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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Want Bookshelf - Got Hackerspace, Don't Need IKEA


A couple of our members who haven't been able to come around HackRVA for awhile we're having lunch and discussing their need for a bookcase. At first they considered making the trek up to the NOVA IKEA, but then were like, "What, no, we can make it ourselves, lets go to hack".

After finishing lunch, they moseyed over to a big-box for wood and hardware, then they came to HackRVA during what happened to be a Saturday hackathon. They had plenty of help with tools and lots of admirers. By the end of the day, a lovely bookcase was created.

We even loaded up the finished product in the car together to see it on it's way home. It came a pile of materials and left something awesome.

 I was blown away by the quickness!

One Saturday at HackRVA and they have a piece of furnurture that looks beautiful and they'll always remember building together. Forget gnarly I-95 trips to IKEA, make it at HackRVA!

More pics below after the break:


Megaldon Tooth Casting


I've been wanting to get into mold making and casting for at least a year. I just wasn't sure how to get started. I finally took the plunge with this kit from smooth-on.com.

I did this at last weeks HackRVA Saturday hackathon, which happened to be the "Make your Spirit Animal" event held by WoHack.

I wasn't sure what to cast, or what to make my spirit animal... then I remembered my "meg" tooth. Therefore my "spirit animal" or as what spectators rephrased as my "power beast" became the Megalodon. And I cast the tooth right up.

Smooth-On.com is a go-to site for learning how to cast things.  They have tons of how-to videos. For me it was almost overwhelming. I finally settled on the starter kit linked above.

My lessons learned where:
1) Mix in a bigger container. When you put the rubber silicone mold material together, you have to stir slow and methodical. You also have to get it to blend completely, leaving a pure purple from the pink and blue compounds combined. I lazily tried to mix them in a narrow container and left some material not mixed. The mold turned out fine, but I would have done better with a large container.

2) The plastic casting material sets up fairly quick, and gets hot. Nothing went wrong there, but if I'd walked away from it, my solution would have solidified before I had a chance to pour. And like I said, it gets pretty hot. Don't be surprised.

The cast came out great. So detailed that I could see the grain of the tooth's enamel decay.

For more pics, check out after the break. Looking forward to more mold making and casting experiments at HackRVA.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Learn to Solder badges for RVA MakerFest

We knew we wanted to teach people how to solder at RVA MakerFest.  Estimates put the need at anywhere from 20 to 300 badges.  We looked at various kits, but without knowing how many people we’d be teaching, they were simply too expensive, too complex, or not available in the needed quantity. 
As the date drew closer, we still hadn't found a suitable board to use for teaching people how to solder.  At (what seemed like) the last minute, we decided to design our own badge.  Once the board was designed, there wasn't really time for a prototype run, so we crossed our fingers and ordered the full batch of PCBs from ITead.
It’s a very simple schematic, and the board can be soldered in less than 10 minutes, even without any prior soldering experience. 
The circuit is about as simple as it can get, simply 2 LEDs in parallel with a battery.  The current limiting resistors are omitted due to voltage drop and the internal resistance of the battery.  We used blinking red LEDs due to the low forward voltage drop, but the blinking RGB LEDs can also work in this design and would probably last longer.
The schematic and board layout were created in Eagle CAD, and Itead provides a CAM job to create the gerbers.  The most difficult step was creating the silk screen image.  I followed a tutorial on Instructables called Adding Customer Graphics to EAGLE PCB Layouts.  It took a few minutes of playing with the bitmap import settings to get it to look right.  

Placing the order was straight forward following the instructions provided on the product page (although the process has now changed to upload on their site).  These boards were ordered on a 1.2mm red PCB with 1 oz. copper.  Although they offer very low prices compared to local houses, shipping nearly doubled the cost!  Overall, Itead was an excellent choice for such a simple board.

I didn't consider the additional thickness from electroplating the through holes, so the pin didn't quite fit.  It was possible to force it in with a pair of pliers, but it wasn't always successful, and just wouldn't work at the event.  I ended up manually drilling each board with a 1/16 inch bit. 
The pads for LEDs were also a bit small for beginners.  They should have been enlarged a bit to make things easier.  
The stainless steel pins are a real pain to solder.  Maybe they should be glued or something else next time. The pins had a large (12mm) head.  Headless pins would be a better choice.  We’ll get started a bit earlier next year, and I hope to try a interesting board outline.

