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 tagged EMSL

Plasma RoboGlyph! — Open source pcb art ^_^

Plasma RoboGlyph

RoboGlyphs are pieces of pcb artwork that are interesting to look at, and can be functional in some form! This is the Plasma RoboGlyph! It’s just a fun little project that I figured I would try out. I ordered these boards along with the RoboBrrd Brain Boards, since the shipping is quite a bit. :)

Here are the pics of the board!

Plasma RoboGlyph

Plasma RoboGlyph

Check out the timelapse of the making of the board!

Watch on YouTube

It was interesting to make this, a lot of the programs kept crashing so it required so much patience! I started off with this plasma image. It was just some random CC image I found on flickr that was really good. :)

This was then transformed using StippleGen 2.02 from Evil Mad Science! The parameters we ended up using were:
– 8,268 stipples
– 0.50 min. dot size
– 10.00 dot size range

Here’s a screenshot of it in paused mode:

Plasma RoboGlyph

After using StippleGen, I opened it with Inkscape and made it so that the stipples were filled, and had no outline. Sometimes Inkscape would crash, but eventually it worked. I resized the image down, and exported it as a png. Pretty sure it was with 300 dpi. This png was then transferred into my handy Processing footprint sketch! From there, placed onto the board. It was important to make sure that the blobby part of the art didn’t touch anything major!

Plasma RoboGlyph

Some interesting things had to happen to make the pins/pads layer show up just how I imagined (thanks everyone who helped me with this!). In order for the art to appear with the gold, you have to make sure that the soldermask isn’t covering it, and have a copper fill behind it! This is what it looks like with the soldermask layer on:

Plasma RoboGlyph

With the .pcb file, it’s just a bunch of text, so it is easy to modify a huge amount of things that way. It was fun to see TextEdit struggling with replacing 62,919 items! πŸ˜€

Plasma RoboGlyph

The pretty colours of the gerbers are always funky to look at!

Plasma RoboGlyph

My goal for releasing this open source is: to inspire people to do random cool scripty things with gEDA and make interesting art! Hopefully they will post up a pic up online of their creation too!

The Plasma RoboGlyph is open source under the CERN OHL v1.1. Here you can find the Plasma RoboGlyph files!

Below are the credits, let me know if I goofed up on anything so it can be fixed!


The Plasma RoboGlyph is an exploration in pcb art of sorts!

The plasma image is from Luc Viatour, check it out here:

StippleGen 2.02 was used to transform the plasma image. We used 8,268 stipples, 0.50 min. dot size, and 10.00 dot size range. StippleGen is made by Evil Mad Science! And you can play with StippleGen yourself here:

The charlieplexing aspect was inspired by Open Heart kit by Jimmie Rodgers. It’s sophisticated simplicity was really nice, and the Instructable was good to learn about charlieplexing too! (Hopefully I did it right!)

The first few prototypes of the Plasma RoboGlyph were fabbed at the OSH Park! Their boards are purple and gold, and it’s a great service. Check it out here:

The medium sized OSHW logo on the board is from the gEDA format of logos that Windell Oskay made. You can find all the logos here:

Finally, credit to the whole maker community for being fun, cool, and helpful with answering questions & learning more!

Well, maybe this will inspire more random and interesting pcb’s to be made :) It’s important to try and make sure they are functional in some way too, charlieplexed LEDs are good for that! Also speaking about functional… I don’t have these boards yet, so have no idea if they work or not! πŸ˜›

PS: No, the website on the board doesn’t work yet. Still debating what to do with all these RoboGlyph experiments that I want to make! πŸ˜‰

Happy pcb art-ing everyone!

Heathkit Build – Part 2 – Building @ EMSL!

IMG_2769 - Version 2

Check out the 2nd part of the Heathkit build over at EMSL! Lots of pictures and details, even some from the Electronics Flea Market! Although it was tricky to build up the Heathkit at times, I totally miss it! πŸ˜›

Being an Artist in Residence at Evil Mad Science!

RobotGrrl @ Evil Mad Scientist 3

Being an artist in residence at Evil Mad Science was a tremendous amount of fun! It feels like it went by really quickly, since everything is sort of a blur. It's one of those things where you wish there was more time to explore everything, but at the same time there is a lot of work that has to get done with this newfound knowledge in order to advance and go further!

