If any of the info on this website was useful for your projects or made your head spin with creative ideas, and you would like to share a token of your appreciation- a donation would be massively appreciated!

Your donation will go to my Robotics Fund, straight towards more sensors, actuators, books, and journeys. It takes a lot to continue building these robots, and I’m really thankful of everyone who helps encourage me along the way.



“A wise robot once said to me through Serial.println- that robots teach us about ourselves.”

All posts in Other

Hello RoboBrrd! Indiegogo!


RoboBrrd is now on Indiegogo! We’re really excited to get this going! Here is the video for the campaign:

Watch on YouTube

We will be posting updates and more as it happens today!

Help us get the word out, be sure to tell all your friends about RoboBrrd! :)


We’re having a kickoff party at 4PM ET! Join us in a Google+ Hangout and feed RoboBrrd, and just hang out! Details here! Hope to see ya there!

Changing X11 Appearance

Ever wanted to make X11 look a lot cooler? There is a way, using some custom themes! With this you can make things like gEDA look even more cool when using a black theme. Now let it be known that this method is sort of not stable and I’ve had mixed results with it. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t- haven’t really figured out why yet.

Open up terminal and do this (you’ll need Macports installed). The search should return results to proceed further. The two things we will be installing are a theme, and the theme picker.

  1. port search gtk2
  2. sudo port install gtk2-aurora
  3. sudo port install gtk-chtheme

The themes are stored at this place, so do this command…

cd /opt/local/share/themes

And you can move in your various themes to here…

  1. sudo mv (path to downloaded theme folder) yourthemename

And now for the best part! To actually choose the theme! Let’s open up chtheme! Use this command:

  1. gtk-chtheme

Now hopefully you will have some themes that you can switch to there. If not, I’m not sure what has happened. This has been happening to me quite often, but there are some occasions where I get it to work and it’s pretty cool.

If you ever want to reset everything…

  1. rm -r ~/.gtk*

If you are looking for some cool themes, there are a handful of most excellent ones on deviantART that you can search around for. Hopefully it works out good for you, have fun with your new X11 look!

A little bit of random everything!

After Maker Faire everything has been sort of buzzing in my head. There’s lots of new things to try, learn, and share! Of course, I was pretty much blanked out afterwards with a cold, which meant I unfortunately couldn’t go to SecondConf where I was invited to speak :(, and then last Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday I was super tired. x_x But, here is a post with tons of pictures nonetheless :)

Learning Pet – Polymorph Phail, OpenSCAD and gEDA

To advance Learning Pet more, there has to be some sort of way to actually make these that doesn’t involve tens of hours of effort for each one. I was thinking maybe I could take a shortcut on this whole laser cutter/3d printer ordeal and use polymorph!

We created a stencil out of popsicle sticks:

IMG_3092 - Version 2

First attempt was to lay the polymorph flat and use the stencil like a cookie cutter:

IMG_3093 - Version 2

It turned out to be way to flimsy and thin. It would be more of a jello brrd than a RoboBrrd with the servos on it. Bah! Second try was to fill the stencil with the polymorph:

IMG_3094 - Version 2

This was stronger in some parts, but it sort of broke at the top. Third attempt in the same way, but more better:

IMG_3095 - Version 2

The third way is definitely strong, but it still takes ages to create. Not to mention, it destroyed the stencil trying to get it out. Plus, the polymorph extras are kind of hard to get rid of.

Polymorph is cool, but it may not be the best for creating the frame of a RoboBrrd. This is when I decided to learn OpenSCAD. Learning it isn’t that tricky. There’s some familiarities that you can draw from Matlab in there. The software itself is horrendous. You can rotate and zoom the viewer camera, but not translate, which makes it extremely annoying to try to use. Whatever. At least I don’t have to worry about trying to figure out what buttons on the screen to press to create a shape.

Here’s a screenie of an exploded view of the shapes that I created:

Screen Shot 2011-10-03 at 11.20.03 AM

Screen Shot 2011-09-27 at 12.33.05 AM

The school I mentor for FIRST robotics has a 3d printer, so we were going to print them out. This is them on the stl viewer. I like how it looks slightly Tron (original Tron) like:


They haven’t been printed yet, and actually I may not have the chance to pick them up if they were printed! But the idea was to experiment and see if the nubs would actually fit, seeing as how they are exactly the same size.

I learned later on about the same sort of technique with a laser cutter at Spikenzie Labs, you can read more into it in the next section :)

The boards are also going to be another thing to create. I’m attempting to try to learn gEDA (each time I try to pronounce the software it sounds like some sort of cheese), which is a PCB/schematics/board bundle of awesome! The learning curve for this though seems like a vertical line, it almost reminds me of Objective-C in that way. Which can only mean good things! :)

I didn’t save my original screenshot of playing with gEDA, but it looked like a board with chicken-pox, because there were lots of holes (which are called vias?). However, I was playing with text, and weird stuff happens with text. Depending on whatever colour you pick, it writes it normally, or it writes it flipped horizontally, so “w00t” becomes “m00f”, hahaha!


