Improved Outdoor Solar Harvester Now Handles All The Parts

[Vadim Panov]’s 3D printed solar harvester is in effect a rechargeable outdoor battery, and the real challenge he faced when designing it was having it handle the outdoors reliably. The good news is that part is solved, and his newest design is now also flexible enough to handle a variety of common and economical components such as different battery connectors, charge controllers, and solar panel sizes. All that’s left is to set it up using the GoPro-style mounting clamp and let it soak up those solar rays.

We saw his first version earlier this year, which uses inventive and low-cost solutions for weatherproofing like coating the 3D print with epoxy (the new version makes this easier and less messy, by the way.) It was a fine design, but only worked with one specific solar panel size and one specific configuration of parts. His newest version makes a few mechanical improvements and accommodates a wide variety of different components and solar panel sizes. The CAD files are all available on the GitHub repository but he’s conveniently provided STL files for about a dozen common sizes.

When it comes to harvesting light, staying indoors offers less power but requires a far less rugged setup. If that interests you, be sure to check out the Tiny Solar Energy Module (TSEM) which can scrape up even indoor light.

Miss Nothing With A Hacked 360 Degree Camera Trap

Camera traps are a very common tool in wildlife conservation and research, but placing and pointing them correctly can be a bit of a guessing game. Something very interesting could happen just out of frame and you’d be none the wiser. The [Andrew Quitmeyer] and [Danielle Hoogendijk] at DINALABS (Digital Naturalism Laboratories) in Panama are experimenting with hacked consumer 360° cameras to help solve problem.

The project is called Panatrap and looks very promising. They’ve done very detailed testing with a number of different 360° cameras, and have built functional prototypes with the Xiaomi Misphere and Ricoh Theta V. The Xiaomi had some handy contacts on the bottom of the camera for its selfie stick interface (simply a resistor and button), which allowed full control of the camera. An Arduino compatible board waits for the motion detected signal from a PIR sensor which then sends the required command to the camera to wake-up and take footage. The Ricoh was slightly more challenging, but they discovered that the camera will wake up if an emulated keyboard command is received over it’s USB port from a Teensy. Triggering is then done by a servo pushing against the camera’s button. Everything is housed in a laser cut acrylic case to help it survive the wet jungle. If anyone knows how to hack the Samsung Gear camera to work, the team is keen to hear from you!

All the work is open sourced, with build details and hardware designs available on the project page and software up on Github. Check out some cool 360° test footage after the break with some local wildlife. We are looking forward to more footage! Continue reading “Miss Nothing With A Hacked 360 Degree Camera Trap”

Gorgeous Engineering Inside Wheels Of A Robotic Trail Buddy

Robots are great in general, and [taylor] is currently working on something a bit unusual: a 3D printed explorer robot to autonomously follow outdoor trails, named Rover. Rover is still under development, and [taylor] recently completed the drive system and body designs, all shared via OnShape.

Rover has 3D printed 4.3:1 reduction planetary gearboxes embedded into each wheel, with off the shelf bearings and brushless motors. A Raspberry Pi sits in the driver’s seat, and the goal is to use a version of NVIDA’s TrailNet framework for GPS-free navigation of paths. As a result, [taylor] hopes to end up with a robotic “trail buddy” that can be made with off-the-shelf components and 3D printed parts.

Moving the motors and gearboxes into the wheels themselves makes for a very small main body to the robot, and it’s more than a bit strange to see the wheel spinning opposite to the wheel’s hub. Check out the video showcasing the latest development of the wheels, embedded below.

Continue reading “Gorgeous Engineering Inside Wheels Of A Robotic Trail Buddy”