Hackaday Prize Entry: Modular, Rapid Deployment Power Station

After a disaster hits, one obvious concern is getting everyone’s power restored. Even if the power plants are operational after something like a hurricane or earthquake, often the power lines that deliver that energy are destroyed. While the power company works to rebuild their infrastructure, [David Ngheim]’s mobile, rapid deployment power station can help get people back on their feet quickly. As a bonus, it uses renewable energy sources for power generation.

The modular power station was already tested at Burning Man, providing power to around 100 people. Using sets of 250 Watt panels, wind turbines, and scalable battery banks, the units all snap together like Lego and can fit inside a standard container truck or even the back of a pickup for smaller sizes. The whole thing is plug-and-play and outputs AC thanks to inverters that also ship with the units.

With all of the natural disasters we’ve seen lately, from Texas to Puerto Rico to California, this entry into the Hackaday Prize will surely gain some traction as many areas struggle to rebuild their homes and communities. With this tool under a government’s belt, restoration of power at least can be greatly simplified and hastened.

eMMC to SD Hack Rescues Data from a Waterlogged Phone

How do I get the data off this destroyed phone? It’s a question many of us have had to ponder – either ourselves or for friends or family. The easy answer is either spend a mint for a recovery service or consider it lost forever.  [Trochilidae] didn’t accept either of those options, so he broke out the soldering iron and rescued his own data.

A moment’s inattention with a child near a paddling pool left [Trochilidae’s] coworker’s wife with a waterlogged, dead phone. She immediately took apart the phone and attempted to dry it out, but it was too late. The phone was a goner. It also had four months of photos and other priceless data on it. [Trochilidae] was brought in to try to recover the data.

The phone was dead, but chances are the data stored within it was fine. Most devices built in the last few years use eMMC flash devices as their secondary storage. eMMC stands for Embedded Multimedia Card. What it means is that the device not only holds the flash memory array, it also contains a flash controller which handles wear leveling, flash writing, and host interface. The controller can be configured to respond exactly like a standard SD card.

The hard part is getting a tiny 153 ball BGA package to fit into an SD card slot.  [Trochilidae] accomplished that by cutting open a microSD to SD adapter. He then carefully soldered the balls from the eMMC to the pins of the adapter. Thin gauge wire, a fine tip iron, and a microscope are essentials here. Once the physical connections were made,  [Trochilidae] plugged the card into his Linux machine. The card was recognized, and he managed to pull all the data off with a single dd command.

[Trochilidae] doesn’t say what happened after the data was copied, but we’re guessing he analyzed the dump to determine the filesystem, then mounted it as a drive. The end result was a ton of recovered photos and a very happy coworker.

If you like crazy soldering exploits, check out this PSP reverse engineering hack, where every pin of a BGA was soldered to magnet wire.

Magically repair AVR chips

If you’ve ever spent time working with AVR microcontrollers you’ve probably set the fuse bits incorrectly at least once. The ATmega fusebit doctor will automatically repair the fuse bits and get you back in business until your next mishap. The ATmega8 that powers the device has the chip signatures for the ATmega family stored inside so it will automatically detect which chip you’re trying to ‘unbrick’. From there it looks up the correct fuse bits and resurrects the sick microcontroller. This is useful in recovering a chip that has serial programming disabled, used the reset pin as I/O, or just enabled an external clock without the necessary hardware to deliver on that feature.

This magic is taken care of by using High Voltage Parallel Programming. We’ve seen HVPP used in the Arduino rescue shield and it is a valuable feature of the AVR Dragon, our favorite AVR programmer, as well as others. Still, you can hardly beat the ease of plugging a dead chip into this board and pressing one button. Oh, did you brick a member of the ATtiny family? There’s a rescue board for those too.

[Thanks Stewe]

Scratchbot: Whiskers to the rescue

Scratchbot is designed as a rescue bot, going places where there is low visibility. It’s defining feature is the fact that it uses “whiskers” to feel for things. We feel like this is a little gimmicky. If it is a low visibility situation, wouldn’t IR or audio, possibly sonar be a more effective? How would it differentiate between different physical obstacles? Are the whiskers really new? Aren’t they really just bump sensors? Maybe they have something a little more complicated going on. There was another recent bot that utilized whiskers and compared different tactile profiles to determine what it was touching.

AVR HV rescue shield


While playing with an ATmega168, [Jeff] programmed the RSTDISBL fuse bit. This pretty much makes the chip useless in most cases. [Jeff] didn’t want to give up on it though, so he built a system to program it using the rarely used high voltage parallel programming mode. He used an Arduino, a few lines of code and a few spare parts to make it. After sharing the idea with some fellow programmers, he decided to make an Arduino shield specifically for this purpose. You can use this to reset almost any fuse to rescue a chip. If you are a die hard AVR person and never started using Arduino instead, the STK500 actually has this built in.