Monday, April 14, 2014 - 22:523D Printing Custom Technic-Compatible Beams and Gears
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 22:00Scientists discover efficient way to turn carbon monoxide into ethanol
IEEE Spectrum has a post about a new discovery out of Stanford University.
Biofuels, once hailed as a planetary savior and alternative to oil and gas, have not quite fulfilled that destiny. Traditional, mass-produced biofuels from crops such as corn carry a litany of problems, including land use issues and questions of life cycle emissions. If we could generate usable fuels from more benign sources, it could go a long way toward solving a host of energy and environmental problems. A team at Stanford University reports today in Nature that they have a novel way to produce ethanol from carbon monoxide (CO) gas using a metal catalyst made of copper nanocrystals.
“We have discovered the first metal catalyst that can produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide at room temperature and pressure—a notoriously difficult electrochemical reaction,” said senior study author and Stanford chemistry professor Matthew Kanan in a press release.
Copper is the only material known to electroreduce CO down to generate fuels, but it does so at extremely low efficiencies. Kanan’s group improved this with a nanocrystalline form of copper produced from copper oxide; this new material improves the efficiency of the reactions dramatically.
The researchers built a fuel cell, including a cathode made of the new copper nanocrystals, and suspended it in CO-saturated water; a small voltage applied across the fuel cell generates the resulting ethanol products. The Faraday efficiency using the oxide-derived material was 57 percent, meaning more than half of the current used went toward producing ethanol and acetate. Standard copper particles, meanwhile, produced hydrogen almost exclusively (Faraday efficiency of 96 percent) and very little ethanol.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 22:00Electric Imp Locks and Unlocks your Door Automatically
When the folks over at PinMeTo moved into a new office, they were dismayed to find out an extra key would run them a whopping 500 sek (~$75 USD). Instead, they decided to build their own automatic door lock using the Electric Imp system.
If you’re not familiar, the Electric Imp is a small SD card designed to provide internet (Wi-Fi) functionality to consumer devices. While it looks like an SD card, you cannot just plug it into any SD card slot and expect it to work — it still needs a prototyping board. We’ve seen it used to make a wireless thermal printer, or even make a tweeting cat door to let you know of any feline intruders!
Anyway — back to the hack. To move the lock cylinder they’re using a basic RC servo connected directly to the Imp. A flex sensor is installed on the side of the door over-top the lock — this provides feedback to the Imp whether or not the door is in fact locked. The Imp then communicates to Everymote to allow for keypad access from your mobile phone.
It probably ended up costing more in time and money than a new key, but hey, it looks like it was a fun project to do!
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 21:55Make: Books Author Takes Honorable Mention in SPARK Competition
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 21:53NASA to provide live coverage and commentary of April 15 Lunar Eclipse
Will you be staying up all night to see the lunar eclipse? NASA will be providing live coverage so you can find out all the information about what is going on from some very informed sources!
The public will have the opportunity to view and learn more about the Tuesday, April 15 total lunar eclipse on NASA television, the agency’s website, and social media. Coverage begins at 2 a.m. EDT and will last about three hours. The eclipse’s peak, when the moon will enter the Earth’s full shadow or umbra, will occur at 3:45 a.m.
The United States will be in a prime orbital position and time of day to view the eclipse. Depending on local weather conditions, the public will get a spectacular view looking into the sky as the moon’s appearance will change from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and perhaps gray. The eclipse is a phenomenon that occurs when the Earth, moon and sun are in perfect alignment, blanketing the moon in the Earth’s shadow. The United States will not be able to witness a full lunar eclipse in its entirety again until 2019.
Leading up to the eclipse, NASA will host a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Monday, April 14 at 2 p.m. with astronomers from the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Various NASA researchers also will be available for media interviews. NASA Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Instagram followers will be able to join the conversation and ask questions using the hashtag #eclipse.
The public will be able to tag and share their images of the eclipsed moon on Instagram and on the agency’s Flickr group at:
Lunar eclipse video resources are available at:
Live NASA TV coverage and commentary will begin at 1 a.m. To view the coverage and access eclipse streaming video, visit:
Read more and share your eclipse experiences in the comments!