I couldn’t install gEDA on my Mac under fink or Macports unfortunately, but it works fine on Ubuntu. Oh yeah if anyone is wondering, the file I was playing with was the OHS badge. It’s cool. No idea how on earth they made the curved lines yet, but I hope to figure that out eventually. :) There’s lots of resources online about gEDA, so I just have to read them and figure it out, and climb this vertical learning curve ;P

There also has to be more software developed for Learning Pet, but I don’t want to go too crazy with it. I’ve been trying to figure out what platforms should be followed, and which ones should not. Or are we even at that point to make that decision? :/ I might just make some software for several platforms, then run some trials and see which ones are better.

Of course, Learning Pet itself is a platform! So it will also have to be able to play some *small* games. I’m looking forward to this part, like maybe I will save game data in an EEPROM or something? Or just save it in an SD card so that way it is more “modular”?

That’s about it for Learning Pet today. I’m working on a module where the sensor and button can sit on its own platform, making it have more of a purpose of working with a specific set of software. It will also have LEDs!

Spikenzie Labs

When I went in to visit my FIRST team, I also visited Spikenzie labs! Their laser cutter is awesome!

IMG_3186 - Version 2

Here you can see some of the watch faces being cut out :)

IMG_3196 - Version 2

They were also faced with the challenge of getting the slots to fit together. For them, they had to take into account the beam of the laser and all sorts of other interesting math. However, the result is nice slots that fit perfectly together:

IMG_3212 - Version 2

This knowledge is great, and will definitely help 😀 This is the sort of technique that I would want to use in Learning Pet’s structure.

They also gave me free stuff. LOTS of free stuff!

IMG_3229 - Version 2

More about building them in the next section. Thanks for the free stuff Andy & Mark!

Random Everything

The VoiceShield looks really cool. Unfortunately mine doesn’t play sounds, only noise. It may be because I’m doing something wrong with the uploading or something. I should also go back and check all the soldering. :) In concept though, it is really cool. It lets you upload sounds to this chip, and you’re able to play them individually or in sequence, which would be really handy for some of RoboBrrd’s sounds!


Soldered the MPTH kit too. It’s also pretty cool! Send in serial and have it displayed on the screen. Nice!


The LoL shield! YAY! If anyone tells you it only takes an hour to complete this shield, they are either a professional, or completely wrong. :) I had some trouble with a few LEDs, but it turned out that they needed more solder. There are also a few LEDs that flicker. I haven’t figured out how to fix them yet though. The white LEDs are beautiful!


This poem on the back of the LoL shield is so deep.


I gave one of the Propellers a go, and made it so that if I press gently on the button thing, then the LED will light up! However, these button things are kind of weird in the way that if you press down, then it shorts out (I guess), making the value 0. If you press lightly on the middle pad, the value ranges up to 1. The default value is also 0. So it is kind of hard to figure out, either that or I’m doing something wrong, which is most likely :)


I’m in the middle of trying to organize everything. It’s INSANE. Luckily it doesn’t look like this anymore, but I still have a few other things to organize away.


DOGCOW’s Ping))) sensor has sort of been a running joke on the Robot Party. Turns out it does work, I was just doing it wrong hahahaha


Here are my broken servos. This would definitely make a GREAT Christmas tree ornament!


And with that, moving on to the next section!

Old Popsicle Stick Constructions

Popsicle sticks and hot glue are great for creating things. Here are some things that I started to create, but haven’t finished. They were mainly created to let me visualize things that I was thinking about.

This robot was supposed to have LEDs spinning on its motor. It got me thinking about this design challenge, where you will have to somehow be able to power the LEDs even though it is spinning. If the LEDs were to blink, it would be better just to have the blinking circuit also spinning.


Here is proto-brrd. It’s skeleton served as a way to play around with the beak mechanism. It was also good to try the design before building the green RoboBrrd :) It always makes me laugh the way the bottom beak falls down…


This is a weirdo LED giraffe type of animal/creation. Its weak legs jittered around the desk as the spinning counter-weight tail moved, and as the head spun around. It was fun to see how fast the pennys flew off of the counter-weight sometimes.


Last was this interesting stretching armature thingamajig. It had an elastic to pull the two arms tight, but the motor would be able to push them apart. Since the motor didn’t have that much torque, it didn’t work that reliably.



I also visited Robot Shop headquarters. Had a tour of the place, it’s pretty cool!


My friend & inspiration Jeri (link goes to one of my favourite videos) is going to be in this film called Pinball Donut Girl. She’s really cool. I’ve had the chance to play some pinball, and it’s really fun. There’s a lot of electronics that happens behind the scenes too. The film needs funding, and it’s being crowdsourced. So instead of your coffee today, consider putting the money towards this! I only donated $7, but collectively it can get funded! YAH! GO DONATE NOW!

Last but not least, winter is fast approaching! Get out there and enjoy the autumn nature :)