An image of Kitten Mittens and its 3lb counterpart

Why Make A Combat Robot That Walks?

If you watch it on TV or see clips on YouTube, you’ll notice that most combat robots have wheels, which would make sense. They are simple, work well, and if designed right they can take a bit of a beating. So why did [Luke] design his 12-pound bot with no wheels, or any locomotion system for that matter? You can find out more about this peculiar bot in his build report with more than 130 images.

[Luke’s] bot, called Kitten Mittens, is a gyro walker combat robot. This means that instead of traditional tank treads or wheels to move about, [Luke] navigates by angling his bot’s weapon and using the angular momentum to lift up one side of the bot to “walk” forward. Watch the video after the break to see it in action. While this does leave Kitten Mittens much slower and less agile than competitors, it gives one massive leg up; weight. Kitten Mittens fights in the 12-pound combat robotics weight class, but most leagues have weight bonuses for bots that have no wheels or use otherwise nontraditional locomotion. Where [Luke] competes, the Norwalk Havoc Robot League, this means that his bot can be up to 6 pounds heavier than the other competitors!

A 3D-printed prototype of Kitten Mittens' weapon
A printed prototype of the weapon, showing off the integrated hub motor.

So how did [Luke] take advantage of that extra 6 pounds? The biggest thing was the weapon. It is made of 3/4-inch S7 tool steel and has a custom hub motor integrated into the center, bringing its rotating weight to 5.5 pounds. In addition to thickness, the added weight allowance permitted a larger spinning diameter so that Kitten Mittens could hit opponents before they hit him.

[Luke] is not new to the world of combat robotics, and knew it would take more than just a big weapon to win. Part of the extra weight budget was also used to beef up his armor and internal structure of the bot, so that hits from opponents would just bounce him around the cage harmlessly. This even included custom bent titanium guards surrounding the weapon, to help in self-righting.

When it first debuted in February of 2021, Kitten Mittens was a smashing success! It went 4-0 in the 12lb weight class at NHRL, winning the $1,000 prize and earning its spots in the annual finals, where [Luke] will compete against other finalists from the rest of the season for a chance to win the $12,000 first-place prize.

Bots that walk, shuffle, or crawl are becoming more of a trend lately in all weight classes. Even Overhaul, a 250-pound bot, has been given a new set of feet to shuffle around on. You can read more about this interesting concept here.

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1949 Gyroscope Spins Up Again

[Curious Marc] has an Apollo-era gyroscope but isn’t quite ready to put it through this paces without some practice. So he borrowed a 1949 vintage Sperry C5 gyro and did some experiments with it using a 3-phase power supply he plans to use on the other gyro.

There is a little bit of troubleshooting and a lot of gorgeous close up shots of these electromechanical marvels. They sure are noisy, though.

[Marc] wanted a gyro testing table that can control the orientation of a gyro under test. He went the auction route to get a pretty expensive piece of gear for a relatively low price but without the expensive software. In a stroke of luck, he managed to score the required software from the vendor who was intrigued by his project. It looked to us like a table like this wouldn’t be that hard to build from scratch, either.

We are interested in what [Marc] will do with his gyros next. It is hard to imagine that gyros have come from this sort of device to a tiny IC inertial measurement unit that can fit in a phone. Imagine packing the Sperry unit on your next walking robot or self-balancing unicycle.

Need a refresher on how gyro’s work? We got that, too. It even covers the modern kind.

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A Digital Magic 8-Ball? Signs Point To Yes

[FacelessTech] was recently charmed by one of our prized possessions as a kid — the Magic 8-Ball — and decided to have a go at making a digital version. Though there is no icosahedron or mysterious fluid inside, the end result is still without a doubt quite cool, especially for a project made on a whim with parts on hand.

It’s not just an 8-ball, it also functions as a 6-sided die and a direct decider of yes/no questions. Underneath that Nokia 5110 screen there’s an Arduino Pro Mini and a 3-axis gyro. Almost everything is done through the gyro, including setting the screen contrast when the eight ball is first powered on. As much we as love that aspect, we really like that [FacelessTech] included a GX-12 connector for easy FTDI programming. It’s a tidy, completely open-source build, and there’s even a PCB. What’s not to like? Be sure to check out the video after the break to see it in action.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the smallest Magic 8-Ball build we’ve seen. Have you met the business card version?

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Gyroscopic Wi-Fi LED Die Is Pretty Fly

As cool as sculptural LED cubes are, the only thing you can really do is look at them. They’re not going to stand up to a lot of handling, and as tedious as it is to bend all those leads when building them, you probably wouldn’t want to mess with them anyway.

