Prog | Electro| Mech

Each Day, we serving up Robotic News, Hacks, How-Tos, ect.

Add to Google

Sunday, August 19, 2007

SubZero Robot Update- PLC Attached

Yesterday, I got the main controller attached. Its a Parallax Propeller with 8 optically isolated outputs and 10 optically isolated inputs. For communication, it has a FT232R USB UART and access 8 unprotected I/O pins. Program Storage is accomplished via a 32kb EEPROM. I will probably be adding an SD card socket for up to 32mb of additional data storage. Propeller Homepage Link

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Awsome Quad-copters at CCCamp

Check out a couple of the awesome quad-copters that have been flying around cccamp. I happen to be building a similar model in right now, except its a tri-copter. The lack of a forth motor throws in some funky corrections that need to be made by the uController. This means it probable won't be nearly as stable as the ones in the video, still just as awesome though.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

SubZero Robot Update

I know it's been a while since I posted, but I have been incredibly busy. Anyway, I wanted to post some pics and info about the latest progress made on my robot. Basically, I got my new Laptop (a Dell Inspiron 1501) mounted in a nice foam coated box on the robots lid. Just below that, you can see the main navigational sensor, a WebCam from RadioShack. I also wrote some code in Python to take a snapshot from the WebCam, look for the center of the road, and decide if it needs to go left or right. Heres the Link to my Flickr account with all my robot pics.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Next Processor Develoupment: Marble Computing

Not Sure how I missed this one at first, but Make blog had a very interesting writeup on a 6 bit binary computer (powered only by marbles). It's amazing at how simple it really is (especially for those of you who think computers use nothing but electricity and magic). It'd be really interesting to see this implemented with 32/64 bits.

Workout with Pong

Hack-a-day has a post up about a guy who attached electrodes to his arms, and used to the electric impulses coming off his muscles to control a Pong game. I imagine you could increase the challenge quite a bit by trying to curl dumbbells and play at the same time. Link.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Is the Day of Silence Working

Wired has an interesting article about if the Internet Radio Day of Silence is working. The writer was able to get his hands on a few more figures than I could. For example, the new fees require a $500 minimum payment per month per station. With radios like Pandora, each user creates at least one station of their own. That means that it would be completely impossible for them to survive. Link.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Death of Online Radio

Today marks the death of internet radio. Starting Midnight, this morning, thousands of internet radio site shut down. It is possible that they will eventually return, however, most will likely not. The reason for their death is the fee increases imposed by the RIAA. For example, "Pandora Radio" had their rates tripled (plus, those increases are 18 months retroactive). Thanks a lot Washington. Link

Monday, June 25, 2007

Can Gaming's Powerful Pull Get Kids Into Engineering?

In last months Electronic Design magazine the editorial was titled, "Can Gaming's Powerful Pull Get Kids Into Engineering?" It discusses weather or not products like the Hydra from Parallax can pull children gamers into the game development fields. Personally, I think it depends on the child. Link.

Who needs illegal immagrants to pick fruit?

With all the immigration debate going on, one company has decided to do away with laborers all together and build robots to do the work. They have announced that they are developing a fruit picking robot that can replace human fruit pickers completely. Somehow, I doubt it will work. Link.

C to D battery Adapter

Everyone has run into this problem: you need a D battery to power something and all you have are C cells. What do you do? Make blog has the answer. Link.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Wii Power Glove

Hack-a-Day has a nice writeup about the fusion of NES controller and Wii controller. Link.

I'm Back

After a very busy and not quite long enough trip, I'm back. Posting will now continue on it's normal routine. If you want to know more about my trip, you can view my account in flicker. Link.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lack of Internet

I have long said that my only true fear is loss of internet access, lol. Well, since I've been in Alaska, this is the first that I have been able to locate one. I guess war driving does come in handy sometimes. Anyway, I'll try to post some stuff to night.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Nerd Bias?

I have heard lots of people debate whether Wikipedia is a reliable source or not, but today, some odd accusations came out. One website is claiming that nerdy topics (like light saber combat) are better written than non-nerdy ones. It seems logically true to me. People write about what they know, and nerds are more likely to edit wikipedia. Therefore, nerdy topics are better written. Link

Make a Trebuchet

Makezine has a video podcast up of how to build a balloon flinging trebuchet. Link

Going Away

As I stated in an earlier post; tomorrow, I am leaveing for Alaska. Because of the 12 hour trip, I will be unable to post many things. If possible though, I will post something during our layover in Phoenix.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

MY CNC Router

My CNC router made some real progress today. For about 4 hours, I struggled to get an EDE1204 Bi-poler Stepper driver IC working. I finally gave up and decided to write a program for the Parallax Propeller to drive the stepper. Five minutes later, I had a working X axis. Its bad enough that I wasted 4 hours, but those stupid ICs (I bought 4 of them) were $9 each.

CNC Mill How-To

Well, once again, I've had lot of stuff to do today. All day today I've been down in the basement working on my CNC router. I designed mine, but if your interested in building one, there are designs all over the internet for them. One of the particularly good how-to's is posted on Engadget. Enjoy.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Too much to Do

Sorry about yesterday's lack of posts, but I was incredible busy. Summer vacation starts tomarrow, though, so I shouldn't be quite so busy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Downloading Videos How-To

About a month ago, I finally decided to upgrade my mp3 player. I ended up getting a Microsoft Zune for several reasons, 1) it has the potential of running Linux (and becoming a small robot controller) and 2) it was cheap for a 30 GB player. On of the first challenges I faced was where to get video to watch on it. After a while I discovered an awesome Firefox plug in to help with this. Sorry, this only works for Firefox users.
1) Download and Install Video Down loader 1.1.1.
2) Download and Install Media Coder
3)After Watching a video on YouTube(or letting it fully load) , click on the VideoDownloader icon
4)Left Click to Save video (you must add .flv to the filename)
5)Use Media coder to convert from a FLV file to what ever file type you like/

I know it's not very detailed; but I thought it might help some of the people with Ipods and Zunes to get the videos they want.