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 21:40New Project: Lego Bookreader: Digitize Books With Mindstorms and Raspberry Pi
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 21:06Google Buys Drone Maker Titan Aerospace
Google Inc. said Monday it agreed to buy Titan Aerospace, a startup maker of high-altitude drones, as the Internet search giant adds more aerial technology to collect images and get more of the world’s population online. Google didn’t disclose a purchase price for Titan, of Moriarty, N.M., whose solar-powered drones are intended to fly for years.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 20:00Six women who paved the way for female engineers and architects #WomenInSTEM
Gizmodo has a great post on 2 inspirational women who paved the way for female engineers and architects. Above is Margaret Ingels, the first woman to receive a graduate degree in mechanical engineering in the US.
Because there was no architecture school at the University of Kentucky, Margaret Ingels studied engineering at the suggestion of professor, and became the first woman to receive a graduate degree in mechanical engineering in the country. She worked across a wide range of emerging technologies at the time, including at the Chicago Telephone Company and the United States Bureau of Mines.
But an early fascination with air conditioning—not a prevalent technology in the early 1900s!—led her to Carrier Lyle Heating and Ventilation Corporation, where she helped develop the Anderson-Armspach dust determinator, which became the industry standard for air filtration, as well as the sling psychrometer, which measures air humidity and is still used today. She was well-known for her lectures and traveled across the country to deliver them, including one entitled “Petticoats and Slide Rules.”
This is Emily Warren Roebling, a chief engineer on the project to use caissons on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Marrying into a family of engineers was fortuitous for Emily Warren: Her husband was Washington Roebling, a civil engineer, and father-in-law was John A. Roebling, who developed the revolutionary design for the Brooklyn Bridge. Emily and Washington traveled together to Paris to study the possibility of using caissons on the Brooklyn Bridge, a new technology that used pressurized chambers to allow workers to install bridge pilings underwater. John contracted tetanus after he crushed his foot during construction, and Washington took over as chief engineer—but Washington, sadly, succumbed to the very technology he championed, getting decompression sickness and staying bedridden during the final phase of construction.
For 14 years, Emily acted as chief engineer on the project while fighting to ensure that Washington did not lose credit for his work. In 1883, she was the first person to cross the finished Brooklyn Bridge in a carriage.
Above is Aine Brazil.
As vice chairman of the engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, Aine Brazil has been responsible for overseeing groundbreaking methods that have allowed some of the world’s tallest and most unique buildings and infrastructure projects to be constructed.
The Irish native worked at engineering firm Arup before starting at Thornton Tomasetti, where she was the lead structural engineer for 11 Times Square, a game-changing skyscraper for the Midtown neighborhood. Brazil is currently working on the Hudson Yards development, which will use a concrete “apron” to float six city blocks over a train yard.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 19:16SLO Makerspace Opens in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 19:13Adafruit Reaches 8 Million YouTube Views!
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 19:01MountainBeest – A Theo Jansen Creature Comes Alive in My Garage
About a year ago, a member of my family sent me a video featuring [Theo Jansen's] StrandBeest, knowing that I was interested in all kinds of wacky and hackish inventions. My initial reaction was something to the effect of “wow that’s a neat device, but that guy is a little crazy.” For better or worse, the idea that this was an incredible invention turned over in my head for some time. Eventually, I decided that I needed to build one myself. Apparently I’m a little crazy as well.
Theo’s original beest runs on a complicated linkage system powered by wind. He was nice enough to publish the linkage lengths or “eleven holy numbers,” as he calls him at the bottom of this page. He doesn’t, however, really explain how the connections on his PVC power transmission system work, so I was left to try to figure it out from his videos. As you’ll see from build details and video to follow, this isn’t trivial. Keep reading past the jump to learn the adversity that I encountered, and how it was overcome in the end.
The Build Begins
For reasons that I’m not entirely sure of, I started building the leg linkages out of wood instead of PVC pipe. Perhaps it was this four-legged miniature Jansen-style walker that inspired it. Some of the linkages were scaled directly from this design. That’s also likely how I decided that it might be possible to walk my StrandBeest version around with four legs. That or possibly this awesome simulation. Given how much effort it took to make each leg, the fewer the better from the perspective of getting it finished.
To begin with, I was never sure I’d finish more than one leg, but after trying out the process on the first linkage set, as seen on [HAD], soon I was testing two legs. Finally it was on to four legs linked together with a central PVC shaft — also seen on [HAD] and in the video below.
I thought that was pretty cool, so the build seemed to be done for the time being. I literally hung it up in my garage to see if I could think of anything better to do with it.
