I still have a lot of drone videos to edit from this summer, but here is one that came out ok (if only I smiled!). Taken with a vanilla DJI Phantom 2 + GoPro.
Getting up early to catch the Eastbound ferry rewards you with a great view of the sunrise over the mountains. I always try to remember to capture a Hyperlapse while riding public transportation in beautiful places. This one would have been easier with gloves, but it was worth it!
Last week I was fortunate enough to be able to visit and tour the Green Bank Telescope facility of the NRAO in Green Bank, West Virginia. The facility and the science carried out therein are amazing, and I highly encourage other engineers to put it on their 'to-visit' list. Here's my favorite of the dozen photos I took of the GBT:
As Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) is the bane of radio astronomy, the Green Bank Telescope is located in the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone (NRQZ) - a pretty remote location. Getting there entails a flight (usually to Pittsburgh, Washington Dulles, or Charlottesville, VA) and a 3-5 hr drive. I found a decent flight to Charlottesville on US Air, and really enjoyed the 3 hr drive through the mountains to Green Bank.
This path takes you right through the George Washington National Forest (and Shenandoah Valley) and the Monongahela National Forest. Here are a few photos from the drive:
I checked out Roadfood.com to see if there were any notable greasy spoons on my path. It called out "Wright's Dairy Rite" as a 'Top Pick" in Staunton, VA with the following description:
Three years before Ray Kroc began franchising McDonald’s, Wright’s Dairy Rite of Staunton, Virginia, started serving Superburgers. Two beef patties with cheese and lettuce, topped with special sauce and layered in a triple-decker bun, this monumental hamburger is still served as it was in 1952 – by car hops at the window of your vehicle in a car slip at the side of the restaurant.
I stopped there to check out a classic 50's burger stand and sample their Big Mac predecessor. While the setting is pretty neat, the burger didn't live up to the hype. Fortunately the sweet potato fries were good enough to carry me over.
As you might imagine, there aren't very many lodging options near Green Bank. Most visiting scientists and engineers stay in the houses and dorms on the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) grounds. Beyond that, there are a handful of Bed & Breakfast options in the area. I stayed at the Chestnut Ridge Country Inn, which was excellent. Owners Paula and Larry provided a comfortable stay and delicious home made breakfasts (quiche, french toast, pancakes, biscuits and gravy...).
Get to the GBT
We had a pretty busy week, but we were able to take an afternoon to tour the telescope. It was awesome, our guide had worked on the GBT since before it was constructed. He talked at length about different design decisions and tradeoffs in the construction and the control system (his area). Unfortunately, electronics (including digital cameras) are not allowed near the telescopes, so I only have 1 photo from a friend kind enough to share their disposable film camera!
Note: I don't think the public tour provides this level of access. As we were visiting the GBT as part of a technical workshop, we were granted insider access.
For a photo tour of the GBT, see this Wired article from 2009: Wired GBT Tour Photos. Here is a reference image with my tour stops marked:
Our tour started as 11 of us crammed into the tiny construction-style elevator at the base of the telescope (point A). This carried us up to the main level of the rotating portion of the telescope (point B).
At this point the transparent flooring of the metal grating reminded me of my intermittent acrophobia. Fortunately my colleague John goaded me enough to continue. We then traversed the walkway to the second elevator (point C) which travels diagonally to the receiver platform (point D). Here is my only photo from the tour (thanks Dave!):
At about 500 ft, the view from the platform is incredible. It provides an interesting perspective on the rest of the GBT site (including multiple telescopes) as well as the surrounding West Virginia countryside. The receiver structure was also very interesting - it's actually hinged to allow retracting the receiver head for cleaning and maintenance.
Next we took the stairs down one level (yikes!) to the receiver instrumentation room. With solid steel walls/floors, apparently the welders thought there was no way the structure could support the weight of this room (a comforting thought on the tour). Then back to the elevator to go down to the dish level (point E).
