Smart Sumo Seeks Central Security

[David] over at Pololu programmed a mini-sumo robot, Zumo Red, with some extra smarts.

The basic rules of sumo robotics is exactly like human sumo – push your competitor out of the ring. [David]’s robot is special because it not only detects the competition border but measures the robot’s angle to the perimeter circle. Knowing the angle, [David]’s robot can turn and run for the center of the arena, the safest location. Once safe it can attack competitors from a symbolic high-ground. Unfortunately, the robot was a light weight in an already low weight class competition. It failed to push any competitors out of the ring and did not fare well in face-to-face battles. 0J6807.550

[David]’s bot uses a three LED line sensor, pretty common today for line following, to detect the boundary. As the ‘bot is moving an outer sensor will detect the border. It continues to drive forward until the middle sensor gets a hit. That provides the measurements need to calculate the angle. Neat and simple! Knowing the angle, the robot scoots to the center to plan its next attack.

[David’s] made the code for his bot’s brain, an Arduino compatible ATmega32U4, available so it will be interesting to see if the competition picks up on this trick.

Zumo Red meets Sumo Necko and a few more competitors in the video after the break.

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Robot Control Ties RC Receiver to Motor Controller

[Andrey Nechypurenko] has posted the second part of his robotics ground vehicle design guide. In his first post [Andrey] detailed the mechanical design decisions he faced. [Andrey] now begins covering the electrical components, starting with manual control using a standard radio control system. To accomplish this an RC system was used with an MD22 h-bridge driver and a picoUPS.

The MD22 is a neat motor control board which can take the PWM signals from the radio controller and use this to drive the DC motors. Optionally it can also use an I2C interface, giving a nice migration path to integrate with a microcontroller. Until that happens this can’t really be called a robot — its more of an RC vehicle. But the iterative design and build process he’s using is a good one!

The picoUPS provides on-board battery charging. Due to its UPS heritage it also allows the vehicle to be powered from an external supply, which has proved useful during development. Finally, a 5v regulator was required to supply the on-board digital logic. [Andrey] wanted a quick drop in solution with a budget large enough to allow for future expansion and went with the Pololu D15V35F5S3 which can supply 3.5 amps in a small and easy to use module.

After breadboarding the system [Andrey] fabricated a PCB to integrate all the components. The next step is to add sensors and and embedded computer to the platform.

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EddiePlus, the Edison based balancing robot

[Renee] dropped a tip to let us know about EddiePlus, her balancing robot creation. As its name might imply, EddiePlus is controlled by an Intel Edison processor. More specifically, [Renee] is using several of Sparkfun’s Edison Blocks to create Eddie’s brain. EddiePlus’ body is 3D printed, while his movement comes from two Pololu DC motors with wheels and encoders. The full build instructions are available as a PDF from [Renee’s] Google drive.

Eddie is able to balance and drive around on two wheels, much like a Segway. Sensor data for balance comes from Sparkfun’s LSM9DS0 based Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) block. In this new “plus” version of Eddie, [Renee] has added encoders to the robot’s wheels. This makes it easier for him to adapt to changing loads – such as pumping iron (or banana plugs as the case may be). The encoders also help with varying terrain, as [Renee] demonstrates by tilting a board as Eddie drives on it. Eddie’s code is written in C, and available on Github.  Controlling Eddie is as easy as sending simple commands via UDP.

As you might imagine, the Intel Edison still has plenty of cycles left over after computing Eddie’s balance. [Renee] uses some of these with a webcam based teleoperation mode.

Click past the break to see Eddie in action!

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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.

Halloween Hack Night at Pololu

Have some servos and an Arduino lying around? It isn’t too late to get your freaky on! Last night, tech enthusiasts of Las Vegas gathered at Pololu Robotics to show off their hacks for a Halloween flavored edition of their bi-monthly robot club. These projects created by those in the community as well as the Pololu engineers themselves are fun and have a relatively short list of materials. So, if the examples below give you some inspiration, this is permission to Macgyver something together before your big Halloween party tonight…

roboFingersImpatient Severed Fingers – [Amanda] came up with a cute use for some mini servos and a zombie hand prop. The five severed fingers were attached to one end of a plastic rod. The other end was mounted to each of five servos which were laid out in the appropriate hand shape and attached to a fixed base. An Arduino running a basic sweep sketch animated the motors at slightly staggered intervals, creating a nice rolling effect. Even with the moving parts exposed this prop would be awesome to have on display, or set the ambiance with its continuous tapping…

deltaSpectorAngry Spectral Delta – [Nathan Bryant] made an actual costume for his delta robot from Robot Army. By attaching a small plastic skull to the end effector and draping a tattered piece of fabric over the rest of the mechanism he effectively transformed the delta into a little ghost with a sassy personality. The head swiftly bobbed about, all while staying parallel to the table… until it intermittently came unhinged and hung limply, which was a nice added effect!