Inspiration to Finish the Project
Months later, I was contacted by [Jay], who recruits for the Columbia, SC Maker Faire, about doing something for the show. My dormant ‘Beest, now dubbed the [MountainBeest], seemed like a great candidate. [Jay] volunteered that they had a winch available (why not?) to hoist the [MountainBeest] up and down spider. This was great, as I had serious doubts about its ability to walk on its own.
Although I could have probably hooked up a series of cables to actuate the legs remotely, this didn’t seem quite good enough. Electronic remote control seemed like a better idea, and fortunately I had a windshield wiper motor and controls left over from a failed “giant hexapod” project that [HAD] featured in 2012.
Some Issues with the Build
The mechanical build was simple enough, but power transmission with PVC pipe is getting into somewhat uncharted waters for me. My first idea was to use sprocket gears off of a bike that I converted to single speed, and windshield wiper motors to power the legs. This idea had some potential, but I was supporting the driving gear quite poorly. Additionally, the wiper motors tended to go faster and start more violently than the [MountainBeest] liked. As seen here, even after upgrading to a larger single speed chain, things didn’t stay together.
My “custom” single speed bike, however, looks awesome with its new chain. It’s good to have a backup plan.
The [MountainBeest] backup plan was to use one slower motor on each set of two legs. This would get rid of any pesky chain issues, and theoretically allow the ‘beest to turn when walking. It took some work, including modifying the frame and coming up with an interesting motor mounting solution seen in the picture below. It did work, however, and that counts a success in HaD land.
One continuing issue I’ve had with the extremely low geared motors I was using, is that at certain points in the mechanism’s travel, it tends to put a huge amount of torque on the shaft. In order to fight this, I came up with a PVC coupler that absorbs some shock and allows it to flex as seen on [HAD] here. These are known in their more traditional settings as a “beam” or “helical” coupling. My PVC version is seen in the video below.
After solving (or at least mitigating) most of the mechanical issues with my “walker,” the electronics were fairly simple. I used a four-channel radio transmitter with a PWM relay switch from Servocity. This was able to handle the DC motors nicely, despite possibly being overkill. After wondering what I could do with the other two channels, I remembered that I had a Pan/Tilt mechanism already built.
After attaching the camera mount to the polycarbonate shell, it was simply a matter of plugging the servos in. In a few easy steps I had a ready-made GoPro mount to add sight to my creation!
Below is a video of it completed in the garage, and there’s more information on the final build here. Unfortunately, the torque required to actually make the legs walk was too much for the little motors I was using. It’ll make a great display though, and actually walking will be a good goal if I ever decide to make revision 1!
So sometimes one just needs a little push to actually finish a project! Hopefully my [MountainBeest] can make a good showing at the Columbia, South Carolina Maker Faire this year. I’m certainly looking forward to it. If you happen to be in the area on June 14th this year, or want to make the trip, be sure to stop by and say hello!
Full disclosure: I’ve received promotional consideration on some parts used in this project not in connection with this article.
Jeremy Cook is a manufacturing engineer with 10 years experience as his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, working on everything from hobby CNC machinery, to light graffiti, and even the occasional DIY musical instrument. When he’s not busy creating (or destroying) something, he writes for his blogs JcoPro.net and DIYTripods.com.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 19:00nastya nudnik adds emotion to paintings with social media symbols
Check out this amusing intersection of art and technology by Nastya Nudnik, from designboom.
kiev-based artist nastya nudnik inserts symbols of the internet age into classic fine art, paring popular emoticons with recognizable painted works. ‘emoji-nation’ comprises series’ of familiar images that have been appropriated from renowned artists, from edward hopper to michelangelo. these works are brought into the 21st century with the addition of smiling icons reminiscent of iMessage, pop-up alerts from the windows interface and emblems from instagram found ubiquitously throughout the app. each motif cleverly and humorously represents the sentiment of the scene, bringing life and real human moments to the static setting.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 18:55Smart Measuring Cup using an Arduino Yun and an eTape liquid level sensor
This guide will show you how to build a smart measuring cup which displays the volume of liquid in real time on a web page. No longer will you need to squint and guess while measuring liquids; the smart measuring cup’s web page clearly shows the measured volume, and even converts between units or tares measurements like a digital scale!