Of course, since there wasn't a prototype run, there were a few issues. 
  • The pin didn't fit.
  • Pads were very small.
  • The pin was very difficult to solder to the board.
I didn't consider the additional thickness from electroplating the through holes, so the pin didn't quite fit.  It was possible to force it in with a pair of pliers, but it wasn't always successful, and just wouldn't work at the event.  I ended up manually drilling each board with a 1/16 inch bit. 

The pads for LEDs were also a bit small for beginners.  They should have been enlarged a bit to make things easier.  


The stainless steel pins are a real pain to solder.  Maybe they should be glued or something else next time. The pins had a large (12mm) head.  Headless pins would be a better choice.  We’ll get started a bit earlier next year, and I hope to try a interesting board outline.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hovercraft Micro H-shaped Quadcopter (MHQ) build.

Hey guys, JM again! I have a new project, I'm building the Hovercraft MHQ. This project is super cool for several reasons, first this is my first drone, second it is my first RC project period and third the entire chasis is 3d printed from ABS plastic on our Makerbot Replicator. I will be doing a video series following the different steps in the build and will be filming the portion regarding the 3d printing this coming weekend. For now heres a link to the Photo Album!

What is a quadcopter? A quadcopter is an aircraft that uses rotor wings (like a helicopter) to generate lift and thrust. A helicopter has one main rotor that produces both lift and thrust for the entire airframe while the second, smaller, rotor in the rear counteracts the torque generated by the main rotor and also allows for yaw or rudder right and left to steer flight. A quadcopter utilizes multiple rotors, four specifically, to do the same thing. The benefits of having four main rotors developing lift and thrust as opposed to one main rotor is stability! Torque is counteracted by spinning the rotors in opposite directions. Two spin clockwise and 2 spin counterclockwise. The drone pilot operates a radio transmitter with two sticks that correspond to yaw, pitch, roll and throttle. The radiosignal is transmitted to a receiver onboard the drone, the receiver passes the information to the flight controller or (FCS) the FCS has several extremely important functions. The flight controller has an array of sensors, including gyroscopes and a barometer in the case of the Tau Labs Sparky FCS that is being used for this project. Assuming the radio is set to some amount of throttle but otherwise the sticks are in a neutral position the FCS will adjust, in real time, the RPM of each individual motor so that the drone hovers as if it were sitting on top of a tripod. The FCS accomplishes this by sending signals to four Electronic Speed Controllers or ESCs that are each individually attached to a motor. The ESC acts as a flood gate holding back the considerable amount of current in the battery pack. As the ESC receives signals from the FCS it either gives or limits current to the attached motor increasing or decreasing RPM and thus lift. When a stick is moved out of its neutral position to make an adjustment in either pitch, yaw or roll or some combination of the 3 the FCS does some math and creates a difference between the RPM of the four motors. If the pilot wants more roll the difference is across the long axis of the aircraft, if the pilot wants pitch then the difference is along the short axis etc etc. To generate thrust to move forward the aircraft pitches forward, so that instead of lift being directed perpendicular to the ground it is directed at an angle. Costs for small quadcopter drones can vary greatly. The Hovership MHQ as I have it set up will have quite a few neat features including return to home RTH capabilities and waypoint to waypoint GPS navigation, also altitude hold and loiter mode. Additionally the drone will be fitted with FPV or first person video equipment so that it can be flown over long distances by camera. A downside to this build is that battery capacity being what it is flight time will range from 8-20 mins on one battery. Cost for this build to get it off the ground will be approx $300, with the addition of the FPV equipment it will likely be closer to $500-$700. Most of the equipment is modular and interchangeable so that it can be repurposed for other projects later.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

DIY Audio

Hi my name's JM, I'm a recent member of HackRVA. Since joining I've been working on some guitar effects pedal clones from tonepad.com. You can see my build picture updates on our Flickr, here's the direct link to the album:   http://bit.ly/ULbeu0

I've started with a ProCo Rat clone, its a simple op-amp based distortion pedal with three settings for volume, distortion and filter. I selected this pedal mainly because there was an instructable (http://bit.ly/1lqVJ4K) that had some comments on off-board setups with wiring shown. In the pipe I have a couple other distortion pedals I'd like to try my hand at, at Tonepad there are schematics for the Ampeg Scrambler and the Marshall GUVNOR. Down the road I'd really like to build a flanger, however, the designs for phasers and flangers that I've found all involve multiple IC's with complex boards.

