Friday, August 28, 2015

Soviet Lunokhod 1 Postage Stamps

Could NOT resist! I do not know who is more to blame - Carol Lynn Hazlett or Eric Ostendorff! I honestly cannot believe you can even find these - much less buy them so inexpensively. I will treasure these! Thanks to the seller!

Nikos' Blog!

My pal Nikos Giannakopoulos​ has a great blog and just did a wonderful review of the Parallax ELEV-8 Quadcopter.

The blog is here - By the way - it is in Greek - just like the New Testament! ;-)

This guy is a wonderful educator and robotics innovator! Check his blog out - you will be impressed.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Lunar Rover

The United States Lunar Rover is documented in this video program. More great stuff!

The section on how they fit the Rover in the allotted space is incredible!  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Another Video of Lunokhod 1 - Луноход I

Best video I have found yet on the Lunokhod1 - Луноход 1 - Great simulations open this video... 

Великие открытия / Вячеслав Довгань, пилот лунохода
Great Discoveries / Vyacheslav Dovgan, Moonwalker Pilot

As you may know from earlier posts Lunokhod (Луноход in Russian) is translated Moonwalker.

This video gives a view of how the space program was followed with pride by folks in the Soviet Union at a time parallel to when I was growing up in the U.S. watching our space program unfold. 

The images literally bring tears to my eyes because of all they communicate about that period of time - the joy of discovery - the respect for ingenuity, science and engineering - and also the underlying fear and suspicion of our adversaries on the other side. AMAZING stuff!

Video of Lunokhod 1 - Луноход I

How is your Russian? Some great images here of Lunokhod 1 - Луноход I - This rabbit hole is deep!

Some other great images...

Monday, August 24, 2015

Infographic on Distances Driven on Other Worlds

In light of the post below, this Distances Driven on Other Worlds (Infographic - shows manned and robotic) from found here - is extremely interesting. Compare the USSR's Lunokhod 1 and Lunokhod 2 with some of our more modern rovers - These Soviet robots posted amazing achievements even by today's standards!

The First Robotic Rover

Thanks to my robotics' friend Carol Lynn Hazlett for pointing me to the fascinating story of the very first robotic rover in space the Lunokhod 1. I had so much fun looking this one up! According to a Wikipedia article here -
Lunokhod 1 (Луноходmoon walker in RussianАппарат 8ЕЛ № 203vehicle 8ЕЛ№203) was the first of two unmannedlunar rovers landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union as part of its Lunokhod program. The Luna 17 spacecraft carried Lunokhod 1 to the Moon in 1970. Lunokhod 1 was the first remote-controlled robot "rover" to freely move across the surface of an astronomical object beyond the Earth. Lunokhod 0 (No.201), the previous and first attempt to do so, launched in February 1969 but failed to reach orbit.
The most interesting thing I found though was the link to the Lunar and Planetary Department at Moscow University  here - It had these great photos.

What a great piece of history! Thanks for the fun chance to learn something new Carol! 

Space rovers are covered at Wikipedia in general here -

Edit - Carol just pointed me to this also (even earlier mission!) -

Mars Rover Curiosity in 'Buckskin' Selfie

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin" on lower Mount Sharp.
The selfie combines several component images taken by Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Aug. 5, 2015, during the 1,065th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars. For scale, the rover's wheels are 20 inches (50 centimeters) in diameter and about 16 inches (40 centimeters) wide. This view is a portion of a larger panorama available at PIA19807.
A close look reveals a small rock stuck onto Curiosity's left middle wheel (on the right in this head-on view). The rock had been seen previously during periodic monitoring of wheel condition about three weeks earlier! 
All of the above came from the JPL site and is here -

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Radio Shack Deals!

One of the nicest Radio Shacks in our area, the one in Ruston, is going to the dark side - meaning it is becoming basically a phone store. Ugh!

They did have some things on sale yesterday and I picked up some bargains. There were many other bargains too. If I had a pile of money, I would have gotten more. This is what I got...

Another multi-meter test lead kit (different than the one posted below) - was $18.49 and I got it for $9.25.

I also got a Parallax Line Follower Kit for the Boe-Bot Robot. This sells for $29.99 at the Parallax Store, but Radio Shack had it on clearance for $18.00. I is great accessory for any of the Boe-Bot Robots. 

These are great deals, but I would trade them for the old Radio Shack!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Thought on Saturday Afternoon

"[B]ecause the value of pure thought, whether analytical or integral, has everywhere been more or less clearly recognized, provision was and still is made by every civilized society for giving thinkers a measure of protection from the ordinary strains and stresses of social life. The hermitage, the monastery, the college, the academy and the research laboratory; the begging bowl, the endowment, patronage and the grant of taxpayers’ money—such are the principal devices that have been used by actives to conserve that rare bird, the religious, philosophical, artistic or scientific contemplative." Aldous Huxley from The Perennial Philosophy

I thank God's people, the Church, for affording me the opportunity to think and pray!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

NPR's Fresh Air on Robotics and AI

How Close Are We Really To A Robot-Run Society? - This was on this evening on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ken Gracey Shows Robothon Spirit!

Ken Gracey of Parallax models his Robothon T Shirt and shows off one of his creations. He posted on facebook, "I had the opportunity to wear my new Robothon 2015 shirt today while we moved around some robots in the Parallax MicrocontrollersandRobo office. This is my hybrid robot, featured a while back in this article"

This is a very interesting Honda Powered Parallax Hybrid Robot. I always loved it. Check out the article...

Monday, August 17, 2015

U. C. Berkeley Robotics

Watch this video...

I love that this is such a short distance from where I went to seminary!

Let's Talk Robots Blog

I found a great robotic's blog tonight authored by Andrew Terranova called Let's Talk Robots. Be sure to check out his videos at the Let's Talk Robots Episodes tab. Fun blog...Looks like it has been a while since he has posted on the blog, but he is up to date on his Google + here.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Robothon 2015 T Shirt

In the mail today from Washington State - home of the Robothon,  Seattle Robotics Society​ and my friend Carol Lynn Hazlett​! Thanks Carol - Wish I could be there!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Disney Research Hub Computational Design of Mechanical Characters

Robotics applications to this sort of research being done by Disney Research Hub are obvious. I think it would be interesting to apply this to the TARS project that my pal erco has been working on. You can see more about that project in some earlier posts.

The YouTube video has the following description:
Link to project page and press release:

We developed an interactive design system that allows non-expert users to create animated mechanical characters. Given an articulated character as input, the user iteratively creates an animation by sketching motion curves indicating how different parts of the character should move. For each motion curve, our framework creates an optimized mechanism that reproduces it as closely as possible. The resulting mechanisms are attached to the character and then connected to each other using gear trains, which are created in a semi-automated fashion. The mechanical assemblies generated with our system can be driven with a single input driver, such as a hand-operated crank or an electric motor, and they can be fabricated using rapid prototyping devices.

We demonstrate the versatility of our approach by designing a wide range of mechanical characters, several of which we manufactured using 3D printing. While our pipeline is designed for characters driven by planar mechanisms, significant parts of it extend directly to non-planar mechanisms, allowing us to create characters with compelling 3D motions.

Micro Test Lead Kit

On sale today at Radio Shack today...


  • (2) Alligator-clip attachments (red, black)
  • (2) Micro-plunger clip attachments (red, black)
  • (2) Breadboard-pin attachments (red,black)
  • (2) Needle-pin attachments (red, black)
  • (2) Pin-socket attachments (red, black)
  • (2) Magnetic-probe attachments (red, black)
  • (1) Battery-current probe attachment
  • (2) Nano-plunger clip attachments (red, black)
  • (1) Carry pouch

  • Thursday, August 13, 2015

    Analog Multi-meter

    How to use an old school analog multi-meter. The demo board in the video is based on a classic Simpson Analog Multi-meter (see the photos below the video). 

    The Classic Simpson 260-8 and its handsome family below...

    One day I will find one of these classic Simpsons for my lab - till then I picked up an inexpensive TekPower 7244L Analog Multi-meter - also shown below. The L is for backlight (a nice little extra). 

    I also found a neat little black canvas case for the meter and test leads at Walmart. Here is a photo.

    My inexpensive Analog Multi-meter, test leads and case.
    And for good measure (yuk, yuk!), one more simple video on all you can do with an inexpensive analog multi-meter.

    A fun addition to the lab and it is good to understand how things work. I, of course, have good and better, modern Digital Multi-meters that find the correct range automatically and display very accurate measurements. 

    Think slide rule versus a digital calculator. ;-) Hey, why not have both?

