Friday, June 24, 2016

Introducing SpotMini

Humankind's "new" best friend? SpotMini is a new smaller version of the Boston Dynamics' Spot robot, weighing 55 lbs dripping wet (65 lbs if you include its arm.) SpotMini is all-electric (no hydraulics) and runs for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing. SpotMini is one of the quietest robots they have ever built. It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation. SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance. For more information about SpotMini visit Boston Dynamics' website at www.BostonDynamics.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Where Art Meets Electronics

Got a lesson all about Manhattan or Ground Plane Construction yesterday from my friend Bob (KC5WA - his website is here). I have been reading about this for some time - lots of pdfs and good info on the web. Some of the best are Chuck Adams - K7QO's pdf on Manhattan Building Techniques, Advanced Manhattan Building (also by Adams), and Homebrew Construction Practices, From Copper to Manhattan, by Paul Harden - NA5N.

Also www.qrpme.com has great info and supplies. I ordered some things and look forward to experimenting a bit. Check out Rex - W1REX's MePads, MeSquares & MeTubes Sample Pack and his Manhattan Chowder Kit! Dave Richards AA7EE is another artist - Some of his work is shown below.

Lots of radio folks use this method to build and experiment. As you can see - it is beautiful and functional!

AA7EE's WBR Regen Reciever - (video), Blog build post.

AA7EE's 9 volt transmitter

Parallax and Robotic's Education


If you want to get excited about robotics or electronics education, go take at look at Parallax.com and at this link. Parallax has a fantastic user Forum at forums.parallax.com and more great education and learning resources at learn.parallax.com.

Parallax also has the best customer support in the business. Be sure to check out the new S3 robot - I cannot wait to share this with others and play with it myself!


Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Googling" Robotic's History

My friend and fellow roboticist, Carol Lynn Hazlett, asked recently where I get information like that in the article posted below about Robbie the Robot.

The answer is simple - occasionally I just spend some time "Googling."

Two discoveries of interest - just in the past week...


Reuben and a Grey Walter Tortoise
Reuben Hoggett has had a life-long interest in robots. Reuben has cataloged significant detail on other cybernetic and pre-cybernetic animals, as well as other anthropomorphic forms of robots over the last century at his website cyberneticzoo.com. His Facebook page is here - Cybernetic Zoo. I could spend hours looking around this site (and have!) I recently emailed Mr. Hoggett to thank him for this work! Reuben was born, lives, and works in Melbourne, Australia. Check it out!

Mr. Hoggett's friendship with robot builder and historian David Buckley meant that I also found a link to Mr. Buckley's website of robot history. It is here at www.davidbuckley.net 



What is most amazing about all of this is that David Buckley's work includes the design of walking robots which are the direct ancestors of the Parallax Toddler and Penguin robots! Here is a bit of the history found in the Parallax Forums: Parallax based its walking robot design on Buckley's two servo driven robots.
Bigfoot was sold by Milford Instruments as a wood kit.
http://www.davidbuckley.net/DB/BigFoot.htm 
Amber has a lineage of six.
http://www.davidbuckley.net/DB/Ambler.htm 
Tom
http://www.davidbuckley.net/DB/Tom/Tom.htm 
Junior
http://www.davidbuckley.net/DB/Junior/Junior.htm 
Strider
http://www.davidbuckley.net/DB/Strider/Strider.htm 
TecFoot
http://www.davidbuckley.net/DB/Strider/Strider.htm

And this comes from the Toddler Documentation - Advanced Robotics with the Toddler,
"Although Parallax designed the Toddler, we recognize that the first time we have seen the two-servo concept employed for a walking robot is British robotics designer David Buckley’s Big Foot. Though the basic concept is simple, our research shows that Mr. Buckley created the ingenious use of two servos for a walker. Big Foot is a plywood kit available through Milford Instruments (www.milinst.com) of the United Kingdom. David Buckley endorses the Parallax Toddler robot and contributed to the Toddler design." 
What a small world! Go take a look around at Reuben's and David's websites. I promise you will have fun and learn something you did not know!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Robbie the Robot (not that one...) *

Here is an article and photos dated August 23, 1973 from Nottingham, England. I found it today while "Googling" a bit about robots and priests. It is about The Rev'd Ron Mcenzie, a former engineer, who built the robot (really more a working prop) to help interest children in Sunday School! Great old photos!











