HacDC Rocks SciFest

Last weekend, HacDC hosted a booth in the USA Science and Engineering Festival at the DC Convention Center. HacDC members who volunteered at the booth report that festival participants kept them plenty busy throughout the duration of the festival. Thank you to everyone who stopped by!

The HacDC booth demonstrated a variety of gadgets including a 3D Printer, the chassis of Spaceblimp 5 (or, “This lunchbox has been to space!”), a montage of beautiful Spaceblimp photos, a pen plotter writing portraits of people, various LED hacks, and a tank of water with a bubble ring generator.

A picture of our booth at the fest in case you missed it. Not quite the same, but we try.

I asked the volunteers and festival attendees to tell me about things they saw that they found particularly interesting:

  • Baby hacking, or in other words, how babies learn to distinguish speech sounds that are present within the language of their environment.
  • Ever want your own personal submarine? (Only if it comes with a periscope, right? Same here.) The Personal Submersibles Organization has one that is light enough that it can be carried on a trailer and lowered into the water on a ramp.
  • Extracting Banana DNA and wearing it on a necklace was a highlight.
  • As one member said, “There was probably something for every kind of geek.”

It sounds like everyone had a great time and we’re looking forward to attending more festivals in the future!

Making Tubular Bells with Keith Sinzinger (HacDC and DorkbotDC)

On July 7 at 7:00PM, HacDC and DorkbotDC will together sponsor an event with a very innovative and interesting local musician, Keith Sinzinger.

Sinzinger goes under the performance name Fast Forty. He calls his genre of music Intense Ambient: “found sounds, altered electronics, scrap metal and other devices, blended to soothe and stimulate.” His music is anchored by homemade tubular bells which he plays and routes through various audio effect processors.

He is originally from Cleveland, Ohio and his music reflects the industrial sounds of the Ford plant and the railroads of his early surroundings.

At HacDC and Dorkbot, he will explain how he conceived of, researched and constructed the tubular bells, and will then offer a demonstration of their sounds. The audience will also be able to play them afterwards.

Below one can listen to a full set of his from a recent Sonic Circuits performance, posted by District of Noise. Also see his MySpace site for more information.

Where: HacDC (1525 Newton St NW, Washington, D.C.)
Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Time: 7:00PM

Hack the Genome Shmoocon Presentation


Had a bunch of really interested folks at the “Hack the Genome, the age of biomolecular cryptography” talk today at Shmoocon.  Lots of fantastic ideas and great discussions afterwards with interested hackers.  It is great to see how much creative knowledge and energy there is in our community.  I was asked to share my slides, so I have put them up on my site over at Radio Free Genome, and you can download the presentation directly from here.

RepRap Build-a-thon starts on Saturday

Open invitation to anyone interested in rapid prototyping! HacDC is holding a free RepRap Build-a-Thon at HacDC this weekend, Saturday and
Sunday, starting at 10:00am. It is located at the HacDC world headquarters at 1525 Newton St NW in Washington DC (Near corner of 16th and Newton NW).

Attendees will participate in the construction and use of a remarkable open source tool, the “Replicating Rapid Prototyper” or RepRap. Anyone can make a RepRap machine, using parts made by another person with a similar machine, and a few additional parts that can be found online or from a local hardware store. RepRap is capable of making a nearly complete copy of itself, given a small amount of (possibly recycled) plastic. Once the machine is made, the user can download designs for other objects from the Internet or create their own designs, which can then be printed with the RepRap machine.

The two-day sessions will include talks by RepRap founders and pioneers, as well as demonstrations by local experimenters who have
built their own RepRaps and contributed to the development of the system. After the talks, the seminar participants will participate
in the construction of a RepRap from the ground up. Attendees will complete this process during the seminar, providing a great
opportunity for everyone to get some experience assembling and using a RepRap. Smaller breakout sessions on related topics, such as stepper
motor function, microcontroller programming and 3D modeling will be presented, in order to provide the attendees with the skills needed to
construct and use the RepRap system.

The agenda for the Build-a-thon is:


Main Auditorium
10:00am Welcome and introductions
10:30am Plenary: “The RepRap Project” by Zach ‘Hoeken’ Smith,
Director, RepRap Research Foundation
11:15am RepRap Technology Overview from Local RepRap Builders
11:45am Activities Outline by R. Mark Adams
12:00pm Break for Lunch
1:00pm Build the Cartesian Robot with Zach ‘Hoeken’ Smith

HacDC Offices
1:00pm Assemble the RepRap Electronics
1:00pm Learn to Solder Breakout with MAKE:DC’s Adam Koeppel
2:00pm Arduino Basics Breakout with HacDC’s R. Mark Adams
3:00pm 3D Modeling for the RepRap with Balt/Wash RUG’s Brian Dolge
5:00pm Close for the day/adjourn to local restaurant for group dinner


HacDC Offices
10:00am Complete Electronics Assembly
1:00pm Video Address by RepRap founder Adrian Bowyer, Senior
Lecturer at the University of Bath (invited)
2:00pm Assemble components and print a minimug!
3:00pm Meeting Close

The process of “desktop manufacturing” is coming of age- like the personal computer in the 1970s, such systems are either very expensive, or the purview of a few hobbyists in their garages. But like the personal computer before it, the desktop manufacturing revolution is breaking out. The RepRap, like other open-source projects such as the Linux operating system and the Firefox browser, is allowing anyone with the patience and interest to participate. HacDC and other organizations throughout the world want to see that this technology can be widely understood and utilized by the public. As a result, HacDC (along with other area technology groups such as B/WRUG, Make:DC and DC Dorkbot) are  presenting this event, and making it free and open to the public.

The RepRap Project is an initiative aimed at creating a largely self-replicating machine which can be used for rapid prototyping and manufacturing. A rapid prototyper is a 3D printer that is able to fabricate three dimensional artifacts from a computer-based model. Project authors describe ‘self-replication’, understood as the ability to reproduce the components necessary to build another version of itself, as one of the goals for the project. This will allow the number of RepRaps to increase exponentially to meet demand. The authors further speculate that, due to the Open Source nature of the project, RepRap will eventually demonstrate evolution, improving and increasing its capabilities over time. This gives RepRap the potential to become a powerful disruptive technology, similar to the Internet, the home computer, and the  automobile. For more information, see the RepRap website at: http://www.reprap.org