Now that’s a ribbon cutting ceremony to be proud of!

Congrats to i3Detroit on the grand opening of their new space in Royal Oak, MI (near Detroit).   Not only is their space incredibly cool, they brought in the Mayor to officially cut the ribbon.  Of course, being hackers, they’re not going to settle for oversized scissors and a red ribbon with a bow.  Instead, watch as Mayor Ellison cuts through a 40-conductor ribbon cable with an oxyacetylene cutting torch:

Freshly moved to Detroit from NYC, former NYCR member Jeff Sturges blogged about i3Detroit:

To boot, their space is DOPE!! Tis ground level with a garage door, electronics lab, classroom, reading loft, and…they’ve got metalworking equipment!!! Oh, dear angle grinder and MIG welder, how I love your sparks, smoke, noise…and how I hope see you join with microcontrollers and heavy duty servos to make robots that fix abandoned buildings! How I would love to see a homebrew alt fuel open source automobile roll out the i3 doors! Pipe dreams?? Only time will tell…

Is it only a matter of time before we have a Head of State blasting open the doors of their country’s latest hackerspace?  Hopefully so!

Pow-Pow-Power Wheels Racing Series!

Brought to you by Pumping Station: One

What may seem to be an innocent toy that was bought for children in their youth, or not, by those deprived by their parents. Has found a home for some of the members of Pumping Station: One in Chicago. In very much the style of Bring Your Own Big Wheel in San Francisco that used to run down Lombard Street, and power tool drag racing, the newly formed P-P-PRWS will be creating a multi race series where people will hack, mod, pilfer, and costume these childhood toys to devices that pop wheelies go at least 10-15 mph and might even spit fire.

A scene from last years BYOBW

Right now the first batch of Power Wheels and teams are forming and getting ready for the first race that seems to be at the end of June. Below is the post from the Pumping Station: One site.

POW POW Power Wheels Racing Series

Who wants to mod and race Power Wheels?

All of you? That’s what i thought.

Chicago’s only hackerspace, Pumping Station: One, will be organizing into teams, and having each team mod, race, fix, and continue racing a Power Wheels vehicle through a series of trials and tribulations. For $40, you can have your very own functional Power Wheels, for you and your team (if you’d like to work in a group) to modify and race!

Join in, or you will be missing the most epic event in hackerspace history: the Power Wheels Racing Series.

PPPWRS from Jeff Kantarek on Vimeo.

In the event you’ll code microcontrollers for power management, rip out motors from washing machines, fabricate parts, and have a art squad on your team. Sounds like an interesting blend.


Dangerous Science….

So I’ve recently come across this photo of a bank of three capacitors.

capacitor bank (hackerfriendly/Rob Flickenger's flickr)

Now keep in mind that when I say capacitors, I am not referencing the ones you come across in your average electronics lab. I’m not talking about the semi-dangerous ones (read: fun) found in disposable cameras either. These caps are listed as 300 uF @ 10 kV. If I have done my math correctly, then that comes out to approximately 15,000 Joules. Let’s say that again… Fifteen. Thousand. Joules.
Let’s review some basic science. One joule is approximately the energy required to lift a small apple straight up one meter. I asked the following question to a good friend out at UC Santa Barbara who is working towards his MS/PhD in Electrical Engineering: “What can 15,000 Joules do?”. His response was… “[Mess some things] up”. (Expletive Deleted)

That bank of caps is actually part of a coin shrinking operation at hackerbot labs that Bre Pettis posted about on his blog a while back. NOTE: It’s kind of hard to tell who actually put it all together as it took place at hackerbot, the video was shot by a guy from the hazard factory and the photos are from hackerfriendly. If someone wants to claim ownership or straighten things out, feel free.

The gist of quarter shrinking is this: The current from the capacitors is quickly discharged through a single layer work coil. Inside this coil you place a coin. After the capacitors have fired, you will find two things: A work coil that has exploded, and a (hopefully) shrunken coin. The process is called electromagnetic forming and works by subjecting your coin to incredibly strong magnetic fields.

Remember that there is a lot of power going through this contraption. If you do try it at your own hackerspace or even at home, please take as many safety precautions as humanly possible. The remains of the work coil have been known to shatter 1/2 inch Lexan polycarbonate. Like the title says, this is dangerous science and if you might very likely die if you are careless.

To close, my rule of thumb regarding these things is as follows: “If one person says it’s probably a bad idea, it means you should most definitely do it. If two people say it’s a bad idea, maybe you shouldn’t.”


Picture of capacitor bank by hackerfriendly/Rob Flickenger; video by hazardfactor/Rusty.