Monthly Archive for July, 2009

Tron the Movie

Yes they made a movie out of it. I gotta say I do like my dystopian societies.
Fellow geeks commence drooling.

Thanks andiE for finding it.

Big Bad Wolf, Vortex Cannon Style

Chris linked me to this video, it’s a vortex cannon on steroids. When a spherical mass of a fast moving fluid moves through the air,  it can form torroid shaped vortex rings, similar to blowing smoke rings. This helps the mass stay together as it moves through the air so its almost like an invisible ball of air.

Want your own? You can always buy the Airzooka

Workshop: Melting and Casting Metal

Lionel Oliver has an amazing site documenting his experiments metaling and casting metal. He shows how to build a variety of furnances from a simple charcoal furnance out of bricks and dirt to more complex propane furnaces. The best part is he does this all in his backyard.

Once you can melt metal you can start recycling old things like aluminum cans or lawn chairs and forming real tools and parts.

Lionel even built an entire gingerly lathe using his metal foundrys.


Iron Man Gauntlet

Ilya, (one of the other editors) informed me the other day of how he found my Spanish clone. Turns out somewhere in Canada there is an electrical engineer named Carlos who hosts a pretty cool project blog A lot of his hardware projects match ones I’ve done in the past.

I’m particularly a fan of his Iron Man repulsor gauntlet. It allows a lot of freedom in motion and it lights up as he bends his wrist. He has really good pictures and a video of it here.

I have my own side project replicating the Iron Man Wrist Rocket. Its on/off because I’m using CO2 cartridges to fuel it and I’ve shot them all. :-)   Perhaps if I ask nicely, Carlos will want to collaborate. We can use his for the left arm and mine for the right… now all we need is an arc reactor…



Party with Air Cannons

Air Cannon

Air Cannon

Air Cannons are amazingly fun to play with at BBQs. Its really just my adult Nerf gun. You just fill the pressure chamber with a compressor and then hit the valve and watch the thing go. My normal projectiles are confetti, fruits, stale dinner rolls and glow sticks. I usually fire a couple shots of water to clean the cannon. The water shots make a really cool rain effect and feels great in the summer.

What about Explosive Cannons?

I used to build spud cannons powered by hairspray and starter fluid when I was in boy scouts. They are definitely more portable because you don’t need an air compressor and it’s a faster reload than a bicycle pump. They are half the cost too.

I finally got sick of the inconsistencies and went air powered. With gas powered some would never fire, some would fall short, some would even ignite the PVC on fire. Air powered gave me a measurable force and the extra cost was well worth it.

This video is NOT MINE! It does display the reason why I don’t like Combustion Cannons

Is it Safe?

If you know what you are doing Air Cannons made from PVC pipes are generally unsafe.  If you don’t know what you are doing, then well, adios, nice knowing ya. PVC by any respected engineer is not a good pressure vessel, it’s easily damaged when dropped, brittle in the winter, and if it does not  fail, it becomes a pipe bomb with PVC shards with you right next to it.  Schedule 40 pipe can be rated around 200+psi. As a safety margin I usually pressurize my cannons around 75 psi. I used a tire valve stem to pump air in and it tends to leak at higher pressures so I don’t wish to break it. At 75 psi my cannon turns a solid apple projectile into pure sauce.

My Portable Party Cannon

I made a smaller version of the big one for parties. It’s the same cost as the big one ~$36, but the benefit is that it can be powered by a bicycle pump rather than a full compressor. I also added a solenoid sprinkler so I can add a remote in the future. Below are some photos.

Confetti Cannon
This one is the miniaturized version, instead of using a 1″ manual valve. I used a sprinkler valve from Home Depot. I am hoping to one day build some electronics for this and make it remote. I built it in an hour for parties to launch confetti.
That black electrical tape is to hold three sections of pvc around the cannon as a tripod. Air goes in from a bicycle pump from the tire valve stem on the right. It takes about 20 pumps to hit 35psi for confetti.

Streamers are usually inexpensive ($1 a roll) and they are fire retartant. It takes 1/3 of a roll to fill the barrel. I cut the streamers into 1″ x 0.5″ sections of confetti and cram them down the barrel. If you make it too small it becomes a  mess to clean up.


