From Makers Local 256
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Registered to Compete!
Born On:
12:49, 15 February 2010 (CST)
Last Updated:
15:40, 04 March 2010 (CDT)


This page is for the ML256 members who are participating in the Hackerspaces In Space (HSIS) competition. On SnaP! We have a Mailing List!


  • March 4 2010, 7:00pm - 8:00pm: HAL5 Presentation at Huntsville Main Library's Auditorium
  • March 8 2010, 7:30pm - 8:30pm: BalloonSat Meeting
  • April 3 2010, 8:00 - 16:00: First Test Launch and Recovery
  • June 1, 2010 - August 31, 2010: Official Contest Launch Window
  • September 7, 2010: Deadline to Submit Results of Official Launch
  • September 30, 2010: Announcement of Winners


  • 2/22/10 - Registered on the HSIS website.
  • Omegix has confirmed drug stores no longer carry disposable digital cameras
  • Have GPS Tracker
  • Held first meeting on 2/22/2010
  • 2/24/10 - Spacefelix contacted Bill Brown who does balloon launches. He has expressed interest in helping the project.
  • 3/1/10
    • Accepted invitation from HAL5 President, Yohan Lo to give a 5-minute interest presentation at the 3/4/10 7pm HAL5 Meeting. Will see if we can raise funds, interest, contributions of equipment and people.
    • Finished initial design of balloon and payload and list of design considerations. Currently on drawing in the shop. Also have an initial shopping list and a target budget of $150.00. Will raise project money from Makers and HAL5.

Future Actions

  • Brimstone & Omegix
    • Will be taking a shopping trip on 4/6
  • Spacefelix
    • Will contact HSIS board on judge's duties and set up liason.
    • Will source cheap weather balloons and helium.
  • Ratmandu
    • Looking into using the GSM/GPS Unit he found.
    • Checking into available camera for project.
  • Presentation to 2600 on HSIS - Can we use the HAL5 presentation? Will need a volunteer to orate.

Contest Information

From contest rules and guidelines online at the contest website.


From the 1337arts website: Launching things into the stratosphere can be DANGEROUS! Please contact the FAA (or your respective government body that regulates air traffic) before trying any launches (even if they are under 4 lbs.) to make sure your vehicle won’t be entering restricted airspace and PLEASE check the University of Wyoming’s Balloon Trajectory Predictor (or a similar website) to make sure you balloon won’t be landing in the city/a populated area where it might cause significant damage. Also, be sure to test your balloon’s terminal velocity for descent before launching to make sure it’s within a safe range.


  • One team per hackerspace. Any size build team, but only 10 people for the launch and retrieval team.
  • Payload must be under 4 pounds (~1.814kg).
  • Parts cost limit of $250.00. Must show receipts or have other proof of purchase.
  • Payload must return with pictures taken from the flight.
  • Only one official launch per team allowed. Notice of official launches must be given by 8 a.m., and a judge must be present for the launch to count.
  • All local laws and ordinances must be followed throughout the entire competition.
  • Balloon camera must take pictures of the curvature of the earth.
  • The Event Board may judge any other conduct considered outside “the spirit” of the event and disqualify a team that does not adhere to it by majority vote.


  • Retrieval Time Based on time of balloon launch to recovery. Fastest gets 50 points, next gets 45, and so on.
  • Weight of Payload 5 points added for every 1/2 pound under 4 lb.
  • Cost of Setup Base: 50 points. 0.5 points off for every dollar over $150.
  • Total Points Retrieval Time Score + Weight Score + Cost Score

Event Board & Judges

  • Judges are members of each hackerspace, and will be submitted to the Event Board. They will ensure all rules are


  • One person from each hackerspace will be on the Event Board. The Event Board will oversee the event, judge each

applicant, and declare winners.


Available Materials

  • GNX-5 (rebranded as Guidepoint) GSM(cellphone)/GPS tracking device
    • Ratmando has the data sheet and pinouts of the current micro controller for this device. He's looking into replacing the micro controller with something like an ATMEGA644
  • Ratmandu may have a camera
    • Brimstone found out that if we take a 1M picture every 10 seconds, that it will fill 7.5GB in 2.5 hours
    • We may be able to get cameras that work with CHDK at Unclaimed Baggage for less than retail cost.

List of Potential Materials

Depending on design, we may not need many of these materials)

  • Weather Balloons
  • Parachute (rocket model type) and streamers
  • String / Fishing Line
  • Styrofoam cooler, small
  • Digital Camera: 5MP, preferably a Sony so we can use CHDK
  • 1 x Memory Card, 8GB
  • 1 x Memory Card, Cheap (size not important)
  • Atmega Processor
  • Free-spinning joints (like found in keychains)
  • Bungee cords
  • GPS
  • Batteries (3 x D Cell)
  • Radar Reflector (Is this something we will make, or purchase?)
  • Shock Cushion for Bottom of payload
  • Radio or Cell Phone
  • Heat Source (like HotHands)

Human Resources

Bill Brown

Bill Brown has expressed interest in helping the project. He can provide balloons, lifting gas, a launch site (on a mountaintop near Hartselle), a ground station and some lightweight tracking payloads. All of it is for his company: High Altitude Research Corp. He invented the Near Space BalloonSat back in 1987. It was the first to take photos and videos in Near Space.

  • Recommendations
    • Use his lightweight tracking payloads instead of the GPS cell phone method.
    • Use the Canon PowerShot series hacked with CHDK (Canon Hacker Development Kit) software.
    • Fly the Flip video cam.
    • Bought balloons for $20.00 each on eBay. Has receipt to prove it for costing.
  • Media


  • Rohan has worked on BalloonSat before
  • Steve Boyer and Sarah Johnstone have worked on BalloonSats before as well

All Interested Peoples

  • Brimstone
  • Spacefelix (HSIS Event Board Liason)
  • Omegix (Acting as local POC/Project Manager)
  • Crashcart (requested no admin duties)
  • bender
  • Ratmandu
  • Rohan
  • Your name here

HAL5 Presentation Talking points

  • Introduce ourselves
  • Describe Makers Local 256
  • Describe the contest
    • Review rules
  • Describe how we're going to compete
    • If it's still at the shop, show that piece of paper we drew a diagram on
  • Rustle up support for the project:
    • People are welcome to join
    • Donations of money and gear are appreciated