Hackaday Prize China Finalists Announced

In the time since the Hackaday Prize was first run it has nurtured an astonishing array of projects from around the world, and brought to the fore some truly exceptional winners that have demonstrated world-changing possibilities. This year it has been extended to a new frontier with the launch of the Hackaday Prize China (Chinese language, here’s a Google Translate link), allowing engineers, makers, and inventors from that country to join the fun. We’re pleased to announce the finalists, from which a winner will be announced in Shenzhen, China on November 23rd. If you’re in Shenzen area, you’re invited to attend the award ceremony!

All six of these final project entries have been translated into English to help share information about projects across the language barrier. On the left sidebar of each project page you can find a link back to the original Chinese language project entry. Each presents a fascinating look into what people in our global community can produce when they live at the source of the component supply chain. Among them are a healthy cross-section of projects which we’ll visit in no particular order. Let’s dig in and see what these are all about!

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What Better Than A Hexapod?

What’s more awesome than a normal hexapod robot? What about a MEGA hexapod?

Max the Megapod, a six-legged 3D-printed walking robot, is an open source, Arduino-based, Bluetooth controlled, Scratch programmable creation made possible by [Steven Pendergrast]. The design for Max was based on a previous hexapod project, Vorpal the Hexapod, which has since been built at hundreds of schools worldwide.

Max clocks in at two feet in diameter, expanding to three when sprawled out on the ground. In addition, the hexapod is able to dance, walk, and run as fast as the smaller version, covering ground at twice the speed due to its size.

The scaling for the project – about 200% from the original hexapod – required some creativity, as the goal was for the components to be printed on a modest-sized printer with an 8 inch cube bed. In addition, since Max weighs 9 pounds on average, real bearings (608 Skate bearings) needed to be used for the servo mounts.

The electrical system had to be changed to account for the larger currents drawn by the larger servos (MG958s). and the power distribution harness needed to be redesigned. The current harness take about two hours to build for the larger hexapod, compared to 15 minutes for the original design.

The results are both hilarious and adorable, especially given the endless modifications made to give Max a unique flair. Perhaps a GIGApod could be coming up next?

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Fish Hooks Embedded In Robot Toes Make Them Climb Like Cockroaches

Take a dozen or so fish hooks, progressively embed them in plastic with a 3D printer and attach them to the feet of your hexapod and you’ve got a giant cockroach!

Fish hooks embedded in 3D-printed robot feet

A team of researchers at Carnagie Mellon University came up with this ingenious hack which can easily be copied by anybody with a hexpod and a 3D printer. Here you can see the hooks embedded into the ends of a leg. This ‘Microspine technology’ enables their T-RHex robot to climb up walls at a slightly under-whelming 55 degrees, but also grants the ability to cling on severe overhangs.

Our interpretation of these results is that the robot needs to release and place each foot in a much more controlled manner to stop it from falling backwards. But researchers do have plans to help improve on that behavior in the near future.

Sensing and Closed Loop Control: As of now, T-RHex moves with an entirely open-loop, scripted gait. We believe that performance can be improved by adding torque sensing to the leg and tail actuators, which would allow the robot to adapt to large-scale surface irregularities in the wall, detect leg slip before catastrophic detachment,and automatically use the tail to balance during wall climbs.This design path would require a platform overhaul, but offers a promising controls-based solution to the shortcomings of our gait design.

No doubt we will all now want to build cockroaches that will out perform the T-RHex. Embedding fish hooks into plastic is done one at a time. During fabrication, the printer is stopped and a hook is carefully laid down by human hand. The printer is turned on once again and another layer of plastic laid down to fully encapsulate the hook. Repeat again and again!

Your robot would need the aforementioned sensing and closed loop control and also the ‘normal’ array of sensors and cameras to enable autonomy with the ability to assess the terrain ahead. Good luck, and don’t forget to post about your projects (check out Hackaday.io if you need somewhere to do this) and tip us off about it! We’ve seen plenty of, sometimes terrifying, hexapod projects, but watch out that the project budget does not get totally out of control (more to be said about this in the future).

