Unknown Territory: GPS compass experiments

Today’s blog entry comes from Unknown Territory artist-in-resident Jacob Rivkin.

The project I’m currently working on is a version of a compass that uses GPS, two stepper motors, a magnetometer (digital compass), hall effect sensors, and an arduino. This compass, however, doesn’t point to North. Instead, it points to both the closest mountain and the closest body of water, giving the user the choice of where to go. Or where not to go. This piece is inspired by a question I was asked often growing up. “Are you someone who goes to the mountains or someone who goes to the water?” Mountains and water represent two ideas that are very different for me. To go to the mountains is to seek solitude, or quiet thought, or a place of protection because you can see off into the distance. To go to the water is to go to an area of trade, communication, a source of life where people and animals congregate. Having this choice of where to go based on what it might say about you as a person or your current state of thinking, with special regard to the landscape, is a central element of the piece.

I want this piece to be able to be used without relying on wifi, internet, or phone service – so I have hard-coded the positions of the 15 largest bodies of water and the 15 highest points of elevation in Pennsylvania into the software. Since the beginning of September it’s been really exciting to overcome both programming and hardware boundaries. Including:

    Using Two Dimensional Arrays in Arduino IDE (and keeping them as floats with six decimal places!).
    Comparing distances of coordinates and finding the one that was the shortest distance to your current location (via the GPS).
    Learning to use stepper motors and how to make them responsive to changes in degrees from the GPS when the course to the specific distance shifts.
    Figuring out that the GPS doesn’t know where your north is – so utilizing a magnetometer to find 0 degrees.

Realizing that Stepper Motors don’t have brains – so they also don’t know where North is. This meant I had to figure out a system where once the magnetometer discovered North – it would tell the Stepper Motors to rotate until their pointer was pointing the in the same direction as North. The way I am doing this is by using a pointer that has magnets embedded in it and a hall effect sensor. Hall effect sensors detect magnetic fields, so when a magnet passes over it – the state of the sensor goes from HIGH to LOW. So the code I am using says that once the pointer is over the hall effect sensor, it activates LOW, and the motor stops moving, and North is set.

I have this all preliminarily set up with a working prototype. The end piece will be housed in a suitcase and also result in a video piece of it being used in the woods in Northern PA.

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Kids Club Update! Take Apart Table!

Have you ever seen the inside of a digital camera or a taken apart a scanner? Do we take the time to know what is going on inside of our electronics? At Kids Club, we took the afternoon to have a Take Apart Table! The students had access to a variety of hand tools to explore and reuse the guts of these donated electronics to upcycle them into art . We can see the excitement of discovery in photos!

Go to our Contact section of the site to see how you can donate your old electronics that provide opportunities for other youngsters to learn and create!



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Kids Club! Casting and Molding with Legos!

Last Friday we had a party with Legos! We got to learn how to cast with concrete. The pictures below are snippets from the class.




You can see the walls of the molds starting to come together!

lego4 Khari_1mixingface_1bevan_NAPA

Bevan, from New American Public Art, is showing off his creations to the kids!
Big Faces!

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New Classes this fall!

And as the temperature drops and nights grow longer we’re excited to announce our fall class and workshop lineup.

Our first class is the popularly-requested Introduction to GitHub. This workshop will teach all about distributing, sharing and contributing to code repositories online.

Other classes feature the Raspberry Pi computer (Intro to Balloon Mapping, Build a Retro Arcade), classes in creative coding with openFrameworks, and even a workshop to build a robotic drawBot. Take a look and sign up.

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Moving Web Hosts

We’ll be moving web hosts, so you’ll note the current URL has changed slightly (old.thehacktory.org). As we migrate our content to the new server, you’ll be re-directed to our normal URL.

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Great Day at the Barnes

Bevan Weissman at the Barnes

We had a great time presenting at the Barnes Foundation today. All of our resident artists presented about the projects they are working on, which range from wearables, to interactive performances, to phone apps, to programs that use sound (megaphones) and real-time web data in new ways. Our artist Fellow Bevan Weissman, and Hacktory Organizer Kim Brickley presented about other interactive projects they have recently been working on. Thanks again to the wonderful staff at the Barnes for giving us this great opportunity, and for everyone who came out to see our demos! Check out future Free First Sundays at the Barnes for more interesting presentations and inspiring performances.

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Survey on potential new space for The Hacktory

Hello Hacktory community,
we are exploring acquiring additional space for The Hacktory and are conducting a survey. We’re interested in finding out what equipment you’d like to use, if you’re potentially interested in what a Hacktory membership could offer, and whether you might be interested in co-working or studio space. Please fill out the survey and send along to friends!

Thank you.

Check out the survey here. It should only take you up to 3 minutes!

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Robert Spahr at The Hacktory

Tonight at our weekly free Project Night at the Department of Making and Doing we’ll have a session with Robert Spahr, The Hacktory’s first Unknown Territory Fellow.

Rob is an artist and a Professor and is visiting us from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. His artwork features a combination of computational art, performance, installation, painting and object-making, using collage, remix, automation, indeterminacy, and randomness to bear upon the computer and the Internet as machines that regulate and restrict just as much as they can be used to disrupt and resist dominant codes of seeing and being.

Rob labels his artwork Cruft, a hacker term that implies excess junk or unnecessary computer code.

Rob’s artwork references the idea of digital leftovers – the leftover materials of the main stream media as well as the digital leftovers we create as individuals left behind on social networking sites, and scattered across the web. He creates automated computer programs that collect these digital leftovers by scraping them from the web and remixing them into a digital collage that become images, video, or text-based poetry.

Rob’s work has been shown nationally and internationally and we’re privileged to have him as our first Unknown Territory Fellow. He’s been advising our Artist-In-Residents, participating in our classes and workshops, and we’re excited to see all of the artwork he’s cooked up here as a Fellow.

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Philly Loses a Great Maker

Brendan Schrader

We are very sad to hear of the passing of Brendan Schrader, president and one of the founders of Hive76, a fellow makerspace in Philly. Brendan had a hand in making a lot of the interesting projects that attracted people to Hive and inspired Philadelphians to want to become makers, like a giant Connect 4 game. In lieu of flowers, his memorial page asks for donations to Hive76.

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Bad Website Jam new terrible websites

Last week we held the Bad Website Jam, a short burst of a jam where participants reviewed extremely basic Web 1.0 HTML and markup, checked out some geocities sites, and then spent 2 hours building their own terrible mid-90s-aesthetic website. We built our sites on Neocities, which is a really beautiful project to “make the web fun.”
I want to make another Geocities. Free web hosting, static HTML only, 10MB limit, anonymous, uncensored.
— Kyle Drake (@kyledrake) May 23, 2013

Need some inspiration? Check out the 1996-era Space Jam website.

How To Make A Website

We started with my slideshow on How To Make A Website which you can view here.

In total, 10 websites were built during the jam. You can check them all out posted to Bad Website Jam Neocities page here. We hope to hold more of these jams again.

Avoid The Contrails
Avoid The Contrails – a conspiracy theory website

Make Your Own Turducken in 27 Easy Steps
Make Your Own Turducken in 27 easy steps – This totally reminds me of 1996 web browsing

Karl's Kronies Emporium
Karl’s Kronies Emporium – “We buy and sell all things illegal.” A scary “deepweb” sinister marketplace.

Check out the 6 other sites, from a Joe Biden Septa site to a warning about the dearth of train station spitflap signs here.

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