Category: Fun

POV Sport25 Video Glasses for Fun & Research

How many times have you missed an opportunity to get some neat video to share because you didn’t have an extra hand to hold a video camera? Yeah, lots of times, me too! Well, no more!

The other day I ran across a special on Woot.com for a set of POV Sport25 video glasses and I figured what the heck and pulled the trigger. They arrived this week and I took them for a test drive (literally).

POV Sport25 video glasses

POV Sport25 video glasses

They are a lot lighter than I expected and my mind is racing with all the video opportunities these bad boys will open up for us here at the college. The camera is right in between the lenses (see the tiny pinhole above). Imagine being able to film the first-person view of a grad student tagging a shark, or the deployment and recovery of underwater robots, or even <insert your scenario here>! They came with a glasses case, cleaner, USB cable and – for those doing work indoors – a set of pop-in clear lenses so that you’re not walking around in too dark of an environment.

To give you an idea of what the video quality was, I charged them up and wore them to the parking lot and on my drive downtown. The uploaded video follows. Enjoy!

It’s all about the E-Lec-Tricity

We had a gentleman named Matthew Vest come to the GVis lab the other day to show off his do-it-yourself creation. He was looking for information on whether he might be able to showcase it at the upcoming Coast Day 2011 event that happens each year on the second Sunday of October here at the Hugh R Sharp campus in Lewes.

Matthew has done something that most of us dream about doing, something many of us say we’re going to do, and that same something that most of us never get off our duffs and actually do. He has taken a 1985 Chevy S-10 truck, removed the gasoline engine and tank, and replaced them with an electric drive motor (from a fork lift he says) and a bed full of 6 volt lead acid batteries (aka ‘golf cart batteries’ – 24 in total). The conversion took him about 2 years to complete and cost approximately $10,000 dollars but now he is the proud owner (and creator) of an all-electric vehicle that will to approximately 40-60 miles on a charge.

Matthew Vest' Electric Truck

Matthew Vest’ Electric Truck

Matthew went out of his way to select “Deka” batteries to power his creation, which he says are 100% recyclable. Each of the 24 batteries weighs in at 60 lbs, for a total battery weight of about 1450lbs. These batteries are wired in series to generate the 144 volts DC that power the Warp-9 electric motor that replaces the gas engine. There is one 12 volt battery which is used to power the stock lights, wipers and horn.

Chevy S10 - Batteries in the Back

Chevy S10 – Batteries in the Back

A Curtis 1231c controller is like the brains of the truck, controlling the power flow. A Zivan ‘smart charger’, which runs on standard 110v, sits behind the driver seat. When fully discharged, the batteries take about 10-12 hours to recharge. The only sound that the truck makes when it is running is the sound of the add-on vacuum pump that is also under the hood. It creates the vacuum that assists with the stock braking system of the truck.

Chevy S10 - Under the Hood

Chevy S10 – Under the Hood

Matthew is hoping to touch base with some of the researchers at UD that are involved in the V2G or “Vehicle To Grid” project so that he can assess whether his S10 can also be integrated with the power grid. For more information on V2G and GIEV’s (Grid Integrated Electric Vehicles) you can read more on the Q&A section on the V2G site.

We asked Matt how he got started with the project and he said it just took some research online, a couple of “how to retrofit your gas vehicle into an electric vehicle” books, and some very helpful people on a few of the EV forums. We salute Matt for what turned out to be an excellent EV refit and for his consideration of the environment when he selected the batteries and materials for his electric vehicle project. Well done!

 

NASATweetup Mission Accomplished

Welcome Home Flat Samantha!

Samanthas and Astronaut Greg Johnson

Samanthas and Astronaut Greg Johnson

Everything has finally come full circle and Flat Samantha is once again re-united with her creator Samantha. Calling @FlatSamantha‘s trip a “circle” might be a bit of a misnomer however as she has had a wild adventure over the last couple of months. Her journey started in April when young Samantha found out that I was selected to attend the #NASATweetup for the final launch of the space shuttle Endeavour (#STS134). Samantha (and all the rest of the students in the lab) were disappointed that they couldn’t come with me to watch this historic launch, and Samantha took matters (and scissors and markers) into her own two hands and created a flat adventurer that she named Flat Samantha. She asked me if Flat Samantha could ride with me to the Endeavour launch and go up in the shuttle to the International Space Station. I would have loved to say “yes” but I had to inform Samantha that time was too short and that I could only take her down to watch the shuttle launch, but that I would take lots of pictures of her during this adventure and let her share them via a Twitter account that was set up for her (after all, she was going down to a NASATweetup – how’s a girl to tweet if she doesn’t have an account ;?).

