Giant Connect Four Pits You Against the Computer

You can build a Connect Four solver in software, but it won’t be all that much fun. Now apply that same automation to a 15-foot-tall plywood version of the classic board game and you’ve just created a smile-making-machine for everyone within eyesight. Behold the Mono-Purpose Automated Robot Versed In Connnect4 (Marvin) which Ben and Jonathan dreamed up on their way home from Maker Faire last year, and made into their exhibit this year.

On the physical side of things they got really creative in lifting the discs and sorting them into the column chosen by the software brain of the game. A chain travels along one side with fingers every few feet. The fingers travel along the channel, lifting the discs. Those fingers are a couple of bolts, with some metal filler, all epoxied into one solid unit.

At the top of the disc elevator, and at the top position of each column in the gaming board, there are IR reflectance sensors which send feedback to the Arduino that drives the hardware. This proved a major issue during setup the day before the Faire. The reflectance sensors are just blasting out IR and not using a carrier signal. In direct sunlight, the detector was in a constant state of being tripped. After some trial and error, the logic for the sensors was flipped to detect the absence of sunlight by placing black plastic behind that top row of the board and putting duct tape over the IR emittors.

There’s a router and laptop rolled into the system. The Arduino makes an HTTP request to software on the laptop. In addition to determining where the next move should be made, the laptop is connected to a large screen which shows the current state of the gaming board. This is a head-to-head, human versus machine game. The human player drops their discs from the top of the board using a paint roller that hooks into a hole at the center of the disc. This way the player’s disc passes by the sensors, triggering the machine’s next move.

It’s a clever build and due to the sheer size it’s pretty awesome they were able to get it to the Faire from Philadelphia. Don’t miss the video after the break that shows off the fun and excitement of this gaming giant.

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Putting More Tech Into More Hands: The Robin Hoods of Hackaday Prize

Many different projects started with the same thought: “That’s really expensive… I wonder if I could build my own for less.” Success is rewarded with satisfaction on top of the money saved, but true hacker heroes share their work so that others can build their own as well. We are happy to recognize such generosity with the Hackaday Prize [Robinhood] achievement.

Achievements are a new addition to our Hackaday Prize, running in parallel with our existing judging and rewards process. Achievements are a way for us to shower recognition and fame upon creators who demonstrate what we appreciate from our community.

Fortunately there is no requirement to steal from the rich to unlock our [Robinhood] achievement, it’s enough to give away fruits of price-reduction labor. And unlocking an achievement does not affect a project’s standings in the challenges, so some of these creators will still collect coveted awards. The list of projects that have unlocked the [Robinhood] achievement will continue to grow as the Hackaday Prize progresses, check back regularly to see the latest additions!

In the meantime, let’s look at a few notable examples that have already made the list:

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CalClock Keeps You Tied To The Mast

Now that most of what we do revolves around our phones and/or the internet, it’s nearly impossible to take a short break from work to check the ol’ calendar without being lured by the sirens on the shore of social media. Well, [samvanhook] was tired of being drawn in when all he really needs is a vague idea of what’s coming up for him in the next 12 hours. Enter the CalClock.

Thanks to color-coded segments, [sam] can tell at a glance if he has something coming up soon in Google Calendar, or if he can dive back into work. When nothing is scheduled, the segments are simply unlit.

We love the mid-century minimal look and craftsmanship of CalClock. This beauty runs on a Raspi Zero W, which fetches the 411 through the gooCal API and lights up the appropriate NeoPixels arrayed behind standard clock movement-driven hands.  [sam] could have diffused the NeoPixels with a single sheet of acrylic, but he went the extra mile to route and sand little acrylic ice cubes for all 24 segments.

Want more control of your day? [sam] took the time to upload both the clock face model and the code so you can. If you need help just getting started each day, check out this calendar-polling Raspi alarm clock.

DIY Scrap Guitar Really Shreds

[Keith Decent] recently got himself involved in a plywood challenge, and decided to make a single-pickup electric guitar. Since he is a prolific hoarder of scrap wood, the result is a lovely stack of laminates from many sources, including reclaimed cabinet doors. Really though, the wood is just the beginning—nearly every piece of this texture-rich axe started life as something else.

He’s made a cigar box guitar before, but never a bona fide solid-body electric. As you might guess, he learned quite a bit in the process. [Keith] opted for a neck-through design instead of bolting one on and using a truss rod. The face pieces are cut from his old bench top, which has a unique topology thanks to several years of paint, glue, and other character-building ingredients.

