Saturday, May 30, 2015

Stairway to Heaven

Carol Lynn Hazlett , a Parallax Forum friend, has been enjoying her Parallax S2 and came up with a spiral she named Stairway to Heaven! In the words of the rock-n-roll classic, "There walks a lady we all know, Who shines white light and wants to show" - how to have some fun robotic fun! Led Zepplin - modified by your's truly.

Stairway to Heaven
She is a Contributing Editor at Robot Magazine, Contributing Designer at MINDS-i Robotics, Inc, a collector of all thing bovine, and an active member of the Seattle Robotics Society - facebook page is here. It is one of the oldest robotic's clubs in the country. They are also the sponsors of the Robothon - it's page is here and the event is on facebook here.

Carol is one steely eyed robot building and programming woman! Reminds me so much of mom who loved technology her whole life, loved to teach and loved learning!

In her most recent article in the July/August edition of Robot Magazine, Carol writes, "In almost every robotic project I attempt I am way over my head going into it... My point here is; don't avoid doing robotics because you think you can't or you don't know what you are doing, just dive off the deep end and start swimming."

She concluded the article with the following words, "Don't let the complexity of a robotics project stop you from doing it. Just do it one piece or one sub-system at a time and eventually, you will have a working robot."

This kind of courage and stick-to-it-ness is what I love about roboticists - both amateur and professional! It inspires me to try new things and learn new things.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Just Right!

Designing anything is often a matter of experimentation.

Over at this post at the Parallax Forums you can find the pdf drawing files and all the discussion about the Niko's Fibonacci Spiral Challenge and a Chalk Feeder Tube for the S2 robot. All of this will work with the new S3 as well and the old original blue.

The final drawings for the S2 Chalk Feeder Tube Project contain three solutions. This is "open source" - of course! ;-) (meaning it is for your use, copying and improvement!) Sheet 2 shows two alternates for the method for providing pressure on the chalk stick. The first - Alternate "B" is my original idea of a rubber band tensioner. The second - Alternate "C" is a spring tensioner. With both these solutions - it is critical that the pressure applied to the chalk be enough for good scribbling, but not too much - if so, the drive wheels of the S2 will raise from the rolling surface. Not to much, not too little, but just right! Think Goldilocks! "Field adjustment" is required. The Goldilock's method is often a key in robotics...

Keep experimenting and keep making mistakes - it is the best way to learn something!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Parallax S2 Chalk Feeder Tube Project - v.2.2

Have been working on this for a couple of days. As posted previously, some of the Parallax Forum members and I have been scribbling spirals and labyrinth paths with the S2.

We have also been playing with chalk feeding for scribbling with sidewalk chalk like Nikos' Artist Robot.

Here is the latest - lots more info and development can be found on the forums at this thread.

First is the latest AutoCAD drawing of the Basic Info and Concept of the Chalk Feeder Tube. This is version 2.2.

Here is the second test video - shot in my carport. Sorry about the vertical shoot. I was excited about showing of the the clever Propeller Beanie - I guess.

And finally here is a still photo... Lots of fun...

Friday, May 22, 2015

Labyrinth in the Sand

Had a great discussion with my friend and fellow priest, Stacey, today about the labyrinth bot (see this post below). Some great ideas started to come together. One involved the great difficulty of creating a labyrinth (for most people). If a robot could draw the labyrinth with chalk on a parking lot surface - it could then be painted or just allow to wash away with the next rain.

Temporary labyrinths could also be created on the beach and the washed away with the next tide. The robot would do the hard work of lay out and drawing and people could enjoy watching it done and then have the fun of walking the finished product.

Disney has been working to develop a sand drawing bot for fun and artistic purposes. Its fat tires prevent the rolling bot from messing up the image being drawn. Check it out in the following video. It would be fun for all these ideas to come together!


Monday, May 18, 2015

red sea robotics©

I began to first think about robotics in October of 2006 and soon it was my hobby and away from church obsession. My family and I were living in Mer Rouge, Louisiana at the time where I was serving as the priest or rector at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and the vicar at The Church of the Redeemer in Oak Ridge, Louisiana.

At the time I began, my hobby was a secret because I did not know what people might think. Because confidential information shared with a priest must remain secret - such confidences are said to be "under the stole" because the priest wears a stole as a symbol of the office. Hence, the name of my blog - "Robotics Under the Stole" and my robot-priest logo. More on that here.

Mer Rouge is named because when it was discovered its grass prairie was covered with a grass with red hue - and called red sea - in French - Mer Rouge.

To commemorate that start - now almost a decade ago - my blog will also become the home of red sea robotics©. I will use this name as a personalized way to identify my future work in robotics, as a company name (just in case), and mostly as a way to remember... Here is the new logo (My first, simpler logo, still with the red "c" was created June 3, 2011 - just before we moved).

Edit - I may have to get some T shirts made. Look at this cool design I created at the CustomInk website. Looks pretty cool, eh? I think I like this one below better though!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Labyrinth Bot Project

Photo by Cindy Pavlinac

I wrote the following a while back...
Labyrinths have been a part of my spiritual formation. The photo above is of the labyrinth inside Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. It is an eleven circuit labyrinth based on the one at Chartres Cathedral. A labyrinth is a symbolic and physical representation of the spiritual journey. One walks the path toward the center. Reaching the center is, in one sense, the goal – but the point is really the process of walking. At times you get very close to the center and the next moment, find yourself far from the center!

