Great Scott Gadgets

open source tools for innovative people

Free Stuff - October 2023

The October recipient for the Great Scott Gadgets Free Stuff Program is the Illinois Space Society, which is a student-run non-profit 501(c)3 aerospace organization at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus. The Illinois Space Society hosts a variety of technical projects and educational outreach programs. One of their largest technical projects, Spaceshot, is aiming to be one of the first collegiate teams to build and launch a two stage rocket to 100km, also known as the Kármán line, the beginning of space.

Over the past two years they’ve been working on creating flight computers that can accurately conduct state estimation at extreme high altitude. The group says “GPS is undoubtedly the most accurate form of positioning we can utilize, but most consumer grade modules are not rated for those extreme altitudes or speeds. Our hope is to use the HackRF One as a GPS simulator to help test our modules in an easily reproducible manner without the need for an expensive test flight. With that said, a HackRF One would also allow us to expand beyond the range of our RTL-SDR to help debug our ESP32-S3 wifi modules and our upcoming wireless 5GHz video systems.” The Illinois Space Society also plans to use the HackRF One we send them to help kickoff their radio club. We look forward to seeing what projects the Illinois Space Society does from here!

2023 Winter Break

We hope everyone has a great holiday season! If you are trying to get in touch with the Great Scott Gadgets team please know tomorrow (December 22nd) will be our last day in the office until the 2024 calendar year! This means that we will not be available through email, on Discord, or via GitHub. See you all in January!

Free Stuff - September 2023

The September recipient for the Great Scott Gadgets Free Stuff Program is Erik. Erik is an Ojibwe filmmaker and artist. He has only had his amateur radio license for a short while but he is already assisting in running community demonstrations on how amateur radio can help in emergency situations. We are sending Erik a HackRF One so he can build a mobile training station and take his emergency preparedness demonstrations on the road to Native communities. As an avid camper and road tripper, Erik is also excited to eventually take his demonstrations into wilderness settings and rural communities. We look forward to seeing Erik’s mobile training station and getting updates on where he has taken it.

Free Stuff - August 2023

The August recipient for the Great Scott Gadgets Free Stuff Program is The Factory, a student-run hardware design lab at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. The Factory aims to give students access to advanced tools for their hardware projects, space to work on their projects, and support in developing technical skills.

The Factory has previously offered workshops on VIM, VHDL, C, and PC building. They also run a Hackathon called The Forge. In one instance of The Forge students formed teams and built a line tracing robot to race against the other teams. In non-event related times, students in this lab have completed projects such as an IoT system for the trash cans on the McGill campus to alert the cleaning teams when a trash can is full, custom video game controllers, and an automated watering system for plants. About 40-50 students currently frequent The Factory, and they are all passionate about electronics, hardware, and related research.

We are sending The Factory a HackRF One so their lab members can fulfill their hopes of offering workshops and creating materials on wireless systems, satellite communication, and spectrum analysis. Good luck and have fun!

Great Scott Gadgets is now on Mastodon

Great Scott Gadgets is on Mastodon! You’ll get a lot of the same information as you get on our other social media profiles, but if Mastodon is your platform preference, we now have you covered.

GSG on Mastodon

Free Stuff - July 2023

The July recipient for the Great Scott Gadgets Free Stuff Program is Joona. Joona plans to use the YARD Stick One we are sending him to develop and test radios. He will be writing documentation and creating tutorials on his projects.

Free Stuff - June 2023

The June recipient for the Great Scott Gadgets Free Stuff Program is Daniel. Dan is planning to use the HackRF One we are sending him to run workshops in his school and with his amateur radio group. He will also be creating videos with his new HackRF One on his YouTube channel “Radio Dan ZL2DTL”. Please welcome Radio Dan to the software-defined radio community!

Free Stuff - May 2023

The May recipient for the Great Scott Gadgets Free Stuff Program is the UCLA IEEE Wireless, RF, and Analog Project (WRAP). Participants in this club have the opportunity to learn hands-on radio engineering skills by designing, building, and testing a 2-way radio system capable of operating in the 100s of MHz. Through this project, students can learn digital and analog radio techniques like implementing filters and a mixer from discrete diodes and using coils for up/downconversion. WRAP asked for a HackRF One to aid in debugging wireless links, where they will use the HackRF One both as a modulated waveform generator for receiver testing and a real-time spectrum analyzer for transmitter and device debugging. We really look forward to seeing their end projects.

Free Stuff - April 2023

The April recipient for the Great Scott Gadgets Free Stuff Program is Adnane. Adnane is a software development and cybersecurity student in SoliCode School in Tangier, Morocco. He is always looking for new tools and technologies to enhance his learning and explore new avenues in the field. Adnane is planning to use his HackRF One to learn more about wireless security testing, digital signal analysis, and software-defined radio. He will share his knowledge and skills in the SoliCode Cybersecurity Club. Good luck and have fun!

Development of a Universal Radio Test Instrument

The Great Scott Gadgets team is thrilled to announce our newest research and development project: a Universal Radio Test Instrument (URTI). We have decided to call this project URTI as a working title. With the support of ARDC in partnership with TAPR, we aim to develop an open-source SDR platform with an unparalleled set of radio investigation and experimentation functions in one versatile device. URTI will offer radio amateurs, researchers, educators, and professionals an affordable, compact RF test tool that could be used in place of multiple expensive pieces of traditional radio test equipment.

Design and Functionality

Our goal for URTI is to design a single hardware platform capable of serving as many popular types of one-port or two-port RF test instruments. We plan to build a directional coupler into a wideband, full-duplex SDR platform to enable URTI to function as a:

  • spectrum analyzer
  • vector network analyzer
  • vector signal generator
  • vector signal analyzer
  • antenna analyzer
  • power meter
  • frequency counter
  • full-duplex SDR transceiver

Incorporating these test equipment functions into a compact form factor with a handheld user interface will make URTI portable and convenient to use in the field. We also plan to develop a lower-cost variant that will provide the same test equipment functions but as a computer peripheral device without the handheld user interface, making the tool more accessible for every budget.

Development Plans

The Great Scott Gadgets engineering team will develop URTI in eight overlapping phases. These phases will include:

  • Mainboard component selection and sub-circuit evaluation
  • Initial mainboard hardware design
  • User interface board component and sub-circuit evaluation
  • Mainboard firmware and gateware development
  • Host software development to enable use of the mainboard as a USB peripheral
  • Final mainboard prototype design
  • User interface board hardware design
  • Handheld user interface firmware development

Once we have a complete and fully documented final design, we plan to assemble and distribute 50 prototypes of the USB peripheral version and 50 prototypes of the handheld version to select beta testers to promote feedback and community involvement. We have already started working on the first phase of development: mainboard component selection and sub-circuit evaluation. Our priority is selecting components that are widely available and cost-effective so the completed design can remain relevant and accessible for as long as possible.

All phases of the URTI project will be published concurrently with development in public repositories within the Great Scott Gadgets organization on GitHub. In keeping with Great Scott Gadgets’ commitment to putting open-source tools into the hands of innovative people, we will publish all hardware, software, firmware, and documentation for URTI under open-source licenses, making these resources available to all. You can view our current progress on URTI in the lab notes repository on GitHub.

Thank Yous and Getting Involved

We are excited to bring the URTI project to life over the coming year, and we hope it will transform how people experiment with radio. We thank ARDC and TAPR for supporting this project and contributing financial resources to make it happen!

We would love to hear your feedback on this project and invite you to join us on our Discord server to chat about this or other Great Scott Gadgets projects.

subscribe to GSG feed