Car hacking update, laser art recap

Event update: Friday’s car hacking meetup is cancelled, as I’m traveling and probably won’t be back in town in time to host it. If anyone wants to come hack on cars anyway, well, that’s always a welcome activity!

Now, on with the post. The sort of work you do with a laser cutter can depend a lot on its material capacity. Some things, like Greg’s wood inlay and Lego-compatible gears, work fine in any size of machine:



Others, like Donny’s picture frame matting, might not fit in a table-top machine:



And then you have projects that really take advantage of a giant cutter bed, like Andy’s dinosaur:



So, with access to 150 watts of CO2 creativity, what will you make?


A better fuse block

As part of revamping i3’s front-door wiring, I needed to distribute several circuits of overcurrent-protected DC power. First, I grabbed an old bakelite fuse-block:


(Side note: Are you as sick as I am of trying to read the markings on a blown glass fuse? A little Sharpie solves that!)

This left two unsolved problems, though: Gathering all the return leads, and replacing fuses if I shorted something while wiring. I decided to make a little power distribution block, instead:


The yellow discs are a 900mA Polyfuse and two 2.5A Polyfuses. The LEDs (and 1k resistors) don’t see voltage until the associated Polyfuse “trips”, so they indicate a faulted circuit. That allows me to commit stupidity while wiring things up, know about it, and not spend a glass fuse each time. It was also trivial to add extra screw terminals and a return bus, solving the other problem.

The next trick was mounting the thing without shorting out the traces on the bottom. It turned out to be easiest just to stand off a second piece of perfboard below it. These boards are so cheap ($0.39 ea?) it wasn’t worthwhile to make a dummy panel out of some other material.


Then a little Dual-Lock for mounting, and it’s done…


Help us name the balloon project!

Nate B and ZurielSeven test a GPS module

The poll is now live!  Help us name the balloon project by picking your five favorite names from the poll, linked at

Please keep in mind when choosing a name that we will use this name to make an impact on social media including corporate visibility.  The poll closes next Saturday, December 15th, 2012.  Thanks!

The Balloon Launch Project

Balloon project payload housing and spare GPS parts

Balloon project payload housing and spare GPS parts

I’m forming a group to work on a balloon-launch project. With a tentative launch date of June 2013, we plan to launch a weather balloon-powered payload to the mid-stratosphere, take measurements, and recover it.

The first question I always get is “Why”, and I invariably look up, seeking the depths of the sky for an answer. George Mallory, one of the first hikers to climb Mount Everest, was once asked why he felt compelled to climb the world’s highest peak. His famous answer was “Because it’s there”. Those that have ever felt the call of the explorer know how irresistible that is. I’ve come to love hearing people tell me “Well, people have done that before.” True, but *we* have not. Not yet, but we will.

We will not be the first to get to this altitude, nor will we be the last, but it isn’t a trivial task. For the trouble we’re going through to try to achieve our goals, we’re serious about doing some science while we’re there. Up there, we’ll be outside of typical FAA flight zones – this airspace is usually reserved for military use. We know its cold, we know the air is thin, but we also know it’s beautiful up there – a silent and rareified place where, in the words of Felix Baumgartner, you feel as if “you’re on top of the world.” We will collect temperature measurements, pressure measurements, and, of course, take some pictures. We will have the rare opportunity to change our perspective on the world for a little while, and maybe even make some ‘firsts’ while we do it.

In the end we’ve got so much going for us: a legacy of flights to build and improve upon, a hackerspace full of know-how and ingenuity, and the patience to know that we may fail here and there, but what we learn will get us to our goal with that much more experience.

We’re always excited to hear from people who are inspired by this project and we welcome anyone who wants to join the group, learn how to move the project forward, and contribute to the team effort.

Dewar + Paint + Vinyl = N2D2

What’s better than a liquid nitrogen dewar? A liquid nitrogen droid.

Sincerely hoping there’s no regulation against painting these things…