Note: I found all these images at cyberneticzoo.com here. You can find them on Facebook here.

* This Robbie is not to be confused with the more famous Robby the Robot from the classic science fiction film Forbidden Planet.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Subtle Improvement

The New Headline - Readers who really want to know can Google robot priest images.
Since I first began blogging under the title Robotics Under the Stole, I've featured a sidebar cover from Weekly World News that I saw long ago. I always loved it because showed a robotic priest!

The headline or reason for using Mechanical Holy Men was that is was part of a secret plan or conspiracy theory imagined by the spoof tabloid newspaper. The reason given for "the plan" concerned a grave problem in the life of the church that is not a matter to joke about. I recently noticed that it was inappropriate and that I was not comfortable with the original (meaning - no one ever complained, but that I was moved to see it differently myself).

So, after some reflection, I made a change in the headline to the one as shown above and now used in the sidebar - It is better that the original and still fits my purpose here! My apologies for years that I insensitively - even if unintentionally - used the original.

I still love the Pope and the cheesy vested robot!


Thursday, June 9, 2016

USB Power Supply

This project began as an idea to build a power supply (to avoid the need to use 9 volt batteries) for the Parallax BASIC Stamp Homework Board. This was for a friend beginning to learn electronics and robotics. He has just purchased a BASIC Stamp Activity Kit - USB (I have the older serial port model) which includes the What's a Microcontroller? text and lots of components for experimentation.

The concept was to use an wall power adapter (sometimes called a wall-wart) with a 9 volt output. I would then remove the end connector and attach instead a 9 volt battery connector. I knew it would need to be wired in a way to provide polarity that "looked" like a 9 volt battery to the Homework Board.

Note that the positive terminal is the small round one, hexagonal is negative
The problem came when I began measuring the actual output of the various wall adapters that I had in my junk box. All of them were supplying 50% to double the stated amount. 

Since the Homework Board has a 5 volt regulator to power the Stamp, attaching more than 9 volts was neither a good idea or really necessary. So, I started looking for power supplies that came closer to supplying around 5 volts...

Then the idea occurred to use a USB cable and charger like for a phone or tablet. They deliver 5 volts at 500 to 1000 mA. A computer USB power supply is toward the low end (about 500 mA) and most chargers to the higher end (1000 mA or 1A. When I measured some of them, thew were right to spec.

So that is direction I decided to try. Below is the build sequence:

1. Cut the USB cable exposing the 4 wires (Black is ground, Red is +5 V).


Here is the pinout for a USB connector.
The Green and White used for communication are not needed.

2. Meter shows the power supply is right on the money!

3. Cut off the Green and White cable wires, and prepare the 9 V connector. Note the heat shrink tubing already placed on the USB cable and battery connector wire (I used one on the red too.)

4. Solder the wires together. Note for proper polarity, the +5 V must connect to the small round terminal and the ground (negative) must connect to the hexagonal terminal. This makes the supply "look" like a battery (the colors are reversed, so it looks like a mistake - double check to make sure! See 9 volt battery photo above which shows the polarity. Heat shrink wire tubing should be in place prior to soldering the connection - cover individually and outside to finish.

5. Solder remaining connection (my iron tip was not as "dull" as it looks. It was properly tinned).

6. Shrink the heat shrink tubing using a hot air gun inside first and then outside to cover.

7. Final test showed just at 5 V and proper polarity to the terminals to match the battery.

8. Oops! 9 volt connector orientation made cable route inconvenient when attached.

9. Folding the cable back around (leaving some strain relief) and using a cable tie place between the terminals secured the cable, provided better routing, gave something to hold on to when securing or removing the connection! A happy accident...

10. The finished power supply cable can be used with USB chargers. Now I want  need to make one for myself! ;-)

The power supply worked great and powered the Homework Board and Stamp perfectly. My remaining concern was whether it would power a servo as required for some of the What's a Microcontroller? (WAM) experiments. Here is a test video with the servo powered from the unregulated connections or Vin. Worked like champ!



Special Note: On the power bus above the breadboard there are connection points for +5 volt (Vdd), Ground (Vss), and the direct voltage of the power source / battery, i.e., unregulated or (Vin). With a 9 volt battery, the Vin would, obviously, be about 9 volts (with my power supply it is 5 volts or the same as the Vdd). This is the only drawback, I have found or imagine for this power supply - so far!