THP Hacker Bio: Neil Jansen

If we were running a contest to give away a trip to space for building the most innovative open hardware project a few years ago, the winner would inevitably be a 3D printer. Times have changed, 3D printing is reaching the limits of what can be done with simple plastic extrusion, and there are new hardware challenges to be conquered. One of the challenges facing hardware designers is the ability to create and assemble electronic circuits quickly. For that, there are a few pick and place machines being developed, the lowest cost being the FirePick Delta. It sells itself as a $300 pick and place machine borrowing heavily from the RepRap project, enabling tinkerers and engineers to assemble PCBs quickly.

[Neil Jansen] is the project lead for the FirePick Delta, and along with team members ranging from software developers in the bay area, to electronics technicians and high school students, they’ve created what will become the lowest cost and most capable pick and place machine available. Already the machine has tape feeders, tray feeders, a vision system, and modules to dispense solder paste. It’s an astonishing accomplishment, and were it not for some damage in shipping, we would have a video of [Neil] demoing the FirePick at Maker Faire NY.

In lieu of that, we do have a bio on [Neil] and what challenges he’s faced in building the FirePick. You can read that below, or check out their second demo video for The Hackaday Prize:

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THP Hacker Bio: IamTeknik

[IamTeknik]’s reason for entering his home automation assistant into The Hackaday Prize is simple; we have smart phones, TVs, and even smart cars. Why not a smart house?

Like its namesake from Iron Man, Project Jarvis is an intelligent assistant with a bit of home automation thrown into the mix. The hardware includes the usual relays and door locks, but that’s just the start of it. There’s also a personal digital assistant, living somewhere in the space between the hardware modules and [IamTeknik]’s smartphone. Here, voice recognition, speech synthesis, and a Siri-like functionality is the name of the game. Jarvis is capable of answering questions, compiling reports, reading social network messages, and automating everything connected to the main base station over the Internet.

[IamTeknic] has been busy studying computer systems engineering and of course working on his project for The Hackaday Prize lately, but he was able to sit down and answer a few questions for our THP hacker bio. You can check that out below, along with a few demos of what his personal Jarvis can do.

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THP Hacker Bio: AKA

Thermal imaging cameras are the new hotness when it comes building DIY tools that are much less expensive than their commercial counterparts. [Mike Harrison] built a very high-resolution version from Flir’s Lepton module, but an IR temperature sensor and a servo can also create a decent image. [AKA] played around with some of these thermal imaging modules, but found them a little hard to interface. Panasonic’s Grid-EYE module, however is reasonably cheap as far as thermal imaging devices go, and can be read over an I2C bus.

[AKA]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize, the GRID-EYE Thermal Camera is one of two Prize entries that survived the great culling and made it into the quarterfinalist round. [AKA] was kind enough to sit down and do a short little interview/bio with us, available below.

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THP Hacker Bio: Peter McCloud

By far one of the craziest entries for The Hackaday Prize is [Peter McCloud]’s Goliath, an enormous gas-powered quadcopter. It weighs about 240 pounds, is powered by a 30 horsepower v-twin lawnmower engine, is lifted into the air with homemade props milled on a CNC machine. It’s a frightening build even when the engine isn’t turning. When running, it’s an awesome display of power and technology.

Goliath has had a few setbacks of late, snapping two composite props in its first attempt at hovering. This hasn’t deterred [Peter]; he’s picking up the pieces and he’ll have this monstrous quad hovering in a week or two. A good thing, because the judges are paring the quarterfinalists just three weekends from now.

Check out [Peter]’s bio below.

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THP Hacker Bio: John Costik

A surprising amount of entries for The Hackaday Prize are medical devices, and the regulatory problems associated with that domain. [John Costik]’s Diabetes Data, Everywhere is one of the few projects that is perfect for a world where the words ‘hack’ and ‘FDA’ simply cannot be found in the same sentence.

[John]’s son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a very young age, and very early [John], his family, and the school nurse have had to deal with the nearly innumerable tasks that type 1 diabetes management entails. A Dexcom continuous glucose monitor is a big help, providing a wealth of glucose logging in a small, wearable device.

This monitor, however, is relatively locked down; the stock device is unable to push data to the Internet. [John] reverse engineered the protocol for this glucose monitor, enabling [John] to monitor his son’s blood glucose levels from anywhere on the planet.

There’s a huge community of people waiting for the technological advancements of the last thirty years, like the Internet and portable, networked devices, to make it into medical devices. [John]’s project has already gotten a bit of local news coverage, and is a perfect example of expanding the capabilities of existing devices to make his and his family’s life more convenient.

Bio/interview below.

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THP Hacker Bio: Michael R Colton

With many hackers out there realizing how much you can do with a few RF blocks connected to a computer, it’s no surprise software defined radio would make a showing in the semifinalists for The Hackaday Prize. [Michael]’s project is the PortableSDR, a small, self-contained unit that handles just about everything below 30MHz. No, [Michael] isn’t dealing with gigahertz accessible with fancier SDRs, but that’s not the point: PortableSDR is meant to do everything – vector analysis, a neat waterfall display, transmit and receive – in a small, portable package you can take anywhere. It’s also fairly cheap to build, and of course completely open source.

This isn’t [Michael]’s first rodeo; he’s built a number of equally cool projects before. He was kind enough to send in a short bio, available below.

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THP Hacker Bio: Rusty Jehangir

[Rusty]’s project for the Hackaday Prize is extremely ambitious. He’s planning on sending an autonomous craft across the ocean, from LA to Hawaii, a distance that will end up being well over 2,500 miles The best part about this project? It’s already had some time in the ocean, cruising off the coast of southern California under its own power for a distance of 20km.

Why is [Rusty] doing this? Partly because he wanted to do something no one had ever done before. For him, this meant developing a cheap underwater thruster, building an autonomous solar-powered surfboard for a months-long voyage halfway across the Pacific. It’s a small step to the goal of exploring the deep ocean with his thruster and mostly off the shelf parts, but already [Rusty] has learned a lot about electronics in a marine environment and being confident enough to let a project go on its own for months at a time.

Interview below.

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