The barrel on my design screws off so I can load multiple barrels and the change the size.

This manual bypass on the solenoid valve works well enough till I rig up a remote system.

How to Build One

There are some really complex designs out there, but if all you want is a big BOOM!, smirk and “Holy Crap that’s Awesome!” I recommend a compressed Air Cannon with a simple 1″ valve.

(SpudFiles) has plenty of research and forums on the topics, so there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel. also sells a lot of the parts you wont find in Home Depot, like clear PVC and 125psi safety valves.

Other People’s Videos

I’m crazy about not having accidents with my cannon, but I can’t say the rest of the internet is. Here are some fun videos of people without the same philosophy.

Yes it Hurts

Cannon Backfires and Pipe Ignites

Steampunk Jewelry

I’ve always been into unconventional things.  So when I came across this website selling the most unusual jewelry I was in love.

The creator of these unique designs,  who goes by the name edmdesigns, has chosen to brand the  art as the “Tiffany’s of Steampunk.” Influenced by the craftsmanship and vintage artistry of the Victorian era, edmdesigns reanimates those same designs for us.

Although other items are up for sale as well, but as I am a girl, naturally I am more attracted to the jewelry, most notably rings.


Underwater Lego Robots

One of the happiest moments backs as a Teaching Assistant in college was when a Professor told me to build a underwater autonomous course under $1000 and out of Lego Bricks.

There are a lot of things to over come if you are building one. But its not impossible to build a pretty intelligent Lego submersible. Especially when they are now digital with microcontrollers and sensors. One of my favorite examples was when Rhode Island University Beat MIT’s AUV with their Lego version.

Lexan Mini ITX PC

lexan mini itx pc back

Have you ever wanted a computer that you can leave on 24/7 and not even notice that it is on when you walk into the room? I know I have.  Now I finally built one that is so quiet you can’t hear if it’s on or not even if you stand next to it.

As a bonus, it is only the size of a large book, has a 1.6Ghz dual core atom processor, and idles at 19C (or whatever the room temperature happens to be).

Here is a video to give you an idea of how small the computer is.

Notice how it makes almost no noise when it’s on. If you walked into the room you wouldn’t be able to tell that there is a computer there too.


The dual core Atom motherboard used to have a small fan on it that cooled the graphics processor. That was removed and a 140mm Scythe fan was placed on top of the entire motherboard.  Why such a ridiculously large fan? Because it’s quiet. Rate at 10dB, it is the quietest fan that I have found for sale and it happened to be 140mm big. So I worked with it, and it turned out to do an amazing job at cooling the whole computer.

I was worried at first. While this big fan does move a lot of air, it moves it over a large area. The original 10mm fan sat directly on the chipset heat sink, providing localized cooling, which I was afraid the big fan might not match. I’m glad it worked out well in the end when I finally assembled everything and tried it out.

The 80 watt Pico power supply I used is over 95% efficient and produces almost no heat.

Front side of the Lexan mini ITX computer

Front side of the Lexan mini ITX computer

The front of the computer has the power button. No USB ports or sd card readers. I was satisfied with just having 4 USB ports in the back. I used this computer as a media PC. I have a projector connected to it as well as a wireless mouse and keyboard.

Top of the Lexan mini ITX computer

Top of the Lexan mini ITX computer

And finally, The stats:

  • Dual core 1.6Ghz Atom processor
  • Integrated video card
  • 1 Gig ram
  • 80 Gig hard drive
  • 80 Watt Power supply
  • Awesome lexan case
  • Under $250

Lego Pin Hole Camera Hearts Macro

Lego-35mm-cameraWorks with 35mm Film and 100% Lego

Works with 35mm Film and 100% Lego

Well… there is a catch. The images are too light and it must be used and loaded in dark environments. I hope to make a better one some day.

Lego Candy Dispenser

Here is a little Candy dispenser I made for the office one day. I bought one of those massive bags of M&M peanuts and the guys around the office finished them in a day.

photos and more videos  after the break
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