The American Birkebeiner is the second largest cross-country skiing race in the world and is quite a big deal within that sport. At 55 kilometers it’s not a short event, either, requiring a significant amount of training to even complete, let alone perform well enough to be competitive. Around a decade ago, friends [Joe] and [Chris] ran afoul of the rules when [Joe] accidentally won the race wearing [Chris]’s assigned entry number, a technicality that resulted in both being banned from the race for two years. Now they’re back, having learned their lesson, and are strictly adhering to those rules this time using these tandem cross-country skis.
The idea for this build was to make sure they could both compete in the race and win because they’d compete in a category no one enters, mostly because it effectively didn’t exist before these two invented it. This required a custom set of skis, but since ski manufacturers don’t typically make skis for two people, they had to get creative. The duo picked up the longest pair of skis they could find at their local ski shop, moving the bindings forward on the skis to make room for the second set of bindings that were added to the back.
This presented a few unique challenges, the first of which is that cross-country skis typically use a special material on the bottom of the skis which grabs the snow to make uphill travel possible, and with the wider distribution of weight this material wasn’t functioning at peak efficiency. The other problem was the stress on the bindings caused by two riders, especially during a crash. This eventually resulted in a broken binding while [Joe] and [Chris] were training. They then upgraded to a more modern pair of skis rated for a single 269-pound rider, had the bindings fitted for two riders, and added a special grip tape over the larger area on the bottom of the ski.
After four months of training and getting in sync, the two were ready for the race. The results are covered in a second video linked below, and while neither of them won the overall race this time, they did finish the event with in-tact skis, first in the new “tandem” class, and completely within the bounds of the strict rules of the race as well. Although winter is winding down in the northern hemisphere, for any of our southern friends looking for some other things to do with an old set of skis for the upcoming winter season, take a look at this sled which adapts some alpine skis to achieve some extremely high speeds.
Continue reading “Hacking Skis, Rules, And Friendships” →
If new rules from the FAA regarding unmanned aircraft operations in the US are any indication, drones are becoming less of a niche hobby and more integrated into everyday life. Of course, the devil is in the details, and what the Federal Aviation Administration appears to give with one hand, it takes away with the other.
The rule changes, announced on December 28, are billed as “advanc[ing] safety and innovation” of the drone industry in the United States. The exciting part, and the aspect that garnered the most attention with headline writers, is the relaxation of rules against night operation and operating above people and moving vehicles. Since 2016, it has been against FAA regulations to operate drones less than 55 pounds (25 kg) at night or over people without a waiver. This rule can be seen as stifling innovations in drone delivery, since any useful delivery service will likely need to overfly populated areas and roadways and probably do so at night. The new rules allow these operations without a waiver for four categories of drones, classified by how much damage they would do if they were to lose control and hit someone. The rules also define the inspection and certification regimes for both aircraft and pilot, as well as stipulating that operators have to have their certificate and ID on their person while flying.
While this seems like great news, the flip side of the coin is perhaps less shiny. The rule changes also impose the requirement for “Remote ID” (PDF link), which is said to be “a major step toward full integration of drones into the national airspace system.” Certain drones will be required to carry a system that transmits identification messages directly from the aircraft, including such data as serial number, location and speed of the drone, as well as the location of the operator. The rules speculate that this would likely be done over WiFi or Bluetooth, and would need to be receivable with personal wireless devices. The exact technical implementation of these rules is left as an exercise to manufacturers, who have 30 months from the time the rules go into effect in January to design systems, submit them for certification, and get them built into their aircraft. Drone operators have an additional year to actually start using the Remote ID drones.
For the drone community, these rule changes seem like a mixed bag. To be fair, it’s not exactly unexpected that drones would be radio tagged like this, and the lead time allowed by the FAA for compliance on Remote ID seems generous. The ability to operate in riskier environments will no doubt be welcomed by commercial drone operators. So who knows — maybe the rules will do what they say they will, and this will stimulate a little innovation in the industry. If so, it could make this whole thing a net positive.
