Art without engineering is dreaming;
Engineering without art is calculating.

Steven K. Roberts

How-to articles

The Datawake ADS-B PiAware Receiver

Tracking Aircraft with a Raspberry Pi by Steven K. Roberts One of my obsessions over the years has been collecting data, probing the radio spectrum, sensing outside my normal limited visual and hearing range, and deploying probes to expand my awareness of the environment. This leads to recognition of patterns, better understanding of how things work, and the almost voyeuristic…

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Sisal wrapped two-by-four

Cat Scratching Posts for Boats

I can’t imagine living aboard without a cat, and Isabelle moved with me to Datawake after three years aboard Nomadness. She’s a constant joy, but there are still feline realities that have to be considered: dining, elimination, and scratching. All are challenging on a boat, given space constraints and the need to handle dynamic conditions. Telling a cat…

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Piano Drawer on Datawake

Building a Heavy-Duty Piano Drawer

by Steven K. Roberts Nomadic Research Labs A key requirement for my floating lab/studio was to have a digital piano aboard, but limited space dictates a deployment system that lets it stow away when not in use. I designed the console around this, and built a piano drawer that can handle a quarter-ton. It was important that it not…

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The Shacktopus Power Beast

These are the voyages of the hand truck, Shacktopus. Her continuing mission… to seek out new loads and strange environments… to boldly blink where no one has blinked before. On a voyaging sailboat, stable power goes with the territory: a huge battery bank charged by isolated shore cable and solar panels, diesel genset with a…

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The Little Cod Wood Stove

The season is turning, that’s obvious. We’re pinned down in Deer Harbor with a frontal system coming through… 30-40 knots tomorrow, a brief respite on Sunday, another blast on Monday. We parked here to rendezvous with Andrew of Navigator Stove Works and get the black-enameled Little Cod wood stove installed. The timing couldn’t be better.…

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Mounting the FT-817 Transceiver in an Embedded Application

During the first “Shacktopus” project in 2005 (not the new one), I was integrating a variety of communication, data collection, and audio devices into a backpackable substrate. I put the project on hold to go shut down the old family home, then never got back to it… and now we have smartphones that do almost…

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Gonzo Engineering

This is a peek into the passion that drives makers, hackers, and other victims of gizmological obsession. Versions of this have been widely quoted over the years and it becomes cyclically relevant as I dive into new projects, so I decided to add it to my archives.  If I could be said to have a “geek manifesto,” then…

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Balance your Boat with a Center of Gravity Database

I wrote this how-to piece after spending quite a bit of time designing an automated solution to a messy problem: distributing tonnage on a boat in such a way that she remains balanced in longitudinal, transverse, and vertical axes. Marine architects made this issue abundantly clear when I was first designing the Microship, so my…

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Cardboard Core Composite Fabrication

Early in the BEHEMOTH project, we developed this “poor man’s composite” technique. Over the years it has been one of the most popular pages on my site, so I’ve moved it into these archives to be part of the timeline. Want to know how to build arbitrary structures cheaply, using corrugated cardboard, hot glue, and…

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