So why make all of the pedals to begin with? Well my brother is a great guitarist. I'm nearly 30 and decided to revisit some life goals. One of the things I've always wanted to do but never stuck with was start a band. The kit I'm building at HackRVA will hopefully turn into the gear that we gig with. Looking ahead a little we have plans to start writing songs and practicing in about six months or so. Between now and then I'm doing daily metronome practice to hone in my metal picking skills (alternate picking, chugging, etc). I'll keep updating the flickr album and the project blog here with project milestones. The component orders to populate the boards are in the mail. Everything that I need to have a functioning pedal should be here in about a week. Assembly will take place sometime next week on the Rat. There are still some components I need to pick up / salvage, for instance a stomp-switch, however I think I can just jump the switch to make sure the circuit works as it should. Keep an eye out in about two weeks or so for a video (hopefully) showing a working distortion pedal. Once the team at the shop finishes the Buildlog.net laser cutter project also look for some cool under-lit case designs, either in acrylic or baltic birch ply.

I wanted to start small because I don't have much of a background in electronics. I'm a nurse, although while I was in school I spent some time as an engineering student and took a couple basic circuits courses. I remember at the time wanting to get into some DIY audio, tube amplifiers and the like but I quickly realized I couldn't make that interest a reality. Mainly because of a lack of money and expertise. I feel like these two environmental factors are a large reason why many people choose to sit on the couch and watch Netflix instead of getting out there and making something. Luckily thats where HackRVA came in to the equation. At Hack I had immediate access to all of the tools needed to etch the boards, as well as fabricate the box (coming in the next several weeks). Eventually I'll even be able to add some cool embellishments (laser cutting on the case-work for instance). Materials costs are low, and all of the specialized tools are right here. At Hack you also have access to expertise. It was difficult sourcing the components to populate the boards. Mouser and DigiKey can be overwhelming places. Its nice to have access to a Makerspace where you can pull someone aside and have them help you dial in your parts list. The more you talk to people and read into the blogs and build logs the more you find interesting new avenues to explore, for instance I just ran accross Dustin's APC build tonight, and am looking forward to making one in the future.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Table Saw Sled - Cut like a pro

by Aaron

We built a table saw sled. This makes for easy and square cutting. Also cut multiples in a stack or make jigs for complicated cuts.

See the new dust collection system in action too.

First Welding Project - Welding Cart

by Aaron

We got right into a first project with the recently donated Lincoln Wire Feed Welder. We took an existing stand, reconfigured some TV mounting rack with cut-off disks, and then welded it all together.

The welding cart will serve as a sturdy home for the welder and all it's peripherals.
More pics here.




Forget Boring Baby Names - Arduino Based Baby Name Generator

by Aaron



Michael produced this humorous baby name generator for friends expecting. He started with an Arduino to prototype then used tools at HackRVA to build a custom board. Snazzy!

Check out complete build details and story on his blog here.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Atmel XSense Design Challenge

by Aaron

After some brainstorming and playing around at a recent Saturday hackathon, we came up with some ideas for the Atmel XSense Design Challenge. Enjoy!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Young Hacker - Cool LED Experiment

by Aaron
 

Who was that young hacker? Some awesome kid built this at our recent Maker Monday right beneath our noses. Ok, we knew it was Spencer, HackRVA member Stephen's son. But it was kind of funny, you never know what someone's going to be doing around the space. One minute you're cutting some wood and the next you look up, and this!

build details after the break-

Thursday, February 20, 2014

From the Depths of the Web - Noise!!!

by Aaron

Jason Lescalleet - 2012 Aug. 20 - Live at Hack.RVA - Richmond, Virginia from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

I was digging around on the web for old HackRVA stuff and found NOISE!!! Who knows what all creations have been made here. Our members are kind of amazing.

