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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Tiny $25 Spectrometer Aims to Identify Materials with Ease

Reflectance spectrometers work on a simple principle: different things reflect different wavelengths in different amounts, and because similar materials do this similarly, the measurements can be used as a kind of fingerprint or signature. By measuring how much of which wavelengths get absorbed or reflected by a thing and comparing to other signatures, it’s possible to identify what that thing is made of. This process depends heavily on how accurately measurements can be made, so the sensors are an important part.

[Kris Winer] aims to make this happen with the Compact, $25 Spectrometer entry for The 2018 Hackaday Prize. The project takes advantage of smaller and smarter spectral sensors to fit the essential bits onto a PCB that’s less than an inch square. If the sensors do the job as expected then that’s a big part of the functionality of a reflectance spectrometer contained in a PCB less than an inch square and under $25; definitely a feat we’re happy to see.

Self-balancing Arduino does it without an IMU

The miniscule size of this self-balancing robot makes it a cool project. It actually uses the motor and wheels from a small toy car. But when you look into how the balancing act is performed it gets way more interesting. The larger versions of this trick pretty much all use Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) which are usually made up of an accelerometer and a gyroscopic sensor. This has neither.

The black PCB seen to the right of the robot is an IR reflectance sensor. It shines an IR led at the floor and picks up what reflects back. [Sean] added this hack because the gyro sensor he ordered hasn’t arrived yet. The board has a trimpot which is used to adjust the sensitivity. You have to tweak it until it stands on its own. See for yourself after the break.

Self balancing robot builds are a great way to teach yourself about Proportional-Integral-Derivate (PID) algorithms used in a lot of these projects.

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Paper ROM

This low-resolution memory device packs in just a few bytes of data. But it’s enough to spell out [Michael Kohn’s] name. He’s been experimenting with using paper discs for data storage.

His technique becomes immediately clear when you view the demo video below. The disc spins multiple times with the sensor arm reading one track. This gives the system the chance to measure the black band in order to get the data timing figured out. Once the outer track has been read the servo controlling the read head swings it to the next until all of the data is captured.

An Arduino is monitoring the QTR-1RC reflectance sensor which makes up the reading head. It uses the black band width in order to establish the size of an individual byte. Interestingly enough, the white parts of the disc do not contain data. Digital 0 is a black area 1/4 the width of the large black strip, and digital 1 is half as wide.

[Michael’s] set up the generator which makes the discs so that he can easily increase the resolution. The limiting factor is what the reading hardware is able to detect.

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A longboard speed and distance computer


Why should cyclists have all of the fancy toys? Bicycle computers are very common these days but you won’t find similar hardware for skateboards and longboards. [KobraX22] isn’t taking it lying down. He built this speed and distance computer for his longboard. It doesn’t use very many components and should be easy to install.

The device monitors the rotation of one of the wheels by mounting a reflectance sensor on one of the trucks. It points toward the inside of a wheel which has a piece of black tape on it. Every time the tape passes it prevents the IR led from reflecting back at its paired receiver. This lets the Arduino count the revolutions, which are then paired with the wheel diameter to calculate speed as well as distance traveled. Of course the wheels wear down over time to so frequent riders will have to take new measurements at regular intervals.

[KobraX22] went with a QRB1114 sensor. It costs less than $2 and doesn’t require him to embed a magnet in the wheel like a hall effect sensor setup would have. It also shouldn’t interfere with any other fancy wheel hacks you’ve done, like adding a POV display.

[via Reddit]

Counting bees

This is the bee counter which [Hydronics] designed. It’s made to attach to the opening for a hive, and will count the number of bees entering and exiting. We’re not experienced bee keepers ourselves (in fact we’re more of the mind of getting rid of stinging beasties) but we understand their important role in agriculture and ecosystem so we’re glad someone’s making a nice home for them.

Most of the apparatus is a circuit board lined with reflective sensors. There is a double-row of pin sockets on the top of the board which accepts the Teensy+ which monitors those sensors. The bees must pass below this PCB every time they enter or leave the hive, thereby tripping a sensor. In the video after the break [Hydronics] shows off the system with a netbook used to monitor the output. But it sounds like he has plans for an integrated display system in future versions of the bee counter.

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Update: many improvements to optical-sensor-based piano

[Sebastian] wrote in to update us about the optical sensor project he started a couple of years ago. You’ll find his most recent update here, but there are four different post links after the break that document various parts of his progress.

You may not recall the original project, but he was looking to add resolution and sensitivity to the keystroke of an electric keyboard. With the sensors built, he started experimenting with using the force data to affect other parts of the sound. His post back in January shows this bending the pitch as the keys receive more force from the player.

In March he installed the sensor array in an old piano. The video he posted where he plays the piano, but we hear the sound generated from the sensor inputs. We’ve embedded it after the break.

Last week he published two posts. They cover a redesign of the sensor boards, and the panelization work he’s done to help bring down manufacturing costs. The base unit was redesigned to use an AT90USB microcontroller which consolidates the separate chips used in the previous version.

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