Cluster Balloon Flying House

Credit: National Geographic Channel

As part of a new TV series on the National Geographic Channel called "How Hard Can It Be?", a team of ballooning experts constructed a cluster balloon inspired by the Pixar movie "Up"! The house was 5x5 meters in size, and was lofted by 300 weather balloons! The flight lasted over an hour and reached 10,000 feet.

Erasing a CD with High Voltage

Credit: Youtube user photonicinduction

Is destroying CDs in a microwave getting old and too safe for your taste? It may be time to turn to a high voltage solution. There is something satisfying about vaporizing the metalization in the most dangerous of ways!

Cockroach Leg Neural Experiments


Monitoring and controlling a cockroach leg with hobbyist grade neuroscience equipment is now possible! offers kits for experiments in neuroscience.

The top image shows the neurons firing when the barbs on the cockroach leg are brushed with a small implement. The image below shows the barb brushing of one leg inducing motion in a second leg. In this case, the threshold of an amplifier is configured so that the soft touches of the one leg drive currents sufficient to induce motion in the second leg.


The videos below show the whole procedure. The cockroach is sedated with cold water and a fresh leg is harvested. Amazingly, the cockroach is able to regrow a new leg after this procedure. The leg can then be used for monitoring neuron firing, and through appropriate circuitry, used to induce motion in another cockroach leg.

Internet Science with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey SkyServer

Apache Point in Sunspot, New Mexico is the location of a 2.5 meter diameter telescope that now holds the position as the most cited instrument for research papers in astronomy. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has been cited more times than Hubble, more than Keck, more than any other observatory! The magic of the SDSS isn't a gigantic telescope, but rather the detectors, electronics, and data processing magic that make astounding quantities of data easily accessible to all online. We are in the era of data driven science and the internet scientist.

2.5m telescope
1.5 degree field of view
125 Mega-pixel CCD camera cooled with liquid nitrogen
Up to 200GB of data a night


Fun projects:
Try the skyserver scavenger hunt!

Manned Electric Multicopter

Credit: Thomas Senkel, Stephan Wolf, Alexander Zosel

16 Hacker 4kW brushless electric motors $580 x 16 = $9280
16 electronic speed controllers $389x16 = $6224
32 5S LiPo batteries $55 x 32 = $1760
16 24inch carbon props $60x16 = $960
RC controller and miscellaneous parts= $1000

You're only looking at something like a $20K investment if you'd like one of these for yourself!

Fun projects:
Build a small radio controlled tri-copter!

Levitation with Superconductor Flux Pinning

Fun with superconductors! The magic at work here is called flux pinning. The defining characteristic of superconductors is that there can be no magnetic field within the superconducting material. Things start to get interesting when you make the superconductor thin enough. Imperfections in the superconductor can lead to flux pinning, a case where the magnetic fields are concentrated and directed through imperfections in the superconductor. In this case, the superconducting will serve to resist any change in the magnetic field lines surrounding the object. This leads to the forces that can maintain the levitating object at a fixed distance above (or below!) the magnetic track.

Fun project:
Get some Neodymium magnets, a coil of wire, and a see if you can build a miniature version of the home made wind turbines described at

SMU United States Geothermal Potential Map

Newer geothermal technologies and drilling methods are opening the door the extracting geothermal energy from temperatures as low as 100˚C. An SMU study of the geothermal potential of different parts of the US was performed based on 35,000 measurement sites.

Fun Projects:
Go spelunking and bring a thermometer with you.

Bicycle Riding RC Robot

Credit: Dr. Guero

Here's a nice remote controlled bicycle project from Japan! The goal of this project was to have the robot pedal the bicycle as a person would. The feet are not attached to the pedals!

17 servos
Height: 415 mm
Length: 495 mm
Weight: 2500g
Tire diameter: 195mm

And just for fun... Check out the latest radio controlled motorcycles on youtube!

Fun projects:
Get a gyroscope and balance it on a string.

DTI Brain Tractography


One incredibly daunting goal in the study of the brain is to create a full map of the brain's interconnections, or it's connectome. The latest refinements in MRI technology have opened the door to mapping the internal connections of a living brain with finer and finer detail. The brain's structure is interconnected on such a massive level that some researchers in the field have taken to using electron microscopes to image brain tissue in 30nm slices, however the MRI allows a picture of the coarse structure of the neural tracts.

In Diffusion Tensor Imaging the MRI system is used to measure the ability of water to diffuse in different directions within the brain tissue. Since the diffusivity is greater in the directions of neuron fibers, large tracts of nerve bundles are visible in the diffusivity map.

The DTI atlas is a fantastic web site that allows you to explore the structure of the human brain.

Search the net to try to figure out an estimate for the number of neurons, and connections between neurons in a human brain.

Cubestorm II Rubik's Cube Robot

Mike Dobson and David Gilday created the Cubestormer II robot to beat the human speed record at solving the Rubik's cube! The system uses a smart phone camera and custom software driving Lego Mindstorm NXT kits over bluetooth.

Fun project:
Get a Rubik's cube and try to solve it!

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