Robotics merit badge just announced

So you know how to build and program robots; what do you want, a badge? Now you can get just that, assuming you’re 11-18 years old and know all of the secret (or not so secret) handshakes, oaths, and pledges. The Boy Scouts of America recently announced the brand-new robotics merit badge. Now kids who cut their teeth building rule-breaking entries in the Pinewood Derby can have a go with robotics kits.

The requirements which must be satisfied to earn the badge start with safety and end with an exploration of the careers associated with the field. Along the way the Boy Scouts are encouraged to learn about keeping an engineering notebook during the design process, planning and programming the hardware, and attending a robotics competition like FIRST or VEX.

It’s not hard to see that this merit badge is right up our alley. We just hope it can grab some attention from the uber-popular badges like Stamp Collecting and Basketry.

Variable capacitance/reistance switch box has you covered

variable_cap_resistor_box

While working on electronics projects, it’s often necessary to test out different capacitance or resistance values as things are moving along. Depending on what you are testing, this can be a tedious process even when using a breadboard. Instructables user [mattthegamer463] recently built a very useful device that would help out in these situations, and would likely be a welcome addition to any Hackaday reader’s workbench.

His variable resistor/capacitor box makes it easy to test out any number of different resistance or capacitance values with a simple turn of a knob. He wired up a pair of pots to provide a wide range of resistance values, being sure to add a low-resistance safety as well as safety override switch for those of you who like to have things blow up in your face live dangerously. A set of 22 capacitors were wired up on a piece of perfboard, each of which can be selected using a pair of knobs. He added a simple switch to allow the capacitors to be toggled between parallel and series orientations as well.

[Matt] did a wonderful job here – this is a great project that can be customized in a multitude of ways to fit almost anyone’s specific needs.

Super refined Kinect physics demo

kinect_demo

Since the Kinect has become so popular among hackers, [Brad Simpson] over at IDEO Labs finally purchased one for their office and immediately got to tinkering. In about 2-3 hours time, he put together a pretty cool physics demo showing off some of the Kinect’s abilities.

Rather than using rough skeleton measurements like most hacks we have seen, he paid careful attention to the software side of things. Starting off using the Kinect’s full resolution (something not everybody does) [Brad] took the data and manipulated it quite a bit before creating the video embedded below. Skeleton data was collected and run through several iterations of a smoothing algorithm to substantially reduce the noise surrounding the resulting outline.

The final product is quite a bit different than the Kinect videos we are used to seeing, and it drastically improves how the user is able to interact with virtual objects added to the environment. As you may have noticed, the blocks that were added to the video never rarely penetrate the outline of the individual in the movie. This isn’t due to some sort of digital trickery – [Brad] was able to prevent the intersection of different objects via his tweaking of the Kinect data feed.

We’re not sure how much computing power this whole setup requires, but the code is available from their Google Code repository, so we hope to see other projects refined by utilizing the techniques shown off here.

[via KinectHacks]

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