Protei: articulated, backward sailing robots clean oil spills

The Protei project aims to develop a robotic solution for oil-spill cleanup. [Cesar Harada] quit what he calls his dream job at MIT to work toward a solution to the ecological disasters that are oil spills. He had previously been working on Seaswarm, a swarm of robots that use conveyor belts of absorbent material to leech oil from seawater. But Protei doesn’t use legions of drones. It aims to use better design to improve the effectiveness of a small number of units.

The whole idea is well described in the video after the break. If a long trailing boom of absorbent material is towed in a serpentine pattern perpendicular to the flow, starting down current and moving upward, it can be quite effective at halting the spread of crude. Initial experiments have shown that a robotic vessel can do this efficiently with just a few improvements. First, to counteract the drag of the tail the rudder of the boat was moved to the bow. Secondly, the hull has been articulated as you can see above. This allows the robot to better utilize wind power to sail, making turns without losing the push of the wind.

The project is raising money through Kickstart as an open hardware project. Let’s hope this becomes a cheap and effective way to fix our costly drilling mishaps. Continue reading “Protei: articulated, backward sailing robots clean oil spills”

RC pontoon from a toy car

[Kevin Sandom] built this boat using a radio controlled toy car. The two pontoons are recycled from Styrofoam packaging material using some thick wire to connect them and provide a framework for the propulsion and control circuitry. The motor itself is a hobby outboard, which really only required [Kevin] to develop a method for steering. He walks us through the build process in the video after the break, where we find out that the original toy has a pretty bad design flaw. It seems the car used four AA batteries to drive the motor, but one of the four batteries was also used separately from the other three to power the control circuitry. Running that battery down faster than the others shortens the life of the whole.

This is considerably easier than the underwater ROV hacks we’ve seen before. We do think that it would make for a fun weekend project, and we’d bet you’ll get some weird looks for piloting what appears to be garbage around a pond.

Continue reading “RC pontoon from a toy car”

Bottled Nixie clock


Who could not love the tender glow of a Nixie display? It isn’t a new concept for them to be used in clocks, and usually it’s how they are housed or encased for display that sets them apart. [crazy_phisic] did the near impossible by building his Nixie clock almost entirely inside of a glass bottle. The circuit boards and logic components were soldered outside, but the final combination of parts (sometimes requiring specialty homemade tools) were assembled inside. We wonder how long it took him from start to finish after learning boats in bottles can take from minutes to months. The original post is in polish, but if you want to find out more there is a Google translation.

[via Semageek]