LVBots CES Open House: Tabletop Challenge and Clothes Bot

LVBots, a club for robot building enthusiasts in Las Vegas, held an open house the week of CES. This was the only trip [Sophi] and I took away from the conference halls of The Strip and it was a blast! The group holds meetings twice a month in a space provided by Pololu — a well-known robotics and electronics manufacturer headquartered just south of McCarran International Airport.

Before the formal part of the gathering started there were several builds being shown off. [Claire] and [Brian] recently participated in an AT&T sponsored hackathon. Their creation is a robotic closet. The system involves moving racks of clothing which are tracked by a smartphone app. Interesting features discussed for the software include monitoring when each garment was last worn, last washed, and if it is appropriate for current weather conditions. Dig into the code in their repo.

In other parts of the room a pair of line-following robots did their thing, and a couple of sumo-bots competed to push each other out of the ring. A large group was gathered around the projector watching videos of robots of all types, brainstorming about the difficult parts, how they were overcome, and how these methods may be applied to their own build. I can attest that hanging with a group of people who are trying to cue up the most amazing robot demonstrations makes for amazing viewing!

As the organized part of the meeting began I was delighted to hear about a standing challenge from the LVbots group. The Tabletop challenge has multiple phases that serve to encourage builders to start modestly and then iterate to achieve new goals:

Phase 0: bring a robot to LVBots
Phase 1: travel back and forth without falling off
Phase 2: find an object and push it off
Phase 3: push object into a goal

[Nathan Bryant] was one of the two robot builders trying out the challenge on this night. He built this hexapod from balsa wood and three servo motors and was testing Phase 1. The bot includes a sensor dangling out in front of the robot to detect then the table surface is no long below. At that point it backs up a few steps, turns in place, and proceeds in the opposite direction. [Nathan] mentions that he worked out all the movements in a spreadsheet and that future firmware upgrades will dramatically increase the speed at which the bot moves. We love the audible cadence of the bot which is easily observed in the video above. At one point a leg dangles over the edge and it looks like [Nathan] pushed the bot back but I don’t remember him actually touching it so I’m calling this a trick of camera angle.

One phase further in the Tabletop Challenge is [Joe Carson]. He exhibited a wheeled robot he’s been working on that includes a gripper arm on the front. The robot looks around the table for a predefined color, in this case provided by a highlighting marker. When found the bot approaches, grips, and then proceeds to move the marker over the void where it is dropped out of existence; at least from the robot’s point of view.

Door hidden by bookcase is a marvel of DIY engineering

Taking on a giant build just to hide your shotgun collection may seem a bit over the top. But we couldn’t be more impressed with the project. [Korostelevm] did an amazing job of hiding a small closet with a bookcase-door. It’s something straight out of a Hardy Boys novel.

Possibly the most important part of the build is figuring out how to hinge all the weight a bookcase will carry. His solution was to use a set of four heavy-duty casters. He cut off the wheels from one pair and the mounting brackets from another. By welding the brackets on in place of the wheels he has a sturdy way to mount both the frame and the bookcase. When closed the unit latches using a strike plate and lock set from a door. This is connected to a book using some cabling and pulleys. As you’d expect, just find the right hard-cover and tilt it toward you to open the hidden storage behind. [Korostelevm] shows off the final product after the jump.

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Building your own router lift-out mechanism

Adjusting the bit height on a router table can be a pain in the butt. Traditionally you needed to get into the cavity under the table top in order to make these adjustments, and it’s hard to make the adjustment and measure the height at the same time. Modern routers now offer the option to adjust height through a hole in the plate that sits in the router table, but this is usually only found on the more expensive models. Rather than buy a new tool [Urant] built his own router lift.

He’s using recycled closet rails to give his rig some smooth operation. These are the rails and runners that let closet doors hang from the top jamb. He saved them when replacing the closet doors in one of his rooms. There’s a triangular gantry which hosts the router, allowing it to move vertically on the three sets of rails. The threaded rod in the foreground of the picture above lets the woodworker adjust bit height by turning the nut at the top. Once mounted in the router table the nut is accessible through a small hole in the table surface.

Converting from clutter closet to dreamy datacenter

[DocDawning] had a nice home network up and running, but the messy pit housing the hardware made him avoid that part of the house. In an effort to cut down on noise, and clean up the clutter, he built himself a very nice data center inside a small closet.

One of the biggest changes in the setup provides adequate cooling. He cut a vent hole into a wall shared between the closet and a hallway. This was just the right size for a few large cooling fans which suck air into the enclosed space. But cool-air intake must be accompanied by hot-air outflow so he added an exhaust vent in the ceiling. This also received a trio of big fans, and as you can see above, the integrated LEDs act as a light source for the server farm.

The final part of the plan involved machine-specific brackets mounted to the walls of the enclosure. These racks were built out of 1×1 white wood. They hold the hardware in place leaving plenty of room to run cables. The new setup even opened up enough wall space to mount power and networking hardware. Now everything has its place, and [DocDawning] can finally close the door on his noisy servers.