Supercon Badge Hardware Hacking: Here’s What To Bring

Hackaday Superconference is just a week away (precious few tickets remain), a celebration of all things Hackaday, which naturally includes creative projects making the most of their hardware. Every attendee gets a platform for hacking in the form of the conference badge.

To make the most of your badge hacking fun, plan ahead so you will have the extra components and the tools you need. At the most basic, bring along a serial to USB cable and a PIC programmer. These are common and if you don’t own them, ask around and you will likely be able to borrow them. Now is also the time to put in a parts order for any components you want to use but don’t have on hand!

The badge is hackable without any extras, but it’s designed for adding hardware and hacking the firmware. We’re excited to see what you can do with it. We gave an overview of this retro themed pocket computer a few days ago, today we’re inviting you to exploit its potential for your hardware hacks.

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The Supercon Badge Is A Freakin’ Computer

It hangs around your neck, comes with the cost of admission, and would blow away a desktop computer from the 1980’s. This is the Hackaday Superconference badge and you can get your hands on one for the price of admission to the ultimate hardware conference.

Everyone through the door gets one of these badges featuring a 320 x 240 color display, a full qwerty keyboard, and limitless hacking potential! The stock firmware runs a BASIC interpreter, the CP/M operating system, and includes games and Easter Eggs. It’s a giant playground, and we want to see what you can do with this custom hardware during the three days of Supercon. Get your ticket now, then join me after the break for a demo video and plenty more info.

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How Big Is Your Oscilloscope? One Inch?

We are anxious to see the finished product of [Mark Omo’s] entry into our one square inch project. It is a 20 megasample per second oscilloscope that fits the form factor and includes a tiny OLED screen. We will confess that we started thinking if you could use these as replacements for panel meters or find some other excuse for it to exist. We finally realized, though, that it might not be very practical but it is undeniably cool.

There are some mockup PCB layouts, but the design appears feasible. A PIC32MZ provides the horsepower. [Mark] plans to use an interleaved mode in the chip’s converters to get 20 megasamples per second and a bandwidth of 10 MHz. It appears he’ll use DMA to drive the OLED. In addition to the OLED and the PIC, there’s a termination network and a variable gain stage and that’s about it.

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Touch-A-Sketch Gives An Old Toy A New Twist

After nearly 60 years and a lot of stairs and squares, there is finally an easier way to draw on an Etch A Sketch®. For their final project in embedded microcontroller class, [Serena, Francis, and Alejandro] implemented a motor-driven solution that takes input from a touch screen.

Curves are a breeze to draw with a stylus instead of joysticks, but it’s still a 2-D plotter and must be treated as such. The Touch-A-Sketch system relies on the toy’s stylus starting in the lower left hand corner, so all masterpieces must begin at (0,0) on the knobs and the touch screen.

The BOM for this project is minimal. A PIC32 collects the input coordinates from the touch screen and sends them to a pair of stepper motors attached to the toy’s knobs. Each motor is driven by a Darlington array that quickly required a homemade heat sink, so there’s even a hack within the hack. The team was unable to source couplers that could deal with the discrepancy between the motor and knob shaft sizes, so they ended up mounting the motors in a small plywood table and attaching them to the stock knobs with Velcro. This worked out for the better, since the Etch A Sketch® screen still has to be reset the old-fashioned way.

They also considered using belts to drive the knobs like this clock we saw a few years ago, but they wanted to circumvent slippage. Pour another glass of your aunt’s high-octane eggnog and watch Touch-A-Sketch draw something festive after the break.

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Balance Like A Mountain Goat On This Simple Stewart Platform

No goats were harmed in the making of this 3-DOF Stewart platform for [Bruce Land]’s microcontrollers course at Cornell.

If the name “Stewart platform” doesn’t ring a bell, the video below will help you out. [Team Microgoats] built a small version of the mechanical system commonly seen in flight simulators, opting for 3 DOF  to simplify the design. Their PIC32-controlled steppers can wobble and weave the table in response to inputs from an MPU-6050 six-axis accelerometer embedded in the base of a 3D-printed goat. Said goat appears to serve no other role in the build, but goats are cool, so why not? And if you’ve ever seen a mountain goat frolicking across a sheer vertical rock face like it was walking across a parking lot, you’ll understand the connection to the balance and control offered by a Stewart platform.

[Bruce Land]’s course is always a bonanza of neat projects that pop up in our tipline this time of year, like a POV box fan, a coin cell Rickrolling throwie, and a dynamometer for small electric motors.

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An Automated Ice Cream Topper For The Ultimate In Zero Effort Desserts

It’s a highly personal facet of the eating experience, the choice of topping applied to your frozen dessert. Everybody has their own preferences when it comes to whipped cream, sprinkles, and chocolate syrup. Should the maintenance of those preferences become a chore, there is a machine for that, and it comes courtesy of [Kristen Vilcans] and [Ramita Pinsuwannakub] in the form of their Cornell University project as students of [Bruce Land]. Their Automated Ice Cream Topper holds profiles for each registered user, and dispenses whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and candy sprinkles onto ice cream at the simple push of a button.

The hardware seems simple enough until you appreciate the many iterations used to ensure that it works smoothly. The bowl of ice cream sits on a motorised turntable, and a can of whipped cream is suspended above it upon rails made from kebab skewers. A servo and lever operates the can to release the cream.  Meanwhile the sprinkles come from an inverted spice jar with a motorised disc to momentary align a hole with the jar’s spout, and the chocolate syrup comes courtesy of an air pump and some plastic tubing. The whole is controlled from a PIC32 microcontroller.

It is refreshing to see that such projects do not have to tackle especially high-tech problems to be extremely successful. We could all dispense our own toppings, but now we know there’s s machine for the task, who wouldn’t want to give it a try!

If ice cream student projects are your thing, perhaps you’d like a 3D printer?

POV Display Is FAN-tastic

Persistence-of-vision displays come in all shapes and sizes. But when you get a couple of [Bruce Land’s] students involved, well let’s just say they tend to up the ante. When [Emily] and [Han] decided to make a POV display for their next class project, they did so with style. Unsatisfied with smaller displays they saw on YouTube – they decided to make a larger one out of an old box fan and a DotStar LED strip, which are similar to NeoPixels except they use SPI, which means you can update the LEDs at a much faster rate. This makes them perfect for a POV display!

As usual with projects out of Cornell’s EE class – this POV project is extremely well documented and it’s nice to see the fundamental details of a POV display explained. So be sure to check out this project if you’re rusty on the inner workings of POV displays.

We’ve seen some interesting POV displays here at Hackaday, including one strapped to a dog to display its running speed. What’s the coolest POV display you’ve seen?