I emailed Stephanie Schierholz that I would like to bring along another #NASATweetup attendee and that she wouldn’t take up any extra space. Without batting an eye Ms. Schierholz said “no problem, I’ll have a #NASATweetup badge waiting for her as well”.

FlatSamantha STS134 NASATWeetup Badge

FlatSamantha STS134 NASATWeetup Badge

The original launch date for the shuttle was adjusted forward as there was a conflict between when the Endeavour would be at the ISS and when the Soyuz 25S capsule would be there with some time sensitive experiments. It just so happened that the new launch date fell during my sons spring break period at school, so we scheduled a family vacation to Orlando prior to the launch and had a blast sharing the road trip down and the theme park adventures with Flat Samantha prior to the new launch date. I took her over to the Kennedy Space Center for the #STS134 #NASATweetup where we enjoyed the many presentations that the fine people at NASA had arranged for us on day #1 and then came back for what ended up being a scrubbed launch on day #2 (see: “STS-134 NASATweetup is only half over“).

We sat in the tent waiting for the hundreds of thousands of other disappointed spectators that were parked outside the Kennedy Space Center to head home after the launch scrub, knowing that it would be a couple of hours at least before the roads would be passable. As we chatted amongst ourselves, I started talking with Beth Beck and she asked me about the back story on my flat companion. I told her about Samantha and how she would like to have seen Flat Samantha go into space and that I could only promise to get her to the NASATweetup event to watch the launch. Ms. Beck said that since the launch was scrubbed, that there might be a possibility to fulfill Samantha’s wishes and that she would get back to me. Sure enough, a few days later I got an email from her saying that one of the astronauts – Gregory Johnson (aka @Astro_Box) said that he would do what he could to get @FlatSamantha into space. True to his word, we received a picture from space of one @FlatSamantha in the cupola of the International Space Station.

Flat Samantha in the ISS Cupola (photo by Gregory Johnson)

Flat Samantha in the ISS Cupola (photo by Gregory Johnson)

Upon the Endeavour’s return, Flat Samantha was escorted to a couple of other NASA Tweetup events including the #NASATweetup for the Sophia Telescope, the @NASAJPL Tweetup by @Schierholz and even the historic landing of the space shuttle Atlantis #STS135 with @BethBeck. Being flat and portable makes it much easier to get invited to some pretty awesome events it seems.

The title of this post is “NASATweetup Mission Accomplished” because the journey home to creator Samantha was accomplished this past week. The journey home was not via a FedEx envelope or the like, however. Flat Samantha was escorted home and hand-delivered by none other than astronaut Gregory Johnson while he was on the east coast giving a mission debriefing to NASA empoyees at NASA HQ in DC. Samantha, her parents and myself were invited to attend the debriefing and to meet with @Astro_Box for some photos following the debriefing by the ever awesome Beth Beck. When the University of Delaware’s ORB Lab students (who were anxiously following @FlatSamantha’s adventure) found out about the trip, they asked if they could come too. I asked Ms. Beck whether that was possible and not only did she say “yes” but she provided the entire group with reserved up-front seating for the debrief!

NASA HQ Debrief

NASA HQ Debrief (photo by Beth Beck)

I want to give a heart-felt thank you to Stephanie Schierholz and Beth Beck for allowing us all to join @FlatSamantha in her whirlwind adventure, both via Twitter and in person. I would also like to thank Gregory Johnson for making not only one little girls wish come true by bringing her flat proxy into space, but for also taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to bring that excitement to our small group of students and the rest of the world. The employees and representatives of NASA embody the compassion, the “can do” attitude and the educational and outreach expertise that the rest of us should pay close attention to. We are all honored to have been included in these adventures and their memories that we will carry with us for a lifetime. Rocket On NASA!

