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Mini Maker Faire Atlanta - September 10, 2011

Every year, the guys over at MAKE magazine sponsor an event called Maker Faire, where hundreds of people gather to showcase their projects. Naturally, the largest of these Maker Faire events are held in San Fransisco and New York (and a few places in between), but none within driving distance of Birmingham, Al. This year, we get a mini Maker Faire that will enable those of us not able to make it to California to still participate in the fun. I will be there with several of my recent robotics projects, including the Lawnbot400, Seg-bot (a diy segway), a few smaller bots, and hopefully the Battlebot. Hope to see you there!

Check out this page for more information (or click on the picture above):


Git the Ruby and Arduino code.

An interview with James Floyd Kelly

In this video, my friend Josh and I are interviewed by author James Floyd Kelly about a robot platform that we have been working on (the Bluetooth-bot). This robot started out as a simple concept of controlling a small robot from a PC terminal using the keyboard, but ended up with a bit more magic when Josh and some guys from work helped me get it working using an iPhone or Android to send the control signals (using the built-in accelerometer's X/Y axis to determine speed and direction) by tilting the phone front/back and left/right. We discovered that anytime an accelerometer equipped phone visits the web page (running on a local ruby web-server), the signals are immediately available (thanks to HTML5), and we can then send those values to the Arduino controlled robot using the Bluetooth wireless serial connection.

After getting this interface working on 1 bot, it was immediately clear that we needed to build a few more (to maximize the fun factor). So we decided to modify 2 more slightly larger toy R/C car bases by stripping them down and replacing all of the electronics with Arduinos and each a different wireless serial link.

Git the Ruby and Arduino code.

My new book, "Arduino Robotics"

My new book "Arduino Robotics" is finally finished and out for sale. The book is a primer for electronics and robot building and has 10 robotics projects for you to try, complete with pictures, diagrams, schematics, and code examples. What's an Arduino you ask? well, it is a tiny little open-source computer chip that can be easily programmed without being a computer programmer - the chip can be re-programmed thousands of times and there are tons of code examples online for nearly any project that you can think of. I have personally used my Arduino to build anything from a simple home-made clock using alpha-numeric LED's to controlling a home-made segway that I built for my book. If you are at all interested in building your own robot (big or small), you will enjoy reading this book.

I enlisted two fellow Arduino hackers to each write a chapter for the book: Chapter 9 - featuring the GPS controlled Robo-boat was written by a friend from Germany, Harald Molle while Chapter 13 - Alternate-control was written by my long-time friend Josh Adams.

See/buy the book here: Arduino Robotics

The Bluetooth-bot

I recently finished a book that I have been working on for almost a year, titled "Arduino Robotics". I have purchased several robotics books in the past and not regretted any - though I would have appreciated a project to get started on, call it a freebie if you will. I like freebies, and decided to add an "unofficial" Chapter 14 to the internets for everyone to see. The Bluetooth-bot uses a BlueSmirf or BlueMate (bluetooth) serial link to make a wireless connection between your computer and the Arduino. The Arduino is used to control a salvaged thrift-store toy car (with tank steering), to drive forward (i), backwards (k), left (j), or right (l). The idea is to control the robot using your computer keyboard (keys "i", "j", "k", and "l") and send the commands over the bluetooth connection to be decoded by the Arduino.

The serial protocol loaded to the Arduino, looks for the value coming in from the serial terminal of your computer. Each letter on the keyboard represents a different value, so you can essentially map any keys you would like for each different direction command. I made an instructable for the Bluetooth-bot to show how to build it, including the files needed to build the homemade motor-controller (L298).

The Lawnbot400 with an automatic bucket-lift motor.

I found a linear actuator on Ebay that was used to lift a reclining seat on a power-wheelchair. In about 30 minutes, the motor was mounted and lifting. The motor was designed to lift a few-hundred pounds, so it should hold up just fine. It lifts a full bucket of dirt with no problem.

Made the cover of MAKE magazine.

Check it out at make-digital.com (issue 22), Or you can buy it at Barnes and Noble.

The Lawnbot400 with it's new bucket.

I decided to put a proper bucket on the Lawnbot400 since I verified that it would in fact carry that much weight across the yard and still be maneuverable. So I got a few gate hinges and welded them to the front riser (angle-iron with bolts) that I had to add to keep the weight off the lights and mower engine. There is also a height-adjustable rear riser that holds the rear of the bucket. The original plan was of course, to put a linear actuator under the bucket and control it with a toggle-switch on the R/C remote. I found a few places that sold them, this one will give you an idea of what they look like. But I decided to hold out when my Uncle told me he had a linear actuator from an old satellite dish that sounds promising. Anyways, I can lift a full bucket of dirt with one hand, so it doesn't have to be automatic to be useful.

The Lawnbot400 being used to haul dirt across the yard.

The Lawnbot400 as it will be seen in MAKE Magazine.

In late 2009, I submitted the Lawnbot400 as a project for MAKE Magazine. I was surprised when Mark Frauenfelder (the editor-in-chief of MAKE) emailed me back saying they wanted me to write an article for the magazine. So, I painted it and they took some professional photos of it - I thought I would snap a few before it got all dirty again. Look for it in the April issue of MAKE - www.makezine.com.

This is the Isotope11 proto-bot.

Check out some kitty robot videos here.

Notice all the electronics are mounted underneath the plexiglass now. And it is ride-able, for very short trips.

More videos HERE

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Contact me at johndavid400 at gmail dot com

I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me. Phillipians 4:13