Dynamic Map Of Italy On A PCB

While most PCBs stick to tried-and-true methods of passing electrons through their layers of carefully-etched copper, modern construction methods allow for a large degree of customization of most aspects of these boards. From solder mask to number of layers, and even the shape of the board itself, everything is open for artistic license and experimentation now. [Luca] shows off some of these features with his PCB which acts as a live map of Italy.

The PCB is cut out in the shape of the famous boot, with an LED strategically placed in each of 20 regions in the country. This turns the PCB into a map with the RGB LEDs having the ability to be programmed to show any data that one might want. It’s powered by a Wemos D1 Mini (based on an ESP8266) which makes programming it straightforward. [Luca] has some sample programs which fetch live data from various sources, with it currently gathering daily COVID infection rates reported for each of the 20 regions.

The ability to turn a seemingly boring way to easily attach electronic parts together into a work of art without needing too much specialized equipment is a fantastic development in PCBs. We’ve seen them turned into full-color art installations with all the mask colors available, too, so the possibilities for interesting-looking (as well as interesting-behaving) circuits are really opening up.

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Nessie, The Educational Robot

At the Lifelong Learning Robotics Laboratory at the Erasmo Da Rotterdam in Italy, robots are (not surprisingly) used to teach all of the fundamentals of robotics. [Alessandro Rossetti] and the students at the lab have been at it for years now, and have finally finished their fifth generation of a robot called Nessie. The big idea is to help teach fundamentals of programming and electronics by building something that actually uses these principles.

The robot is largely 3D printed and uses an FPGA to interact with the physical world through a set of motors and sensors. The robot also uses a Raspberry Pi to hold the robot’s framework. The robot manages the sensors in hardware with readers attached to the CPU AXI bus. The CPU reads their values from memory space, though, so the robot is reported to be quite quick.

The lab is hoping to take their robot to a robotics competition in Bari, Italy. We hope that they perform well there, since we are big fans of any robot that’s designed to teach anyone about robotics and programming. After all, there are robots that help teach STEM in Africa, robots that teach teen girls about robots, and robots that teach everyone.

Italian Law Changed By The Hackaday Prize

A recent change in Italian law was spurred by the Hackaday Prize. The old law restricted non-Italian companies from hosting contests in the country. With the update Italian citizens are now welcome to compete for the 2015 Hackaday Prize which will award $500,000 in prizes.

We’ve heard very few complaints about the Hackaday Prize. When we do, it’s almost always because there are some countries excluded from participation. We’ve tried very hard to include as much of the globe as possible, some countries simply must be excluded due to local laws regarding contests. The folks from Make in Italy saw last year’s offer of a Trip into Space or $196,418 and set out to get the local laws changed (translated). Happily they succeeded!

The Make in Italy Foundation was started to encourage and support FabLabs in Italy. After seeing two major Hacker and Maker oriented contests — The 2014 Hackaday Prize and the Intel Make it Wearable contest — exclude Italian citizens from entering. Their two prong approach sought out legal counsel and started a petition on Change.org signed by about 1.8k supporters.

We’ve been holding off on the announcement as we needed our own legal opinion on the change (we’re not great at understanding Italian legal PDFs without some help). But today we have removed Italy from the list of excluded countries. Submit your entry today just by writing down your idea of a build which will solve a problem faced by a large number of people. Build something that matters and you could win a Trip into Space, $100,000 for the ‘Best Product’, or hundreds of other prizes. But we’re not waiting until the end, over the next 17 weeks we’ll be giving out $50k in prizes to hundreds of entries.

[Thanks Alessandro]


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