Group Photo with Greg Johnson and Flat Samantha (photo by Beth Beck)

Group Photo with Greg Johnson and Flat Samantha (photo by Beth Beck)

PS – All of the Flat Samantha #STS134 #NASATweetup adventure photos have been uploaded to the Flat Samantha Ocean Bytes media gallery – enjoy!

Timelapse of a Day in the ORB Lab’s GVis Room

I was showing the students how to operate the “birdcam” so they can use it to record a series of stills to create a time lapse video of an upcoming research cruise on the RV Hugh R Sharp. We left the birdcam in the corner and let it click away all day, shooting a new still every minute and the video above is the resulting masterpiece. It is embedded from “The UD ORB Lab” channel on YouTube.

You can learn more about the “birdcam” in a previous post about “Timelapse Video on the Cheap“. The GVis Room pictured above is the “Global Visualization Room” that was described in the post “How to Construct a Global Visualization Lab“.

Thanks to the ORB Lab crew for sharing!

 

Endeavour (STS-134) Launch Photos

This is a gallery of the launch photos that I took in the ~20 seconds that we had between ignition and the space shuttle Endeavour disappearing into the clouds. I’ll set up an outside gallery of all of the 300+ photos that I took in the coming week or so. I hope you enjoy them as much as I am.

DeepZoom of Endeavour on the Launch Pad

[Zoom.it shut down, so my DeepZoom image is no longer available. I’ll re-create it soon…]

(The image above is dynamic and zoomable, play around with it some. Mouse over it and use your scroll wheel, click and drag around on the image, or click the plus and minus buttons, even go full screen with the button on the lower-right-hand corner – have fun with it!)

One of the challenges of taking photos of special events and places is that they always look so small and lacking in visual acuity and detail. You take a picture and then later, when you’re looking at it, you feel underwhelmed that it just doesn’t capture the clarity that you remember seeing.

Two technologies that I cobbled together to create the zoomable picture above of the Endeavour (STS-134) on the launch pad are Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) and DeepZoom to tile and create javascript that allows you to zoom in and out of the image to enjoy much more detail. You can learn more about Microsoft ICE via this HD View blog posting, including details on what it can do as well as download links (it’s free!). I used my digital camera to zoom into the shuttle while it was on the launch pad post RSS shield retraction and took a matrix of photos, making sure that each photo overlapped with the others a little bit so that ICE could stitch them into one large hi-res photo. Since we’re limited in the number of pixels we can display on a screen, I leveraged DeepZoom technologies to break the image into a series of sub-images and to create javascript to swap in higher-resolution tiles as you zoom into the image. Similar to what you find when you zoom into a Google Map image or the like.

Microsoft had made it quite easy to automagically create DeepZoom images (based on SeaDragon technology) via their Zoom.it site. All I had to do was upload the composited image that I’d created using ICE to a web server, feed Zoom.it the URL of the large graphic image file and then copy the embed code from the results and paste them into this post after the file had been processed. The resulting javascript and tiles that were created are hosted on their site, so I didn’t even need to include them in my image file holdings.

I hope this helps in two ways:
A) Appreciate the awesome site that we were seeing at the STS-134 NASATweetup
B) You now know how to fish (ie: how to create cool visualizations like this). Have at it!

ps – If you want to pull down the full hi-res image that was used to create this so you can print out an awesome poster of the shuttle on the launch pad, you can get it here. Enjoy!

Endeavour Launch Photo Time Lapse

I took as many photos as I could during the Endeavour launch yesterday morning as fast as my camera would allow. Here is a time lapse of the photos taken before it disappeared into the clouds. I uploaded it to YouTube at 1080p, so make sure to go full-screen with it. Enjoy!

Update: Just found a link to a video that @AVWriter posted – crank up the subwoofer and enjoy the launch from the same vantage point that we had!

Endeavour RSS Shield Retraction Time Lapse

On Sunday we had the unique opportunity via the STS-134 #NASATweetup of being able to take pictures of the space shuttle Endeavour from about 600 yards away while the RSS shield was “retracted”. RSS stands for Rotating Service Structure and it is rotated away from the shuttle prior to fueling and subsequent launch. While I was busy snapping a gazillion pictures, I set up my el-cheapo digital video camera on the tripod and recorded the ~20 minute process. Below is a fast forwarded time lapse, squeezing the entire process into just over a minute. Enjoy!