The brains behind the smart measuring cup are an Arduino Yun and an eTape liquid level sensor. The Yun is the perfect platform for this project because it can read sensor data with it’s ATmega microcontroller, and serve a web application (written in python and Flask) using it’s Linux-based processor. By following this guide you can even learn how to send sensor data to a web page for your own projects.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 18:00NovaBooth – Open Source Photobooth – As Seen on Adafruit Show-and-Tell!
Last week, Kevin Osborn showed off the
NovaBooth – Open Source Photobooth, and used it to snap a photobooth selfie and email it automatically (along with his contact details!) to Adafruit Support to request an “As seen on Show and Tell” sticker!
…we (the Wyolum Gang) created a photobooth for the Open Hardware Summit, for the purpose of customizing the e-paper badges we made for the conference attendees. This processed the pictures into a small black and white image for the e-paper badge, and saved it onto the badge’s micro-sd card.
I was headed to help out at the Northern Virginia Maker Faire, and thought it would be fun to update the photobooth to take full color pictures, upload them to the Internet and offer to email them to friends and relatives. The email message and logo files are easy to add and customize.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 17:58Check Out This Toy Story-Star Wars Crossover Costume
Both Darth Vader and Emperor Zurg are bad guys, so why not mix them up? Instructables user Luis Linares made this fun mash-up costume for his daughter from materials such as a trash can, a plastic viking helmet, and plastic canvas. The finished product looks cool and only a little frightening. Here’s how he started with the helmet:
I started off with an Office Trash Can. I freehanded the eyes and mouth with a marker where I was going to cut with a Dremel. I also cut off the top [of the] head in a 45 [degree angle] so I could add the gray foam mat piece in front of the head. I used hot glue to put it [the helmet and foam mat] together. [For] the nose I used the same thing – gray foam mat and used hot glue to put it together.
Read more and see more pictures at Instructables.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 17:58Alternatives to ULINE shipping supplies – shipping boxes, packing materials and mailing supplies #makerbusiness #manufacturing @uline
If you’re searching for shipping boxes, packing materials and mailing supplies online, you’ll see ULINE EVERYWHERE, ULINE spends an estimated $80k+ a day on advertising – An estimated $35.1 million on Google in “Business & Industrial” alone. It must be working, they’re estimated to be a $2b to $5b (that’s billion with a b) company with over 3,150 employees. They also supply Hall & Oates merchandise.
We started out using ULINE in the early days of Adafruit when we didn’t know anywhere else and we’ve completely outgrown their products/pricing and service. Many other maker businesses, Kickstarters and pros that are shipping hundreds or even tens-of-thousands of orders have asked us where we purchase our supplies instead of ULINE now. Here are our main suppliers for: akro bins, all desks – both shipping stations and work desks, anti-static bags, bin panels, bins, boxes, bubble wrap, cardboard boxes, cardboard shipping boxes, chairs, label dispenser, labels, mailing supplies, mailing tubes, packaging supplies, packing materials, packing peanuts, pallet jacks, pallet wrap, pallets for storage, plastic bags, shelving, shipping boxes, tape dispensers and thermal labels. Post your faves too.
Do you have a favorite supplier? Remember, post up in the comments here or on Google+ !
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 17:21NYC Resistor at Pride of Brooklyn
This past weekend NYC Resistor, for the first time ever, entered a homebrew competition. We went to the Pride of Brooklyn event held at Littlefield in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn ( not far from NYC Resistor ). And it was AWESOME.
Read on for more info about the beer, future events, and other fun stuff.
As I may have mentioned, several NYC Resistor members do occasionally homebrew.
We have several projects in that area developing. Travis and Myself have been very active in trying to get out into the local NYC brewing scene and share ideas. It’s been very enjoyable.
Pride of Brooklyn was a wonderful way to celebrate the onset of some REAL spring weather. It’s been a long winter, and this past weekend was a much welcomed reprieve. The event also happened to occur on April 12th. Yuri’s Night. Which I guess made it that much more special. I hope you all had a terrific Yuri’s Night as well. We certainly did along with 24 other homebrewers.
For the event we entered a Scottish style of beer known as a wee heavy. We named ours ‘weesistor heavy’, because we know that puns are the way to people’s hearts. Our version was somewhat sweet for a beer, with a rich red color, and a smoky peaty aftertaste. We had an OG of 1.064 and an FG of 1.012 resulting in an ABV of about 7% and a very low IBU. It was very well received, and was several people informed us that it was unlike any other beer there. Several folks thought it tasted a bit like a single malt scotch of beers. That was the peated malt steeped in the keg at the end.
