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    Hardware Hacking

    Enter Your Electronics & Design Project for a chance to win a $200 shopping cart!

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    Congratulations to balearicdynamics for  Radio Magic !  You are the winner of a $200 Shopping Cart and earn the Grand Prize Trophy Badge!


    Congratulations to ralphjy for Pong is Alive! Fred27 for  SQRL "Oak" dev board,  and carmelito  for  Modifying a RC Toy Truck using a Raspberry Pi!  You are the First Place winners of the $100 Shopping Cart and earn First Place Trophies!


    Nostalgia played a bit role in many of the projects featured in this announcement.   Projects included an upcycled vintage radio, an unusual and interesting item off of ebay, the resurrection of a Pong game from a project dating over 42 years ago, a old monster truck, a Darth Vadar lamp, and a hack involving an old flip phone.  Like many hardware hacking projects, these projects were money saving such and involved a great deal of learning and reverse engineering.  The hardware hacking competition challenged you to do projects that involved anything from reverse engineering, modding, adding digital to analog, sniffing busses, modifying firmware, and more.  Your "hack" could involve an original creation or method or way of solving a problem especially if its done in an unorthodox fashion.


    This was an opportunity to modify any household appliance or consumer electronic product, such as an old game console, to perform functions that they were not intended to do. Your project could involve a product teardown, component identification, circuit board reverse engineering, soldering and desoldering, signal monitoring and analysis, and memory extraction, using a variety of tools including a logic analyzer, multimeter, and device programmer.  Or, it could involve upcycle an existing product and turn it into something novel and perform something it was never intended to do.    This was a fun group of projects and voting with a good variety of projects receiving first place votes from the judges.



    Without further Ado here are your winners.......


    {tabbedtable} Tab LabelTab Content

    The Winners

    The Grand Prize


    Radio Magic: Sounds Nice? (part 1)  by balearicdynamics:



    Radio Magic is a strange kind of project: it includes hardware hacking, analog circuitry, and – after about half a century time-jump – modern microcontroller technology and embedded Linux. The project involved a considerable amount of experimentation, finding the right (= cheaper and simpler) way to meet two electronics eras in a single musical project. Possibly with something original. The idea in a few words can be expressed in a single sentence: Making Music.


    This project involved a considerable bit of improvisation; the plan involved:


    • Using analog components
    • Hacking an AM-FM-LW mid-60s transistor radio as part of the sound machine (this is upcycling too)
    • Tracking a border between vintage and modern technology and possibly smoothly join the two worlds.


    The BUSH FM/AM/MW transistor radio provides a sort of randomized, variable noise to the synth. The radio output is automatically mixed by the three NE555-based analog synthesizers, according to the initial design.


    For this task, balearicdynamics  had to find a way to control the radio tuning digitally, program it, and then execute a loop for continuous back and forth tuning variations. The audio pre-amplified output of the radio is the fourth “voice” of the synth used to generate the samples controlled by the synth control panel. After defining a general line-guide for the whole design, he had to frequently change the kind of task to be completed without following a structured order; due to the experimental approach he followed, made more complex by the old radio device construction, based on old-style analog technology. 


    If you look inside modern FM radios you can expect to see – more or less, electronics and circuits, while this mid-60s appliance still uses an air capacitor for tuning controlled through a complex mechanism of wires and pulleys. Due to these characteristics, it is impossible to replace the whole tuning system with something more recent, digitally controlled. Another limitation was the dire not to modify the pleasant, vintage aesthetics of this model. The original tuner and knob are solely mechanical – a much appreciated engineered solution.  He attempted to do the same thing: a new mechanical solution to improving the manual tuner automating the mechanism with a stepper motor....


    Radio Magic: Sounds Nice?

    "A project that deals with many different aspects of electronics, perhaps even too many! There is a lot of meat on the fire and fortunately, the contest lasted only 2 months otherwise the sections would have been well over 4 ... :)." - Community Member Judge


    "A wonderful blend of old and new." - Community Member Judge

    "The integration of the stepper motor into the old radio is very neatly done and the use of the RJ45 connector results in a professional looking project." - Community Member Judge

    First Place Winners:



    Do mighty oaks from SQRL Acorns grow?  by Fred27:


    It all started from a bit of aimless browsing eBay. Fred27  can't remember exactly what he was looking for but a search for "Xilinx" brought up something unusual and interesting. He stumbled upon a SQRL Acorn CLE-215 Xillinx Artix 7 FPGA M.2 with PCLe carrier.  He knew nothing about the device, but the low price and the fact that it had an Artix-7 FPGA with PCIe connections intrigued him. With a bit of digging he discovered that the SQRL Acorn CLE-215 is an FPGA-based cryptomining card.


