2022 Sci-Fi Contest: The Winners Are In

The Sci-Fi Contest closed out on Monday, and we put our heads together and picked our favorites. And it was no easy task, because in addition to many of the projects simply looking stellar, many went all-out on the documentation as well, making these stellar examples that we can all learn from, whether you’re into sci-fi or not. But who are we kidding? From the responses we got, you are.

The Winners

[RubenFixit]’s Star Trek Shuttle Console is a Trek themed escape room in a box. The project’s extraordinary attention to detail and exhaustive project logs absolutely won our judges heart. From the LCARS graphics to the 3D printed isolinear chip bays and mimetic crystals, it’s all there. [Ruben] estimates about 300 hours of work went into this one, and it shows.

We had no shortage of robotic projects in the contest, but [RudyAramayo]’s R.O.B. won our judges over. This one is not a joke, weighing in at over 140 lbs of custom metalwork and righteous treads. It’s also made out of some expensive hardware all around, so maybe this isn’t your weekend-build robot. We love the comment on the Arduino test code suite: “For gods sake man, you must test your code when it becomes an autonomous vehicle.”

Finally, [zapwizard]’s Functional Razor Crest Control Lever is a prop and a video game controller in one. We can totally see Grogu playing with this, and we were wowed by the attention to detail in the physical build — with custom gears and a speed limiter — as well as the attention to prop-making detail. Some parts are custom-cut stainless steel plates. 3D printed parts are covered in aluminum tape and chemically aged. Awesome. Oh yeah, it’s also a working USB joystick.

These three winners will be receiving a $150 shopping spree at Digi-Key.

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2022 Sci-Fi Contest: A Very Star Wars Door

Every fan of the original Star Wars trilogy knows the plight of Han Solo, who was so cruelly frozen in carbonite by Imperial forces. [erv.plecter] came into possession of a replica Solo, this time frozen in polyurethane, and set about using it as the door for a home theater setup.

Just like in the movie, there are a series of controls and lights on the side of the door, clearly intended to represent the state of the carbonite block and the smuggler trapped within. This was achieved with the use of a SAMD51 microcontroller, which controls five meters of WS2812B LED strip along with a small OLED display.

There’s also an amazing little smoke effect, built using a vape inhaler. These devices have proved popular for all kinds of theme builds and costumes, as it turns out. They’re a great way to produce a visible fog or smoke in a tiny, compact package.

[erv.plecter] was kind enough to share plenty of details on the build, including how the polyurethane cast was assembled into the door. The final result looks remarkably authentic, and would surely prove a hit at any Star Wars movie night. Just don’t spoil things by forcing everyone to sit through Revenge of the Sith. Video after the break. Continue reading “2022 Sci-Fi Contest: A Very Star Wars Door”

2022 Sci-Fi Contest: A Star Wars Mouse Droid Of Your Very Own

The show-stealing droids of Star Wars, R2-D2 and C-3PO, are quite challenging to replicate at home, due to their size and complexity. [curiousmarc] had built the former, with much work going into drawing and design. The more humble Mouse Droid, as seen skittering about the halls of the Death Star, is a considerably easier build — especially with this somewhat improvised approach.

The build relies on reject parts from [curiousmarc]’s R2-D2 build, and other stuff laying around the house, like a toy eggbeater, a VFD, and other electronic bits and pieces. An RC car chassis was placed in the droid’s vacuum-formed shell in order to provide propulsion, with much of the rest of the work being decoration of the housing with various sci-fi ephemera. There’s also a pair of Arduinos inside, controlling the VFD, sound output, and the movable antenna dish on top.

It’s a build with a lot of personality. The sounds, flickering display, and moving antenna do a lot to imbue this droid with a soul, something Lucasfilm readily achieved with many of the robots in the series. It’s something we’ve also seen in robot companion builds from [Jorvon Moss], which are quite sci-fi in their own way, too. Video after the break.

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2022 Sci-Fi Contest: The Animatronic Baby Yoda You’ve Always Wanted

Simple robot parts make up the internals.

When it comes to sci-fi, it’s hard to go past Star Wars, and many submissions to our contest land in that exact universe. [Kevin Harrington]’s entry is one such example, with his animatronic Baby Yoda that’s exactly as cute as you’d hope it would be.  

The build is based on a Pololu Romi chassis, a simple two-wheeled differential-drive robot platform. It’s paired with a robot arm in the form of Hephaestus Arm 2, which provides the articulation for the precocious little creature. An ESP32 microcontroller serves as the brains of the operation, controlling all the servos and motors that make baby Yoda move. Control is via WiFi, using a website hosted on the ESP32 via RBE1001lib.