STS-134 NASATweetup is only half over

I’m back from the Kennedy Space Center and the first half of the STS-134 NASATweetup. We got through most of the activities slated for Day #1 – which included meeting the ~149 other #NASATweetup attendees, a demo of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) and Mark III spacesuits, and talks by Dana Hutcherson (flow director), Tara Ruttley (ISS associate program scientist) and astronaut Clay Anderson (@Astro_Clay). They really rolled out the red carpet for us!

@CPUGuru, @FlatSamantha and @Astro_Clay

@CPUGuru, @FlatSamantha and @Astro_Clay

The second half of the day involved visits to the Shuttle Landing Facility and the Mate-Demate Device (big honkin’ crane and assembly to lift the shuttle onto and off-of the 747 that carries it), the Vehicle Assembly Building (the large picture behind us in the picture above) – also known as the “world’s largest single story building” in which they work on and assemble the shuttle, booster rockets etc. The last part of Day #1 was supposed to be a site visit to the shuttle itself to watch the retraction of the Rotating Service Structure (or RSS) but a rather nasty storm front presented itself and all sorts of dark clouds, rain and lightning ensued.

The Lightning Storm

The Lightning Storm

Retraction of the RSS was delayed from its original 7:00pm time to much later in the evening, so we missed being able to get up close and personal with the shuttle. By the time we arrived for “Launch Day” the following morning, the RSS had already been retracted and the fuel tanks were being filled with liquid oxygen, so we were unable to get any closer than the press site almost 3 miles away.

On Day #2 we had a group picture taken by the countdown clock and talks by astronauts Ricky Arnold (STS-119 Discovery) and Leland Melvin (@Astro_Flow – now associate director for Education at NASA). We also had a talk by Daire McCabe – a designer at Lego followed by a weather/launch update by Lt. Col. Patrick Barrett of the 45th Weather Squadron.

We all went out to the roadside in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to watch the caravan carrying the astronauts to Launch Pad 39A go by and wish them well, however the vans came, stopped, and turned back around (a first we’re told). Apparently a power coupling unit was not functioning on the shuttle and they scrubbed the launch. We were all a tad disappointed, but I heard a good quote along the lines of “it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than to be in the air and wishing you were on the ground”.

Caravan Carrying the Astronauts

Caravan Carrying the Astronauts

The current status is that they are in the process of replacing the faulty power coupling unit and that the earliest possible launch date is May 10th. Both @FlatSamantha and I (@cpuguru) plan on heading back down to KSC as soon as they tell us a definitive launch date. We’ll be sure to take some awesome pictures and will keep you informed once the second half of this #NASATweetup resumes. For a good timeline of the adventures of @FlatSamantha, be sure to follow her on her Twitter page, where she’ll keep you informed and upload pictures of what’s going on right then. Until then, we’re on hot stand-by, our bags are packed and we’re anxiously awaiting the good news that the launch is a go.

Flat Samantha Is Coming to the STS-134 NASA Tweetup

Flat Samantha

Samantha and her friend Flat Samantha

Flat Samantha is in the house! I was contacted by young Samantha (pictured left – the non-flat one) to see if I had room for Flat Samantha to ride with us to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida when we embark for the NASA Tweetup at the Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-134) launch on April 29th. Today we met up with her and her parents and got instructions on how to take care of Flat Samantha.

Samantha has provided meticulous training to Flat Samantha and has crafted a first-class space suit along with a helmet to help her breath in space should the opportunity present itself.

During our pre-flight briefing, I gave her the run-down on what the travel plans will be. I promise to take good care of our new travel companion and will post pictures at every major step in our journey. Thanks for entrusting us with your friend Samantha! We’ll be sure to take good care of her and will return her to you safely when this adventure is over.

Flat Samantha is following the footsteps of some of her other flat siblings, including the original “Flat Stanley” who visited twice: once in 2002 when he went into space and did a 14-day mission on the space shuttle Endeavour and again in 2011 when he visited NASA HQ courtesy of Beth Beck.  Other flat adventurers include “Flat Paxton” and “Flat David“, who also had the opportunity to visit NASA.

Flat Samantha will be tweeting about her adventures at the #NASATweetup – you can follow her tweets via @FlatSamantha as well as mine at @CPUGuru. Welcome to the adventure Flat Samantha!

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