So element14 has asked us here at SYN/HAK, an Akron, Ohio-based Hackerspace,  to share with you what went into the making of the "Who Wins?" video. The video is meant to settle an age-old question. If a certain starship and it's rival spacestation collided in the cosmos, who would win?


It all started when-


Dave Hamblin from element14  approached us last summer with the below coorespondence.- We had met Dave at the Cleveland Mini Maker Faire last April,

To celebrate our 200,000 member milestone we decided to appeal to the fun, quirky, geeky side of the engineers, makers and hobbysits that call the element14 Community home.

We at element14 are big science fiction fans, and we know the same goes for lot of our members.


In support of the hackerspace community we would like to commision SYN/HAK to create a video that continues a spirited debate in the sci fi community: Who would win a fight between two iconic feats of science fiction engineersing? The challenge to your group is to build models we will affectionaitly call the siOrg³ starship and the Lifeless Spherical Space Station, incorporating a single board computer and using parts avalaible via


We would like SYN/HAK's help in designing and building the models of both, using single board computers to control things like led lights or whatever else you can come up with. We'd also like you to make an introductory video to using the two models.


These should be no bigger than a bowling ball and they do not need to be at scale.


Have fun!


First things first, we did not want to purchase pre-made props, because frankly, there is no fun in that! We  found the dimensions of  a hamster ball and an acrylic display case to be perfect for encasing all the necessary hardware.


The first order of business was attacking  the Lifeless Sphere prop. We used a hole saw to cut the "crater". We adjusted the size to approximate scale. We then reversed the cut out, added a 1/4" pvc spacer, and epoxied it in place. Next, we convered  all the vent holes from the inside with tape. This then allowed us to Bondo the crap out of this thing. Seriously, that's a lot of Bondo. After a few applications and some sanding, a touch up, more sanding, etc,  you get the idea. We used high fill primer to mask any imperfections.

Next, we built the light unit. We used a fiber optic lamp similar to this one (, then 3D- printed- a smaller base (pretty cool,huh?) and built a driver board with RGB LEDs (the stock lights were blue). Then came the task of drilling all the holes and routing fibers in bundles through the holes. Before installing the filaments we finished the paint job. Fun fact: The stenciled shapes are waste ribbon from a circuit board pick and place machine. We originally made the mistake of using hot glue to secure the bundles in place. This caused the filaments to melt, diffusing the light and just generally not working properly. We then used two part plastic epoxy with great results. Finally, an Arduino with a custom- built  LED control board was installed,  finishing the Lifeless Sphere.

We tackeled the siOrg³ a little differently. We started with pillaging the junk pile for scrap computer boards and some not- so- scrap boards (sorry Andy). We layered the boards as well as many, many scrap Tinyduinos (thanks to Ken at TinyCircuits)  inside of the cube. We then sourced modelers flash aka "trees" to build up the outside. Everything was spritzed with just enough black paint to allow the cube to be translucent. RGB LEDs were installed inside and outside the cube. We did end up having to internally brace the cube, formally an acrylic display case, as its one origninal purpose was to keep dust off of prized sports memorabilia. The cube was then driven by a similar Arduino and LED control board combo designed by our very own Torrie Fischer

The fighters used in the comming battle videos were constructed from ball bearings, small plastic tubing, and more scrap Tinyduinos.


More questions about our hacks?


Feel free to ask in the comments section below. Don't forget to watch out video here, also, make sure you log in or register to vote for your favorite in the " Who Wins?" showdown.



Lifeless sphere


Diameter: 304mm

Chassis: Hampster Ball




Dimensions: 250mm x 250mm x 250mm

Chassis: Basketball Display Cube

Source code:


int pins[] = {3, 5, 6, 9};

int brightness[] = {0, 0, 0, 0};

int fadeSpeed[]= {2, 3, 4, 5};

void setup() {

  for(int i = 0;i<CHANNEL_COUNT;i++) {

    pinMode(pins[i], OUTPUT);



void loop() {

  for(int i = 0;i<CHANNEL_COUNT;i++) {

    brightness[i] += fadeSpeed[i];

    if (brightness[i] >= 255 || brightness[i] <= 0) {

      fadeSpeed[i] *= -1;

      brightness[i] += fadeSpeed[i]*2;


    analogWrite(pins[i], brightness[i]);







Below are some pictures of the props "in production"









We had a great time meeting and discussing the state of the project. Dave from element14 stopped by as we went though our original brainstorming session on the frames and electronics.




The Lifeless Spherical Space Station gets prepped




Siorg3_2.jpg   andy.JPGSiorg3_1.jpg


The siOrg³ being assimilated.




I hope everyone enjoyed the video. Let us know what you thought in the comments section below. Thanks element14!