There were always opportunities to learn more about electronics, arduinos, building things, open source, and more. This was exciting because I never really knew what next I would learn. There's just so much information, it was like swimming in an ocean science. It was all around you! And you could learn a lot from every little speck! I even touched a radioactive rock!

Machines & Tools


They have so many machines and tools that I didn't even get the chance to use each one! Laser cutter, CNC, vinyl cutter, sanding tool, drill press, photography setup, embroidery machine, microscope, metcal, and I'm probably forgetting some. My favourite is obviously the laser cutter, it was the best thing EVER!


The laser cutter was the best. I had some prior experience drooling over a laser at SpikenzieLabs, which was great to build my skills off of. One thing I enjoy more about EMS' setup for the laser cutter is that they have a dedicated laptop for it, and the laser is tethered via USB. This way you don't have to try and figure out the internet shared printer settings in Windows.


Some new things that I learnt here about the laser cutter were:
β€’ How to focus the beam by raising/lowering the deck
β€’ Setting the home position
β€’ Estop process (lift the lid to stop the beam)
β€’ Fiddling with settings
β€’ Laserable material properties
β€’ Cleaning the lens isn't as frightening as it seems


The laserable material properties is a very important thing. Depending on what type of wood you get, there could be some type of glue layer between the different wood layers. The laser will or will not be able to penetrate this layer. It's really important to pay attention to this, and always check around for more info about the material you're interested in if it is able to be cut the whole way.


Learning how to use the CNC was really interesting. Since it is such a gigantor machine, there are a lot of safety rules to follow. There is also a really long setup process that you have to do every single time you switch bits. Zeroing the z-axis becomes a little annoying after a while.


The noise is really loud, screechingly loud, so you have to make sure you wear ear plugs. However, it is pretty cool to watch it cut long lines. It cuts it at an increasingly deeper depth, so as it moves along it goes deeper. It needs a few passes to go completely through, and it leaves tabs so that the piece is still attached enough to finish all the cuts. You can break these tabs with a knife, then sand all the edges down. The sanding is what makes the ostrich eggbot so smooth. This is done with a fancy sanding tool, making the end result very gentle.

The embroidery machine is quite interesting. There are all colours of the rainbow on the machine which makes it very flamboyant! They had some test embroiders of the open source hardware badge. This machine came to the rescue when Super Awesome Sylvia needed her new lab coat embroidered! It was pretty cool, she drew what she wanted on Inkscape, then the machine stitched it out! This is probably the machine that frightens me the most, as it is very rapid with many needles and makes interesting noises. Also, apparently the file format for this is very difficult.

AVR Blink Blog Post

The photography setup is a dream! They had two standing flashes that make all the photos very bright and clear. The camera is a Canon 7D! WOW! It takes HD videos too. In order to get the white background, they have a roll of paper hanging down from a horizontal tripod device. The paper drapes down along a table, so the surface and background is white.

IMG_2337 - Version 2

The usual technique for taking the photos is to make sure that you can see a bit of a grey shadow cast from the object. The shutter speed is at 1/200 so that it doesn't close faster than the flash fires. If that happens, you will get a bit of the photo that is darker along the bottom. The ISO and aperture can be adjusted. I only adjusted the ISO for a few photos where I wanted more graininess, but quite frankly, the camera is too good to notice- so this is a better thing to do in post processing. For the lenses, there was a macro lens and a normal (don't remember exactly) lens. Playing with it was so much fun! It takes great photos, and there's nothing more fun than just shooting at different angles and focuses and seeing what happens.

This is also worthy of note, they have a lot of various screwdrivers and other hand tools. If you can think of it, they probably have it (except for z-bend pliers i think). The drawers that the hand tools are placed in are quite nice too. One chest is lined with green velvety cushiony stuff, which is a nice texture to feel when reaching for a tool. The other chest was actually created with the CNC machine! It would be really neat one day if there were furniture stores where you could have your furniture custom made for you, and have it ready by the next day.