At this point it was raining, but this did not discourage our guide from walking out on to the dish to go over how the actuator system was able to perfectly control the dish surface (his area of expertise). Apparently they initially planned to install a laser system to actively monitor the shape of the dish, but found this unnecessary due to the accuracy of the control system.
Finally, we took the stairs back to the main level and toured the actuator control room - a mass of wires and circuit boards required to control the 2000+ panels. Our guide also gave us an overview of the custom tools he designed that allowed the precise installation of the panels and actuators of the dish.
At this point, the nearby lightning was enough to overcome our guide's excitement, and we took the small construction elevator back down to ground level. It was an awesome tour! Here are the rest of my photos from around the GBT site and the nearby historic Cass railroad (note the classic diesel vehicles - as they don't have sparkplugs, only diesel engines are allowed in the red zone):
There are a lot of great blog posts out there about Maker Faire 2012 and the surrounding festivities, so I'll link to those and keep mine short. First, the Make Hardware Innovation Workshop - a lot of great talks by well known makers. My favorites were presentations by Jay Rogers (LocalMotors - innovation and rapid development of automobiles), Carl Bass (Autodesk - new technology to enable makers) and Bunnie (making at scale via China)- but all were very good, primarily focused on key innovations and next steps for the maker movement. My photos show some of the presenters, and a lot of the Rally Fighter. [nggallery id=4]
On Thursday I ventured from Berkeley to Noisebridge for the Dangerous Prototypes Taco Crawl - which was awesome. It was fun to meet a lot of the hackers I interact with online, and the food was great. I took a bunch of photos of the Noisebridge hackerspace as well. Kenneth has more photos of the crawl.
Finally, the big show at the San Mateo fairgrounds. The number of exhibitors was probably 2-3x the size of the Austin Maker Faires, but the number of people was a good 10x more. It was crowded! The photos tell the story, I thought Autodesk/Instructables had a great booth, as well as all of the open source hardware teams (EMSL, DP, Sparkfun, BeagleBoard, etc). My son really liked the Robobrrd and the electric giraffe. Unfortunately, we missed his favorite "Big Roomba" aka R2D2.
Ian from Dangerous Prototypes did a great Maker Faire 'How to' Video as well:
Other Maker Faire 2012 posts and photosets to check out:
I had a great time at the Austin Mini Maker Faire this weekend. Although smaller than the events held at the Expo Center in years past, the Austin-focus of the 'Mini' Faire is a great improvement. Rather than trucking in makers from other cities, this organic mini-Maker Faire approach helps to grow the Austin maker community. There were a lot of great electronics projects. My son (and many other kids) couldn't get enough of the full size R2D2 (which he called "Big Roomba!"):
Two local FIRST teams had several robots driving around, the AustinEV club had electric truck and motorcycle conversions on display, ATX Hackerspace held a soldering workshop which was packed... and much more (full list here). I snapped a few photos, and there is a nice photoset from the event on the Austin Mini Maker Faire Facebook page.
Next week - the big show in San Mateo!
Last week while in Las Vegas for a conference I was fortunate enough to spend some time at the 'Pinball Hall of Fame'. While the exterior may not be as glamorous as the casinos on the strip (see below), the interior was fantastic - 10,000 sqft of pinball!
They have a great mix of very early and very recent games, almost all in working order. Better yet, all machines take good ol' quarters! And best, the proceeds benefit charity! From their website:
The Pinball Hall of Fame is an attempt by the members of the Las Vegas Pinball Collectors Club to house and display the world's largest pinball collection, open to the public. A not-for-profit corporation was established to further this cause. And since it's a non-profit, excess revenues go to non-denominational charities.
Check out their game list here. I think we were there for about 2 hours and didn't even go through $20 in quarters. That's cheaper than most of the buffets! Although they didn't have my favorite game (World Cup Soccer for those keeping score at home), I had a blast.
One game of note was Orbital 1 (video below) - with a curved field and spinning bumpers that results in a constantly spinning/curving ball. It's unlike any I've played before, and it has a robot voice.
If you find yourself in Vegas, be sure to take a trip off the strip to the Pinball Hall of Fame. I highly recommend it!