FIRST Robotics Gives Us Hope In the Next Generation of Hackers

A top scoring team in FIRST Robotics shows off just what some high-school students are capable of. Called the Simbot SideSwipe, their 2015 robot is a slick piece of mechatronic genius, which according to our tipster was built in just six weeks by the students.

The robot is essentially a remote controlled palletizing forklift, capable of collecting and stacking six recycling totes, and a green bin. It’s an impressive combination of mechanical control and fabrication — though it is worth noting, these bots are remote controlled — not autonomous.

To encourage learning, the team has posted their engineering report, and even the CAD model online. They obviously had quite a bit of funding judging by their component selection, but regardless, we’re seriously impressed with both the design and execution of manufacturing their robot — especially if it was really built in just six weeks. Just take a look at the following videos:

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Texting with some walkie-talkies

[Travers Buda] is giving new life to his abandoned childhood toys. He cracked open a set of Family Radio Services radios he had received for a birthday which work up to 2 kilometers apart. With just a bit of extra circuitry he was able to get them to act as wireless modems. The system functions but it looks like it would benefit from some more refinement, including error correction. In the end [Travers] manages to send and receive ASCII based messages at a whopping baud rate of 10.

Hackit: FRS/GMRS portable radios

FRS and GMRS radios have the performance that we wished walkie talkies had when we were kids. I find them interesting because they aren’t quite as tied down as amateur radio bands. (They’re freaking cheap and you can give them to unlicensed users.) I’ve been surprised by the lack of hacks for these little guys. Garmin married them with a GPS unit to create a sort of hand held APRS device called the Rhino. Since I’ve got a couple of kids, I’m thinking that smacking a GPS into one of these little wrist radios with a modified opentracker (PIC based APRS encoder) would be great for tracking the family on hikes and ski/snowboard trips.

The response to Hackit has been fantastic! Each week I’m going to bring up some hardware. You guys get to pick your brains and suggest new, interesting projects. Look for a round-up and bounty post in the next week or so.

So, got a better idea? Let’s hear it!