LED dice on the other hand are robust, blinky playthings with many possibilities, especially if they have a gyroscope and wireless control like the one [moekoe] built. Inside this tiny 25cm³ die is the equally small ESP8285-01F, which lets [moekoe] control the rainbow light show with a Blynk app.

As you will see in the excellent build video that makes this build look challenging instead of impossible, the cube gets permanently sealed up with solder joints. Most but not all of these transfer power, ground, and data around the faces.

Once the cube is together, [moekoe] uses pogo pins to program it, and can charge the little LiPo inside through contact pads. We love the idea of using a cubical printed jig to help solder the PCB edges together, but not as much as we love [moekoe]’s home-brewed SMT soldering setup.

If you want an easier way to make sculptural LED cubes, build yourself a lead-formin’ machine.

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New Part Day: Ooh, The Things You Can Do With A CLUE

There’s a new development board in town from Adafruit, and it’s called the CLUE. This tiny board can be programmed in Arduino or CircuitPython, and it is absolutely stuffed with sensors and functionality, including Bluetooth. It’s essentially a BBC Micro:bit with more sensors, a screen, and a much beefier processor. Sound interesting? Let’s get out the magnifying glass and take a look, shall we?

(Editor’s note: Adafruit ran out of the first alpha run of the hardware. While we didn’t run into any bugs, the next versions will presumably have even fewer, but will also cost $40 instead of $30. That said, they’re giving out 3,000 of them to attendants of PyCon in April, so you might also get your hands on one that way.)

And Bit:Bot takes the checkered flag! Image via Seeed Studio

First and foremost, there’s the form factor — if that bottom edge looks familiar, that’s because the CLUE is designed to work with micro:bit robot kits and anything else with that edge connector, like the CRICKIT for micro:bit, or the Bit:Bot from Seeed Studios. This is big news for the micro:bit ecosystem, and not just because the CLUE brings tons of sensors and a screen to the scene, although a 1.3″ screen at 240×240 resolution is nothing to sneeze at.

The main brain is a Nordic nRF52840, so you can pair it to your phone and stream your collected data. Or, use it to get two CLUE boards talking to each other. This is a major upgrade from the micro:bit’s nRF51822 — the CLUE is four times faster, has four times the flash memory, and has sixteen times as much RAM. We hope someone can find a way to make them into short-range messaging machines with Q10 keyboards.

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Who Needs Four Wheels When You’ve Got A Gyro?

Your garden variety car generally comes with four wheels, plus a spare in the boot. It’s a number landed upon after much consideration, with few vehicles deviating from the norm. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other possibilities however, and [RCLifeOn] decided to experiment in just such a manner.

The result is a gyro-stabilized two-wheeled RC car, or as we might have put it, a motorcycle of sorts. A brushless motor drives the rear wheel, while steering up front is handled by a servo controlling the front wheel. A large spinning disc acts as a gyro in the center of the vehicle, and it’s all packaged in a simple 3D printed frame.

Results are impressive, with the gyro making a demonstrable difference to the vehicle’s performance. While it can be driven without the gyro enabled, it requires continual steering corrections to stay upright. With the gyro spun up, it rides much more like a bicycle, with few stability issues.

It’s a fun project, and a great way to learn about gyroscopic stability. Of course, there are great primers on the topic, too. Video after the break. Continue reading “Who Needs Four Wheels When You’ve Got A Gyro?”

Piezoelectric Gyro Shows How They Rolled Back In The Day

There’s no doubting the wonders that micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology have brought to the world. With MEMS chips, your phone can detect the slightest movement, turning it into a sensitive sensor platform that can almost anticipate what you’re going to do next. Actually, it’s kind of creepy when you think about it.

But before nano-scale MEMS inertial sensing came along, lots of products needed to know their ups from their downs, and many turned to products such as this vibrating piezoelectric gyroscope that [Kerry Wong] found in an old camcorder. The video below shows a teardown of the sensor, huge by MEMS standards but still a marvel of micro-engineering. The device is classified as a Coriolis vibratory gyroscope (CVG) which, as the name implies, uses the Coriolis effect to sense rotation. In this device, [Kerry] found that a long, narrow piezoelectric element spans the long axis of the sensor, suspended from what appears to be four flexible arms. [Kerry] probed the innards of the sensor while powered up and discovered a 22 kHz signal on the piezo element; this vibrates the bar in one plane so that when it rotates, it exerts a force on the support arms that can be detected. Indeed, [Kerry] hooked the output of the sensor to a wonderfully old-school VOM whose needle wiggled with the slightest movement of the sensor.

Sadly, MEMS made this kind of sensor obsolete, but we appreciate the look under the hood. And really, MEMS chips are using the same principle to detect motion, just on a much smaller scale. Want the MEMS basics? [Al] has you covered.

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