We’ve seen countless different robot kits promoted for STEM education, every one of which can perform the robotic “Hello World” task of line following. Many were in attendance at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 toiling in their endless loops. Walking past one such display by Microduino, Inc. our attention was caught by a demonstration of their mCookie modules in action: installing a peripheral module took less than a second with a “click” of magnets finding each other.
Many Arduino projects draw from an ecosystem of Arduino shields. Following that established path, Microduino had offered tiny Arduino-compatible boards and peripherals which connected with pins and headers just like their full-sized counterparts. Unfortunately their tiny size also meant their risk of pin misalignment and corresponding damage would be higher as well. mCookie addresses this challenge by using pogo pins for electrical contacts, and magnets to ensure proper alignment. Now even children with not-quite-there-yet dexterity can assemble these modules, opening up a market to a younger audience.
Spring loaded electric connections are a popular choice for programming jigs, and we’ve seen them combined with magnets for ideas like modular keyboards, and there are also LittleBits for building simple circuits. When packaged with bright colorful LEGO-compatible plastic mounts, we have the foundation of an interesting option for introductory electronics and programming. Microduino’s focus at Maker Faire was promoting their Itty Bitty Buggy, which at $60 USD is a significantly more affordable entry point to intelligent LEGO creations than LEGO’s own $300 USD Mindstorm EV3. It’ll be interesting to see if these nifty mCookie modules will help Microduino differentiate themselves from other LEGO compatible electronic kits following a similar playbook.
This booth was easy to miss at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 amidst tall professional conference signage erected by adjacent exhibitors. It showcased the work of [Dr. Victor Chaney] who enjoys his day job as a dentist and thus feels no desire to commercialize his inventions — he’s building fun projects for the sake of personal enjoyment which he simply calls Vic’s Creations. Each project is built to his own standards, which are evidently quite high judging by the perfect glossy finish on every custom wood enclosure.
Some of these creations were aligned with his musical interests. The Backpacking Banjo was built around a (well cleaned) cat food can to satisfy the desire for a lightweight instrument he can take camping. His Musical Laser Rainbow Machine (fully documented in Nuts & Volts) was created so little bands formed by independent artists like himself can have a visual light show to go with their live performances. The Music Kaleidoscope is another execution along similar lines, with an LED array whose colors are dictated by music. Venturing outside the world of music, we see a magnetically levitated Castle In The Clouds which also receives power wirelessly to illuminate LEDs
The largest and most complex work on display is an epic electromechanical masterpiece. Par One is a rolling ball sculpture featuring the most convoluted golf course ever. Several more rolling ball sculptures (also called marble machines or marble runs) are on display at Dr. Chaney’s office which must make it the coolest dentist’s lobby ever. The lifelike motions he was able to get from the automatons he built into the sculpture are breathtaking, as you can see below.
Continue reading “Exquisite Craftsmanship Elevate Vic’s Creations Above The Rest”
Raising young children is hard work, and parents need all the help they can get. There’s a whole industry catering to parents who are willing to pay to make their lives a little easier. Then, we have hacker minded parents like [Sam Pearce] who build his own solutions like joystick-controlled motorized strollers. His kids have fun taking their first steps into independent autonomy, dad has freed up his hands from pushing strollers, and everyone wins!
We were impressed when we saw [Sam] and his StrollerController zipping along at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019. Normally the only way young children get to control their own vehicle is in a field of bumper cars or a constrained track like Autopia. These lucky kids can drive around without being constrained by pen or track. This will give them a great early start on their driver’s license test, assuming autonomous vehicles haven’t taken over by the time they grow up.
The StrollerController we saw is a two part affair, each capable of independent operation:
StrollerController v1 is a stroller enhanced with motor gearbox from cordless drills driving rear wheels. Its top speed can be constrained by a limiter depending on the child pilot’s driving proficiency. It also has a bright red emergency stop button on top, plus a remote controlled kill switch held by a supervising adult.
StrollerController v2 is a pusher module equipped with much faster wheelchair motors under an grownup-sized standing platform. Welded to the front is a pair of brackets to dock with either a regular non-motorized stroller or StrollerController v1. The linked system delivers expedient travel for both parent and child.
For such a display of inventive ingenuity and resourcefulness, this project won a well-deserved Editor’s Choice ribbon from Maker Faire. We hope such recognition and enthusiasm from other Maker Faire attendees helped motivate [Sam] as he continues to improve StrollerController.
