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Home Learning

January 29th, 2009
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Or what I have been doing for the last 3 months.

I’ll tell the story with pictures:img_0009

The box behind the little motor is a test tool I made initially to test servos. In the hobby store, these kinds of testers sell for about $100. Not only did this one only cost a grand total of $50, but it does much much more than just a motor tester. Simply hook to USB and reprogram it to do whatever you need it to.

So far, this is what I have programmed into it:

  • LCD Tester
  • Servo Tester – 5 points
  • Servo Tester – continuously variable
  • Voltmeter – 0 to 5 volts
  • LED tester
  • Power Supply


Joule Thief. Excellent little piece. Takes dead batteries and pumps up the voltage to drive a nice and bright white LED. We have it in our bathroom as it makes a great nightlight using our old, would have been thrown out batteries.


Technically my first robot, although he has gone through 3 revisions already. Right now I have a mechanical engineer helping me to produce a commercial grade chassis for it. He currently navigates rooms with basic obstacle avoidance. This last rev added a tilt to the distance sensor so that he may scan in 3D. Future upgrades with the new chassis coming include the ability to mount a WIFI camera and view images seen from his vantage point remotely.

img_0031 img_0043 img_0047 sspx0066

I had received a handy board and decided to push what I could do with it. He is functional, avoids obstacles and races along until he encounters an object at which time he can slam on the brakes. Functional accelerometer meant to check for crash angles. Ultimately the handy board could not provide enough resolution nor processing speed to keep pace with this particular RC frame, so what was learning from him will be applied towards my treaded robot.


This is Meowchi. He made it into a rev 2 and was a functional line follower that was created by hacking another robot platform’s motherboard. It was more of a proof of concept and worked well, but ultimately his motors gave their life to our new electrically controlled blinds in our bedroom.


This is my mini sumo. Although fucntional and works fine, it turns out he’s a little wimpy for competition. (Only because for some reason they won’t let me compete with 10 year olds, even though I am at the beginner level.) I’ll have to either beef him up or tear him apart and rebuild him ala the Six Million Dollar Man. (We have the technology)

WCRS Launches new website

January 18th, 2009
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Our local robotics soceity has relaunched their website, with a fresh new mantra.

The main site will be blog style, based on the popular WordPress software. Forthcoming will also be a Wiki which will allow society members and the public at large to post projects, and even collaborate and share.

I may have had a small hand in facilitating their transition, but it will be the society members that ultimately either make or break the concept.

Time will tell- until then, I’m looking forward to being a part of something less static, and whatever skills and concepts can be brought forward by it.

Stop by and have a look at the new WCRS website!

Merry Christmas!

December 24th, 2008
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‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except my robotic mouse.

The Atmels were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nick, could debug them in pairs.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While versions of “C” code scrolled through their heads.

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Snuggled in bed, downloaded code samples to adapt.

.. That’s as far as I got.

Happy hacking holidays!

One Weekend Only

November 10th, 2008
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Had a blast in Banff this weekend.

Quick recap of the events:

Friday head up to Banff, met Roger Kingkade who was our host on the bus. 2 free beers on the bus.

Check into Hotel, grab some food, head back to catch bus up to Norquay.

Secret Broadcast opened show – great set. Still Selling their CD for $5.

Matt Good – great live show. I highly recommend a small venue and 299 of your closest friends for checking him out. More beers there, met some guy named “Trevor”. Lifelong friend now after an initial wrong identity. Also met some couple who seemed to really enjoy chatting.

Head back and crash at hotel.

Saturday – Bum around Banff at the usual hangouts. Went to Tony Roma’s for a bite to eat.

Went down to Wild Bills about 8pm. Chatted with couple we met from night before, Matt Good impressed with Secret Broadcast and apparently asked them to also open for him down in Medicine Hat. Unconfirmed.

Mobile opened up the evening – again great show. Not everyone showed for some dumb reason so it was maybe 150 of us for Mobile.

Met Jay Osborne, relive horrible Bert Church High School days. Ran into him a couple of times later on in the evening. Friendly guy.

Chris Cornell – Freakin amazing as expected. Band threw out a guitar pick to the audience which I am keeping as a souvenir. Great set including 2 solo acousticals, and an encore featuring a Led Zep cover.

Apparently Chris Cornell almost didn’t happen – something related to divorce. Somewhere during the night someone stole the USB cable for my phone, which is funny because its not a standard cable. I have a MicroSD adapter, so except for hacking my phone, the cable is not at all useful, even less useful if they don’t have an Instinct.

