Have a baby? Build another one!

Ever since his daughter was born, [Markus] has been keeping logs full of observations of human behavior. Despite how it sounds, this sort of occurrence isn’t terribly odd; the field of developmental psychology is filled with research of this sort. It’s what [Markus] is doing with this data that makes his project unique. He’s attempting to use stochastic learning to model the behavior of his daughter and put her mind in a robot. Basically, [Markus] is building a robotic version of his newborn daughter.

The basics of stochastic learning (PDF with more info) is that a control system is modeled on an existing system – in this case, a baby – by telling a robot if it is doing a good or bad job. Think of it as classical conditioning for automatons that can only respond to a 1 or 0.

[Markus] built a robotic platform based on an Arduino Mega and a few ultrasonic distance sensors. By looking at its surrounding environment, the robot makes judgments as to what it should do next. In the video after the break, [Markus] shows off his robot finding its way around an obstacle course – really just a pair of couch cushions.

It’s a long way from crawling around on all fours, paying attention to shiny things, and making a complete mess of everything, but we’re loving [Markus]’ analytical approach to creating a rudimentary artificial intelligence.

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Parts storage for all your components

When [Steve] saw that we requested reader’s solutions to storing hundreds of different components, he had to send in his solution to storing bunches of ICs, resistors, transistors, and other components.

Like most of the suggestions we’ve seen, [Steve]’s solution relies on #10 envelopes stored in boxes specifically designed for holding envelopes. While there’s nothing new about storing handfuls of ICs in envelopes, we really like [Steve]’s method of organization.

On the top of each envelope, [Steve] printed a bunch of very useful information including the type and kind of part, the tolerance, speed, voltage, and package information. Also included are the manufacturer and vendor part numbers, making reordering a breeze.

Of course printing out hundreds or thousands of envelopes with this information would be a pain. [Steve] got around that by automating the process with iWork, typing in the values for each field in a spreadsheet app and using Mail Merge to print them all on envelopes.

It’s a very neat system that forced [Steve] to have all his parts on a spreadsheet, inching ever closer to a complete inventory management system. He’s thinking about adding QR codes to the envelopes to make reordering parts trivial, but after figuring out how to send hundreds of envelopes through a printer, we can understand if [Steve] wants to be a little lazy from here on out.

Using StellarisWare with the Launchpad

In our last Stellaris how-to we got the board working and set some registers to turn on the LED. This time we’ll start using StellarisWare Driverlib, which provides drivers for the microcontroller’s peripherals including GPIOs, UARTs, ADCs, and so on. These libraries make it easier to control the peripherals. We’ll build the Driverlib project, create a project from scratch to use the library, and run a simple LED blinking example.

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Waterfall Swing Set

[Doped Boron] wrote in to tell us about this waterfall swing by [Dash 7]. Naturally, we had no idea what a “waterfall swing” was. Shown at the World Maker Faire in 2011, the device is a swing set capable of accommodating one or two people using it at a time. What makes it interesting, is that water comes out of the top support bar, forming a wall of water for the riders to pass through. This wall is then broken when the swing user flies through it making for a dry experience.

According to the article, 273 solenoid valves are used to control the wall of water. These solenoids are controlled by a computer with sensors that detect where the riders are in the air and what speed they are going. As with most good hacks, it may not serve a “grown-up” purpose, but a set would definitely make a trip to the park more interesting!

Be sure to check out the videos after the break. The first shows the swing in its traditional role, but the second may be even more interesting, showing full control of the swing solenoids for water writing! Continue reading “Waterfall Swing Set”

DIY Tin Plating for Bus Bars

Copper bus bars are commonly used instead of wire for carrying high currents. [Dane] needed some bus bars for a project, but he was worried about corrosion. His solution was tin electroplating the bus bars to lower the risk of corrosion while keeping the conductivity high.

The process requires only two chemicals: hydrochloric acid and tin. The electrolyte solution is made by dissolving tin into the acid. Then the bus bar is placed in a diluted solution and a 1 A current is run through it. The result is a fine coating of tin on the copper, which will not corrode in water.

[Dane] mentions that he’d like to try the process with silver solder in the future, since it is easier to find than tin. He also wants to find a way to measure the amount of tin deposited onto the bus bars. This process could be helpful for anyone who needs some corrosion resistant high current conductors.

Check out a video of the plating process after the break.

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