SMORES Robot Finds Its Own Way To The Campfire

Robots that can dynamically reconfigure themselves to adapt to their environments offer a promising advantage over their less dynamic cousins. Researchers have been working through all the challenges of realizing that potential: hardware, software, and all the interactions in between. On the software end of the spectrum, a team at University of Pennsylvania’s ModLab has been working on a robot that can autonomously choose a configuration to best fit its task at hand.

We’ve recently done an overview of modular robots, and we noted that coordination and control are persistent challenges in this area. The robot in this particular demonstration is a hybrid: a fixed core module serving as central command, plus six of the lab’s dynamic SMORES-EP modules. The core module has a RGB+Depth camera for awareness of its environment. A separate downwards-looking camera watches SMORES modules for awareness of itself.

Combining that data using a mix of open robot research software and new machine specific code, this team’s creation autonomously navigates an unfamiliar test environment. While it can adapt to specific terrain challenges like a wood staircase, there are still limitations on situations it can handle. Kudos to the researchers for honestly showing and explaining how the robot can get stuck on a ground seam, instead of editing that gaffe out to cover it up.

While this robot isn’t the completely decentralized modular robot system some are aiming for, it would be a mistake to dismiss based on that criticism alone. At the very least, it is an instructive step on the journey offering a tradeoff that’s useful on its own merits. And perhaps this hybrid approach will find application with a modular robot close to our hearts: Dtto, the winner of our 2016 Hackaday Prize.

[via Science News]

Continue reading “SMORES Robot Finds Its Own Way To The Campfire”

Video Quick-Bit: The Things That Move Robots

Magenta Strongheart returns for a look at some of the coolest robotic entries from this year’s Hackaday Prize. Each of these answered the challenge for modular designs that will help supercharge new robot projects.

We think that cheap and abundant motor designs are poised to revolutionize robotics and several of the entries thought along those same lines. [Masahiro Mizuno] came up with a great 3D printed servo design based around a 6mm DC motor. Also in this ballpark, a team of two — Giovanni Leal and Jonathan Diaz — used 3D printing to turn some tiny metallic servos into linear actuators.

Picking stuff up is a difficult thing for a machine to do. We’ve long enjoyed seeing jamming grippers which do it with an inflatable bladder around a granular material (watch the video… it’s amazing). Two of these were demonstrated as part of the challenge. The Universal Jamming Gripper focuses on the entire mechanism, while Programmable Air took aim at the pneumatic actuation system and can adapt to other soft-robotics uses.

Rounding out this update, make sure to take a peek at the PCB stepper motor [Bobricius] built after being inspired by [Carl Bugeja’s] PCB motor. You’ll also want to see the entry that is taking on industrial farming. Imaging slow-rolling behemoths that use computer vision and spinning tillers to take care of weeds, cutting down on herbicide use.

Right now we’re in the thick of the Power Harvesting Challenge. Show us how you’re getting power from an interesting source and you’ll be on the way to the finals. Twenty power harvesting entries will get that honor, along with a $1,000 cash prize. The five top entries of the 2018 Hackaday Prize will split $100,000!

Evolving The 3D Printed Linear Actuator

Our open source community invites anyone with an idea to build upon the works of those who came before. Many of us have encountered a need to control linear motion and adapted an inexpensive hobby servo for the task. [Michael Graham] evaluated existing designs and believed he has ideas to advance the state of the art. Our Hackaday Prize judges agreed, placing his 3D Printed Servo Linear Actuator as one of twenty winners of our Robotics Module Challenge.

[Michael]’s actuator follows in the footstep of other designs based on a rack-and-pinion gear such as this one featured on these pages, but he approached the design problem from the perspective of a mechanical engineer. The design incorporated several compliant features to be tolerant of variances between 3D printers (and slicer, and filament, etc.) Improving the odds of a successful print and therefore successful projects. Beginners learning to design for 3D printing (and even some veterans) would find his design tips document well worth the few minutes of reading time.

Another useful feature of his actuator design is the 20mm x 20mm screw mounting system. Visible on either end of the output slider, it allows mixing and matching from a set of accessories to be bolted on this actuator. He is already off and running down this path and is facing the challenge of having too many things to share while keeping them all organized and usable by everyone.

The flexible construction system allows him to realize different ideas within the modular system. He brought one item (a variant of his Mug-O-Matic) to the Hackaday + Tindie Meetup at Bay Area Maker Faire, and we’re sure there will be more. And given the thoughtful design and extensive documentation of his project, we expect to see his linear servos adopted by others and appear in other contexts as well.

This isn’t the only linear actuator we’ve come across. It isn’t even the only winning linear actuator of our Robotics Module Challenge, but the other one is focused on meeting different constraints like compactness. They are different tools for different needs – and all worthy additions to our toolbox of mechanical solutions.

Two Awesome Ender’s Achievements

The Hackaday Prize is all about empowering you with the tools you need to create the next great hardware device. To that end, we’ve set up seed funding for your projects, we’ve given you a project hosting site, and most importantly, Hackaday gives you the opportunity to connect with tens of thousands of like-minded hardware hackers across the globe.

Not all hackers are out tinkering in their garage after work. Some are pulling the night shift in their dorm rooms, balancing classes, homework, hacking, and life. Student hackers, we salute you with the Ender’s Achievement!

