Archive for the ‘Other’ Category
HELP MAKE ROBOBRRD HAPPEN!
FUND IT HERE: http://www.indiegogo.com/robobrrd
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!
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.
port search gtk2
sudo port install gtk2-aurora
sudo port install gtk-chtheme
The themes are stored at this place, so do this command…
And you can move in your various themes to here…
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:
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…
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!
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:
First attempt was to lay the polymorph flat and use the stencil like a cookie cutter:
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:
This was stronger in some parts, but it sort of broke at the top. Third attempt in the same way, but more better:
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:
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!
When I went in to visit my FIRST team, I also visited Spikenzie labs! Their laser cutter is awesome!
Here you can see some of the watch faces being cut out
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:
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!
More about building them in the next section. Thanks for the free stuff Andy & Mark!
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
Have you noticed the number of live internet shows there are now for robotics/engineering/science? It’s getting a little tricky to remember, so here’s a helpful list! All times are eastern.
9PM: Make: Live
Robots Podcast comes out every 2nd & 4th Friday of the month
Are there any that I have skipped over? Let me know in the comments!
Also, more RoboBrrd blog posts are coming soon. ;]
Trying to get two boards to talk to each other is tricky. For my robot mesh network project, I’m winging it with my own communication protocol through serial. There really isn’t any fancy protocol yet, just bare bone messages being sent.
The messages are sent from a UART, and received by a NewSoftSerial implementation. I had a hard time trying to get anything being sent from a NewSoftSerial to be received by NewSoftSerial. Once I finally realized this, it started to come together.
Here is a video explaining the success that I finally had, it was so amazing!
I will be blogging more about this later, with extended details of the problems that I ran into, and how I overcame them. Right now I am trying to make my Macbook triple boot. If you haven’t done it before, it’s a long trial and error process! I also started mentoring some FIRST teams in Montreal! The build season is quickly approaching! Woot!
How do you know what is going to break, and at what time? Robotics is full of detailed hardware and software implementations where if one thing breaks, it can cause many other things to not work as well. Being a ninja in preparedness can go a long way, but what can be expected in demo-ing robots?
At the Ottawa Mini Maker Faire, one of the first perf-board circuits that I designed, for MANOI’s hockey stick, got a short circuit and didn’t work. Granted, the circuit wasn’t the best designed, I recall that I went for an “artsy” approach by making it three dimensional. Also, the LEDs were in series, so once one of them burnt up, the other ones didn’t work.
I guess you can expect old things to break eventually. But what about new things?
The force sensitive resistor on MANOI’s wrist snapped and tore the conductive plastic. This was due to the motion that MANOI was undergoing. But why didn’t it break the other times MANOI did the motion? Also, why didn’t it just pop out of its header socket, like it was designed to?
Here is the fixed version of the perf board that I did in many hours. It looks much more neater and “one dimensional”.
As for the force sensitive resistor, I’m probably going to make a capacitive sensor or a sensor using conductive foam and felt. That way everything will be more flexible.
To sum up, I think this is an answer that we’re always chasing in robotics: How do we prepare for the things that can break? One way is with simulation, avoiding the dangerous environments for robots in the real world. Or maybe we could have robots that test robots. That would be pretty cool. Either way, it’s something to think about for the future, especially when we can have serious implications of such events happening, with UAVs and rovers.
The Ottawa Mini Maker Faire was super cool! The previous Maker Faire that I was invited to go to was in San Fransisco, but I was in a car accident and it would have been unwise to actually go. This is why I was looking forward to the Ottawa one so much! It was a hit! There were tons of people to talk to, with lots of cool exhibits and stuff. About 500 people visited throughout the course of the two days! It was a fantastic turnout, for a “mini” Faire!
For my table, I brought MANOI and Yoda Bot, and all the tools necessary to make repairs if they were needed. MANOI was going to play hockey, and Yoda was going to pass the ball to MANOI. What really happened was MANOI ended up doing dance moves every three seconds, and Yoda Bot moved back and forth a bit while conserving battery life. People really seemed to enjoy MANOI and Yoda Bot though!
The most common questions that I received were…
- What does MANOI do?
- Is that a camera on MANOI’s headband?
- What does Yoda Bot do?
- What powers MANOI?
- I saw MANOI on Daily Planet! Right?
- Are you affiliated with any institution?
Pretty cool questions that were fun to answer. I really enjoyed explaining how MANOI’s hockey stick works, as well as the wireless link back to the computer. People were impressed with the smooth motions that MANOI had, too. A lot of people thought I was going to MIT for some reason… The most in depth question that I got involved the robot mesh network idea and SLAM. Actually, I think that question was from Carlitos so check out his blog at Carlitos Contraptions!
There was a lot of reprap action at the Mini Maker Faire. There were so many MakerBots it was an army! It was interesting to see them up close in person. They really are interesting tools that do a precise job of making things. Many people only print stuff in black and white though, which is kind of boring. There’s a reprap loaner program that I might be doing with Foulab. I’m misty about how it works in the details, but essentially I will be able to either print or make a new reprap from the old one, and I document and make a Bill of Materials covering how I made it.
The other robots at the Mini Maker Faire were pretty interesting. There was a ping-pong ball robot that had a complex mechanical loading system. There were LED indicators too to tell it where it was in the process of firing ping pong balls at you!
There were the tiny sumo robots too. One of them played the first few bars of “I’m a Barbie Girl” in MIDI tones. There was another robot that could move its wheels to be on a 45 degree angle, that way it could spin in circles. There was also another robot that looked like it was made from a Vex kit, which was pretty cool.
There was a boat robot from one of the university’s clubs. It used OpenCV to detect a red buoy and fire off its propellors accordingly. Water and electronics is a super challenge, it was pretty nifty to see some people doing that!
All of the people were really nice. it was like a science fair but without the judges, so people were there to genuinely learn about the hobbies and projects that local Canadians were up to! It was a blast, really. I am really interested in seeing what changes in the various projects next year! The rumours going around are that there’s going to be a Maker Faire in Toronto and Vancouver sometime next year!
Thanks a bunch to the organizers and volunteers for the Ottawa Mini Maker Faire!