We’d like to thank the wonderful folks at Pride of Brooklyn for putting together the event. It was a blast. And they really went out of their way to make the event memorable for the brewers as well as the folks learning to love results of homebrewed beer. So from us, thanks! We had a blast and it was worth all 5 gallons. I’d also like to give a shout out to all the other homebrewers at the event. Everyone was amazing, and their beers were almost as amazing as they were. Frankly, I’ve never been in one place with that much delicious beer on tap in my life. And I assure you I’ve been around the proverbial block.
We’ll be bringing another beer out shortly, and I’ll post about that too. But look forward to seeing us at the Food and Book Fair’s Pop Up pub at the Wythe hotel in Williamsburg on Sunday April 27th. We expect great things.
The Recipe for the beer is on our GitHub here: Weesistor Heavy
The STL files for 3D printing our keg wrap ( including a blank front plate ) are here:
Thingiverse Thing: 293263
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 17:18Ask your Wearables Questions! LIVE Wearable Electronics with Becky Stern 4/16 2pm ET
What questions do you have about wearable electronics? Ask them now in the comments, and you could win our live giveaway!
All inquisitive askers whose questions are featured on this week’s LIVE Wearable Electronics with Becky Stern will be eligible for a special giveaway. Post your Qs in the comments here, on Google+, Twitter, or YouTube, and then tune in at 2pm ET on Wednesday for the answers and to see if you’ve won!
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 17:00How a Drexel professor created the world’s biggest game of tetris
By now, everyone’s seen the viral video of the world’s largest game of tetris that was played on the side of a Philadelphia skyscraper. Fast Company has a post on how one Drexel gaming professor pulled it off.
It all started with a hallucination. As anybody who has spent some fraction of his or her life glued to Tetris knows, the game’s pieces have a way of showing up in the real world. This so-called Tetris Effect is a real thing, as Dr. Frank Lee experienced one day as he drove by the Philadelphia skyline and imagined Tetris shapes falling down the side of a skyscraper. It made him wonder: Could you hack a building and turn it into a giant video game?
Apparently you can. Lee, who co-founded the game design program at Drexel University, unveiled a skyscraper-sized version of Tetris this weekend as part of Philly Tech Week. For two nights, players took over opposite sides of the 29-story Cira Centre, a massive building whose LED-covered facade was commandeered by Lee and his team to create the game.
With an estimated 2,000 attendees, Saturday’s event was a hit, which you’d expect from something involving Tetris, food trucks, and beer. Indeed, the very concept of Tetris being played on a skyscraper was enough to attract national press coverage, including a roundup of animated GIFs. It also happened to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the game’s launch; Tetris Company co-founder Henk Rogers was there to mark the occasion…
HOW IT WORKS
The Cira Centre’s exterior is affixed with Philips Color Kinetics LED lights (the same kind adorning the Bay Bridge), which means that they’re Internet-connected. For Lee’s team, the first step was gaining access to the network that controls the lights.
Lee’s team solicited the owner of the building for several teams to get direct VPN access to the network. Once the owner supplied the code, Lee’s team mapped the physical location of each light and parsed them together into a grid so they could map the lights to pixels from the homegrown version of Pong they created. Luckily for them, somebody on GitHub had already written software to take control of lighting systems, which made their work considerably easier.
“At that point, I knew it was theoretically possible,” Lee says. “If you can control the pixels, you can create a game.”
Like Pong before it, the larger-than-life Tetris game is controlled by joysticks connected to laptops that send keystrokes over a 4G wireless hotspot to a server inside the Cira Centre network. These signals tell the system which LED lights to illuminate and when. The result is a crudely simple, yet fluid, animation of pixels that’s akin to an early Atari game, complete with sound effects.
Monday, April 14, 2014 - 16:35April Caption Contest Winner
Last week, we posted our monthly caption contest and you responded with great aplomb. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner, and today we have just that. So without further ado, here is this month’s winner:
You’ll notice, our new model is black, with a yellow border.
Congrats Member #543343! We love a good bit of topical humor. We’ll be in contact shortly with your prize ($100 in SparkFun credit).
We’ll be back soon with another contest!