This robotic gripper is the solution to robotic gripping

The Modular Universal Jamming Gripper by [cole b.] and a group of students at the Arizona Makers Collective is something every robot needs. It’s a device that allows a robot to pick up just about anything. The old way of doing this is by fancy robotic fingers, maybe an Armatron, or if you’re of a sufficient vintage or radioactive, a Waldo. This is not anything like that. Instead of robotic fingers, this is basically a balloon filled with grains of sand. To use it, the robot jams this squishy ball over an object and sucks the air out of the balloon. The result is an end effector that latches onto any small object.

Devices like this have been built before. Coincidentally, the earliest projects like this we’ve seen are also from students at engineering schools. However, [cole] and his team are really improving this sort of device, making it 3D printable and cheaper to make. It’s an amazing project, and you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t check out the project page.

If you want more evidence that students are our future and that we should teach them well and let them lead the way, take a look at this 3D printer project.

Most 3D printers only print one object at a time. Sure, you can load up your build platform with a bunch of objects, but the fact remains that 3D printing is a batch process. [Swaleh]’s WorkHorse 3D changes all of that. It’s a 3D printer with a conveyor belt. Sure, it violates the MakerBot patent, but that’s not the point. This is a printer that can produce an infinite amount of objects with just a little bit of G-code hacking. When one print is done, it rolls off the end of the bed, and another print is started without any downtime in between. It’s a factory on a desktop, and it’s amazing. And [Swaleh] is a mechanical engineering student, which means that he’s building this even though he has more homework than the rest of us.

Like all of the projects entered by students in The Hackaday Prize, these projects won an achievement. Yes, we’re doing achievements for projects this year, and these two are getting the Ender’s Achievement for incredible student entries. No, it’s not an extra prize or points or anything like that; it’s just recognition of the amazing projects done by students. These are some of the best, and if you’re a student who entered a project into the Hackaday Prize, we’d be more than happy to bestow the Ender’s Achievement on your project.

These Twenty Amazing Projects Won The Robotics Module Challenge

Right now, we’re running the greatest hardware competition on the planet. The Hackaday Prize is the Academy Awards of Open Hardware, and we’re opening the gates to thousands of hardware hackers, makers, and artist to create the next big thing.

Last week, we wrapped up the second challenge in The Hackaday Prize, the Robotics Module challenge. Now we’re happy to announce twenty of those projects have been selected to move onto the final round and have been awarded a $1000 cash prize. Congratulations to the winners of the Robotics Module Challenge portion of the Hackaday Prize. Here are the winners, in no particular order:

Robotics Module Challenge Hackaday Prize Finalists:

These projects are fantastic

These are the best projects the Robotics Module Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize has to offer. These projects are simply fantastic. You answered the call with more than 200 entries for this challenge, and have created the best projects that can be turned into smarter, better robots. Need some proof? Just take a look at some of these projects. Continue reading “These Twenty Amazing Projects Won The Robotics Module Challenge”

Video Quick-Bit: Numitrons And Infinite Build Volumes

Majenta Strongheart takes a look at a couple of cool entries from the first round of the 2018 Hackaday Prize:

This is an infinite 3D printer. The Workhorse 3D is the way we’re going to democratize 3D printing. The Workhorse 3D printer does this by adding a conveyor belt to the bed of a 3D printer, allowing for rapid manufacturing, not just prototyping. [Swaleh Owais] created the Workhorse 3D printer to automatically start a print, manufacture an object, then remove that print from the print bed just to start the cycle all over again.

Check out this Numitron Hexadecimal Display Module from [Yann Guidon]. [Yann] is building an entire computer, from scratch, and he needs a way to display the status of various bits on a bus. The simplest way to do this is with a few buffer chips and some LEDs, but that’s far too easy for [Yann]. He decided to use Numitron tubes to count bits on a bus, from 0 to F. Instead of microcontrollers, he’s using relays and diode steering to turn those segments of the Numitron on and off.

Browse all of the entries here. Right now, we’re in the Robotics Module Challenge part of the Hackaday Prize, where twenty incredible projects will win one thousand dollars and move on to the final part of the Hackaday Prize where one lucky winner will win fifty thousand dollars for building awesome hardware. If that’s not incredible, I don’t know what is.

Robotics Module Challenge: Build Robot, Win Prizes

Brand new today, we’re going to go all in with the Robotics Module Challenge! This is the newest part of the 2018 Hackaday Prize which is only six weeks old, and already we’ve seen almost six hundred incredible entries. But a new challenge means a fresh start and a perfect time for you to begin your entry.

This is your call to build a module that can be used in robotics projects across the world. Twenty module designs will be awarded $1,000 and and chance at the five top prizes including the $50,000 grand prize!

Robotics is the kitchen sink of the world of electronics. You have to deal with motors, sensors, spinny lidar doohickies, computer vision, mechatronics, and unexpected prototyping issues accounting for the coefficient of friction of 3D printed parts. Robotics is where you show your skills, and this is your chance to show the world what you’ve got.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were some more ways to skip around the hard parts? That is the Robotics Module Challenge in a nutshell. We want to see great modular Open Hardware designs that can be used by roboticists all over the world. This might be a motor controller, a chassis or limb design system, a sensor network scheme, a communications system, data collection and delivery — basically anything related to robotics. Build a prototype that shows how your module is used and document all the info needed to incorporate and riff on your design in other robot builds.

Start your entry now and show us your take on a great bit of Open Hardware.

Continue reading “Robotics Module Challenge: Build Robot, Win Prizes”