Awsome Robot Snake

This has ought to be one of the coolest robots ever built. I can't imagine how much power the processor would need to have to generate movement that smooth. Just Pure Awesomeness.

Voltage Interfaces

In my experiences with the Propeller Microcontroller (a 3.3v device), I have had to interface numerous 5v devices to it. At first, I thought it would be alright just to hook 5v right to the I/O pin. However, after I started loosing I/O pins, I learned that it isn't a 5v tolerant chip. After that, I started using proper interfaces (resistors, FETs, etc). Anyway, Spark Fun Electronics posted a tutorial on voltage interfaces this morning. Thought everyone might like to read it. Link

Pumped for the Olympics

Not the Summer of Winter Olympics, the Robolympics (or RoboGames). This years games are planned for June 15-17. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend (I'll be in Alaska at the time); but I will bring you all the coverage I can. Anyway, if you'd like to go, it's in Fort Mason, San Fransisco California. Link

3 Barrel Potato Gun

Just when I thought most robotisists were sane, Make magazine posted this. It's a 3 barrel PIC controlled potato cannon. 2 PICs control the user interface. The Human uses a joystick to aim and fire the cannon. The potatoes are propelled using a precise amount of propane, ignited by what I'm guessing is a peizo-electric generated spark. All it needs now is a web cam attached to the barrel and Ethernet support. Hew could then aim and fire his creation from the other side of the planet, provided he had internet access. Link

Monday, June 4, 2007

Finally got the Video Uploaded

After using my high-speed internet connection to the full for roughly 4 hours, I finally got the test video uploaded (again). During one scene, the audio is a little funky, but the rest of it is fine. Anyway, hope you like the video.

Government Mind Control a Reality?

Well, kind of. In 2006 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) published news of insect/small mammal mind control, via a small chip implanted into he animals brain. Then, via a wireless link to a computer, they controlled how the animal behaved. This lead them to driving Rats around like RC cars, thanks to a Joystick attached to the computer.
DARPA made the News again today, saying that they have now embedded these chips in the pupa stage of insect development. This means that the insect lived it's entire life completely scientist controlled, never having brain power itself. The best part of the whole story though, the NY Times calls them, "Tiny Terminators."

Promised SubZero Test

I took the video that I promised you and uploaded it on youtube (it took over an hour). Anyway, youtube totally messed up the sound. So I'm uploading it in a different format, hopefully the next one will work. Unfortunately, it will take just over 3 hours. So until then, have fun with the messed up version.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

'Transformers' looks good?

I can't believe I'd even say this, but, Transformers looks good. Really good. I figured that it would never be more that a stupid Saturday morning cartoon, but the new movie coming out on July 4th (directed by Michel Bay) looks as if they leaped over the cartoon genre and into the sci-fi action genre. Anyway, I'm looking forward to it.

I would get a Roomba, except it might kill me

Looks like Hollywood might have ruined another industry, consumer robotics. Acording to, people are increasing afraid that "intelligent" consumer robots, such as the Roomba or Scuba, are capable of inflecting bodily harm. It boggles my mind how people can't tell the difference a robotic vacuum and the Terminator.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

My Current Project

Every March, Penn State (Albington campus) hosts a robotics competition called the mini grand challenge. Similar to the real Darpa Grand Challenge, robots must autonomously navigate through a series of waypoints using GPS and visual navigation. The difference is, Penn State course is about half a mile, Darpa's was > than 100 miles. For the 2008 competition, I plan on competing with my robot, SubZero. It's is no where near completion, but it shouldn't be a problem to finish before March 08. It has roughly 3hp worth of motors and weights aout 100 pounds so far. This week I finished of the two H-bridges used for motor control. Because they are relay based, I still have to add some FETS for PWM. Just for the heck of it, I made a simple radio controller based off an aircraft radio (hope the FCC isn't reading this, lol). It's about as low-tech as you can get. For each side, I have a servo pushing a button for full forward or full reverse. This gives me ultra-fast acceleration and quite jerky tractor steering. Other than stripping a few set screws, this hasn't damaged the drive-train so far. As soon as I get a chance, I'll post a video of it in action. Link

Singing Robots Wanted

Makezine has an interesting post up about musical robots performing in NYC. It's unclear as to weather these are real robots or simply radio controlled. Either way, it's an impressive feat to have machines with the dexterity necessary to play instruments. Link

My first true Robot

A couple months ago, I completed my first real robot. It is fully autonomous, meaning that it is not radio/remote controlled like some other "robots" you see on tv. That bugs me to no end when people think nothing of a true industrial robot that saves hours a manual labor and thousands of dollars, but then gawk endlessly at oversize radio-controlled toys. Granted, the average person would still have a hard time building an oversize radio-controlled toy, I just don't think that it them the right to call it a robot.

Prog | Electro | Mech

Hey Everyone! This is the first post in my new blog, Prog | Electro | Mech. In this blog, I will be documenting the build/test progress of my robotic endeavors as well as news from around the robotics world. If you haven't figured it out already, Prog | Electro | Mech stands for the three pillars of robot design. Prog = Programming, Electro = Electronics, Mech = Mechanical. I will be posting stuff a couple times a day normally, but less on busy days.

Check back often,