A Basketball Hoop That Never Lets You Brick

With none of the major leagues in any team sport currently meeting, sports fans have a huge void that has to be filled with something. For [Shane Wighton], the machine shop is the place to go when sports let you down, and the result is this basketball backboard that lets you sink every shot every time.

When we first saw this, we thought for sure it would be some overly complicated motorized affair that would move the hoop to catch the basketball, sort of like the dart-catching dartboard we featured some time ago. And while that would be awesome and somebody should totally build that so we can write it up, [Shane]’s hoop dream is a lot simpler mechanically, even if the math needed to determine the proper shape for the backboard was complex. He wrote software to simulate throws from hundreds of positions to determine the shape for the board, which ends up looking like a shallow elliptic paraboloid. The software created a mesh that was translated into CNC tool paths in Fusion 360, and the backboard was carved from blocks of softwood.

The first tests were disappointing; instead of landing every shot, the board seemed to be actively denying them. [Shane] had to puzzle over that for a while before realizing that he didn’t account for the radius of the ball, which means the centroid never actually contacts the backboard. Rather than recalculate and create a new backboard, he just shifted the hoop out from the backboard by a ball radius. With that expedient in place, the setup performed exactly as calculated.

[Shane] may have taken the long road to hoops glory, but we appreciate the effort and the math lesson. And the fact that this ends up being the same shape as some antennas is a plus.

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ESP8266 And Sensors Make For A Brainy NERF Ball

For his final project in UCLA’s Physics 4AL program, [Timothy Kanarsky] used a NodeMCU to smarten up a carefully dissected NERF football. With the addition to dual MPU6050 digital accelerometers and some math, the ball can calculate things like the distance traveled and angular velocity. With a 9 V alkaline battery and a voltage regulator board along for the ride it seems like a lot of weight to toss around; but of course nobody on the Hackaday payroll has thrown a ball in quite some time, so we’re probably not the best judge of such things.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in refining your throw, there’s a lot of fascinating science going on in this project; complete with fancy-looking equations to make you remember just how poorly you did back in math class.

As [Timothy] explains in the write-up, the math used to find velocity and distance traveled with just two accelerometers is not unlike the sort of dead-reckoning used in intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Since we’ve already seen model rockets with their own silos, seems all the pieces are falling into place.

The NodeMCU polls the accelerometers every 5 milliseconds, and displays the data on web page complete with scrolling graphs of acceleration and angular velocity. When the button on the rear of the ball is pressed, the data is instead saved to basic Comma Separated Values (CSV) file that’s served up to clients with a minimal FTP server. We might not know much about sportsball, but we definitely like the idea of a file server we can throw at people.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen an instrumented football. Back in 2011 it took some pretty elaborate hardware to pull this sort of thing off, and it’s fascinating to see how far the state-of-the-art has progressed.

Microcontroller Studies The Blade

Kendo, a Japanese martial art, is practiced with a special sword. It’s not a particularly sharp sword, though, since the “blade” is essentially a length of bamboo. For this reason, Kendo practitioners must rely on correct form and technique in order to make sure their practice is as effective as possible, and Cornell students [Iman] and [Weichen] have made a Kendo trainer that helps the swordsmen in their art.

The core of the project is a PIC32 microcontroller hooked up to a set of three piezoelectric sensors and a LSM9DS1 inertial module. The three piezoelectric sensors are attached to a helmet and the inertial module to the sword, and the sensors work together to determine both the location of the strike and whether or not it had enough strength to be considered a “good” strike (the rules of Kendo are beyond the scope of this article). The trainer can then calculate all of the information and provide feedback to the user on a small screen.

While martial-arts related builds seem to be relatively rare, we did find a similar project from back in 2011 called the Virtual Sensei which used a then-popular Kinect in order to track movements. This PIC32-based project, though, seems to be a little more thorough by including the strength of the strike in the information the computer uses, and is probably less expensive to boot!