    It was a bit of a gamble buying a totally undocumented and manufacturer-abandoned FPGA board on eBay. I've had a lot of fun reverse engineering things like JTAG and learned a lot along the way. In some ways, discovering the link between the SQRL Acorn and the NiteFury turned the potentially impossible into a much easier proposition.


    Do mighty oaks from SQL Acorns grow?


    "Systematic reverse engineering of a single use device to make it into a general purpose development board. Great job." - Community Member Judge



    "Nice piece of data mining for an old cryptominer.  Hit all the marks." - Community Member Judge


    Pong Game Circa 1978 by ralphjy:


    Sometime in a world long long ago ralphjy  built a Pong game using a General Instruments AY-3-8500-1 IC (the -1 is for NTSC).


    He found the unit in one of my junk boxes.  It had survived 3 moves and an earthquake (Northridge 1994).  It was in okay condition considering.  He's not sure why the case was not screwed together, why it looked like some components might have been cannibalized, or why it was missing a controller.  It looked like something that he would have built 42 years ago


    The homemade paddle controller used a potentiometer mounted in a used 35mm film canister.  It's odd that there is only one remaining.  He started things off by de-wiring the switches and was able to rebuild the Pong Game.


    It plays the way he remember it.  You can put body english on the ball in the enhanced ball angle mode.  Soccer is tricky because the goalie and forward are controlled with the same paddle.

    A 23" TV (considered large in those days) would be just the right size for the game. He'll need to add a light sensor and trigger circuit if he wants to play the rifle games.  He didn't implement that before so he'll also need to add a stereo jack for connection.  Something for another day.


    It was fun getting it to work again.  Maybe when times get better ralphjy  can have friends over for beer and pong......


    Pong Game Circa 1978



    "Seeing this project brought me back to many years ago, to the hot Sicilian summer afternoons spent playing, a beautiful jump in the past that gave me the opportunity to see the technology that was used many years ago in video games." - Community Member Judge



    "Recreating Pong is almost synonymous with hacking - or upcycling." - Community Member Judge

    Modifying a RC Toy Truck using a Raspberry Pi  by carmelito:


    If you ever run into a scenario when you RC controller stops working or does not connect to the transmitter for some weird reason, and you have tried all the tricks up you sleeve to fix the issue, the best thing to do is to gut most of the components and add either a Raspberry Pi  or an Arduino with a motor controller. In carmelito's case, he's using a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and Adafruit's motor driver Pi Hat to breathe new life into his broken monster Toy Truck.  He starts by removing most of the electronic components from the truck, but keeping the battery holder and motors intact.  Once done, he runs a quick test to see if the two DC motors are still working.  He goes over the Pi setup and since he plans to take the truck out, away from his WiFi network, he sets up the Pi to act like a wifi router, so that you can connect mobile to the Pi's Wifi and use the flask web app to control the truck.



    Modifying a RC Toy Truck using a Raspberry Pi

    "Breathing life back into old toys and learning new tech, what's not to love." - Community Member Judge

    The Runners Up

    Runners Up:


    The following members received first place votes.



    Hacking an old darth vader lamp by daniloo94 :



    Hacking an old darth vader lamp

    "It might seem like a trivial job but it brings together several aspects: Arduino, ESP8266, Artificial Intelligence techniques, and Python. The end product is beautiful, congratulations!" - Community Member Judge




    Converting an old phone to a remote switch by vishwasn :


    Converting an old phone to a remote switch

    "Many of us have one of these old phones in a drawer, great to see it put to good use." - Community Member Judge


    Knockoff stage lighting  by ashley_c4 :


    Knockoff stage lighting


    "Making cheap work!  YEAH!!!" - Community Member Judge


    BattPackHack #1 : The Battery PowerPack Holder by dubbie:








    The specified item was not found. by shreyasborse


    Auto-tuning high current dual-channel motor control unit


    "I love identification and automatic control techniques and I find Matlab to be a very flexible and powerful environment. I hope to review the same project in a few months, in the contest "Control Systems", enriched with more information especially on the part made in Matlab, including codes! Good work!" - Community Member Judge

    In the comments below:


    Be sure to Congratulate the Winners and Keep Being Awesome!