The animatronic baby Yoda would surely be a hit sitting on one’s shoulder at any sci-fi convention. Overall, it’s a simple robot that becomes more personable by skinning it with an adorable toy. It’s not the first baby Yoda (or Grogu) that we’ve seen, either – the popular character has inspired builds before, too! Video after the break.

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2022 Sci-Fi Contest: Motorized AT-AT Walker Gets Around With Servos

The AT-AT Walker was one of the more fearsome weapons of the Star Wars universe, even if it was incredibly slow and vulnerable to getting tangled up in Rebel tow cables. However, you can build your own small-scale example using servos for propulsion, as [Luke J. Barker] ably demonstrates.

Taking off the outer shell reveals the servo motors driving the leg linkages.

The build is a remix of the motorized AT-AT from [LtDan] on Thingiverse, originally powered by a 90 rpm DC gearmotor. [Luke] remixed the design, setting it up to be driven by eight servomotors instead. They’re controlled from a SparkFun RedBoard Edge, an Arduino-compatible microcontroller board that fits rather neatly inside the AT-AT shell.

Programmed with a simple sine-wave walk cycle, the AT-AT ambles along in a ponderous manner. It’s altogether very much like the real fictitious thing, albeit without the scorching sizzle of blaster fire ringing out across a frozen plain.

Quadruped vehicles never really caught on for military use, but that’s not to say nobody ever tried. Video after the break.

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A metal spaceship throttle replica with a spherical knob

Razor Crest Control Lever For The Grogu In Your Life

If you’re looking to add a little more sci-fi authenticity to your gaming setup, you could do much worse than this functional control lever replica that [ZapWizard] has entered into the Hackaday.io Sci-Fi Contest.

Taking inspiration from Disney’s The Mandalorian, this functional prop is almost identical to the throttle seen on the bridge of the Razor Crest gunship, piloted by the television show’s eponymous bounty hunter. The electronic heart of this build is relatively straightforward – a Trinket M0 measures the resistance of an ultra-thin potentiometer, and masquerades as a typical one-axis USB throttle.

The mechanical components and aesthetically pleasing housing is where this project really shines. Helical 3D printed gears smooth out the movement of the solid aluminum throttle shaft, and a simple detent mechanism ‘catches’ the throttle at the middle point. The ballast and baseplate are cut from stainless steel, giving the throttle considerable heft, aiding in its stability on a tabletop (it’s also possible to secure it down using screws or powerful magnets). The throttle case is 3D printed and covered in aluminum foil tape, which is then chemically blackened and aged for that well-loved appearance.

Of course, the most iconic part of this build is the spherical knob, which screws onto the aluminum shaft for Grogu’s convenience. [ZapWizard] put in an order for one over at Custom 3D Stuff, and it absolutely ties the entire build together.

Interested in prop builds from the world of science-fiction, functional or otherwise? Then take a look through the entries in our Sci-Fi Contest. Or better yet, start building your own entry — there’s still about a month to go before the deadline.

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What Every Geek Must Know

How is it possible that there’s a geek culture? I mean, it’s one thing to assume that all folks of a nerdy enough bent will know a little Ohm’s law, can fake their way through enough quantum mechanics to at least be interesting at a cocktail party, and might even have a favorite mnemonic for the resistor colors or the angles involved in sine, cosine, and tangents. But how is it that we all know the answer to life, the universe, and everything?

Mike and I were podcasting a couple of weeks back, and it came out that he’d never played Starcraft. I was aghast! Especially since he’s into video games in general, to have not played the seminal 3-way-without-being-rock-scissors-paper game! My mind boggled. But then again, there was a time in my life when I hadn’t actually read all of Dune or Cryptonomicon, which would have left Mike’s jaw on the floor.

Whether you prefer Star Trek or Star Wars, the Matrix or the Hobbit, it’s even more surprising that we have so much in common! And thinking about it, I’m pretty sure that exactly our interchange is the reason — it’s a word of mouth culture thing. Some folks at the hackerspace are talking about Cthulu, and chances are you’re going to be reading some Lovecraft. An argument about the plausibility of the hacks in The Martian has sent at least a couple of geeks to the cinema or the library. And so it goes.

So do your part! Share your geek-culture recommendations with us all in the comments. If you were stranded on a desert island, with a decent bookshelf and maybe even a streaming video service, what’s on your top-10 list? What do you still need to see, read, or hear?