Eclipse 2017 High Altitude Balloon

A handful and a half of our hackers collaborated over the past several weeks to design and launch a high altitude helium-filled balloon during the recent total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.

The balloon was kitted out with cameras, sensors and way-finding equipment. After being aloft for about 3.5 hours, the increasing altitude contributed to the balloon’s anticipated popping and rapid fall back to earth. It traveled around 100 miles, capturing video and photos before, during and after the eclipse.

This project page from our Wiki, prepared pre-launch, contains a wealth of details about the endeavor, including specs of the equipment, testing needs, and compliance considerations leading up to the launch. Member Dan Julio also posted about the project on Hackaday.

The balloon crew included SSD members Brandon Skari, Dan Julio, Tim Pegg, Andrew Bigoney, Specter, Rob Bryan, Sarah Gjestvang, along with additional crewmembers Kate, Bob, Tessa, Jason, and Sarah’s family.

A remote launch site surrounded by land with considerable public access to make recovery easier was carefully researched prior to the launch, though modified after reviewing different wind forecasts. The crew gradually assembled starting Friday night through Sunday, traveling from Boulder to an area about 10 miles ESE of Shoshoni Wyoming. The group split into three teams: a launch team, a recovery team and a remote telemetry receiver in Casper.

Most team members were on the launch team, who released the balloon at about 10:30 am. The initial climb rate of 2.5 m/s was a bit slower than expected and meant that the balloon was ultimately aloft for longer than initially anticipated.

The balloon traveled almost due east, eventually succumbing to the effects of partial vacuum about 20 miles north of Casper after reaching a maximum altitude of over 90,000 feet! At that point the balloon burst, and it and its payload quickly fell to earth. The recovery team, consisting of Kate, Bob, Sarah and her family, found out that the payload had landed on a private ranch. The balloon was found in about 5 hours near the last LoRa telemetry message.

In 360-degree video footage captured aloft during the event, a noticeable shadow can be seen visibly encroaching from the west over the land below. A few minutes later, totality arrived at approximately 11:39 AM. The darkened sky showed stars and the solar corona. The balloon’s cameras continued filming along its eastward trek for almost another hour before the balloon burst.

This endeavor generated a lot of interest and activity at SSD, and many thanks for helping go to: Todd LaWall, Chrobi, John West, and John Maushammer!

Denver Mini Maker Faire 2016 recap in pictures

SSD members turned out in force the the mini maker fair held at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the crowd was fantastic.

Jim’s Drawbot was a huge draw — one girl adored it and was thrilled when he gave her the drawing it had just made!

DSC_7139 DSC_7140

Terry’s soccer scoring system got the most interest and kids loved rolling tennis balls through the goalposts and watching it mark their point.  Pictured behind is the mini version of John English’s Soundpuddle, set up by Tijlon.

DSC_7178

Jennifer’s automatic dog play system also entertains kids pretty well!

IMG_4964

Dan’s remote car had lots of kids mugging for its camera.

IMG_4960

I had lots of fun walking around with my video T-shirt and explaining how it worked.  Mostly though, kids just stared at it, mesmerized.

IMG_5668

 

IMG_5653


Turnout was excellent for other booths, with the return of many popular exhibits and new ones, too.

One of my all-time favorites is a group that deconstructs old pinball machine mechanisms and explain how they work. Very hands-on, it’s much easier to see how a mechanical score counter works than an electronic one.

DSC_7126 DSC_7201

Denhac had a lockpicking workshop, where kids could try to escape from handcuffs. They also had some great lights in the darker area of the Faire

DSC_7142 DSC_7187

Zoe Doubleday’s Haptika series of therapy gloves were a hit —

DSC_7154 DSC_7184

I didn’t get the guy who made these beautiful electronic quilts — he was one of many participants who also did amazing things:

DSC_7162 DSC_7169

Human foosball, of course!

DSC_7175

I fell in love with these hacked furby skeletons!

DSC_7194

DSC_7197 DSC_7198

Looking forward to future Mini Maker Faires!

Bitmessage and Tahoe-LAFS at Crypto and MeshNet Meetup

Little MeshOn Wednesday, August 28, the Solid State Depot had crypto and meshnet meetup with lightning talks, general discussion, and installation for Bitmessage and Tahoe-LAFS.

Ben Burdette started off the meetup with a presentation on Bitmessage. Bitmessage is a P2P communicationns protocol used to send encrypted messages to another person or to many subscribers. It is decentralized and trustless, meaning that you need-not inherently trust any entities like root certificate authorities. It uses strong authentication which means that the sender of a message cannot be spoofed, and it aims to hide “non-content” data, like the sender and receiver of messages, from passive eavesdroppers like those running warrantless wiretapping programs.

Zooko talked about Tahoe-LAFS.  Tahoe-LAFS is a free and open cloud storage system. It distributes your data across multiple servers. Even if some of the servers fail or are taken over by an attacker, the entire filesystem continues to function correctly, preserving your privacy and security.

Aspects of Tahoe-LAFS of interest at this meetup:

  • LAFS cryptography: Public/private keypairs are per-file, not per-user, digital signatures are everywhere, public-key encryption is not used, secure hashes and merkle trees are a beautiful data structure, akin to git.
  • The open source project: We have dozens of hackers from around the globe extending LAFS in different ways ; Want to contribute? We use a development process with complete unit test coverage and mandatory code review on all patches. We are nice. We have weekly meetings. Join in!
  • Usage: How to get the source, build it, deploy a grid of storage servers, share files and directories with your friends; who runs storage servers and gives you access to their storage server—friends sharing storage space with each other? Strangers meeting in the darknets? You can lease storage from my for-profit startup.

See more about this event on its Meetup.com page.