Entries in Category Engineering and Inventions

Link Dump, March 2017

  • By now surely everyone has heard that SpaceX has accepted “significant deposits” from two private citizens for a trip around the moon, using SpaceX's Dragon capsule and Falcon Heavy rocket. The video above is some lovely footage from the last SpaceX mission, showing their reusable booster returning to a landing pad at Cape Canaveral.
  • Not to be outdone, Blue Origin have revealed completed units of its new BE-4 engine, intended for their own orbital New Glenn platform.
  • Paris-based startup Hypersuit is developing a virtual reality platform that the user lies down on, simulating bird-like flight, spacewalks, swimming, etc. I’ve got a personal story to tell about this. The first time I tried a development version of Oculus Rift with my friends Antonio Haley and Jon Lusk, one of the demos was a 360 degree video of a wingsuit flight from a cliff in some impressively vertiginous fjord someplace, probably Norway. After trying it standing up, my first instinct was to run to our warehouse area and bring over a furniture dolly (a sort of wheeled platform for moving cargo around) to lie on, belly-down as wingsuit flyers do. One of my comrades brought over a desk fan to add something to the simulation. Obviously I looked ridiculous. But I’m glad someone did something serious along these lines!
  • And another wacky idea from France: a fleet of autonomous personal hydrofoils for urban river transport? It looks cool enough but I'm skeptical of this one; it's a bit too TED-friendly if you take my meaning.
  • The port of Rotterdam has been operating some aquatic robots designed to collect floating trash. I’ve considered building something like this. In coastal south Florida there are many marine canals in residential backyards and there’s quite a bit of trash in those canals, to the point that real estate agents know that lots at the end of those canals, where trash accumulates, are less desirable. To my mind, the dealbreaker with selling a trash-collecting skimmer robot is the prosaic part of frequently having to lift a heap of gathered trash from some sort of bin in the robot, four feet up from the water surface, to the homeowner’s dock for disposal. But we’ll see what operational experience in Rotterdam reveals!

Link Dump, February 2017

I think I'll try something new and share some items recently interesting to me in the form of a link dump.

  • Last year I followed with great interest youtube machinist Clickspring as he made a mechanical pendulum-timed clock from scratch in his home shop in Australia. This year he begins an ambitious new project, documenting in a series of videos his process of replicating the ancient mechanical computer known as the Antikythera mechanism. See the first episode above.
  • Neal Stephenson (one of my favorite authors) has announced, with Nicole Galland, a new Speculative Fiction novel featuring time-travel, the Victorian era, and a transition from a world in which magic works to one dominated by technology. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. will be on sale June 13.
  • There's a nice infrared thermometer made by Etekcity for sale at Amazon as of this writing. Even if you don't have any specific need for convenient no-contact temperature measurement, it's a great way to get an intuitive sense of heat transfer and great fun to point at everything you can think of.
  • Speaking of tools for STEM education, there's a project that makes it easy to enable visual programming environment Scratch, popular for teaching grade-school kids to code, to receive input from and pass control signals to things in the real world via Arduino. Scratch 4 Arduino is remarkably mature and easy to get going with.
  • In fact, I'm using it myself to build a system of musical swings (inspired by this traveling exhibit) that will be programmed by a talented student at a local school. Watch this space for more by the end of the month!

Birthday LED Lights, with Birch Bark, Brass, and Laser-cut Acrylic

This summer I built a series of LED lamps to take the place of birthday candles for four of my family. There's 175 candle-flicker LEDs in all! Watch a video of the result on youtube:

I also added a page describing the process of making these to my projects page. Click here to read more!

Introduction to 3D Design

Who wants to join me in the future? I'll be teaching an introductory CAD course at Hacklab North Boynton on Monday nights from 7 till 9. The price is $25 per session or $140 for all six. You'll learn to design your own parts suitable for 3d printing, machining, or any other process. All you need is a laptop and a mouse.

Our first session is this Monday, January 18th. We'll meet again on the 25th and on February 1st, 8th, 22nd, and 29th.

See you there!

Update, January 18: Hacklab North Boynton has postponed the future! But only by one week! Sign up and join me next Monday, January 25, instead. Thank you for your patience.

Lasercut Storage Bins

I have a small workshop space in a spare bedroom at home. Like many people that work in small shops I try to find ingenious ways to use every part of the buffalo. My latest improvements are some laser-cut plywood storage bins for small tools and parts, designed to mount to the sides of the hutch over my electronics workbench.

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