The Open Hardware Design Challenge got the 2018 Hackaday Prize off to a roaring start and finalists for that challenge have now been announced. Before taking a look at those winners, you should know a new challenge is already underway. The Robotics Module Challenge seeks clever designs that make robot building easier. You should enter!
Open Hardware Design Challenge Roundup
The goal of the Open Hardware Design Challenge was to design the best plan possible for a bold and exciting new concept. With “Building Hope” as the theme for this year’s Hackaday Prize, let’s dive in and take a look at how today’s makers are building a better future for tomorrow. Each of these twenty entries won a $1,000 cash prize and move onto the finals to compete for the grand prize of $50,000 plus four other top prizes.
PR-Holonet: Disaster Area Emergency Comms
PR-Holonet is a communications module from Inventive Prototypes that can be utilized by any device with WiFi and internet browser. It can send or receive SMS messages in times of crisis when power and communications infrastructures are down.
It is a modular designed created with the intention of being assembled by someone with little to no technical expertise. It creates a reach-back mechanism to cellular SMS services by leveraging the IRIDIUM Communications Satellite Constellation and is made from low-cost parts to ensure simplified sourcing.
ROPS, developed by Caleb, stands for Robot on a PCI-e Stick. It is a project with the goal of providing a flexible I/O solution for ROS robots. This solution is designed to tackle the problem of running “The Hard Stuff” like SLAM and vision algorithms in robotics.
While an x86 PC may seem like the solution, the stock motherboards do not provide a low-latency and noise tolerant connection. PCI Express seems like a solution, but you’ll have a hard time finding a PCI-e motor controller or Lidar. ROPS is here to act as a bridge between PCI-e and buses like CAN and RS485 found on motor controllers and sensors.
I2C Encoder V2
The I2C Encoder V2, from Fattore Saimon, is an upgraded version of the small board for connecting multiple rotary encoders on the I2C bus. After collecting feedback on the original version, they added several new features to this redesign.
Some examples include the ability to support both standard and RGB encoders, along with the ability to set all of the 7bits of the I2C address through an SMD jumper. The castellated holes make it possible to connect several boards on the four sides as well. You can check out the project page for more info. Fattore also happens to be a Tindie seller.
Our next entry is the Metabolizer. This is a mobile power plant that can eat trash and turn it into energy, electricity, fuel, and much more. The project is currently in a proof-of-concept phase, but maker Sam Smith is working to break down all of the aspects that would go into such a machine. Taking on the energy and waste crisis in our world is certainly a noble goal.
The prototype currently being built is a system that uses heat to break down shredded wastes into combustible gaseous fuel, and then use that fuel to power a small lawnmower-type engine. The shaft power of the engine will then be used to turn a generator that creates electricity.
The electricity will then power and control the system, which supplies shredded plastic flakes to a 3D printer which will turn the plastics into useful structures. All of this is meant to mimic the way cells use material and energy to synthesize proteins in our bodies.
Oasis 3DP is a powder and inkjet 3D printer from Yvo de Haas based on older HP45 inkjet technology. These inkjet print heads are used to bind powder locally.
They can be cleaned and treated to create 3D objects. It can print using materials like gypsum, sand, sugar, ceramics, and metals for various goals and outcomes.
The goal is to create an accurate, reliable, and modular 3D printer. This will allow a powder and inkjet 3D printer to the list of open source options available.
Intraoral Respiration Monitor & Overdose Detector
This project from Curt White is a full waveform respiration monitor that you wear inside your mouth. It works alongside a Bluetooth web app. The device combines a barometer, thermopile, and hacked activity monitor. All of this is mounted on an ultra-thin custom dental retainer.
The primary goal is to detect opiate overdoses. Depressed respiration is a key factor in early detection and the only approved indicator for administering Narcan (Naloxone).
The device offers many other potential applications when attached to other form factors as well.