Humans and insects think on a different scale, but entomologists study the behavior of these little organisms, so they’re not a complete mystery. There isn’t much intelligence in a single ant or a cubic millimeter of gray matter, but when they all start acting together, you get something greater than the sum of the parts. It is easy to fall into the trap of putting all the intelligence or programming into a single box since that’s how we function. Comparatively, itty-bitty brains, like microcontrollers and single-board computers are inexpensive and plentiful. Enter swarm mentality, and new tasks become possible.
[Kevin Hartnett] talks about a paper researching the simple rules which govern army ants who use their bodies as bridges when confronted with a gap in their path. Anyone with a ruler and a map can decide the shortest route between two places, but army ants perform this optimization from the ground, real-time, and with only a few neurons at their disposal. Two simple rules control bridge building behavior, and that might leave some space in the memory banks of some swarm robots.
A simpler example of swarm mentality could be robots which drive forward anytime they sense infrared waves from above. In this way, anyone watching the swarm could observe when an infrared light was present and where it was directed. You could do the same with inexpensive solar-powered toy cars, but we can already see visible light.
We’re not saying ants should be recruited to control robots, but we’re not objecting to the humane treatment of cyborg bugs either. We’ve been looking into swarm robots for a long time.
Thanks for the tip, [JRD].
Continue reading “Learn Programming From Ants” →
Safety is one of those topics that often elicits a less-than-serious response from some tool users. For these folks, they assume their elite skills will protect them and as long as they pay attention, they never will get hurt. This explains the prevalence of the nickname “Stubby” among this population. On the opposite end of the spectrum, safety is also one of those areas where people who don’t know a lot about tools can overreact. Imagine a whole table of kids wearing goggles as one of them gingerly melts some solder. You don’t want solder in your eye, but that’s just not going to happen under normal circumstances.
And then there are freak accidents, which are a reality. On September 20th, a leaking propane tank exploded at Sector67’s new workshop, severely injuring Chris Meyer. Far from a noob, Chris is one of the most experienced people in the shop and was a co-founder of the space. He has a long road of healing ahead of him, and as seems to be the sad necessity these days, he has a GoFundMe campaign to help both with his medical expenses and to help refurbish the workshop. The Foothills Community Workshop also burned to the ground recently, although fortunately no one was injured.
All in all, hackerspaces seem to be reasonably safe, particular considering the challenges they face — or more fairly, the risks associated with the typical hackerspace’s openness. Most hackerspaces allow anyone who pay dues to be a member. There is a wide range of backgrounds, competencies, and judgments represented with, how shall I put it, some unusual viewpoints that might hinder rule-following. And once the member has a fob or key, it’s open season on any kind of tool in the place right? Not everything can have a lock on it.
Here are a few simple rules that have emerged over the years, and may help your hackerspace navigate the twin dangers of complacency and paralyzed fear while preparing for the freak accidents that may simply come to pass.
Continue reading “Hackerspaces Are Hard: Safety” →
AMENDMENT TO HACKADAY CONTEST OFFICIAL RULES
Hackaday has been hard at work making sure the requirements to qualify for The Hackaday Prize are well understood. Recently we published a FAQ to help answer questions, and we updated the main contest page to make information easier to find. We are also publishing a pair of “walkthrough” videos that show just how easy it is meet these requirements. In light of these clarifications, and the availability of these helpful resources, we have decided to extend the deadline for entries from 8/4/14 to 8/20/14, and to make minor changes to a couple of requirements in the Official Rules. Here’s a summary:
Continue reading “The Hackaday Prize Rules Update And Entry Date Extension” →
Since the adoption of Kernel 2.6, Linux has used the udev system to handle devices such as USB connected peripherals. If you want to change the behavior when you plug something into a USB port, this section is for you. As an example, we will use a USB thumb drive but these methods should translate to any device handled by udev. As a goal for this exercise we decided to create a symlink and execute a script when a specific thumb drive was loaded. The operating system we used for this exercise is Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope. Continue reading “How To Write Udev Rules” →