After the show we hung out and got tipsy. Great songs being played in the bar included Public Enemy, Rage Against the Machine, Gorillaz and more. Met Lead Singer to Mobile who apparently loves Western Canadian People. Hope you got your rest man. I would love to check them out if I ever make it to Montreal.

Met Christian Hall, but someone else had him mixed up with Frasier, and 6 degrees of separation only works when there is actually something to connect. Still a cool guy, and again friendly. Can’t say enough great things about the X92.9 crew.

Apparently my Samsung Instict takes incredibly bad low light photos, and the microphone is so sensitive that the videos are oversaturated on the audio end. The phone also stores the videos in a horrible .3g2 format (Playable by Quicktime) so any salvageable audio is lost.

I briefly attempted some cleanup but its no hope. I’m still posting it all, cause I have the website, and I’m going to use it!

Bus Ride Up:

Secret Broadcast:


Matt Good:

mg-sspx0078 mg-sspx0079 mg-sspx0082 mg-sspx0083 mg-sspx0084 mg-sspx0087


m-sspx0095 m-sspx0096 m-sspx0097

Chris Cornell:

cc-sspx0100 cc-sspx0101 cc-sspx0102 cc-sspx0103 cc-sspx0104 cc-sspx0105 cc-sspx0106 cc-sspx0108 cc-sspx0109 cc-sspx0110 cc-sspx0111 cc-sspx0112 cc-sspx0113

More links to check out:

Futuba S3004 Mod

November 5th, 2008
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This is my Strip Down and continous rotation mod to the Futuba S3004. Right now PM Hobby sells these here in Calgary for about $18.

Specs as listed at robotshop:

Specifications :
Single ball bearing on output shaft
Precise tight fit throughout the geartrain
Being standard size and lightweight, it fits many applications.
Three pole motor
Speed: 0.19 sec/60o at 6V
Torque: 4.1 Kg-cm (57oz-in) at 6V
Standard “J”-type connector with ~5″ of wire
Nylon gears

Start by removing the horn, flipping the servo over and removing the bottom 4 screws.

Have a quick look at the gears layout and note locations for later. A snapshot with a digital camera always helps if you have a short memory :) I usually place the gears right above where I am working in the proper order.

Have a look where the output shaft (the one with the bearing) was. You’ll see a shaft sticking through the hole with 2 flat sides. This is the feedback potentiometer. Unlike the S148, this servo’s output gear is completely molded so there is no plate to remove. Instead we must decide on a different plan of attack. If you have the room, you could simply desolder the potentiometer and mount it outside the case for easy trim adjust.

Since I prefer to leave the case looking stock, I’ll cut the potentiometer’s shaft so that it will no longer turn with the output gear. Carefully extract the board to gain access. This is a bit tricky as the potentiometer is soldered last onto the board, and is held into the case with 2 clips molded into the shell.

Once the shaft is snipped, reassemble the board into the shell. It took a bit for me to finess the pot properly back inside.. I had to push it into place from the bottom with a screwdriver so that it would clip back in. I also filed a bit of a slot in it so that I could adjust the trim. Remember to also cut the stop bar on the output shaft.

Quick test with my servo tester – all is good. 90 stops the motor completely, and forward/reverse are both working perfectly. All in All Took about 1/2 hour including taking pictures. I think future mods should take ~ 20 minutes. I also think I can skip removing the board and just cut the potentiometer shaft flush with the casing. will be a touch harder to set the pot, but will drastically cut down mod time.

Quick Build

September 28th, 2008
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More pictures and info to come.. just a teaser of a quick project I’m throwing together this week.

Arduino Temperature Display

August 18th, 2008
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This was more of a proof of concept, a “I can do it” sort of project. I had purchased the LM35 so long ago with plans to use it with a PicMicro.

I had purchased a couple of the Freeduino SB boards from Solarbotics, and found that I liked the quick/rapid prototyping it offers. Its my first experience with the Arduinos, and apart from limited availability of the microcontroller, and an incorrect capacitor on the power supply, I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

I actually desoldered the capacitor out of the circuit to regain full voltage control of the board, and for future ones I’ll also have to desolder the vreg, since I prefer to use a switchmode and I’ll bypass some of the board control with my switch to save battery power.

LM35 is hooked up into Analog 0, and the reference is set to internal, which switches the 5V reference to 1.1V. Measured with my DMM, it was closer to 1.043 and that is so close to the magic 1.024 number that the raw value is closer to the true reading from the LM35.

The LCD is the SLCD162 MeLabs LCD Display, which I also picked up from Solarbotics.

The LM35 is taped to an old northbridge heatsink, which provides a closer “In Air” reading.

I’ll be tearing apart this circuit to use the microcontroller in another project, but at least it will have some memory resting here on the site.


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