    Wednesday, August 12, 2015

    From Robot Magazine Online

    From Robot Magazine's website here 

    Borrowing Human Reflexes

    for a Bot

    MIT PhD student Joao Ramos demonstrates a Balance Feedback Interface system on HERMES.
    MIT PhD student Joao Ramos demonstrates the Balance Feedback Interface system on HERMES.
    Researchers at MIT have developed a robotic system that uses a human operator’s innate balancing ability to stop the robot from falling over after an impact. An exoskeleton worn by the human calculates the person’s movements as forces are unexpectedly applied to the robot and human simultaneously. The robot is programmed to mimic the human’s movements as he balances after each impact. Joao says the system works faster than traditional balancing systems, which rely on visual cues.
    “The processing of images is typically very slow, so a robot has difficulty reacting in time,” says Joao Ramos, a PhD student at MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “Instead, we’d like to use the human’s natural reflexes and coordination. An example is walking, which is just a process of falling and catching yourself. That’s something that feels effortless to us, but it’s challenging to program into a robot to do it both dynamically and efficiently. We want to explore how humans can take over complex actions for the robot.”
    The robot, called HERMES, was funded in part by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It’s intended to one day be deployed to dangerous disaster sites, where it could be safely guided by a remote human operator.
    “We’d eventually have someone wearing a full-body suit and goggles, so he can feel and see everything the robot does, and vice versa,” Ramos says. “We plan to have the robot walk as a quadruped, then stand up on two feet to do difficult manipulation tasks such as open a door or clear an obstacle.”
    In one experiment, the robot’s torso was hit with a hammer. Ramos stood on a special platform that applied forces to mimic the strikes to the bot. As he reflexively shifted his weight to balance, so did the bot. In other tests, Ramos mimed actions, such as punching through drywall. As Ramos moved, so did the robot. Mimicking punching through drywall, for example, caused the platform to push forward on Ramos to simulate the force of the drywall pushing back on the robot. Ramos rocked back on his heels to balance, and the bot followed suit.
    “We don’t quite understand how humans master such gracious dynamic movements,” Kim says. “This research might provide us an opportunity to learn about how we balance during such complex manipulation tasks.”
    paper on the interface will be presented at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in September.

    Friday, August 7, 2015

    Circuit Maker - Cheap at Target!

    The Circuit Maker Skill Builder 125 was on clearance at Target - was $30.89 reduced to $9.26! 125 snap together projects - great deal!
    Edit - This unit is made by Elenco - product page is here. You can download the manual here

    Tuesday, August 4, 2015


    rethink robotics blog

    Cool blog with some high powered authors...

    More About HitchBot

    Regarding this previous post about HitchBot here - saw this from a friend on Facebook...

    New book on my reading want list - SUBLIME DREAMS OF LIVING MACHINES by Minsoo Kang, Kang is Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and a Robotic's Historian.

    This is the description from
    Kang’s central contention is that the automaton, a machine that can move by itself (better known today as the robot), is one of the essential ideas with which people in the West have pondered the very nature of humanity itself. In Kang’s telling, automata are mirrors of the ideas, fears, and anxieties of a given era, in that attitudes towards the machines have always been indicative of a moment’s zeitgeist. The book is historically sweeping, but not comprehensive; the focus is on what Kang takes to be key changes in the representations of and responses to automata. His main interest is on how Europeans in different periods of the past thought about the very notion of a self-moving machine that acted as if it were alive and how they used it for various symbolic and intellectual purposes.
    The book is available on Amazon for $43.50 at this link.

    Lego Learning

    Nothing like playing to learn serious ideas! A roboticist could learn lots here...

    Thanks to erco for posting this on the Parallax Forums.

    "T" Time

    The red sea robotic© long sleeve T shirts are here. CustomInk did a fantastic job! They look great and will be mailed to soon to friends around the country, Destinations include Louisiana, Louisiana Tech's Engineering Department, Torrance in Southern California, Rocklin, in Northern California (Home of Parallax) and Washington State.



    A sticker with every shirt...

    Monday, August 3, 2015

    Spare Parts

    Added Spare Parts to my robotic movie collection tonight. Watching it now...

    Sunday, August 2, 2015

    Saturday, August 1, 2015

    Analog Clock

    Neat Analog Clock project my friend Jon sent me a link to - Find in here on imgur - Just needs some Parallax smarts IMHO. Thanks Jon!

    The Builder of this unit says the following about the Prototype - Left unit is the Ard**no micro for translating time to current PWM values. Right unit is a real-time-clock unit powered by a button cell battery so I don't have the set the clock every time it loses power." Like I said above, I would use a Parallax Propeller or BASIC Stamp 2 - my micro-controllers of choice!

    The builder also says, "These aren't the original dials, obviously. The original ones were for displaying current in microamps. I scanned the original dial and then photoshopped these time-appropriate ones."