We love the geometric inlay [Keith] made for the pick guard, and the fact that he used an offcut from the process as a floating bridge. He also made his own pickup from bolts, an old folding rule, and reclaimed magnet wire from discarded wall wart transformers. Once he routed out the body and installed the electronics, [Keith] cut up an old painting he’d done on plywood to use as the back panel. Our only complaint about this beautiful guitar is that he didn’t design the back piece to be dinosaur side out. Shred past the break to give her a listen.

[Keith] wound his pickup with a little help from a drill, but a DIY pickup winder might have caused him less grief.

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This Dust Collector Will Blow You Away.

As [Marius Hornberger] was working in his woodshop, a thunderous bang suddenly rocked the space. A brief search revealed the blower for the dust collector had shifted several inches despite being stoutly fastened down. Turns out, the blower had blown itself up when one of the impeller fins came loose. Time to revise and build a bigger, better dust collector!

[Hornberger] is thorough in describing his process, the video series chronicles where he went astray in his original design and how he’s gone about improving on those elements. For instance, the original impeller had six fins which meant fewer points to bear the operating stresses as well as producing an occasionally uncomfortable drone. MDF wasn’t an ideal material choice here either, contributing to the failure of the part.

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The End of the Candy Rainbow

About a decade ago [Windell Oskay] and [Lenore Edman] spun out of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories to work on CandyFab, an inexpensive 3D printer that used sugar as its medium. Wondering what happened to CandyFab? It’s been nearly that long since we last wrote about their work and Maker technology has moved on; nowadays 3D printers run the gamut from very inexpensive to production ready. The CandyFab project and nascent company are now shuttered, but there is a epilogue with some interesting lessons.

The CandyFab 6000

First of all, the saga of the CandyFab series of printers (above on the same page) is worth a read. Some of what these machines were capable of is still quite impressive by modern standards. Sure your Monoprice Mini Delta may be easy to use, fully assembled, functional when you take it out of the box, and quiet. But what if you need to print something up to 8.5″ x 11″ x 17″? The CandyFab 5000 can do that. Or even a humongous 24″ x 13.5″ x 9″? The CandyFab 4000 can do it, and for a measly $37 (if you printed a solid cube exactly the size of the build volume)! Sugar may have downsides but it’s still a pretty clever medium for some uses.

CandyFab credits the rise of MakerBot coupled with the complexity of iterating from a pile of “surplus junk” (their words) to something kitable. Reading their post-mortem brings to mind familiar problems from today’s hardware world. A spike of fantastic early publicity lead to the need to handle press while rapidly iterating from the aforementioned surplus parts to a reliable and manufacturable design. Then the complexity of balancing a day job and other side projects with the prospect of CandyFab as a business. Ultimately the need for the project in the first place (accessible inexpensive 3D printers) was alleviated by the market and the project came to a graceful close.

Give the post a read, we’re sure you’ll learn something!

A Plywood Laptop For Your Raspberry Pi

[Rory Johnson] writes in to tell us about PlyTop Shell, a Creative Commons licensed design for a laser cut wooden laptop that he’s been working on since 2016. It’s designed to accommodate the Raspberry Pi (or other similarly sized SBCs), and aims to provide the builder with a completely customizable mobile computer. He’s got a limited run of the PlyTop up for sale currently, but if you’ve got the necessary equipment, you can start building yours while you wait for that new Pi 3B+ to arrive.

Originally [Rory] was working on a 3D printed design, but quickly ran into problems. The vast majority of 3D printers don’t have nearly the build volume to print out a laptop case in one shot, so the design needed to be broken up into multiple smaller pieces and then grafted together into the final case. Not only did this take a long time and a lot of material, but the final result had the rather unfortunate appearance of a plastic quilt.

Eventually he got hooked up with a maker collective in Minneapolis that had a laser cutter, and the PlyTop was born. There’s still a 3D printed component in the design that goes in the screen hinge, but the rest of the PlyTop is cut out of a three 2′ x 4′ sheets of 1/8″ Baltic birch plywood. As you might expect, plenty of fasteners are required, but [Rory] has a complete Bill of Materials (complete with purchase links) for everything you’ll need to turn the cut pieces into a fully fledged laptop. He’s considering selling kits in the future, but is still working on the logistics.

In keeping with the idea of complete flexibility, there’s no defined layout for the internals of the PlyTop. Rather, there’s an array of star-shaped openings on the bottom plate that allow the builder to connect hardware components up in whatever way works for them. [Rory] actually suggests just holding everything down with zip ties to allow for ease of tinkering.

He’s also come up with a list of suggested hardware for the keyboard, touchpad, and display; but those are really just suggestions. The design is open enough that it shouldn’t take much work to adapt to whatever gear you’ve got laying around.

Of course, this isn’t the first open source laptop we’ve seen here at Hackaday. It isn’t even the first wooden one. But we love the lines of the PlyTop and the focus on complete customization.

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