Monthly Archives: May 2012




Hackaday reader [svofski] wrote in to share a device he built, which would be useful to any ham operators out there trying to hone their CW skills. He calls his practice keyer the Morseshnik, and it is a combination of various items [svofski] found while digging through his parts drawer.

He disassembled an old hard drive, saving its read arm to serve as the keyer’s paddle. He purchased some small angle brackets to create a set of contacts for the device, between which the lever sits, automatically centered by a pair of springs.

An MSP430, which was also collecting dust in [svofski’s] junk pile, resides inside the Morseshnik’s mint tin base on a small DIY PCB. It allows him to toggle between manual and automatic keying modes with the flick of a switch as he whiles his time away practicing his dits and dahs.

Continue reading to see a short…

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Pentagon seeks to join 3-D printing revolution – Defense –

The Pentagon will fund an institute for agencies, companies and academics to advance three-dimensional printing techniques, with the eventual goal of cheaper and faster manufacturing of aerospace and defense parts.

Also known as additive manufacturing, 3-D printing uses special machines to make solid objects, layer by layer, from a digital file. Designers use 3-D printers to create cheap prototypes without needing to turn to an assembly line; hobbyists and tinkerers build do-it-yourself projects with the technology. Now the Pentagon wants to capitalize on 3-D printers to shave the costs of assembly tools.

The agency seeks to launch a $60 million 3-D printing research and educational program, documents show. Defense expects to fund $30 million from fiscal 2012 through 2014. The bulk of the funding — $18.8 million — is expected to be forked over in fiscal 2012. The 3-D printing initiative will offer a proof of concept on how to build a network of 14 institutes to spur ideas on improving domestic manufacturing, as part of a $1 billion White House initiative called the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The program will be managed by various federal agencies, including Defense, the Energy Department, and the National Science Foundation.

The Pentagon is soliciting nonprofit organizations and universities to launch the pilot. The institution should house additive manufacturing experts, have a business plan to ensure it is financially sustainable, and be able to protect the patent rights of inventors. A proposer’s day for the pilot program will be held May 16. Proposals are due on June 14.

“Due to the advantages of additive manufacturing, considerable capability improvements and manufacturing cycle time reductions can be realized for new platforms,” the solicitation notes. “In addition, parts needed for DoD legacy systems can have a significant cost and cycle time savings because assembly tools are not required.”

The Pentagon’s participation in the 3-D printing revolution would give additional boost to an industry that is expected to grow to $3.1 billion by 2016 and $5.2 billion by 2020, according to research group Wohlers Associates.

via Pentagon seeks to join 3-D printing revolution – Defense –

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Over on the RepRap blog, [Rhys] has been experimenting with molten metal to build circuits with the RepRap.

Last June, [Rhys] found a neat alloy made of Tin, Bismuth, and a little bit of Indium that melts at around 130° C, and has just the right properties to be extruded with a standard RepRap setup. The results were encouraging, but the molten metal quickly dissolved the brass and aluminum nozzles [Rhys] was pushing liquid metal through.

The solution to this problem was solved by anodizing the heck out of a RepRap nozzle to make a hard, protective oxide layer. Already [Rhys] has logged hundreds of hours squirting molten metal out of his RepRap with no signs of any damage to the nozzle.

Since [Rhys] figured out how to print in metal, he whipped up an extremely minimal Sanguino board. You can see this RepRapped PCB running a LED blink…

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What's Next

By John D. Sutter, CNN

(CNN) — OK, I know this sounds ridiculous. But hear me out. An Internet company in Mexico City recently tested the idea of giving responsible pet owners a treat for picking up after their dogs in public parks.

People put their dogs’ droppings in a special container which measured the weight of the poop. The container, which doubled as a router, then emitted a set number of minutes of free Wi-Fi for every pound of feces it collected.

Yeah, that’s kind of gross. And no, there apparently was nothing stopping Wi-Fi cheaters from putting rocks or other heavy objects in the bins instead of dog poop. But it’s yet another example of game mechanics getting tacked on top of the real world we live in — trying to influence our behavior, for better or worse, with rewards. The same kind we give to our pets.

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High voltage power supply for Nixies, CFL, Neon-Glow-Bulbs etc.

