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

All posts tagged MAKE

Nutrition Monitor for the Elderly


This is a nutrition monitor for the elderly. It calculates a malnutrition score based off of body mass index and the daily food intake. The score is then uploaded to a remote dashboard that a guardian can view, and be alerted if it exceeds a threshold.

With the nutrition monitor, a problem can be addressed in a few days, rather than many months.

It is a step in the direction of being able to be more aware of ourselves by using sensors placed in our homes.

Watch it in action:

You can get started making this yourself! Check out the Instructable, NutriModule Arduino library, example Arduino sketch, and the Processing sketch.

MAKE Connected Home Contest

I entered this project into the MAKE Connected Home Internet of Things contest. The prize was a $500 gift certificate at the Maker Shed. We won! Read the article here.


Thank you to everyone who watched the video, commented and shared it with friends, and to the MAKE staff.

It was quite a shock to get a call from Stett at MAKE on Friday evening saying that the Nutrition Monitor won! (My hands were shaking well into Saturday morning.) I will never forget this!

Right now, I’m considering the Printrbot Jr V2. After there are some more purchases in the RoboBrrd Store, we can probably get it!


Just as some background, I saw a tweet about the contest, and noticed that the deadline was really quick. If you read this blog frequently, you might have realised finishing a project very quickly is a struggle for me.

Knowing a gist of what I wanted to make, I researched around about malnutrition. On Sunday (Feb. 2), I dived more into it and learned all about it. There were two references in particular that helped:

Nutrition Support for Adults (accessed Feb. 2, 2014)
Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (accessed Feb. 2, 2014)

Monday (Feb. 3) it was time to start building. I finished the Arduino library before the hardware was done, then finished the hardware, and created the application plus the remote dashboard. The reason why it’s so tricky to make IoT projects is because of the numerous ‘components’ that have to talk with each other. There are many points of failure. I really lucked out that I didn’t hit many snags.


The one snag I hit was with the conductive foam in the DIY force sensitive resistors not un-compressing fast enough. Instead of the weight being recorded after it automatically detects removal/putting back of the food on the module, a button is pressed instead. The sensors are still a little glitchy, however they can be improved.

Reading the feedback from comments, with some heads nodding thinking it’s an interesting idea, is very motivating. This project is only the first try at the idea. With the future modifications in mind, it will get better.

Future Modifications

– Adding wireless radios to broadcast the data to the internet
This way, there will be no computer needed (except to access the remote dashboard).

– Improving the weight sensors
The conductive foam is very DIY, and this can be done much better to result in more accuracy and reliability.

– Shape detecting mat
Instead of modules, have one ‘mat’ (or plate), that can detect the shapes of many foods placed on it. And detect the weight within that shape area. It will be easier to clean than individual modules.

– Better remote dashboard
Currently the BMI is hard-coded into the desktop application. This should be able to be input via the remote dashboard. Also, ensuring privacy and security of the data is important to be improved.

There are also other interesting ideas suggested, to increase battery life, when to send the data, and maybe switching the place of the module (on the food, instead of the food going onto the module).

One of the obstacles will be the elderly using it / not dismantling it. They may still believe they do not need help, or they may believe it is a spy device by the CIA.

It would be great to run a beta test with some of the future prototypes. I wonder what the feedback would be?

Our future will be full of connected devices. It will be so interesting to have everything synced, communicating with each other, and helping our lives.

Now, I am looking for people who are experienced with health/medical/connected devices. If you know of anyone (or are someone), please email me!

Also, if you are interested in potentially beta testing this (or know of someone who would be able to beta test it), let me know.

Until next time, make something weird or connected, maybe both- weirdly connected!

Maker Camp – ROBOTS!

Join us on a robot adventure at Maker Camp! Tuesday, July 16th at 11AM PT / 2PM ET. Check it out here.

Here is a sneak peek!

Maker Camp is a virtual summer camp for teens on Google+, where there is a hangout each day with different makers and different themes. Last year, we showed off RoboBrrd and detailed how to build one. It was great to meet the campers and their enthusiasm for making things!

This year, themed for create the future, we’re going to detail how we can get the creatures that exist in our imagination, to become alive in REAL LIFE — by making them into robots!

The fun will include details about:
– Drawing
– Designing / Building
– Electronics
– Programming
– Interaction

Something for everyone! You can use these same steps when tinkering and making your creature come to life. 😀 It’s what we do for our robots.

All you have to do to join in is add +MAKE to your circles on Google+.

There is another Maker Camp robot hangout after this one as well, and you will definitely want to stick around for it! Sylvia and Lenore will be showing off the WatercolourBot. Learn all about a robot that paints with water colours- it’s pretty cool! Check it out here.

Hope you will join us on this robot adventure! SEE YA then! :)

Make: Lego and Arduino Projects Foreword


Have you seen this book: Make: Lego and Arduino Projects? It’s all about adding in Arduinos to your Lego robot projects! This is really helpful if you find you want to do more with Lego robots, but find the NXT too restrictive.

It’s written by John Baichtal (@johnbaichtal), Matthew Beckler (@mbeckler) & Adam Wolf (@adamwwolf)! I’ve met these people at Maker Faire before, they are really cool. They asked me to write the foreword for their book, what a great honour!



This book goes along with the Bricktronics shield for Arduino. It’s how you can connect the NXT motors and sensors to the Arduino. They sent me one, cause even though I don’t have some Lego anymore, I’ll probably use the L293D for something (can never have enough of those chips eh!)


Here is a closeup of the board, not a lot of empty space and the TIP120’s will be standing up:


Here is the board when it is assembled. When following their kit instructions, the steps aren’t ordered from shortest components to tallest, so you may want to jump around a bit.


Look at this, the plastic connector things make it look like a giant compared to the Arduino / Diavolino!




Back in the day of RCX’s, the ‘connectors’ were much simpler and didn’t cost as much, they were just a few wires attached to a custom Lego brick. It was a lot easier back then to wire up your own lights or whatever.

I’m looking forward to using the L293D in some project at some point in time. As for the rest of the board, perhaps use it as robot artwork or something. Or if I find someone that is in to Arduinos and Legos, give it to them 😉

Thanks again to the authours for the invite to write the Foreword. I hope it will get the readers motivated and ready to build (and read)! 😛

More to come later about the latest and greatest RoboBrrd news!