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Calling World Cup Goals Before They Happen, By Polling A Betting Site

[Ben] made an interesting discovery during the FIFA World Cup in 2018, and used it to grant himself the power to call goals before they happened. Well, before they happened on live TV or live streaming, anyway. It was possible because of the broadcast delay on “live” broadcasts, combined with the sports betting industry’s need for timely and detailed game state tracking.

He discovered that a company named Running Ball provides fairly detailed game statistics in digital form, which are generated from inside the stadium as events occur. An obvious consumer of this data are sports betting services, and [Ben] found a UK betting site that exposed that information in full inside their web app. By polling this data, he measured a minimum of 4 seconds between an event (such as a goal) being reported in the data and the event occurring on live TV. The delay was much higher — up to minutes — for live streaming. [Ben] found it quite interesting to measure how the broadcast delay on otherwise “live” events could sometimes be quite significant.

Knowing broadcast delays exist is one thing, but it’s a neat trick to use it to predict goals before they occur on “live” television. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen evidence of [Ben]’s special interest in data and using it in unusual ways; he once set up a program to play Battleship over the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), making it very probably the first board game played over BGP.

Robomintoner Badminton Bot To Defeat Amateur Humans

Watching robots doing sports is pretty impressive from a technical viewpoint, although we secretly smile when we compare these robots’ humble attempts to our own motoric skills. Now, a new robot named Robomintoner seeks to challenge human players, and it’s already darn good at badminton.

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DIY Arduino Watch

We first thought [Alexis Ospitia]’s watch was a sports watch made with an Arduino, but it’s actually a sporty watch made with an Arduino. This explains the watch’s strange ability to tell you the current temperature and humidity.

The core of the watch is an Arduino Mini. To make it good for time telling, a real-time clock module was added. A DHT11 monitors the temperature and humidity. A charge circuit and lithium battery provide power. Finally, the watch displays the date, time, and other data with an LCD from a Nokia 5110. We can tell you the last part that’s going to break on this.

Even if you think the watch is a bit chunky, the tutorial is very slick. [Alexis] has taken the trouble to individually draw and describe each portion of the watch’s construction. He explains each pin, what they do, and provides a Fritzing drawing of the wires to the Arduino. The code is provided; to program the watch a USB-to-serial module must be used.

For the housing he made a box from a thin gauge aluminum sheet and attached leather straps to the assembly. The final construction is cool looking in a techno-punk way, and is fairly compact. One might even say sporty.

Hackaday Prize Entry : Impact – A Head Concussion Monitor

A lot of young athletes who get concussions each year go undiagnosed, leading to brain injury. [Hunter Scott] is working on a device called Impact to help detect these events early. According to this article which discusses the issue of concussion recognition and evaluation, “Early identification on the sports sideline of suspected concussion is critical because, in most cases, athletes who are immediately removed from contact or collision sports after suffering a concussion or other traumatic brain injury will recover without incident fairly quickly. If an athlete is allowed to keep playing, however, their recovery is likely to take longer, and they are at increased risk of long-term problems”

The device is a dime sized disk, which has an ATTiny85 microcontroller, memory to hold data, an accelerometer and a LED which gets activated when the preset impact threshold is breached, all driven by a coin cell. This small size allows it to be easily embedded in sports equipment such as helmets. At the end of a game, if the LED is blinking, the player is then screened for a concussion. For additional analysis, data stored on the on-board memory can be downloaded. This can be done by a pogo-pin based docking station, which is what [Hunter Scott] is still working on.

He’s having a functional problem that needs fixing. The ATTiny85 cannot be programmed with the accelerometer populated. He first needs to populate the ATTiny85, program it, and then populate the accelerometer. He’s working in fixing that, but if you have any suggestions, chime in on the comments below. We’d like to add that [Hunter] is a prolific hacker. His project, the Ultra-wideband radio module was a Hackaday Prize semi-finalist last year.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: