Posts with «misc hacks» label

P-51 Cockpit Recreated with Help of Local Makerspace

It’s surprisingly easy to misjudge tips that come into the Hackaday tip line. After filtering out the omnipresent spam, a quick scan of tip titles will often form a quick impression that turns out to be completely wrong. Such was the case with a recent tip that seemed from the subject line to be a flight simulator cockpit. The mental picture I had was of a model cockpit hooked to Flight Simulator or some other off-the-shelf flying game, many of which we’ve seen over the years.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the project that Grant Hobbs undertook. His cockpit simulator turned out to be so much more than what I thought, and after trading a few emails with him to get all the details, I felt like I had to share the series of hacks that led to the short video below and the story about how he somehow managed to build the set despite having no previous experience with the usual tools of the trade.

A Novel and a Film

Grant has been making short films for a while, mainly in collaboration with John Dwyer, an author of historical novels. Grant’s shorts are used as promos for John’s books, and nicely capture the period and settings of John’s novels. Most of these films required little in the way of special sets, relying instead on stock footage and vintage costumes to achieve their look and feel. John’s latest novel would change all that.

Called Mustang, the novel centers on a hotshot fighter pilot in WWII. Grant’s vision for the short to promote the book was inspired by the recent Christopher Nolan film Dunkirk, which featured intricate sequences filmed in the cockpit of a Spitfire. Granted wanted a similar look, and began arranging to use a real P-51 Mustang for filming. That presented immediate problems. First, there aren’t that many of the vintage aircraft left, and those that are still flying usually have anachronistic instruments in the cockpit, like GPS. Also, Grant wanted the instruments to respond as if the plane were airborne, and to have the shadows cast by the canopy into the cockpit suggest aerial maneuvers. Such an effect would be difficult to achieve with a plane stuck on a runway.

That’s when Grant realized that a gimballed cockpit simulator was needed. It could have a period-accurate dashboard, be positioned outdoors to take advantage of natural daylight and real backgrounds rather than CGI, and could be pitched, rolled and yawed to simulate flight. It would be perfect, and it would save the project. There was just one problem: he had no idea how to build it.

Helping Hands

Wisely, Grant turned to his local hackerspace, Dallas Maker Space, for help. There he found not only the tools he lacked, but kindred spirits with the necessary skills and the willingness to share them. They started working on the cockpit instrument panel, which ended up including a combination of actual flight hardware and mocked-up instruments. The fake instruments used steppers and an Arduino to drive the needles, which were controlled by a custom iPad app that was used to animate them live during filming. The real instruments, like the artificial horizon and turn-and-slip indicator, were powered by a vacuum pump and responded to the movements of the simulator on its gimbals.

The gimballed cockpit set for exterior shots. The wide horizon and natural lighting combined with the 3-DOF gimbal make for a very realistic effect.

Mounting this convincing panel into something was an entirely different undertaking. Grant relied heavily on the experience of DMS members to design a structure strong enough to support the actor and allow for the motion needed to create a convincing effect. The cockpit mockup, made from plasma-cut sheet metal and plywood, is mounted to a heavy-duty three-axis gimbal, including a massive bearing from a pallet jack for the yaw axis.

Set and talent, ready for action.

Grant had originally planned to place the mockup on a mountaintop for shooting, much as the Spitfire mockup from Dunkirk was placed on the edge of a cliff to give an unobstructed horizon to simulate flying over the English Channel. When that proved logistically challenging, he set up on an airport runway and used clever camera blocking to avoid shooting the horizon. Grips manually moved the simulator while Grant manipulated the fake instruments and filmed the results, which I think speak for themselves. If only the budget – and on-set safety – would have supported simulating the massive four-blade Mustang propeller, the illusion would have been complete.

I really enjoyed digging into this project and all the hacks that it entailed. Movie magic is as much about hacking as anything else, at least behind the cameras, and it’s good to see what’s possible with a limited budget. We recently featured a low-budget but high-style sci-fi movie set build, and we’ve gone in-depth with a playback designer for the Netflix series Lost in Space, both in these pages and as a Hack Chat.

 

 

Be Still, My Animatronic Heart

Fair warning for the squeamish: some versions of [Will Cogley]’s animatronic heart are realistic enough that you might not want to watch the video below. That’d be a shame though, because he really put a lot of effort into the build, and the results have a lot to teach about mimicking the movements of living things.

As for why one would need an animatronic heart, we’re not sure. [Will] mentions no specific use case for it, although we can think of a few. With the Day of Compulsory Romance fast approaching, the fabric-wrapped version would make a great gift for the one who stole your heart, while the silicone-enrobed one could be used as a movie prop or an awesome prank. Whatever the reason, [Will]’s build is a case study in incremental development. He started with a design using a single continuous-rotation servo, which powered four 3D-printed paddles from a common crank. The four paddles somewhat mimicked the movements of the four chambers of the heart, but the effect wasn’t quite convincing. The next design used two servos and complex parallelogram linkages to expand each side of the heart in turn. It was closer, but still not quite right.

After carefully watching footage of a beating heart, [Will] decided that his mechanism needed to imitate the rapid systolic contraction and slow diastolic expansion characteristic of a real heart. To achieve this, his final design has three servos plus an Arduino for motion control. Slipped into a detailed silicone jacket, the look is very realistic. Check out the video below if you dare.

We’ve seen plenty of animatronic body parts before, from eyes to hands to entire faces. This might be the first time we’ve seen an animatronic version of an internal organ, though.

Simulate City Blocks With Circuit Blocks In A LEGO Box

Have you ever looked around your city’s layout and thought you could do better? Maybe you’ve always wanted to see how she’d run on nuclear or wind power, or just play around with civic amenities and see how your choices affect the citizens.

[Robbe Nagel] made this physical-digital simulator for a Creative Programming class within an industrial design program. We don’t have all the details, but as [Robbe] explains in the video after the break, each block has a resistor on the bottom, and each cubbyhole has a pair of contacts ready to mate with it. An Arduino nestled safely in the LEGO bunker below reads the different resistance values to determine what block was placed where.

[Robbe] wrote a program that evaluates various layouts and provides statistics for things like population, overall health, education level, pollution, etc. As you can see after the break, these values change as soon as blocks are added or removed. Part of what makes this simulator so cool is that it could be used for serious purposes, or it could be totally gamified.

It’s no secret that we like LEGO, especially as an enclosure material. Dress it up or dress it down, just don’t leave any pieces on the floor.

Via r/Arduino

2D-Scanner Records Surfboard Profiles for Posterity

[Ryan Schenk] had a problem: he built the perfect surfboard. Normally that wouldn’t present a problem, but in this case, it did because [Ryan] had no idea how he carved the gentle curves on the bottom of the board. So he built this homebrew 2D-scanner to make the job of replicating his hand-carved board a bit easier.

Dubbed the Scanbot 69420 – interpretation of the number is left as an exercise for the reader, my dude – the scanner is pretty simple. It’s just an old mouse carrying a digital dial indicator from Harbor Freight. The mouse was gutted, with even the original ball replaced by an RC plane wheel. The optical encoder and buttons were hooked to an Arduino, as was the serial output of the dial indicator. The Arduino consolidates the data from both sensors and sends a stream of X- and Z-axis coordinates up the USB cable as the rig slides across the board on a straightedge. On the PC side, a Node.js program turns the raw data into a vector drawing that represents the profile of the board at that point. Curves are captured at various points along the length of the board, resulting in a series of curves that can be used to replicate the board.

Yes, this could have been done with a straightedge, a ruler, and a pencil and paper – or perhaps with a hacked set of calipers – but that wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. And we can certainly see applications for this far beyond the surfboard shop.

Feeding Chickens, With Style

Ah, the joys of domestic animals. Often adorable, occasionally useful, they’re universally unable to care for themselves in the slightest. That’s part of the bargain though; we take over responsibility for their upkeep and they repay us with whatever it is they do best. Unless the animal in question is a cat, of course – they have their own terms and conditions.

Chickens, though, are very useful indeed. Give them food and water and they give you delicious, nutritious, high-quality protein. Feeding them every day can be a chore, though, unless you automate the task. This Twitch-enabled robotic chicken feeder may be overkill for that simple use case, but as [Sean Hodgins] tell it, there’s a method to all the hardware he threw at this build. That would include a custom-welded steel frame holding a solar panel and batteries, a huge LED matrix display, a Raspberry Pi and camera, and of course, food dispensers. Those are of the kind once used to dispense candy or gum for a coin or two in the grocery; retooled with 3D-printed parts, the dispensers now eject a small scoop of feed whenever someone watching a Twitch stream decides to donate to the farm that’s hosting the system. You can see the build below in detail, or just pop over to Sweet Farm to check out the live feed and gawk at some chickens.

It’s an impressive bit of work on [Sean]’s part for sure, and we did notice how he used his HCC rapid prototyping module to speed up development. Still, we’re not convinced there will be many donations at $10 a pop. Then again, dropping donations to the micropayment level may lead to overfed chickens, and that’s not a good thing.

Hack a Day 23 Aug 21:00

Trick Shot Bot Flings Balls into Wine Glass Every Time

We’ve heard of beer pong, but we’re not sure we’ve heard of wine pong. And certainly never wine pong automated with a ping pong ball throwing robot like this one.

There’s not a huge amount of detail available in the video below, and no build log per se. But [Electron Dust] has a few shots in the video that explain what’s going on, as well as a brief description in a reddit thread about the device. The idea is to spin a ball up to a steady speed and release it the same way every time. The rig itself is made of wood and spun by plain brushed DC motors – [Electron Dust] explains that he chose them over PWM servos to simplify things and eliminate uncertainty in the release point. The ball is retained by a pair of arms, each controlled by a pair of hobby servos. An Arduino spins along with everything else and counts 50 revolutions before triggering the servos to retract and release the ball. A glass positioned at the landing spot captures the ball perfectly once everything is dialed in.

Here’s hoping that build details end up on his blog soon, as they did for this audio-feedback juggling machine. And while we certainly like this project, it might be cool if it could aim the ball into the glass. Or it could always reposition the target on the fly.

Surfing Diorama Makes For A Neat Desk Toy

In 1994, Weezer famously said that “you take your car to work, I’ll take my board”. Obviously, for the office-bound, surfing is simply out of the question during the working day.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun with a desk toy inspired by the waves.

The crux of the build is a watery diorama, which interacts with a faux-surfboard. The diorama consists of a tank constructed out of plexiglas, sealed together to be watertight. It’s then filled with blue-dyed water, and topped off with baby oil. The tank is then mounted on a cam controlled by a servo, which rocks the tank back and forth to create waves. This is controlled by the motion of the rider on the plywood surfboard, which can be rocked to and fro on the floor thanks to its curved bottom. An Arduino built into the board monitors a three-axis accelerometer, and sends this information to the Arduino controlling the tank.

By riding the board, the user can shake the tank. Get the motion just right, and smooth rolling waves are your reward. Jerk around with no real rhythm, and you’ll just get messy surf. We reckon it would be even better with a little surfer floating in the tank, too. It’s a fun build, and one that might help stave off the negative health effects of sitting at a desk all day. You might prefer a more shocking desk toy, however. Video after the break.

Hack a Day 15 Jun 12:00

Gesture Sensing With A Temperature Sensor

Good science fiction has sound scientific fact behind it and when Tony Stark first made his debut on the big screen with design tools that worked at the wave of a hand, makers and hackers were not far behind with DIY solutions. Over the years the ideas have become much more polished, as we can see with this Gesture Recognition with PIR sensors project.

The project uses the TPA81 8-pixel thermopile array which detects the change in heat levels from 8 adjacent points. An Arduino reads these temperature points over I2C and then a simple thresholding function is used to detect the movement of the fingers. These movements are then used to do a number of things including turn the volume up or down as shown in the image alongside.

The brilliant part is that the TPA81 8-Pixel sensor has been around for a number of years. It is a bit expensive though it has the ability to detect small thermal variations such as candle flames at up to 2 Meters. More recent parts such as the Panasonic AMG8834 that contain a grid of 8×8 such sensors are much more capable for your hacking/making pleasure, but come with an increased price tag.

This technique is not just limited to gestures, and can be used in Heat-Seeking Robots that can very well be trained to follow the cat around just to annoy it.

Air Bubble Characters Float Along This Unique Scrolling Display

We’ve seen a lot of unique large-format scrolling message boards on these pages, but most of them use some sort of established technology – LEDs, electromechanical flip-dots, and the like – in new and unusual ways. We’re pretty sure this air-bubble dot matrix display is a first, though.

While it may not be destined for the front of a bus or a train station arrivals and departures board, [jellmeister]’s bubble display shows some pretty creative thinking. It started with a scrap of multiwall polycarbonate roofing – Corotherm is the brand name – of the type to glaze greenhouses and other structures. The parallel tubes are perfect for the display, although individual tubes could certainly be substituted. A plastic end cap was fabricated; air nozzles in each channel were plumbed to an air supply through solenoid valves. An Arduino with a couple of motor driver hats allows pulses of air into each channel to create reasonably legible characters that float up the tube. The video below shows it in use at a Maker Faire, where visitors could bubble up their own messages.

It took some tweaking to get it looking as good as it does, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. We wonder whether colored liquid might help, or perhaps adding a Neopixel or even a laser to each channel to add some contrast. Maybe something to cloud the water slightly would help; increasing the surface tension with a salt solution might make the bubbles more distinct. We doubt it’ll ever have the contrast ratio of a flip-dot display, but it certainly has a charm all its own.

Treasure Trove of Projects Provides Endless Examples

Sometimes, traveling the internet feels a little like exploring an endless cave system looking for treasure. Lots of dark passageways without light or life, some occasional glimmers as you find a stray gold doubloon or emerald scattered in a corner. If we take the metaphor too far, then finding [Paul]’s “Little Arduino Projects” repository is like turning an unremarkable corner only to discover a dragon’s hoard.

LEAP (as [Paul] also refers to the collection) is a numbered collection of what looks like more or less every electronics project he has completed over the last few years. At the time of writing there are 434 projects in the GitHub repository and tagged and indexed in a handy blog-style interface. Some are familiar, like a modification to a Boldport project. Others are one-off tests of a specific concept like driving a seven segment display (there are actually 16 similar projects if you search the index for “7-Segment”). On the other end are project builds with more detailed logs and documentation, like the LED signboard for monitoring the status of 24 in-progress projects, mounted in a guitar fret board.

LEAP reminds us of the good old days on the internet, before it felt like 50% trolling and 50% tracking cookies. Spend a few minutes checking out [Paul]’s project archive and see if you find anything interesting! We’ve just scratched the surface. And of course, send a tip if you discover something that needs a write-up!