Looking at various LEDs and circuit boards under the microscope was fascinating. When looking at the breadboard, it was similar to adventuring into a different world of its own. It's like, this is where electronics live, in these dusty square holes that are ours to insert into and take out of. I appreciate the electronics allowing me to take a peek into their homes! ;)


The RoboBrrd Brain Board was cool to look at too. There is a camera mount for the Canon camera, but the lighting has to be very good in order for the shutter speed to be quick enough to not cause blurriness. So I took some photos with my iPhone, and it somehow worked reasonably well!


Those were basically all the machines and tools that I had experiences with. Hopefully one day, if I ever get to go back, I can try some of the others! ...Or just use the laser cutter more. :)


AVR Blink Blog Post

I was wondering how to make stuff work without an Arduino, but more advanced than a 555. Windell somehow took these loose thoughts and showed me exactly what I was looking for, a programmable chip that doesn't have the Arduino bootloader on it, and has lots of IO pins for its relatively inexpensive price!

This is where I learned how to make an AVR blink! It was so cool! The only bad part was when I could have bricked the chip because I had set the wrong fuse values. Learning about how easy uploading the code was pretty cool! I plan to experiment with it some more soon.


We also fixed one of the RoboBrrd Brain Board issues, which was not having the correct components on the reset line. Couldn't get the LoL shield to work on the 1st try, but this was not a task of importance, so I can look at it later on at some point in the future.

There was a lot of electronic gear! For instance, a multimeter that can clip over a wire and measure values. There were also giant multimeters there, about 2x as big as mine. They had an oscilloscope, and a cool power supply that was inside an old Mac.


The soldering iron was really spiffy. Since it is a metcal, it heats up really fast- 7 seconds! One of the funny things I noticed was how much water is used on the sponge to clean the tip. I always thought too much water was bad for the tips, but apparently it is not, as it keeps them very clean.


One of the coolest things ever was when we visited a really cool company, the person there actually gave me a metcal! (not sure if they want to be named- but they know who they are, so thank you, you rock!!!) I was ΓΌber surprised and excited! It's a tiny, cute, lil metcal. There were also some additional tips in there, which will be interesting to experiment with. I'm not going to use any of my lead-free solder with this iron, ever.


One of the robots I never got to play with were these bright orange robot arms. Their geometry was really pretty, it was a joy just to spend 5 minutes looking at it!

Using the microscope is a pretty good tool to use to fix circuits too. For instance, Windell was able to fix some smt components that weren't soldered properly with it. Course for some he just used his bare eyes because he's that good. :P


Most of the electronics I worked on while there was with the Heathkit! There were a lot of interesting components inside of the Heathkit!

IMG_2143 electron tubes!




For programming, I started to learn Cocos2d and Box2d. This is one of the areas that I didn't really explore yet, so I was pretty psyched to try it out! For a few days I was stuck with trying to figure out how to compile the code faster, by perhaps using a static library of sorts. The issue here was that I was using some example code as a base, rather than using the Cocos2d Box2d templates. As soon as I made the switch, the compile time was way quicker. I made it to the point where a common figure of sorts was hardcoded and working, but needed to be parametric in order to be more modular.

Food & Cooking


They make all their food by hand every single day. This is outstanding! They are the truest of all makers out there. They helped me learn about how to cook, and all about different foods. Waffles, pizza, and ice cream were the best! They can make real Ben & Jerry's ice cream because there's a recipe book for that- pretty cool! Also I never realised how great of a food bread can be, as in, it's actually kind of easy to make and not very expensive! They never made any french bread while I was there (i think), but that is probably what I'm going to try and make first! Amongst many other things to make and cook!

In conclusion...


By far the most valuable lesson I've taken away from being an artist in residence at Evil Mad Science is just in general, how to be a better citizen of planet Earth. They approach problems with a calm elegance, and they strive for excellence in their projects. Their excitement for all of these different foods and projects is very contagious as well!

It was a lot of fun to go to all the electronics and other stores around to see everything. Also, the PIXAR trip was superb! The biking, looking at the stars, and lemons were all great.

Going to RoboGames and Maker Faire Bay Area 2012 would not have been at all possible without their help, so a huge thank you to them!

There will be more blog posts being posted soon with more details of the lasered RoboBrrds and Robot Party and more, so stay tuned! CHIRP