The Illuminated Waterways of the United States

A recent convert to the ways of the laser cutter, redditor [i-made-a-thing] was in want of a project and — stumbling on some waterways maps on Etsy — launched into fabricating an illuminated map of all the waterways in the United States.

The map itself was laser-cut out of 1/4 inch plywood at his local makerspace. Thing is, smaller rivers and tributaries were too narrow at the scale [i-made-a-thing] wanted, so he ended up spending several hours in Photoshop preparing the image so larger rivers would be laser-cut — and not break off– while the rest would be etched onto the surface. After testing the process by making a few coasters, he was ready to get started on the real deal.

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Manhattan Marauder’s Map

If you solemnly swear that you are up to no good, and you happen to spend most of your time in Manhattan below the mid-90s, then you will appreciate this Raspberry Pi-based Manhattan Marauder’s Map.

Not that a Harry Potter-themed map was necessarily [GawkyFuse]’s intention when creating this interesting build; it’s just that the old-time print of Manhattan — it shows Welfare Island in the East River, which was renamed Roosevelt Island in 1971 — lends a nice vintage feel to the build. Printed on plain paper, the map overlays a 64×32-LED matrix, which is driven by a matrix HAT riding atop the Pi 3.

[GawkyFuse] uses the OwnTracks app on his and his wife’s iPhone to report their locations back to CloudMQTT. The Pi subscribes to the broker and updates his location in red and her location in blue as they move about the city; a romantic touch is showing a single purple dot when they’re together. There’s no word on what’s displayed when either leaves the map area, but the 2048-pixel display offers a lot of possibilities.

We’ve seen a Weasley clock or two around these parts before, but strangely no Marauder’s Maps like this one. Although this Austrian tram-tracking map comes pretty close to [GawkyFuse]’s nice design.

[via r/raspberry_pi]

Pokemon Go – Bot Edition

A wild Python appeared, and it wants to play Pokemon Go. Python bots are taking over the game when you can’t, and they are good. Since you’re likely to bump into one sooner or later, here’s an overview:

One of the first workable bots and the origin of a lot of (dirty) code, as well as the (not dirty at all) Pokemon Trainer Club client secret, is [Mila432’s] Pokemon Go Bot. One of his initial goals was to make better sense of the API, which worked out better than he hoped.

Not wanting to impetuously destroy the numerous helpful applications that had been built upon the already partially known API, he decided to keep the project off Niantic’s radar. The most recent (and most powerful) version of his bot has not been released. The current version works fine within its limited functionality: Wandering around and looting Pokestops.

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LEDs Turn This Paper Map into a Tram Tracker

Public transit can be a wonderful thing. It can also be annoying if the trains are running behind schedule. These days, many public transit systems are connected to the Internet. This means you can check if your train will be on time at any moment using a computer or smart phone. [Christoph] wanted to take this concept one step further for the Devlol hackerspace is Linz, Austria, so he built himself an electronic tracking system (Google translate).

[Christoph] started with a printed paper map of the train system. This was placed inside what began as an ordinary picture frame. Then, [Christoph] strung together a series of BulletPixel2 LEDs in parallel. The BulletPixel2 LEDs are 8mm tri-color LEDs that also contain a small controller chip. This allows them to be controlled serially using just one wire. It’s similar to having an RGB LED strip, minus the actual strip. [Christoph] used 50 LEDs when all was said and done. The LEDs were mounted into the photo frame along the three main train lines; red, green, and blue. The color of the LED obviously corresponds to the color of the train line.

The train location data is pulled from the Internet using a Raspberry Pi. The information must be pulled constantly in order to keep the map accurate and up to date. The Raspberry Pi then communicates with an Arduino Uno, which is used to actually control the string of LEDs. The electronics can all be hidden behind the photo frame, out of sight. The final product is a slick “radar” for the local train system.

Preserve history and dispose of asbestos

If you’ve ever visited Gettysburg, the turning point of the American Civil War, you’ve probably seen this illuminated topographical map. For years, it was housed in one of the many visitor centers in Gettysburg and demonstrated the progress of the 3-day battle with an amazing 1960s-era visualization using a 30 foot by 30 foot topographical map and many, many light bulbs. Even the coolest museum exhibits are eventually made obsolete, so this masterpiece of battlefield education is now up for sale. The starting price for this auction? Five dollars.

We’re going to be honest. We talked about using Hackaday’s influence (and funding to buy toys such as an AR Drone and the Oculus Rift) to put a project together to save this gigantic map. It’s got everything we love in a large-scale project: giant things weighing several tons, cool representations of data, and vintage electronics. Really, restoring this map is the perfect project for any (very) ambitious hacker. It also helps I live a half hour away from Gettysburg.

There’s a problem, though: the map is literally covered in asbestos. Also, it takes up four shipping containers and weighs 12 and a half tons. Basically, you’re bidding on a GSA auction to be responsible for a hazardous waste disposal project.

Now that our dreams of doing something really cool with five dollars have come crashing down, we’re turning it over to Hackaday readers. If you run an asbestos disposal company and are around South Central PA or Maryland, there may be some people who want to get in touch with you. Drop a note in the comments.

Really, we’d really just like someone to scan this 30-foot square map with a Kinect and a high-resolution camera, and maybe get our hands on a video of the hourly show when this map was still in operation. It should be possible to dig up some topographical data and replicate this map fairly easily… maybe someone should start a Kickstarter to build a smaller, non-asbestos laden copy?

Pressure mapping sensor mat

[imsolidstate] built his own pressure sensitive mat. It utilizes two discs of copper clad board with a piece of foam in between for each of 64 sensors. As the foam gets compressed, the capacitance between the two pieces of copper changes, a measurement that is fairly easy to make with an analog to digital converter. The mat is being used to measure how well a horse saddle fits the animal. Data is read in through a serial port and then mapped using Excel. This prototype proves that the concept works but [imsolidstate] mentions that there’s room to improve the sensitivity and that there could be more noise filtering incorporated into the design.

Harry Potter Marauders map realized


After reading about cheap wireless for microcontrollers, [Leigh] left a comment about his Marauders map. Much like the Harry Potter version, whoever holds the ‘map’ is able to see the location of the ‘marauders’ within certain bounds. Unlike the magical version however, each person being tracked needs to hold a PICAXE 08M, GPS, and 433.92MHz transmitter: while the map needs a computer running his Python script and a receiver of the same frequency. It has the potential for locating people, but we feel it might be better off in a swarm robotics setup.