What’s better than a good nixie tube or other high voltage accessory? Driving them for next to nothing with a scavenged disposable camera! I knew they kept those awful cameras around for something. In the link below, instructables steampunk guru Junophor explains how to power these high voltage devises using nothing more than a few bits of wire, the board and 1.5v AA or AAA from a cheapo disposable camera, and some guts and know how (high voltage is dangerous kids). Check the instructables link below and get ready to start gluing nixie tubes to… well everything.
High voltage power supply for Nixies, CFL, Neon-Glow-Bulbs etc. for my steampunk objects.

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This is awesome, Its nice to see organizations keeping up with technology.


It has just been announced that “the Boy Scouts have developed into a real training ground for budding scientists and engineers. Of the126 current merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America, 31 of them fit under the STEM umbrella. But it’s the newest badge that is generating a lot of interest. This week, the BSA introduced the robotics merit badge, an ambitious set of requirements that really explores robotics as both a hobby and a career.”  Read full Wired article here.

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Rat Brain Robot Grows Up


This was one of those things that made me say “wow we can do that”

Kevin Warwick is most certainly the preeminent cyborg of our time. More than a decade ago he implanted an RFID chip in himself to control simple functions like turning on the lights, and it’s been 8 years since he inserted a more elaborate, 100-electrode array into the nerves in his forearm that allowed him to manipulate a robotic arm on another continent. He’s assisted students at the University of Reading, in England, who wished to implant magnets in the tips of their fingers and at least one who wished for an electrode in the tongue (with the help, Warwick says, of a Manchester tattoo artist who goes by the name “Dr. Evil”).

More recently, he’s been growing rat neurons on a 128-electrode array and using them to control a simple robot consisting of two wheels with a sonar sensor. The rudimentary little toy has no microprocessor of its own — it depends entirely on a rat embryo’s brain cells. The interesting question is just how big one of these neuron-electrode hybrid brains can grow, and those brain cell networks are now getting more complicated, and more legitimately mammalian, Warwick said this week in a keynote speech at the IEEE Biomedical Circuits and Systems conference. Warwick’s twist predates the living rat-controlled robot we wrote about recently, and it just goes to show that weird cyborg animal projects have virtually unlimited potential.

To start off a rat brain robot, embryonic neurons are separated out and allowed to grow on an electrode array. Within minutes the neurons start to push out tentacles and link up to each other, becoming interconnected dendrites and axons. A dense mesh of about 100,000 neurons can grow within several days. After about a week, Warwick and his collaborators can start to pulse the electrodes under the neural mesh in search of a pathway — that is, when neurons near an active electrode fire, another group of neurons on a different side of the array shows an inclination to fire as well.

Once they have a pathway — the groups fire in tandem at least a third of the time — the University of Reading researchers can use that connection to get the robot to roam around and learn to avoid crashing into walls. They connect the electrode array to the robot using Bluetooth. When the sonar senses it’s nearing a wall, it stimulates the electrode at one end of the neural pathway, and at first the brain sends back a coherent response only every once in awhile. The robot interprets the response as an instruction to turn its wheels. With time and repetition, the neural pathways become stronger, and the robot runs into the walls less frequently. In effect, the robot works out for itself how to not bash into obstacles.

To add complexity to the experiments, Warwick’s lab is now collaborating with a Canadian group to culture neurons in three dimensions, meaning they are attempting to grow a network of 30 million neurons — a big step towards the 100 billion found in a human brain. After that, the next step will be to bring in human neurons. “If we have 100 billion human neurons,” Warwick says, “should we give it rights? Does it get to vote?” More to the point, he wonders: “Is it conscious?”

originally posted by  SANDRA UPSON  /  FRI, NOVEMBER 05, 2010

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90GB Of Data Can Now Be Stored In 1g Of Bacteria


A Transmission Electron Micrograph image of Deinococcus radiodurans, one of the world’s toughest bacteria Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have succeeded in demonstrating data storage and encryption with bacteria. While current electronic data storage methods approach their limits in density, the team achieved unprecedented results with a colony of E.coli. Their technique allows the equivalent of the United States Declaration of Independence to be stored in the DNA of eighteen bacterial cells. Given there are approximately ten million cells in one gram of biological material, the potential for data storage is huge. Furthermore, data can be encrypted using the natural process of site specific genetic recombination: information is scrambled by recombinase genes, whose actions are controlled by a transcription factor. However, the technique is not yet perfect. Retrieval of data requires a sequencer, and is therefore tedious and expensive. Additionally, toxic DNA is bound to be present…

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