During the process of discernment, prior to ordination as a deacon and then priest, we often had to meet for review at various steps along the way with discernment committees at the Grace Cathedral. A regular part of this process (for me) was arriving early – stilling myself – and walking the labyrinth.

One of the classic robotic problems is that of maze solving (line following or between “walls’). In contests, the robot is programmed to run the maze slowly finding the simplest solution. It is place again at the start point and then runs the maze as quickly as possible. 

A labyrinth has a single path. It does not have a “solution,” but instead is followed – at best – slowly, deliberately, and thoughtfully.

The idea occurred to me to “teach” a robot to follow the labyrinth path or to move through the labyrinth path without an actual labyrinth there. On a large scale this could be done with a larger robot and the robot (perhaps with a candle on it?) could be followed. This could be done in toward the center and the return out into the world could also be done.

Basic circles of each size would be determined by program as well as basic turns. These would be used in the program for the “instructions” to move through the labyrinth and as subroutines in the program.

This is not only an interesting programming problem, but connects two loves. It is also an artistic application for robotics.

My friend Nikos Giannakopoulos has been developing what he calls the Artist Robot. You can see it on this thread over at the Parallax Forums. He then drew a Fibonacci Spiral. You can see that post here. This led to another thread where we created the Nikos Fibonacci Spiral Challenge. The basic tools and ideas all came together! Connecting Nikos ideas and path calculation tools with my dream of the labyrinth bot yield what follows... Below is an image of one of his posts...

Okay - Here is my attempt at drawing the walking or rolling path of a labyrinth. This is not maze solving, but writing a program to "scribble" the path.

I first found the simplified labyrinth posted above, but noticed that it had a "dead spot" - no path actually went there. So, I modified the drawing. Below is what I am calling a Westminster Labyrinth Modified (again, this is a simplified Chartres Labyrinth).
Below, you will find an image of an Excel Calculator that I modified using Nikos FABULOUS version (see above) as a template. I changed up some his colors to make it consistent with the S2 Program Maker GUI and to add a chart for this particular project. You can find working link to the Excel Calculator and the S2 GUI program at this post on our Fibonacci Challenge thread. Give it a try on your S2. 

Here is a photo of multiple runs (not a blurry photo) used to refine the path and arc lengths. Amazing repeatability with the S2 - you can see each slight tweaking of an arc's length - all this was done using the handy Excel calculator. It has two parts per Nikos' Original - It calculates the time to run any distance in cm with wheel speed set at 100, 100 and it calculates the time to run an arc at a fixed radius in cm and an angle of ω, one wheel is set at 100 - and it also calculates the speed of the other wheel (for the same radius).Then you just enter the values in the Motion Control Tile on the S2's Program Maker Software! Amazing and fun!

Here is my best run so far - It is based on v.3.5. Still not perfect but, pretty darn close!

And here is a video of that same run...

So - more work to do, but this ideas is surely within reach!

Nikos - Thanks so much for developing these tools for drawing with the S2 using only the GUI! This is really fun stuff! I learned a lot playing with Excel too and about creating simple tools to help with the work of making the Labyrinth Bot a reality! 

Update: Nikos created this drawing in Geogebra to detail in a very specific way the angles, arc and radii for the path. I am playing with Geogebra now to learn how to use the great resource.

Geogebra is very different from CAD programs, which I have some experience with. (I was an Architect prior to becoming a priest and still have access to very good CAD programs - but I am very rusty using them and I have not kept up with more recent updates).

Just got an old version of AutoCad with the Architectural Desktop from Dad (a retired architect). Will give that whirl to to help generate a drawing for the Labyrinth itself and the path with full dimensions - and in keeping with the spiritual theme of the Labyrinth Project - it will include all the Angles and Arc-angles (sorry it is bad pun - I know!)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Oscilloscope Instructional Video

This is video #1 of a great set of instructional videos on the use of the Rigol DS1052e Oscilloscope. Posted it here so I could find it more easily. Don't know how many are in the series, (I've found 8 so far) but they all look really good!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Proper Vestments

Every robotics loving priest must have the proper vestments. Look what I got for my birthday!

The long sleeve "T," not the actual vestments...

Click here for more info about the Homebrew Robotics Club!

Wish I had started robotics in 1984.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fibonacci Spiral

Inspired by Nikos "Artist Robot" and the Fibonacci Spiral from this thread on the Parallax Forums,  little brother - the S2 - wanted to get in on the fun. Thanks to Phil Pilgirm's fantastic S2 Object - it really wasn't that hard. I did end up going counter-clock-wise, but that is easy to change too!

Bravo and thanks Nikos for the fun idea!

Spin for the S2 is attached at the thread at this post. Use at will! And have fun!

Check out this side by side comparison...

Friday, May 1, 2015


BB-8 (Ball Bot?) Robot from the new Star Wars - not an actual robot, but a remotely controlled (or tele-operated) device that is "acted" by humans (basically a fully-operational prop) - still amazing technology! With the right brains and programming, it could become more of a functionally autonomous robot.

Great article on how this is accomplished here from The Telegraph. The article includes this drawing!

Also found this informative video...