This is a project from Daren Schwenke. Arcus-3D-P1 a lightweight pick and place head for a standard groove mount that is mostly 3D printable. It provides part rotation and bottom looking vision using two 9g digital hobby servos.
Bottom vision is currently implemented using top vision and flying mirrors. This project weighs in at just 59 grams, including the camera and mirrors. The groove mount is standard, so you can simply replace your hotend.
It should allow any 3D printer to utilize higher accuracy, Z-axis speed, and a stable build platform for small pick and place projects.
The Reflowduino project from Timothy Woo is a complete ecosystem of open-source hardware designed for DIY reflow control. Do-it-yourself PCB designers are always having to solder surface-mounted components by hand, which takes a lot of patience and skill.
Small reflow ovens are available, but they have high price tags and proprietary software that is difficult to modify.
With Reflowduino, you can build your own reflow oven for a fraction of the price and still retain the ability to change the code. This results in the ability to wirelessly control your own reflow oven, while also maintaining full flexibility in your programming. Easily control appliances and apply PID temperature control as well.
Kris Winer’s project is a compact 18-channel, 20 nm FWMH spectrometer that costs less than $25. The project is based on the new AMS 3-chip AS7265X smart spectral sensor, which is key in building this low-cost spectrometer.
The initial design is one broad spectrum 5700 K 90 CRI LED and two IR LEDs. The concept is to gather an 18-channel spectrum using the broadband illumination, then again using one or both IR sources. The latter provides signatures required to distinguish and identify organic compounds.
There are still some problems to solve in the current design. Once the issues are resolved, it will result in a tiny 18-channel spectrometer that is capable of being the foundation for a modern tricorder at a fraction of the usual cost. This project has made it into the semifinals, and will become a product on Tindie shortly! You can check out Kris’ other projects on his Tindie seller page.
Kite, from Shree Kumar, is an open hardware Android smartphone. You can make and 3D print your phone with sensors, displays, electronics, batteries, and antennas. Current smartphones only expose features needed by common users.
Kite lets you create any devices that require the features of a smartphone: high performance in a mobile form factor, connectivity, and multimedia features.
All you need to build your own smartphone is a 3D printer and a screwdriver. It really is an impressive piece of tech. The architecture can be used to build almost any device by changing the case, antennas, batteries, and adding custom electronics.
Flood Fault Circuit Interrupter
This project from Jon will allow users to automate the local disconnection of electrical services during a flood. This will enhance the safety of current residential and commercial systems alike. While flooding poses a risk of damage to structures, there is also a chance of electrocution for the residents and first responders.
The goal of this design is to provide an active system that can monitor and respond to flood conditions by disconnecting the local services.
It consists of a Vista 20p control panel, Shunt Trip breaker, Double Float Switches, Outdoor-rated enclosers, and EEPROM to accomplish this task. This would be a huge boost in safety for everyone involved in flooding scenarios, including those who respond to the emergency.
Autonomous Agri-robot Control System
Maker TegwynTwmffat is pursuing a project that controls autonomous robots the size of small tractors for the purpose of planting, weeding, and harvesting. This project’s goal to eliminate the need for pesticides, chemicals, and destruction of soil in modern farms.
The machines can take care of various tasks on their own, while still being monitored by human users. The control system in this concept would include a variety of techniques such as multi-core microprocessors for controlling electric motors, cellular data comms for situations where WiFi isn’t practical, and LIDAR for detecting objects in the pathway.
The current system has 3 Arduinos and one TC275 linked to an I2C bus. It can currently concentrate on the task of weed prevention by using a Pixy CMU5 module to distinguish between crops and soil.
Underwater Distributed Sensor Network
This open-source robotic platform for water quality sensors was inspired by clams of all things. Michael Barton-Sweeney is the maker on this project. The motivation stems from the politicization of environmental science, along with the cuts in research funding.
The goal is to provide low-cost sensor platforms for NGOs to create 3D maps of water quality in bays and estuaries. The sensor platform is deployed in the same manner that shellfish are seeded and adopts a form factor similar to clams.
When deployed, they release gas and descend to the bottom, collecting data along the way. Once at the bottom, they fill with gas and ascend to the surface where they can be captured by nets for uploading the data.
This PCB Motor is a smaller and cheaper option for an open-source brushless motor made by Carl Bugeja. A unique aspect of this design is the stator, which is printed on a 4-layer PCB board. The six stator poles are spiral traces wounded into a star configuration.
They produce less torque when compared to an iron core stator, but the motor is still usable for high-speed applications.
Hack $35 Activity Trackers
These activity trackers from Curt White can be used for gesture recognition and machine learning applications. They are Arduino compatible nRF52 ARM prototyping platforms used by MATTER lab.
This is a full tutorial on hacking the X9 Pro activity tracker so it can be used as the foundation of a future project. MATTER lab hacks these generic activity trackers to use them as platforms for prototyping and research mental health wearables.
This takes the platform to the open-source level and makes it Arduino compatible for convenience. Full smartwatch hacking documentation, plus tutorials and code for accelerometer gesture recognition, neural network training, and 3D model control using Bluetooth are all part of this project.
Minder is an open-source smartwatch built for anxiety and panic disorder from Austin Marandos. This platform is capable of monitoring the symptoms of panic or anxiety attacks. In these situations, it can provide the user with medically approved instructions and techniques to deal with the attack on an onboard OLED screen.
This device could work in conjunction with psychologists and professionals to be a supporting tool. Not only can it provide advice in the absence of a medical professional, but it can monitor techniques and progress. It could be the very tool we need to help people who suffer from these attacks without support.
Mike’s Robot Dog
The Spot mini from Boston Dynamics is not available at any price. You can purchase a Chinese copy for $30,000, but maker Mike Rigsby has found a way to cut 99% of the cost and still build it from home. This problem extends into a larger issue: that walking robot platforms come with excessive costs.
This discourages people from advancing technology that could be used for a huge variety of industries and tasks. The goal here is to create an open-source platform that reduces the cost to hundreds of dollars instead of millions. There are 3D print files currently available, but the project is still progressing towards several future goals.
Air pollution is a silent killer that is hard to detect but is easily becoming a widespread problem. Jan Szumiec and the team at less-smog.org are working towards the goal of tackling this problem, one sensor at a time.
The goal of this project is to raise awareness by creating an open-source network of inexpensive air pollution sensors that can display data using visuals in the form of bright LEDs.
The design currently on tap is simple and easy for anyone to build. It is available on the project’s Github repository.
Semiconductors @ Home
Nixie just wants to make chips at home. That is is the motivation behind this project, but there aren’t any tools in existence designed for this purpose. The goal of this project is to create a vacuum chamber for sputtering deposition, a 1,200-celsius tubular oven with a controlled atmosphere, and a fume hood.
The chamber is already done and ready for upgrades. The current timetable is to start prototypes in two months (June 2018).
The Weather Pyramid from Manolis Nikiforakis measures wind speed and rainfall. It’s maintenance free, LPWAN, and 3D-printed. It’s an all-in-one solid-state, energy and communication autonomous weather sensing device designed for mass scale deployment.
Wind speed and direction measurements are taken using inertial sensors, while rain intensity is measured using capacitive sensors, all wrapped in a 3D-printed enclosure. It will connect to the internet using low power long-range wireless technology and runs on batteries charged by solar power.
The Weather Pyramid seeks to create an open-hardware framework to overcome the weather data availability problem in the world.
The Next Round: Robotics Module Challenge
If you didn’t get a chance to enter this time, the next challenge is still accepting new applicants! The goal is to build a module that can be used in robotics projects around the world. You’ll need to show your module working in a robotic application.
Motor drivers, sensor packages, actuators, and anything else are welcome. Keep in mind that a module, in this case, is a distinct design that can be incorporated into other builds. For more details and a full set of rules, check out The Hackaday Prize page and enter today!
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