Monday, December 23, 2013

BeagleBrick - The SDR Ham Radio Station

by Aaron

BBtouchscreen

The BeagleBrick was conceived by HackRVA member Robert Thomas, KC4NYK. Robert is an Industrial Designer and Ham Radio enthusiast. He designed the BeagleBrick to be an inexpensive entry point for ham radio enthusiasts, students, educators and other experimenters to study Software Defined Radio technology. 

In its current form the BeagleBrick represents a completely self-contained SDR Ham Radio Station using the Beagleboard as a fully functional embedded Linux workstation featuring High Definition Video and sophisticated, chip-level accelerated graphics. It is designed to operate with an array of inexpensive QRP transceiver kits. 

Click here to learn more about the BeagleBrick!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Power Wheels Driven With XBOX Controller

by Aaron

RC Jeep from Dustin Firebaugh on Vimeo.

Neal built this Power Wheels Jeep with the help of friends at HackRVA. Checkout the video above and get the full build details at his Instructables link here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Aluminium Casting With Li'l Birtha


We spent last Saturday melting aluminum with Paul's "Li'l Bertha" Electric Furnace then sand casting the molten metal into various shapes. We cut down heat sinks and other scrap then threw them in the crucible. The cast in this video didn't go as planned, but others worked well.

See more pics of sand casting.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Building a Personal Cloud

by Aaron
Hardware for a Personal Cloud

Jamie Duncan is a key member of HackRVA and his blog is LOST IN OPEN SOURCE. There, he covers such things as building a personal cloud as well as general musings on technology. Plenty of details to get people started.

 

The name Jamie Duncan and HackRVA just go together. Jamie was our "head cheerleader" for over a year, doing everything from organizing the badge build for the Richmond Security Conference to making sure the bills got paid. He's also very involved with RVaLUG. Thanks Jamie, and we'll be seeing what's next on your blog and other places.

From FIRST Robotics to DIY Segway

By Aaron


Checkout this DIY Segway built by Brandon Davies and Dustin Thomson I first saw featured at the Chesterfield County Main Library Makerspace Grand Opening. 

 

Brandon is the son of HackRVA member Bruce "Doc" Davies who's very involved with area FIRST Robotics. This elegant and wonderfully built Segway is an excellent example of FIRST Robotics graduates going on to build more advanced things. They based it on this design from an MIT resource.

 

Learn more about how they did it after the break.

HackRVA at Hampton Roads Maker Faire

by Aaron

HackRVA presented at the 2013 Hampton Roads Maker Faire. Didn't have time to take many pics, but will upload some as they become available from the HR Maker Faire Facebook.

Here's a link to some good pictures.

Here's a link to a video of the event.

 

Neal says:

 

There were some pretty amazing things there but I didn't get a chance to see it all. I spent most of the day driving kids around in the Power Wheels and answering questions about it. 

 

There were shopbots, and laser cutters, stained glass, robots shooting basketballs, a lifesized theremin shaped like a tree, original comic books, an electric Ford Roadster, composting bins designed to be indoors (no smell, that was awesome), an Oculus on a flight simulator, 9 foot tall rockets, an entire house {with furnishings) made of plywood, and a Big RC Power Wheels Jeep that drove kids and adults alike around the floor.

 

My wife and kids were there and got to see and interact with a lot more things.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Halloween Hackathon 2013

by Aaron
 

Halloween Hackathon 2013 at HackRVA. We made LED Throwie Ghost Boxes and Haunted Houses, 3D printed decorations, paper masks, and played some classic scary movies.  We were also visited by the PUMKINATOR; a sawz-all welding jack-o'-lantern cutting madman. 

 

More pics and a video of the PUMKINATOR after the break.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hacking it Old School - DIY Lasers From a Previous Era

by Aaron

Laser V1.0.  Cyberpunk before they knew what to call it.

Check out these awesome laser and light creations from Eric! It might be hard to believe for all those arduino-naughts, but there was a time many microseconds ago when ubiquitous microelectronics, readily available IC's, and off-the-shelf lasers didn't exist and a guy just had to roll up his sleeves and do it himself - like for real. This just goes to show the wide range and deep experience the HackRVA membership has. Doesn't get much more hackerly than this. 


⇓ More pics after the break.