Saturday, January 29, 2011

Four Lego Flexpicker Project (Work In Progress)

Here is some really terrible quality video of my current project, Four Flexpickers.  I wanted to take some video and share this now because I am getting ready to partially take it apart to do some upgrades to get ready for Brickworld Chicago this year.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dinosaur Robot

I'm with the kid crying in the video, this thing could be pretty scary

What's cool about this robot is that the video is from 2006, so there is bound to be better versions out there now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Necktie Machine-Why Knot?

The machine name answers the question "Why build a machine that ties neckties?"

Wooden GBC

Seems that the Great Ball Contraption concept can be done in other mediums as well..

Read more on Hackaday

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Brick Thief

In case you haven't seen it, the latest video from

Fun With The Pythagorean Theorem

A few months ago I had a post about “You Should Get More of These” and I was talking about hinges. They let you build right triangles as shown in the picture below.

On my robot I am building now I need to make some cross braces and diagonal braces work best. I started tinkering around with the Pythagorean Theorem a bit to find a brace that would fit. I was hoping to find a brace length that would be close and if I had to “stretch” the braces a bit, I was fine with it. I created a large Excel spreadsheet using all the “A” and “B” lengths up to 50 and calculated the “C” length. I was surprised to learn that there are tons of right triangle combinations where the “C” length comes out to a whole number.

And of course you can use multiples of the numbers above such as a 6-8-10 triangle or a 10-24-26 triangle.  These numbers allow you to use even numbers when selecting a brace.  This is a piece of information that I will keep handy in the future.

OK, maybe it wasn’t THAT much fun.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ohio Stadium in Lego

Anybody who knows me personally knows that I have two passions; Lego and The Ohio State University, where I got my degree in Mechanical Engineering.  I have been an avid fan of both for over twenty years.  In fact, as a wedding gift my wife donated a chunk of change to the university in my name and in return they placed a brick with my name on it just outside this stadium.  It is located just about where the shadow of his head falls outside the wall.

So this professor who shares my two passions took to an incredible feat.  He created Ohio Stadium where my beloved Buckeye (American) football team plays on Saturdays in the fall with a million plus bricks.  I think I'm going to cry.

Go Bucks!

I found this all over the place, but here is a link to the Gizmodo article.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

EXTREME Automation

Man, is this right out of a Sci-Fi flick or what?

The Lift In Autostadt

Here's the robot I built to keep my all my vehicles.  ;)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quad Flexpicker

I finally took some pictures of my current project.  Please don't be too critical of my workspace.  I am far from finished and I just took pictures as is; I didn't clean at all. The frame is about 84 inches (214 cm) long, 26 inches (66 cm) tall, and 19 inches (48 cm) wide.  I am guessing that the system should be able to pick at least thirty bricks a minute.

Here are some of my successes so far:
- PID control of the conveyor.  This is so each robot can "time" the brick and know when to pick it up.
- Improved motor control.  I set a goal speed for the whole robot, but each arm moves a different speed.  I have automatically adjusted each motor speed so all the motors will arrive at their target at the same time.  This makes the robot shake less and makes the motion much more fluid.
- Straight Line moves.  I take point A and point B in the movements, calculate all the points in between on a straight line and make the robot end effector move on that line.
- Complex geometry-SOLVED.  Special thanks to mzavatsky on the Trossen Robotics site.
- Light communication.  The conveyor sends a binary light message to the 4 robots identifying time to pick and what color the brick will be.

So here are some pictures....

Air compressor, tanks, pumps, gage, and pressure switch

Robots 1 thru 3 and the spaghetti (cords and tubes)

Robot 4, close-up.

Robots 3 and 4 from below, and one of the conveyors.

And finally, the whole brick pickin' thing..
(notice the empty 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke and the Twizzler wrapper!)

I still have a lot of work to do on it, so don't expect a video any time soon.  Right now it all works well, I just need to fine tune some stuff.  I just got about 10 feet of bulldozer treads for another conveyor as well as a Mindsensors Pressure Sensor to control the air compressor.

And by the way, this is a conversation I had with my wife yesterday.

