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!

HacDC Spaceblimp Launch Planned for Saturday (Call 202-559-1100 To Follow Using Twilio)

Once again, HacDC is planning to launch a near-space balloon this weekend (on Saturday if conditions permit) to capture pictures of the Earth’s horizon. To learn about the blimp’s behavior and to assist in the recovery, the payload sends packets of sensor data through the Automatic Packet Reporting System, a quite interesting amateur-radio-based system to distribute real-time information through a repeater network. This time, however, we are parsing this data to send it through a number of useful communication channels.

One of these includes a voice phone number, 202-559-1100, powered by Twilio’s phone application API. By calling this number during the day, people will have the opportunity to listen to the current data about the blimp’s status and location and to receive SMS messages with the same information, including direct links to Google Maps. The flight team will also have the option of recording updates into the phone menu system. And there will be a Twitter feed with the data at @hacdcspaceblimp.

Unfortunately, however, the recovery team is capped according to the “Hackerspaces in Space” contest rules, so we do have to warn against any enterprising people from taking this information and tracking the payload down themselves. However, if you are interested in being involved, there may be opportunities to observe the launch and recovery this weekend.

We also will update this blog with details on the final launch time!