Hackaday Prize Entry: Engine Control Units and Arduinos

The modern internal combustion engine is an engineering marvel. We’re light-years ahead of simple big blocks and carburetors, and now there are very fast, very capable computers sensing adjusting the spark timing, monitoring the throttle position, and providing a specific amount of power to the wheels at any one time. For the last few years [Josh] has been building a fully-featured engine management system, and now he’s entered it in the Hackaday Prize.

The Speeduino project is, as the name would suggest, built around the Arduino platform. In this case, an Arduino Mega. The number of pins and PWMs is important — the Speeduino is capable of running the fuel and ignition for eight cylinder engines.

The Speeduino is designed to do everything an engine control unit can do, including rev limiting (although if you’re building your own ECU, why?), and reading ethanol sensors. Right now [Josh] is working on a beta run of the Speeduino designed for the 1.6L Miata. That’s an excellent platform for firmware performance tuning, and there’s still a lot of work to be done on the firmware side of things before everything’s all set to go. Still, this is a great project and sure to impress the bros at track day, bro.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Archelon ROV Explores the Ocean

Acendtech Robotics is a 4H robotics club located in Freehold, NJ, and their centerpiece project is the Archelon, an underwater drone they built out of PVC pipes. It’s also a Hackaday Prize entry designed to monitor marine traffic, the seabed, piers, jetties, and other underwater constructions.

The Archelon uses eight thrusters constructed out of bilge pumps that have been hacked to add a propeller, leaving the motor sealed safely inside.

The ROV’s motors are controlled by an Arduino Mega along with two motor driver boards, each board driving two pairs of DC motors. There’s also a robot claw rotated by another modified bilge pump, opened and closed by a waterproof servo. The on-board electronics including a Teensy 3.2 are sealed inside a 1/2″ acrylic tube sealed with rubber o-rings and custom-milled stainless steel endcaps. Connected to the Teensy are the ROV’s cameras as well as an ATTiny88, which in turn control the motors.

Students working with the Archelon learn not only the technical aspects of building a ROV like assembly and programming, but also its mission, learning how to take test samples of agar to study pollutants in the maritime environment.

Hackaday Prize Entry: InspectorBot Aims to Look Underneath

Why bother crawling into that tiny sewer tunnel and getting coated in Cthulhu knows what — not to mention possibly getting stuck — when you can roll a robot in there instead? That’s what InspectorBot does. It’s [Dennis]’ entry for The Hackaday Prize and a finalist for our Best Product competition.

InspectorBot is a low-profile rover designed to check out the dark recesses of sewers, crawlspaces, and other icky places where humans either won’t fit or don’t want to go. Armed with a Raspberry Pi computer, it sports a high-definition camera pointed up and a regular webcam pointing forward for navigation. It uses point-to-point WiFi for communication and rocks all-wheel drive controlled by a pair of L293D motor drivers.

This seems like fertile ground for us. Pipe-crawlers, chimney-climbers, crawlspace-slitherers all sound like they’d be helpful, particularly in conjunction with some kind of computer vision that allowed the robot to notice problems even when the operator does not. Right now, [Dennis] has the chassis rolling and most of the current work is focused on software. Both cameras are now working, allowing the InspectorBot to send forward-looking and upward-looking video back to the operator at the same time. This, alone, is a great advancement of the current crop of Raspberry Pi rovers and adds a lot of functionality to an easy-to-build platform.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Smart Composting System

Composting serves an important purpose in our society, reusing our food scraps and yard waste to fertilize gardens rather than fill up landfills. Knowing that most people don’t compost, [Darian Johnson] set out to create a Arduino-controlled composting system to make it as simple as possible. It monitors your bin’s moisture, temperature, and gas emissions to ensure it’s properly watered and aerated.

[Darian]’s project combines a MQ4 gas sensor that detects combustible gas, a soil moisture sensor, and a temperature and humidity probe. The nearby water reservoir is monitored by an ultrasonic sensor that keeps track of the water level; a pump triggered by a TIP120 turns on the water. Meanwhile, a servo-controlled vent keeps the air flowing just right.

The Smart Composting System sounds like it would be useful to home gardeners; it’s a Best Product finalist in the 2017 Hackaday Prize.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Robo-Dog Learns to Heel

[Radu Motisan] is working on a small rover whose primary trick is being able to identify its owner. Robo-Dog is his proof of concept, a rover that uses five ultrasonic sensors to move toward the nearest obstruction. Obviously, this isn’t the same as being able to recognize one person from another, but it’s a start.

The sensors were home-built using ultrasonic capsules soldered into a custom board, with the tube-shaped enclosures made out of PVC pipe. He made an ultrasonic beacon that uses a 556 timer IC to emit 40 KHz pulses so he can get the hang of steering the robot purely with sound. If that fails, Robo-Dog also has an infrared proximity sensor in front. All of it is controlled by an ATmega128 board and a custom H-bridge motor controller.

[Radu] has been fine-tuning the algorithm, making Robo-Dog move faster to catch up with a target that’s far away, but slower to one that’s close by. It compares the readings from two sensors to compute the angle of approach.

Hackaday Prize Best Product Finalist: Reconfigurable Robots

Reconfigurable robots have been around for ages. One of the first and most popular reconfigurable robots came out of the MIT Media Lab, and last year, DTTO, a modular snake-like robot, won the 2016 Hackaday Prize. There’s a lot that can be learned from a robot that can turn from a walker to a swimmer to something that clambers over rough terrain, and [Salvador]’s EMME does just that. It’s a 3D printed robot and controller that’s the closest you can get to, ‘the Lego of robots’. All you need to do is plug some wheels into a controller and you’re off to the races.

[Salvador]’s EMME is a brilliant little robot that’s only made of a few generic parts. These parts snap together or join with magnets to turn into any device you can imagine that somehow turns rotation of a wheel into linear motion. All the parts are 3D printed, work without cables or connectors, and the robot itself is controlled by a wireless gem-shaped 3D printed controller.

Already, [Salvador] has on-road wheels for EMME, off-road wheels, above-water wheels, and submersible accessories. This is already an all-terrain robot that’s easy to put together and easy to control, but [Salvador] isn’t done yet. he’s working on new hardware based on the ESP32 and working on the vast amount of documentation required for a robot that can do anything.

You can check out [Salvador]’s pitch video for EMME below.

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