SciHackDay 2014

2014-Nov-17, Monday 12:47 pm
chebe: (OnTheVergeOfSomethingWonderful)
[personal profile] chebe
Science Hack Day is an all-day-all-night hackathon; covering software to hardware, but with a project emphasis on science. It's in its third year running in Dublin, but this is the first one I've been able to attend (November is a much more civilised month than March).

It started Saturday morning (15th Nov), and finished Sunday evening (16th Nov). In thirty-two hours of incredibly intense focus, I got a mere thirty minutes of sleep. But ate a lot of pizza! It was fantastic the way the SciHackDay crew set things up. Large quantities of food would just appear every so often, and there was a steady supply of snacks throughout. Eliminating one very common, and annoying, disruption to work; that of hunting, gathering, preparing food. Sleep as well! Although many people went home to rest, and some managed a few hours on sofas and floors, my brain was just getting settled into focusing on some software work in the wee small hours, and not being forced to leave and miss that period meant I was much more productive than I would have been otherwise. But I am very glad it wasn't any longer. As soon as I got home I fell asleep for sixteen straight hours.

There were some really great project ideas, and even more great project implementations. (A fantastic number of wearables and etextiles too.) But I was wary of the too-many-cooks problem, so I helped out where I wasn't in the way, and worked on my own small project.

Tríona had several ideas, and I helped out with the Chording Gloves project. The idea was born from the problem of needing two hands to type, or even operate the oversized mobile phones of today, especially in the coming cold months. So the idea was to create a one-handed glove that would enable you to 'type'. Different layouts and systems are possible, but for ease we went with a mobile phone txting layout, e.g. one press is an A, two is a B, three is a C. Each finger phalange had a conductive fabric pad, which when touched by the thumb pad (completing the circuit) would count as a button press. The pads were connected by conductive thread down the back of the hand to a Lilypad, which worked out what letter you were making, and then sent this over serial to a laptop. (I had been working on getting the Bluetooth Mate to phone working, but just before the presentation it suddenly refused to pair, so we fell back to the ftdi to laptop connection.)

Palm of the chording glove with conductive fabric pads visible

Palm of the chording glove
Photo by chebe

Back of the chording glove with conductive thread traces meeting temporary crocodile clips

Back of the chording glove
Photo by chebe

Lilypad connected to temporary crocodile clips drapped over shoulder by temporary ftdi serial cable

Lilypad connected to temporary crocodile clips drapped over shoulder by temporary ftdi serial cable
Photo by chebe

(Photographing one half of your own body one-handed is difficult, okay. And yes, wearing all those cables makes you feel like a powerful cyborg, with perfect crushing glove.)

We ended up winning the Design Award, and now I am a Science Champion. I hope we continue on and make the next version of the Chording Glove, to at least bring it to a stage of utility and testing. It is definitely something that I can see being personally useful.

Laser cut wooden medal saying Science Champion around the ScienceHackDay logo of a spacesuit superimposed over an electron orbit illustration

SciHackDay Science Champion Medal
Photo by chebe

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