A Solar Freakin’ Walkway

Looking to add a little pizzazz to your back garden? Are those strings of lights hung in the trees looking a little dated? Why not try lighting your garden path with DIY solar-powered pavers?

If [jfarro]’s project looks like a miniature version of the much-touted solar freakin’ roadways concept, rest assured that there are huge differences. For one, these lighted pavers actually work — trust me on this; I live not far from the demo site for the Solar Roadways and the degree to which it underwhelms cannot be overstated. Granted, a garden path is a lot simpler to engineer than a road, but many of the challenges remain.

Using recycled glass blocks that are usually reserved for walls and windows, [jfarro] figured out how to attach Neopixel rings to the underside and waterproof them with a silicone conformal coating. The 12 lighted pavers he built draw considerable current, so a 45-watt solar array with charge controller and battery were installed to power the pavers. An Arduino and a motion sensor control the light show when someone approaches; more complicated programs are planned.

Hats off the [jfarro] for taking on a project like this. We don’t often see builds where electrical engineering meets civil engineering, and even on a small scale, dealing with dirt, stone, and water presents quite a few challenges. Here’s hoping his project lasts longer than the Solar Roadways project did.

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GPS Dog Collar Keeps Track Of Your Walks

[Becky Stern] came up with a way to make sure you and your dog are getting enough exercise. It’s a dog collar mounted GPS that measures how far you have walked. Just set your target distance and the progress bar in the middle of this flower will let you know when you reached it.

The most obvious piece of hardware is the OLED board which is sticking out like a sore thumb. But if you’d like to be a little more discreet you could forego the full-featured display for some carefully places LEDs to make up a circular progress bar. The GPS module itself fits well in the center of the flower, which [Becky] shows us how to make out of wire-edged ribbon. Hidden on the other side is an ATmega23u4 breakout board running the Arduino bootloader.

If you’re interested in sewables and textiles [Becky] uses a lot of basic techniques that are good to learn. Check it out in the clip after the break. She’s always shown a remarkable ability to develop projects which won’t scare away the villagers in the way our wire-sprouting breadboard hacks¬†sometimes do.

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Programming Robots Like You Would Train A Pet

[Jim] has been working with a team from various Universities to develop an intuitive way to guide and train assistance robots. They focused on one particular technique, training a robot to follow on a leash in the same way you would a pet dog (PDF).

He was inspired to send in a link to his research after reading about the Kinect-powered shopping card robot. He figures that that project is similar to his own, but his does have several added benefits. The first being that if a robot is on a leash, everyone knows who that bot is following or assisting. But there is the added benefit of the user needing no training whatsoever. That’s because the act of walking a dog on a leash is commonplace in developed societies; you may not have ever owned a dog, but you’ve seen others walking them on leashes numerous times and could do so yourself without any training.

The leash connects to a sensor-filled turret in the center of the robot’s body. The bot can sense when, and in which direction the user is pulling the leash. There’s also an emergency kill switch on the handle for added functionality. Take a look at some of the test video after the break to see how quickly humans can adapt to this type of user interface.

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Learning To Walk, A Tutorial On Making Bipeds Walk

[Robert Lam] has produced a number of video tutorials, his latest being a tutorial on how to make a biped robot walk. He is mainly covering the individual motions and actions. He doesn’t go into any specific programming, but rather breaks down the act of walking into several motions and discusses the reason you need them as well as some variations. For some this will seem like obvious observations, but we’ve seen plenty of biped robots that attempt to walk without shifting their weight.You can watch this video after the break, but be sure to dig around in some of his other tutorials for plenty of good stuff.

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