Me:  So, I think I want to take the robot to Brickworld
Wife:  I was looking at the website and it looks really cool.
Me: I know
Wife:  But I noticed that the theme this year was "FIVE" and your robot only has......

I would love to stay and talk, but I only have five months to get ready for Brickworld!!!

NASA Curiosity

I just love that name, it is so fitting..

NASA is starting to release information about how the next Mars mission will happen.  Here's a video showing how the new rover will land and navigate on the surface of Mars.  So cool.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Automation. Lots and Lots of Automation

Here's five minutes of video just showing lots of robots and automation.  Sort of a video for those of us with short attention spans....

Monday, January 17, 2011

Epic Marble Run

The person who posted this on YouTube states that he and three kids built this.  I want to know how he kept their attention for so long?  Nice job, and truly epic.

Articulated Robotic Arm

Here's a really good scratch build articulated robotic arm.

See more on Let's Make Robots

Friday, January 14, 2011

The C Book

I'm a self-taught programmer.  I've used QBasic, Matlab, NQC, AutoLISP, Visual Basic and some others.  I have nearly always been able to find good resources when learning, but unfortunately RobotC documentation isn't really always what it should be.  When I was learning RobotC, I not only had to learn the code and syntax related NXT functions, but the code for C which I had no experience with at all.  RobotC gives you very little of that and the little that they do give you is in the sample programs so you have to reverse engineer the code with trial and error a lot of times.  I went to the bookstore and found a really good book, but I was shocked when I saw the price tag over $60.

Recently I did a search and I found a really good resource for common C code.  It's actually a book that was published in 1991.  The best part about it is that it is free and completely online.  They have done this because the book is no longer in print, and frankly it is outdated, but much of the code is still relevant.  On this site you can download a PDF file of the book as well, but personally I just keep a link to the webpage handy.

Here is an excerpt from the Table of Contents page
This is the online version of The C Book, second edition by Mike Banahan, Declan Brady and Mark Doran, originally published by Addison Wesley in 1991. This version is made freely available.

While this book is no longer in print, its content is still very relevant today. The C language is still popular, particularly for open source software and embedded programming. We hope this book will be useful, or at least interesting, to people who use C.
Here is a link to The C Book.

New Ideas With Old Media

I have to snicker a little because I found two videos on that show robots handling out of date media storage types being handled by Lego Mindstorms.  Then I thought...My kids will never know these two things, unless they read about it in a history book or go through some of dads old stuff.

But the robots are pretty awesome..

QuadRotors.... there anything that these things CAN'T do????

Read more on BotJunkie

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Ya, I know I already posted this video, but with the amount of snow that the US has been getting lately, it just seems right to post it again...

I wonder if it can hand lake effect amounts of snow????

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Robot Delta-Killough autónomo

I love this for the shear complexity.  I will give him a break on the accuracy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wow, It's Slow!

Not much cool robotics stuff showing up in the last week.  Hopefully that means that you are all building away with your new presents that you got for the holidays!  I know I have been building lots lately.

I have been keeping my eyes on what is coming out of the CES (Consumer Electronics Show), but there really isn't a lot on that front either.

I am still working on the Quad-Flexpicker.  Things are going great and I am learning a lot.  I got the Mindsensors NXTcam and I am trying to incorporate that.  I am also teaching myself PID programming, which is a whole task in itself.  I studied PID controllers in college, but that was back last century, and it was exclusively the in the theoretical realm and I NEVER imagined that I would use that knowledge again, much less use it in my hobby in my spare time.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wooden Robotic Arm

I love this project for three reasons.  As a Mechanical Engineer, I see this as a masterpiece.  As a woodworker, I can fully respect the work that it took to make this arm, and as a guy who really loves articulated robotic (mechanical) arms, this is simply the tops.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Full Scale 8275 Bulldozer!

Someone thought that having a remote control bulldozer like 8275 was a good idea, so they made a full scale version!  Cool!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

3D LED Cube

It's not robotic in nature, but there surely is some programming involved.  Here's cube shaped array of LEDs programmed to do some really cool stuff.

found on