The sound a set of machined robot legs tapping on concrete make is remarkable. If for nothing more, the video after the break is worth watching just for this. It’s what caught my attention when I first wandered by the Mech Warfare area at Maker Faire, as one of the competitors had their bot out wandering around as a demo during the setup day.
Installing target plate
Making sure the ammo is set to go
This is truly a hacker’s robotics competition. There are constraints, but there’s also a lot of room for freedom. Meet a dozen or so requirements and you be as creative as you want with the rest. My favorite part is that this is not a destructive event like many the battle-based robot TV shows that tend to turn my stomach. Instead, these robots each carry an electric AirSoft gun and seek to hit any of four target panels on their competitor’s robot. Continue reading “Mech Warfare: Like Driving A Building-Sized Robot Through A Busy City”
It is an unfortunate fact that 3D printers spend most of their time sitting idle, waiting for a human to remove finished prints or waiting for the next print to start. Hackers see such inefficiency as an open invitation to devise a better way, and we’ve seen several innovative ideas come across these pages. Some have since been abandoned, but others have kept going. At Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 we had the chance to revisit one presented as Autodrop3D.
We saw a much earlier iteration entered in our Hackaday Prize in 2017 and it was fascinating to see how the basic ideas have developed over the past few years. The most visible component of the system is their print ejection system, which has greatly improved in robustness. Because the mechanism modifies the print bed and adds significant mass, it is best suited to delta printers as their print bed remains static. The concept might be adaptable to printers where the print bed only has to move along Z axis, but for now the team stays focused on deltas. There were two implementations on display at Maker Faire: a large one built on a SeeMeCNC RostockMAX v4, and a small one built on a Monoprice Mini Delta.
The ejection system is novel enough by itself, but the hardware is only one part of the end-to-end Autodrop3D vision. Their full software pipeline starts with web-based CAD, to integrated slicing, to print queue management, before G-code is fed to a printer equipped with their ejection system.
We admire inventors who keep working away at turning their vision to reality, and we look forward to seeing what’s new the next time we meet this team. In the meantime, if you like the idea of an automated print ejection mechanism but want more cartoon style, look at this invention from MatterHackers.
Reinforcement learning is a subset of machine learning where the machine is scored on their performance (“evaluation function”). Over the course of a training session, behavior that improved final score is positively reinforced gradually building towards an optimal solution. [Dheera Venkatraman] thought it would be fun to use reinforcement learning for making a little robot lamp move. But before that can happen, he had to build the hardware and prove its basic functionality with a manual test script.
Inspired by the hopping logo of Pixar Animation Studios, this particular form of locomotion has a few counterparts in the natural world. But hoppers of the natural world don’t take the shape of a Luxo lamp, making this project an interesting challenge. [Dheera] published all of his OpenSCAD files for this 3D-printed lamp so others could join in the fun. Inside the lamp head is a LED ring to illuminate where we expect a light bulb, while also leaving room in the center for a camera. Mechanical articulation servos are driven by a PCA9685 I2C PWM driver board, and he has written and released code to interface such boards with Robot Operating System (ROS) orchestrating our lamp’s features. This completes the underlying hardware components and associated software foundations for this robot lamp.
Once all the parts have been printed, electronics wired, and everything assembled, [Dheera] hacked together a simple “Hello World” script to verify his mechanical design is good enough to get started. The video embedded after the break was taken at OSH Park’s Bring-A-Hack afterparty to Maker Faire Bay Area 2019. This motion sequence was frantically hand-coded in 15 minutes, but these tentative baby hops will serve as a great baseline. Future hopping performance of control algorithms trained by reinforcement learning will show how far this lamp has grown from this humble “Hello World” hop.
[Dheera] had previously created the shadow clock and is no stranger to ROS, having created the ROS topic text visualization tool for debugging. We will be watching to see how robot Luxo will evolve, hopefully it doesn’t find a way to cheat! Want to play with reinforcement learning, but prefer wheeled robots? Here are a few options.
Continue reading “Little Lamp To Learn Longer Leaps”
When Maker Faire Bay Area closed down early Saturday evening, the fun did not stop: there’s a strong pool of night owls among the maker demographic. When the gates close, the after-parties around San Mateo run late into the night, and Hackaday’s meetup is a strong favorite.
This year Hackaday and Tindie joined forces with Kickstarter and moved our combined event to B Street Station, a venue with more space for hacks than previous years. The drinks started flowing, great people started chatting, basked in an ever present glow of LEDs. A huge amount of awesome hardware showed up, so let’s take a look the demos and stunts that came out to play.
Continue reading “Great Hacks At Our Maker Faire Bay Area Meetup; From Helmets And Goggles To Rovers And String”