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Welcome Our New Insect Overlords With Arduino-Powered Ant Bot

Walking robots come in many forms, and each presents their own unique challenges. Bipedal style locomotion is considered particularly difficult to do well, however designs with more legs offer certain advantages. Hexapods offer the possibility of keeping several legs on the ground while others move, providing a useful degree of stability. [How To Mechatronics] developed this ant robot, which is an excellent example of the form.

The hexapod has as the name suggests, six legs, each of which consist of 3 joints. This necessitates 3 servos per leg, for 18 servos total just for locomotion. Further servos are then used to control the abdomen, head, and mandibles. This gives the robot strong ant credentials, above and beyond being simply a 3D printed lookalike.

Brains come courtesy of an Arduino Mega, chosen for its ability to control a large number of servos. A custom PCB is printed as a shield to ease the connection of all the necessary hardware. An HC-05 Bluetooth module is used for communication with an Android app, which controls the ant. The piece de resistance is the ultrasonic sensors in the head, which allow the ant to automatically defend itself against predators that get too close.

It’s an involved build, requiring plenty of 3D printing and over 200 fasteners. Fundamentally though, it’s a fully working and tested hexapod build with full plans available for download, ready to toil in your underground sugar caves.

If your hexapod tastes skew more anime than insectoid, check out this Ghost in the Shell build. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Hexapod Tank From Ghost In The Shell Brought To Life

Every now and then someone gets seriously inspired, and that urge just doesn’t go away until something gets created. For [Paulius Liekis], it led to creating a roughly 1:20 scale version of the T08A2 Hexapod “Spider” Tank from the movie Ghost in the Shell. As the he puts it, “[T]his was something that I wanted to build for a long time and I just had to get it out of my system.” It uses two Raspberry Pi computers, 28 servo motors, and required over 250 hours of 3D printing for all the meticulously modeled pieces – and even more than that for polishing, filing, painting, and other finishing work on the pieces after they were printed. The paint job is spectacular, with great-looking wear and tear. It’s even better seeing it in motion — see the video embedded below.

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Office Supplies Hexapod Tramples Your Excuses

We all have reasons why we’re not building cool robots. “I don’t have a lasercutter.” “I don’t have a 3D printer.” [JAC_101]’s hexapod robot dances all over your excuses with its tongue-depressor body and pencil-eraser feet!

Some folks like to agonize over designs, optimizing this and tweaking that on the blackboard. Other folks just build stuff and see what works. If you’re in the mood for some of the latter, check out some of the techniques at work here. Tongue depressors make a simple frame, and servos are lashed on with zip ties in place of fancy servo mounts (or hot glue). Photoresistors are soldered directly to their load resistors, making a simple light sensor. It’s all very accessible and brutally minimalistic, but it seems to walk. (Check out the video, below.)

Arduino code is available for you to play with, naturally.

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Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Walking Robots From Scratch

The usual way robotics is taught – and nearly everything, for that matter – is simple. A teacher gets a pre-built module or kit, teaches the students how to use the kit, and class is adjourned. There are significant and obvious drawbacks to this. [Kevin Harrington]’s entry for the Hackaday Prize turns that pedagogy on its head. It’s a robotics development platform that encourages everyone to create their own robots from scratch, starting with the question, ‘how many legs do you want your robot to have’.

Bowler Studio uses OpenCV for image processing, a kinematics engine, a JCSG-based CAD and 3D modeling engine to interface with motors, create 3D models according to kinematic models, feed imaging data to a robot, and create graphical interfaces for robots. It’s an entire robotics creation studio in a single package, and of course everything can be backed up to the cloud.

The electronic backbone is another one of [Kevin] and Neuron Robotics’ projects, DyIO, a USB peripheral that makes for a great robotics platform. The DyIO can control up to 24 servos, enough for a very, very complex robot, and also has the ability to control motors, read encoders, or just blink pins.

These two projects together make for a great way to learn the ins and outs of robots that are a little more complex than a simple wheeled robot, and expandable enough to make some really, really cool projects

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by: