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All posts tagged learning pet

Refinement for Mini RoboBrrd (Learning Pet)

There are some things with Mini RoboBrrd (Learning Pet) and the original RoboBrrd that still irk me.


Why do the mini servos keep breaking? For the original RoboBrrd, I probably went through 4 or so of these (can’t remember the original count). Sometimes the gears would just get stuck, other times it would still be able to move, but not controllable. Having a mass (the wing) extended from the arm was the probable cause- there’s no counterweight on the other side of the servo to balance it. I’m hoping that this will solve the problem!

The best part is that people have been contacting me about how they can implement RoboBrrd into their curriculum! I think it will be worthwhile to make another Mini RoboBrrd from scratch in order to make a clearer and more precise Instructable. While the Instructable would mainly be for them, and for other people, and for me remembering what I was doing, it can also win a laser cutter. The laser cutter would help me make parts for the RoboBrrd as a kit so they don’t have to use craft sticks- wouldn’t that be super cool? I LOVE TO DREAM! :)

Since I’m getting more familiar with the RoboBrrd construction, this time my approach to building it will be different. In advance, I’m going to create instructions with pictures rendered from CAD. Once these are refined enough, I can construct the actual Mini RoboBrrd from the same set of instructions that everyone will also be looking at.

Here are some changes that will need to for sure be done in the design:
– Bottom face will be made out of craft sticks (wider)
– Give all the wires headers (male) so they can easily plug into the protoshield
– Use dual lock in a square pattern to mount rotation servo to bottom face
– Add counter balance (a few pennys, or an american 5 cents piece) to wing servo arm
– Two LDRs (they weren’t in Learning Pet)
– Add ridge to side faces for neater wiring
– Diagonal support for wing (to make the shape more triangular)
– Battery powered
– Speaker
– Tiltball

This revision would be using a standard Arduino, and I’m hoping that perhaps the servos can be powered by a AA battery pack that can fit into the base of the RoboBrrd.

The change I’m looking forward to the most is the dual lock for the rotation servo. This will be exceptionally handy for debugging. You’ll be able to detach the entire RoboBrrd from its base! Dual lock is like velcro, but made out of plastic so it is more sturdy, and with less “wiggle” room.

OpenSCAD is nice for some things, but for mini RoboBrrd I want to eventually make an animation where all the parts fly into place (for fun). So, last night I spent 5 or so hours trying to learn AutoCAD 2012 for Mac. They give out the educational version for free, which is really nice! It takes a while to get used to. There’s also no good tutorials (I later found this site which is helpful)… so if you are trying to learn AutoCAD, I recommend to just press all the buttons and try and figure it out. I would also recommend to make everything in 3D, as you can always get a 2D wireframe in a different viewing mode. This troubled me at the beginning, but once I figured it out it got going pretty decently.

Here is the bottom face that I created!

Screen Shot 2011-10-18 at 12.36.52 AM

I’m having issues with rendering though. I selected a nice wood texture that looks like the craft sticks, but it doesn’t render out well.


This grey mode is quite nice looking.

Screen Shot 2011-10-18 at 1.17.32 AM

Once the CAD’ing part is done, and I get some more parts (thanks Adafruit!), then I can actually document the build really really well. I even have CFL lights instead of normal lights, which makes the desk even clearer. I’ll probably get some white poster board for the table so it is also more professional.

I’m wondering how I should video the build process. Have an overhead camera while I am working on it, record everything and edit later? Or after each step make a summary video clip of how it was done? Maybe a combination of both, resulting in lots of GB and lots of editing? 😀

Let me know if you have any ideas on how to improve Mini RoboBrrd more. This would be the time to give feedback so that I can possibly use it in the design!

I’ve also been working insanely on an interesting new addition to apps4arduino. It’s really exciting, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone. :)

Also on Saturday I performed a brain transplant on MANOI and replaced the old Arduino MEGA with a seeedstudio ADK and an Arduino MEGA Protoshield to keep the wires more organized. Haven’t tested it yet, maybe once I finish the CAD! :)

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 :)


Building Learning Pet

Here’s what you may not know about Learning Pet: It was created in 4.5 days.

When I heard about the Open Hardware Summit Scholarship contest, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass. The prize would do more than wonders to get this idea flying. For example: A 3D printer would be able to be bought and used to create parts for kits. Also, we would have been able to order some custom PCBs online with the winnings, too.

When I heard about the contest later on that evening was when I started (Sept 8). I created the structure and beak mechanism all in that one night :)


The first day (Sept 9), the mini RoboBrrd character was crafted, and all servos and LEDs tested and functional.

11 - 1-2

The second day (Sept 10), the modular electronics board was created. Featuring a slide-out drawer for the Google Android ADK :) This was also my birthday! Hooray!


Third day (Sept 11), all of the circuits and wiring was complete. Had some pitfalls during the day trying to use different connectors, but switched to the ones you see below in the photo. The plugs are great, really sturdy!


Here’s a timelapse of some parts of the build:

Watch on YouTube

Forth day was for creating the software and documentation, and submitting to the contest rather early. My train was leaving the next day, so I had to get everything done ahead of time :)

We didn’t win the contest, or place in the top 3. Somehow. So this became yet another unobtained opportunity, but I can definitely say that Learning Pet was a competitive entry. The documentation webpage was a force not to be reckoned with compared to the other entries. Learning Pet has a purpose that would benefit society. Furthermore, I created a demo prototype for the video about my idea.

Maybe some people will think that it was crazy to pour in all this dedication to one robot. If it would have won, it wouldn’t have seemed crazy. Success is defined as getting up one more time than you’ve been knocked down. I’ll still be continuing with Learning Pet, the idea is exciting and education desperately needs an effective use of technology in the classroom, rather than more technology in the classroom.

Thanks again to everyone who left a comment on my Google+ during the build progress! And thanks to the FIRST team that I mentor, COSI, the gang from FMCG, and all my friends for voting! :)

Also: I used some parts (the large servo and two RGB LEDs, specifically) from the parts that Adafruit Industries sponsored for the original RoboBrrd, so thanks to them also 😉