a dim office, no amount of work is too great for a peek of natural sunlight.

Movie spoiler alert: We saw this trick in the 1985 movie Legend and it was enough to vanquish the Lord of Darkness.

This project started in 2014 and sat on hiatus for more than five years, but it is back and prime for improvements fueled by half-a-decade of experience. The parts that aren’t likely to change are the threaded struts that adjust the positioning mirror’s angle, the driving motors, and power circuitry. Their first plan was to build a solar-powered controller with an Arduino, DC motors, and sun telemetry data, but now they’re leaning toward stepper motors and a computer in the house with a long cable. They are a finalist this year, so we will keep our eyes peeled for further development.