Flying high

On Monday we had a talk by Stephen Billings on things to do in the sky. He makes kites and hangs teddybears off them! When released they gracefully fall to the ground, under parachutes. Another way of getting into the sky is with a solar balloon, which is one that heats its hot air through solar power. A number of thin black bags taped together will heat their own air and provide lift enough for a small payload. He finished by demonstrating how to build a kite from scratch. I’ll upload some pics later.

The next dates for meetings are:

  • Monday 7th February – Project evening
  • Sunday 13th February – Building the cardboard racetrack (times TBC)
  • Monday 21st February – Talk evening, topic TBC
  • Monday 7th March – Project evening
  • Monday 21st March – Talk evening, "Steam Power"

Except where stated differently, the space will be open from 7pm, and any talks will start at 8pm.

Northampton Radio Club

I visited a Northampton Radio Club meeting today, and found some keen electronics enthusiasts. Radio hams have the option of saving money on their kit by building it from scratch, and so quite a few of them are dab hands with soldering irons. I floated the idea of a High Altitude balloon project past them, and have had a bit of interest. They have a lot of knowledge of the RF domain, and of modulating data, video, and voice over it.

They also have a set of contacts for fields that can be used for launching sites for lower things, such as rockets. These fields don’t have amenities though, so may not be family friendly. Food for thought though. Might be good for some low altitude balloon launches, if we just went up to the limit before which we need a launch site and back. A few thousand feet would still be good pics, and we get to see where it lands.

Meet #3 write-up

The third meeting of NortHACKton took place on the 15th of June 2010, after Martin and I dropped in to see the NSME again, as they were having a group meeting in the park. A smaller meeting this week, but still rather productive. It would be difficult to point fingers at the World Cup as we were meeting during the Brazil vs. NorthKorea match.

Point of note for Tuesdays, the Malt Shovel does not serve food. Igor and and his girlfriend arrived and we had a discussion of the comparison of the Spanish and English climates, and sources for Arduino hardware. We also compared different embedded microprocessors, and talked about the FEZ platform, which is an open source microprocessor that is programmed in .NET instead of C. It’s £55 at cool components, which is a little more expensive than the other new entry, the mbed, but is a faster processor.

Yet another discussion was had about a high altitude balloon launch, and I think a long term goal of the group will be to support such an endeavour, as it certainly captures the imagination effectively. It may also be a good recruiting tactic, particularly if we were to send up something that had room for a secondary payload. Importantly though, it would be a technically complex job that requires some financial investment. It was agreed that postponing this until at least next year would allow for practice and research in the area.

Upcoming event: Rocketry

In lieu of a balloon launch, NortHACKton will have a rocketry day in the Racecourse park. This gives a chance to do something easy and fun. We’ll launch a range of water bottle rockets and hopefully some chemical ones as well. People can bring their own bottles and turn them into rockets and have them launched. This is relatively family-friendly, but under 18s must be accompanied by their parent or guardian. We will

PLEASE ENTER YOUR FREE DATES HERE. This will be closed in a week. If you’re planning on bringing kids or plus ones, then tell me to weight your votes appropriately.

We’ll hopefully have some guides on producing your own rockets if you’d like guidance or you’ll be able to make them on the day. There will be a separate blog post once a date has been chosen.

Upcoming event: T-shirt hacking

Another idea that was considered at the meeting was the idea of sewing microprocessors and LEDs to some T-shirts. Rather than buying Lilypads that are nice but cost more than the T-shirts, it was suggested we use PIC10s or ATtinys that are small and cost £1-2. These would need dedicated programmers, but be easier to sew.

We could have an evening trying this with some pre-programmed processors, and interested people can bring their own T-shirts to modify. A second possibility is that we have shirts printed with the NortHACKton robot logo on it, and add LEDs to the robot face and background.

Positive and negative feedback on this idea is welcomed. This would be run in the Community Centre on a Monday in July-August.

Links from the discussions

  1. Seeed studio: open source hardware. Thanks to Igor
  2. FEZ open source microprocessor running .NET. Thanks to Igor
  3. CUSF balloon launch this week.

Date of next meeting: 20th July 2010.