exorcismBabyRobotic Exorcism Baby – This doll could turn its half skeleton, half baby face 180 degrees and then laugh at your fear. By attaching two servo motors together, [Jeremy] was able to create a pan and tilt mechanism which acted as the baby’s contorting neck and chattering jaw. The micro controller sending commands to the motors was hidden modestly under her dress.


shadowBoxStabby Animated Cardboard Shadowbox – Among the animatronic devices seen at the event was a shadowbox made by [Brandon] hidden in a dark conference room nearby. When one happened to walk past the seemingly unoccupied space, they’d glimpse the silhouette of an arm stabbing downward with a knife through a windowsill. Being lured in for further investigation you’d find that the shadow was being cast by some colored LEDs through a charmingly simple device. A cutout made from recycled card stock was attached to a single servo. This whole mechanism itself rocked back and forth slightly as the motor moved, which wasn’t intentional but added some realism to the motion of the stabby arm.

There were many interesting projects present last night ranging from remote-controlled skeletal arms to other reactive devices ready to deliver a scare. If you’re interested in knowing more, those made by the Pololu crew are documented on their blog. Since video does these projects better justice, you can check out a compilation of clips here:

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Defcon Side Trip: Pololu And Robots

PololuDuring our trip out to Vegas for Defcon, we were lucky enough to catch up with a few of the companies that should be of interest to Hackaday readers. One of the companies based out of the area is Pololu, makers and purveyors of fine electronics and robots. In an incredible bit of lucky scheduling, LV Bots, the Las Vegas area robot builders club, was having an event the same weekend we were there. A maze challenge, no less, where builders would compete to build the best robot and write the best code to get a pile of motors and electronics through a line-following maze in the fastest amount of time.

The Bots

The LV Bots events are held in the same building as Pololu, and unsurprisingly there were quite a few Pololu employees making a go at taking the stuff they developed and getting it to run through a maze. At least one bot was based on the Zumo kit, and a few based on the 3pi platform. Interestingly, the Raspberry Pi Model B+ was the brains of quite a few robots; not extremely surprising, but evidence that the LV Bots people take their line-following mazes seriously and are constantly improving their builds.

Each robot and builder ‘team’ was given three runs. For each team, the first run is basically dedicated to mapping the entire maze. A carefully programmed algorithm tries to send the robot around the entire maze, storing all the intersections in memory. For the second and third runs, the bot should – ideally – make it to the end in a very short amount of time. This is the ideal situation and was only representative of one team for that weekend’s event.

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Flex Sensing for a DIY Data Glove


[Cyber] has been testing out intuitive input methods for virtual reality experiences that immerse the user further into the virtual world than archaic devices like a keyboard or mouse would allow. One of his biggest interests so far was the idea of a data glove that interacts with an Arduino Uno to interface with a PC. Since commercial products are yet to exist on a readily available level, [Cyber] decided to build his own.

He started out with a tiny inertial measurement unit called a Pololu MinIMU-9 v2 that tracks orientation of the 3-axis gyro and accelerometer. The USB interface was soldered into place connecting the wires to an Arduino Uno. From there, he hooked up a flex sensor from Spectra Symbol (which were supposedly used in the original Nintendo Power Gloves) and demoed the project by tracking the movement of one of his fingers. As the finger bent, the output printed on the serial monitor changed.

[Cyber] still needs to mount a glove on this system and construct a proper positional tracking method so that physical movement will be mirrored in a simulation.

[Cyber’s] day job has had him busy these last few months, which has forced the project into a temporary hold. Recently though, [Cyber] has been an active member and an influence in the local Orange County VR scene helping to build a nice development culture, so we’re hoping to see more updates from him soon.

To view what he has done up to this point, click the link at the top of the page, and check out the video after the break:

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