Want to Support Hacker-friendly Hardware Design? Follow Valve’s Example

It’s been just over a year since Valve released Index, their flagship VR system, and it’s worth looking back at this GitHub repository as a fine example of how to provide supporting materials to a hacker-friendly hardware design. The image above shows off one of the hacker-friendly design elements: an empty space behind the visor, with a USB port off to the right, that exists for no reason other than to make it easier to mount and plug in whatever one might come up with. There’s more to it than that, however. If one wishes to provide supporting materials for a hardware design, one could certainly do worse than emulate Valve’s example.

Want to Support Hacker-friendly Hardware Design? Follow Valve’s Example — Hackaday
Want to Support Hacker-friendly Hardware Design? Follow Valve’s Example

Hackspace Magazine: Open Source Space

Drew’s column in the new HackSpace magazine is dedicated to open source space projects like PSAS, OreSat, SatNOGS and the Libre Space Foundation:

Open Source Space

Space exploration is usually associated with national agencies like NASA, or with private corporations such as SpaceX. However, there now is a growing movement of people who believe that space shouldn’t be limited to governments and companies, and that space exploration can be made more accessible with Open Source technologies.

SatNOGS won the first Hackaday Prize back in 2014 with their global network of Open Source satellite receivers. There were already a number of amateur satellites in space that had been designed and launched by universities and space enthusiasts from all over the world. However, until SatNOGS came along there was no way of getting regular data for your satellite, as it would only pass within reading range a handful of times per day. The success of the SatNOGS project led to the creation of the Libre Space Foundation.

The Libre Space Foundation, founded in Greece, aims to make space exploration accessible by developing free and Open Source technologies. Alongside infrastructure projects including the SatNOGs satellite receivers, they work on satellites and rocketry. Their UPSat was the first Open Source hardware satellite, and it was successfully delivered to the International Space Station then deployed into orbit in 2017. This deployment was a remarkable achievement: a real milestone in Open Source space exploration.

Whenever I’m in Oregon, I make sure to visit Portland State Aerospace Society (PSAS), an interdisciplinary, Open Source student aerospace project at Portland State University. PSAS makes composite amateur rockets, liquid fueled rocket engines, and CubeSats (a type of small satellite made up of 10cm3 units). Over the last 20 years PSAS have had 13 launches of four generations of amateur rockets. Their current rocket is Launch Vehicle No 3.1, a four meter tall solid fueled rocket that goes up to about 5km.

PSAS is also developing a CubeSat project called OreSat. OreSat is an impressive Open Source system of modular, expandable satellite designs. Their first small satellite, OreSat0, should be completed in November then dropped off in a sun synchronous low earth orbit in February 2021. All of the hardware and software developed at PSAS can be found on their GitHub page.

Hackspace Magazine: Open Source Space

Portland State Aerospace Society competes in collegiate space race

PSU Vanguard writes about our local aerospace team:

Portland State Aerospace Society competes in collegiate space race

Three current projects at Portland State Aerospace Society (PSAS) funnel into one ambitious goal: building a liquid fuel rocket capable of soaring to the edge of space—100 kilometers above Earth’s surface.

Tool boxes, red countdown timers, clocks set to different time zones, a workbench with satellite components and a wall of rockets surround an oval conference table. The PSAS room—located in the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science building—is a cross between an engineer’s workshop and NASA control room. PSAS members utilize the space to work on a new carbon fiber airframe, a liquid fuel rocket engine and Oregon’s first satellite as they compete in Base 11—a collegiate space race where the first team to launch a liquid fuel rocket to the edge of space wins a million dollars.

Each PSAS rocket is called a launch vehicle (LV) and is given a numeric value for every new iteration. The current rocket is LV 3.1.

“LV0 was just an off the shelf rocket kit that Andrew [Greenberg]—our faculty advisor—and a couple other people started PSAS with,” said PSAS member Jean-Pierre Pillay. “After that it went to LV1 and then LV2, LV2.1, LV2.1.3 as small iterations are made.”

The final project of the three that are funneling into the liquid fuel rocket is OreSat—the first satellite built in Oregon.

“It’s a tiny cubesat, about 10-by-10-by-20 centimeters, which is what’s called a 2U cubesat,” said David Lay, electrical systems intern for OreSat and electrical engineering lead for PSAS. “’U’ is a standard unit that’s defined by the cubesat standard.”

The plan is for OreSat to be passed along from PSAS to NASA in January 2021 then flown up to the International Space Station (ISS) in April of the same year, where it will be ejected from one of the space station’s airlocks.

Andrew Greenberg, faculty advisor for PSAS, explained in an interview that “the electronic systems that [they] built for the rockets are very satellite-like” with batteries, processors and communications gears which led to the creation of OreSat.

A primary mission of OreSat is STEM outreach. High school students are able to build hand-held ground stations that can interact with the tiny satellite’s camera.

“What they do is point it up and when we do a fly by overhead with our satellite we turn the satellite towards them and we downlink a live video feed of them from space,” Lay explained. “So we call it the 400 kilometer selfie-stick.”

Portland State Aerospace Society competes in collegiate space race

New Hackaday Contest: Circuit Sculpture Challenge

We’re bringing back one of our most popular contests, the Hackaday Circuit Sculpture Challenge! Make your functional circuits go beyond utility by turning them into art! Solar-powered circuit sculpture by [Mohit Bhoite] which was featured last year.Wire and circuit boards are a fantastic media for creating beautiful projects, and for this one we want both…

We’re bringing back one of our most popular contests, the Hackaday Circuit Sculpture Challenge! Make your functional circuits go beyond utility by turning them into art!

