Author Archives: Gavin

How long will the rain last?

Want to know how long the rain is going to last? Simple- pop out to the shed and build yourself a weather satellite antenna from the bits that you can find. [OK – there may be easier ways of finding out, but this looks far more fun!]


Circling above your head the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have satellites constantly broadcasting back data and pictures using APT on ~137MHz. There is nothing to stop you receiving these images yourself and, like Simon,¬†you can build a ‘quadrifilar helicoidal’ antenna with some plumbing supplies and the help of this great online calculator.

Connected to the antenna were an RTL-SDR dongle and a computer running gpredict to track the satellite, gqrx to handle reception, and wxtoimg to do the APT image decoding.

Next up? Let’s add a SatNOGS ground station to roof of rLab!

Inter-Hackspace Robot Wars 2015

We are off to Newcastle-under-Lyme next weekend to compete in the 2015 Inter-Hackspace Robot Wars organised by the Potteries Hackspace. Aside from the home team, we’re also up against teams from Bromyard, Hitchin, and Birmingham.

Reading Hackpace's menacing entry for the Inter-Hackspace Robot Wars 2015

Reading Hackpace’s menacing entry for the Inter-Hackspace Robot Wars 2015

One of the most challenging aspects of the competition is staying within the 10kg weight limit. Once you’ve put motors, batteries and drivetrain onboard, there’s not a lot of scope for much else. Ours is based on a biscuit tin! It might not look strong, or particularly menacing, but perhaps our entry is not quite what it seems [mwahahaha].

We’ll report back in a couple of weeks with a fuller write-up and hopefully some video of our victorious entry.

Reading Repair Cafe – this weekend

Reading Repair CaferLab is proud to be hosting Reading Repair Cafe this Sunday, July 19th, between 12:00 and 16:30.

So if you have something that’s broken, or some tools that need sharpening, bring them down to Unit C1, Weldale Street, Reading, RG1 7BX, where the volunteers will be only too pleased to help you.

There will be plenty of expertise in computers, electricals, mending clothes; the right tools to get things fixed; and some cakes and food for sale too!


More details here and here too

From plan to reality: modular tool storage

Over the last few weeks members have been working on a new modular tool storage system for our ever-growing collection of workshop tools. Proposed and designed by Ian, the shelves are the ultimate in re-configurability, and will be a huge help in keeping our workbenches free of clutter. We’ve now got four units in total and, at last, a place for every tool in the workshop!

Tool shelves - the plan

When Ian first showed the plans they looked ideal, but when I dropped in this evening I wasn’t prepared for just how awesome the finished product would look. Ian – you’re a visionary. Well done everyone who has mucked in over the last few weekends to make the plans a reality. A great team effort.

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Tear-down of a 100W Nd:YAG surgical laser

A few weeks ago we posted about the dispatch of one of our lasers into the hands of YouTube-video creator PhotonicInduction. Andy has been pretty busy in the meantime, zapping bugs, setting fire to his sofa, burning holes in his mobile-phone, and has also produced this great video where he tears down the Sharplan 3000 laser and explains how it works. Highly recommended viewing.

Still from PhotonicInduction's video

Still from PhotonicInduction’s video

Ryan explains the Jacob’s Ladder

We were clearing out the cupboard last week to make some storage space, and one of the things to emerge was the ‘Jacob’s Ladder’. More technically known as a high voltage travelling arc it is made from little more than a transformer from a neon light, some welding rods and some perspex. In this short video Ryan explains what is going on as the arc buzzes its way up between the rods.


The night we put the sign up

A great night down rLab last night – lots of new faces, another 3 new members, some clearing up, and …. WE FINALLY PUT THE SIGN UP!

It has been a while since Sylvain made the sign for us and in the meantime we have struggled to find the time to get out the ladders, remove the sodium lamp from the front of the building (we still couldn’t find the switch for it) so that we could hang it in its rightful position – in pride of place on the front of our unit.

The sign makes a huge difference to the appearance of the building, it makes us much easier to find, and lifting it into place felt – well – momentous. So, here, captured for posterity, is the moment we put it up.

Thanks Sylvain – it’s awesome – and thanks too to everyone who lent a hand / big stick last night.

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