The Hacktory Blog

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Project night recap: servos, soft circuits, software-defined radios

Got a neat project occupying your time and/or mind? Want to tinker in the company of some like-minded maker-types? Every Thursday night is an open project night at The Hacktory. Here’s a recap of what’s been going down:



An ongoing area of interest with few of our regulars has been software-defined radio (SDR), specifically the surprisingly useful radio chipsets found in some uber-cheap TV-tuner dongles. We looked at an upconverter circuit designed to extend the tuning range of the SDR, and in the woodshop, progress was made on a wooden enclosure to house both radio boards.

An enterprising engineer brought in an Arduino-based project designed to operate the signs and lights around his steam-powered model train sets. We discussed the pros and cons of servo motors vs. stepper motors, and open-loop and closed-loop control. Because strong steppers were available and easy to work with, we brainstormed ways of sensing the stepper’s position (optical sensor, mechanical switch, magnetic switch…) and prototyped some code to automatically return the stepper to its “home” position.


Twinkle, twinkle little hoodie…

With the Program Your Hoodie class taking place this month, several students brought their projects in to snip, stitch, code, and discuss the finer points thereof. We saw some beautiful sewn designs and clever LED arrangements. Participants from our class and other hoodie classes held around the city will show off their work this Friday at the Philadelphia Science Festival Astronomy Night at Franklin Square.

We also saw some of our Philly maker friends work on a computer game in Java, talk about shape-memory alloy muscle wire linear actuators, and a few Hacktory organizers brainstormed ways to make our coin-and-paper money donation jar more fun. (Are you excited? I know I am…)

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