Curiosity EDL Party at Bucketworks this Sunday

Blow off your Monday and come watch the edge-of-your-seat landing of the Mars Curiosity rover! Help us celebrate its successful landing or weep inconsolably with us if it splatters all over the Martian surface! We’ll get together, talk a little about some of the ways we’ve seen both success and failure in Mars exploration in an effort to provide context, and then settle down to watch NASA TV report on the telemetry stream that will indicate success or failure.

If you don’t know, the EDL cycle for the Curiosity rover is insane. Landing this rover will be an amazing accomplishment. Check this video:

Register for this free party here:  Ya, its pretty late, but you didn’t want to face Monday Aug 6th anyway did you?

I’m sure there will be a hangout as well. Check back here updates on that.

IMU Sensor Fusion Research looks like a neat and approachable IMU project/research. It has code and was designed around in-expensive and readily available components. In the video Seb demonstrates impressive response with this components.

I keep wanting to complete my RoboMagellan robot, but other projects keep getting in the way. This intesting bit of research may help me get this bot back on track.

2D Laser Range Finder

Ever since I read Ken Maxon's article: 'A Real-time Laser Range Finding Vision System', I've wanted to experiment with a similar system. This past Sunday afternoon, I finally got around to it. I don't have any CLPD chops, so I used a regular computer. Above you can see my initial rough results. The line laser registers lower in the image field for the block than for the background. The software properly converted that lower registration to a distance of about 26.5 inches.

BCMKE4 Arduino Programming session a success!

It took two three hour sessions, but I got five or six people on the ground and running with Arduino. Another fellow already knew what he was doing and was just there for giggles and one more fell prey to a missing package dependancy and an overburdened 'net link.

We started with a very basic blinky light, moved into switches, a CdS photosensor, servos and finally we rocked some LCD screens

Next time I'll have some 2-D animation to better demonstrate the voltage/water pressure analogy and also have paper overlays for the breadboards just to get folks that final assurance of a proper connection.

John December took some great photos of the session:

One student coding for his LCD screen.

Students hard at work.

Students hard at work from a different angle!

See you at BCMKE5!

Arduino Programming

UPDATE: This class has already been held and is over, but look for more classes in the future!


I (Royce Pipkins) will lead a session on programming the Arduino microcontroller and interfacing it to a variety of outside devices.

Home Automation, Automotive Interfacing, Animatronics, Electronic Art, Hobby Robotics. At the heart of many of these sorts of technologies (and many more besides) is the diminutive yet powerful microcontroller. A microcontroller is a tiny computer system on a single chip that opens a vast world possibilities for those initiated in the art and science of microcontroller programming.

The Arduino is a very low power system-on-a-chip computer and code library that has made it easy for folks the world over to create their own automated electronic projects.

With heavy promotion from publisher O'Reilly's Make Magazine, the Arduino has gathered a large and loyal following. Besides easing the technical barrier to entry into the microcontroller world, Arduino derives a great deal of power just from its large and helpful community of experimenters.

Arduino Programming will be a 2-3 hr workshop where interested folks will get a helping hand into the world of Arduino programming and interfacing.

In the workshop you'll get an overview of programming with the Arduino library as well as an introduction on how to interface the Arduino to a number of common devices such as LEDs and Servos. You won't be an Arduino master at the end of the class, but you will have a good basic foundation upon which you can build your skill set.

It is assumed that most in the BarCamp crowd will have at least some programming experience, so the principles of programming will not be covered in any great depth. The software portion will focus on using the IDE and using the Arduino hardware interfacing libraries. 

Folks that particpate will get a Sintra cutout of the MilwaukeeBarCamp4 robot that they can optionally animate with their Arduino and associated hardware.

The course will be held at BarcampMilwaukee4. (Saturday is my goal)  In order to take the course you will need to bring a laptop or portable computer (Mac, Linux or Windows) with an available USB port. Please install the Arduino Software on your computer prior to the workshop to maximize the amount of learning versus installing.

Although most things at BarCamp are free, I was not able to get all the the hardware you'll need to participate in the workshop sponsored. As such I must ask that partipants purchase:

Item Link
Arduino Duemilanove USB Board (328) DEV-00666
Breadboard PRT-07916
LCD Display (random size) Donated by Midwest Computer Recyclers
Misc Hardware (Resistors, LEDs, etc) Donated by Midwest Computer Recyclers
Analog Micro Servo ROB-09065
CdS Cell SEN-09088
Batteries <Bring Qty:2, 9V batteries>

The hardware will be given to you on location at the time of the workshop. If you miss the session for any reason contact me, , to pick up your hardware at a later time.

Ordering is now closed to allow time for regular shipping. Additional orders will now require expensive shipping to get the hardware here by BarCamp time. If you still really, really want to particpate, get the stuff directly from Sparkfun. I've put the SKU numbers and links to the products in the table.  Don't forget to email me so that I can get you the donated parts as well!


So today I discovered two things: I have a transistor in backwards on Uno-version-Dos' drive board and I am out of de-soldering braid. :(

Uno Sensor Board Update

I worked on my sensor board again tonight. I got the sensor portion, as opposed to the led driver portion, working. I had to do a bit more board repair. Apparently, when I swapped the incorrectly routed op-amp outputs and power lines, I damaged a via and disconnected the forward looking opamp from the MCU. I wound up drilling out a couple vias to fix it.

Rapid PCB Etching with a Sponge

hack-a-day picked this up from instructables who picked it up from Pulsar. Its a story about etching VERY rapidly, in about 60 seconds, by using a tiny amount of Ferric Chloride and a sponge. I am pretty excited for this technique and will try it very shortly. I found a second error on my LED emitter board so its over-due for a re-etch. Once I've tried it I'll report back here. If you've already tried it, leave a comment and let me know if the technique lives up to it amazing promises.

Uno V Dos Sensor Board Progress

So tonight I finally got back around to working on Uno V. Dos. The part I really wanted to get working was the multiplexer driver. The idea behind the multiplexer circuit is that the

Voice Changer

I found a voice changer I will also be integrating into the robot. I will add switches to the outside of car later to control this board.