Read more New Contest: Circuit Sculpture Challenge — Hackaday

New Hackaday Contest: Circuit Sculpture Challenge

Hackaday: Tech At Home Winners Who Made the Best of their Quarantine

Back in April we challenged hackers to make the best of a tough situation by spending their time in isolation building with what they had laying around the shop. The pandemic might have forced us to stay in our homes and brought global shipping to a near standstill, but judging by the nearly 300 projects that were ultimately entered into the Making Tech At Home Contest, it certainly didn’t stifle the creativity of the incredible Hackaday community.

While it’s never easy selecting the winners, we think you’ll agree that the Inverse Thermal Camera is really something special. Combining a surplus thermal printer, STM32F103 Blue Pill, and OV7670 camera module inside an enclosure made from scraps of copper clad PCB, the gadget prints out the captured images on a roll of receipt paper like some kind of post-apocalyptic lo-fi Polaroid.

Tech At Home Winners Who Made the Best of their Quarantine — Hackaday
Hackaday: Tech At Home Winners Who Made the Best of their Quarantine

New features coming to KiCad

KiCad developer craftyjon recently posted videos about upcoming features.

This is a preview of the new per-type object opacity and visibility controls coming in KiCad 6
This is a preview of the new net and netclass appearance control panel coming in KiCad 6

New features coming to KiCad

USB controlled RGB LED

bikerglen has a new project on their blog:

The Single USB RGB LED

This project is a single RGB LED that is controlled over USB using a command line interface from a serial terminal window. A PIC16F1459 microcontroller implements the USB communications device class (CDC), processes the commands received from the user, and controls a single APA106-F8 8mm round RGB LED.

The USB CDC causes the PIC to appear as a serial port to the host computer. At this point, any terminal emulator software can be opened to access the CLI, and send commands to control the color and brightness of the LED. The APA106 addressable LED protocol is identical to the Neopixel / WS2812b protocol.

The software, board, and enclosure design files for this project are located in my single-usb-rgb-led repository on Github.

USB controlled RGB LED

New HackadayU Courses Announced for Fall 2020

Exciting announcement from Hackaday:

The fall lineup of HackadayU courses was just announced, get your tickets now!

Each course is led by expert instructors who have refined their topics into a set of four live, interactive classes plus one Q&A session we like to call Office Hours. Topics range from leveling up your Linux skills and learning about serial buses to building interactive art and getting into first-person view (FPV) drone flight.

Checkout the course titles, instructors, and details listed below. If you’d like to hear about each class from the instructors themselves, their teaser videos are embedded after the break.

Read more on Hackaday…

New HackadayU Courses Announced for Fall 2020

nRF9160 Feather: final week on GroupGets

Jared Wolff has design a Feather form factor board with the nRF9160:

nRF9160 Feather

The nRF9160 Feather by Jared Wolff (aka Circuit Dojo LLC) is an electronics development board. It features a Nordic Semiconductor nRF9160-SICA part. This part is capable of both CAT M1 LTE and NB-IoT for communication with the outside world. It’s compatible primarily with Zephyr via the nRF Connect SDK. Other toolchains and languages coming soon to a Github repository near you.

The nRF9160 Feather is a true Feather, and then some, board. As you would expect, It works well across both USB and LiPoly batteries. 

The board is designed to be nice to your batteries. Not only can you take advantage of Nordic’s advanced power states, but you can also put the device into a low power standby state. Laboratory measurements are putting that mode at about 2µA of current. 2µA!

The nRF9160 Feather is also designed to take harness every last mW your battery has to offer. That means from full-to-empty it’s using every last mW your battery has to offer. It runs at 3.3V and can support and work with most Featherwing boards!

nRF9160 Feather: final week on GroupGets

Greg Davill Sinks His Teeth Into ShArc

Tom Fleet writes on Hackster about Greg Davill’s latest adventure:


Greg Davill Sinks His Teeth Into ShArc: A Geometric Technique for Multi-Bend/Shape Sensing.

The work of one such research project caught the eye of Greg Davill recently, when a paper written by Fereshteh Shahmiri and Paul H Dietz was published, after being submitted for the 2020 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2020).

This paper goes by the title of “ShArc:A Geometric Technique for Multi-Bend/Shape Sensing,’ and proposes a novel contour sensor, comprised of a flexible, capacitive PCB sensor, a suitable capacitance-to-digital converter, and some subsequent signal processing, allowing a two-layer polyamide FPC circuit to cleverly capture the contours of the shape it is stuck to.

That’s the operation in a nutshell, so why are we covering all this here on Hackster? Well, it’s all about accessibility! This research isn’t relegated to labs where we’ll never see sight of it, until commercialized into a product. Far from it. Davill has shown just how easily we here at home can play along with this project, using the same tools and services that we’d normally look at for our own hobby projects!

He’s not only managed to recreate the capacitance to digital converter needed for this application, but perhaps more of note, he’s even turned his hand to having a go at the flexible sensor electrodes themselves, all fabricated by the one stop shop, whose services seem to keep on growing— our favorite board fab house, OSH Park!

Greg Davill Sinks His Teeth Into ShArc