Progress Update – Day 29

2.19.2009 (Thursday) – Day 29 –

We got an update from Tom on our Robotic Labyrinth Base, he said we’re on track for assembly next week. Ax0n said he has a Linux appliance assembled now too. Jestin is still planning on taking his WiiFit apart to see how to supply external power and a reset line. Rich is working on the actuators and motors for our motion.

The game platform design is coming along but we still don’t have the materials yet. The foam core materials are going to cost around $500 and the aluminum will cost somewhere around $700. We are looking for donations so we can get these items.

We are working on some fund raising ideas. John is working on some ideas for t-shirts slogans and graphics.

Read on, check out: Day[30] = 2.20.2009
Yesterday, check out: Day[28] = 2.20.2009
Or start from the beginning: Day[0] = 1.21.2009

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Chasing My Tail – Day 28

2.18.2009 (Wednesday) – Day 28 –

Local Social Media Sites

Local Social Media Sites

Trying to get design and development work done on the Robotic Laybrinth for Science City is tough enough without getting posts up to date. It seems to be a never ending challenge. If you miss a day then two of a daily progress report it seems to take forever to get everything caught back up. One of the items on my to-do list today is get some posts about this project in more public sites. Today I have added information to the Social Media Club of Kansas City (SMCKC), the Kansas City Online Community, and on the Cowtown Computer Congress (CCCKC) web sites.

Kansas City Woodworkers Guild

I was looking at variable speed controllers at Harbor Freight a few weeks ago and before leaving the parking lot I noticed a store across the lot called Metro Hardwoods. I almost left without checking closer thinking it was probably  one of those places that sell unfinished furniture. To my surprise it is a business that sells fine hardwoods at reasonable prices.

While there, the owner told me about the Kansas City Woodworker’s Guild. I’m curious about the organization and how they support their workspace for members. From time to time I need to work with wood on projects too. One project I’m wanting to continue with is building wooden patterns for casting aluminum parts. I have plans from Lindsay’s Technical Books to build one of the Gingerly Metalworking Lathes.

Read on, check out: Day[29] = 2.19.2009
Yesterday, check out: Day[27] = 2.17.2009
Or start from the beginning: Day[0] = 1.21.2009

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Sandwich Structures Before Lunch – Day 27

2.17.2009 (Tuesday) – Day 27 –

Linda Hall Library - Kansas City, MO

Linda Hall Library - Kansas City, MO

Return to Linda Hall

Still searching for more information supporting our Robotic Labyrinth Game project for Science City. Armed with a the new search term, “Sandwich Laminate”, I’m getting the results I wanted. Linda Hall Library’s LEONARDO  shows an interesting book so I returned this morning to check out “The Behavior of Sandwich Structures of Isotropic and Composite Materials”.

Materials are considered Isotropic when they are independent of direction. Aluminum is an isotropic material while carbon fiber is an ansiotropic material depending on the weave in it’s fabric it can exhibit a difference between longitudinal versus transverse stress and strain.

Linda Hall Library Inside

Linda Hall Library Inside

Bob Thurn wanted to meet up at Linda Hall to look for some research materials on another project he’s working on. While there he made an interesting observation. With the exception of the staff, at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning we seemed to have the library to ourselves. When you have all of these increadible resources, why isn’t this place filled with people? He said, “they should be charging a thousand dollars a head just to get in the door”. This is a great resource and is my favorite library, I used to come here over 20 years ago researching information on computer graphics.

OpenCV Study Group

Our new night for the OpenCV Study Group drew a smaller group tonight. Some had a conflict with the local Linux user group meeting tonight too. One good thing about the study group concept is to set aside time to focus on this topic instead of everything else I have going on right now. I did make some progress tonight. I passed along a tip I’m using to troll for OpenCV and Arduino information on Twitter. I’ve started using TweetDeck’s search function for the keywords “OpenCV” and another search for “Arduino”. This works pretty well.

Read on, check out: Day[28] = 2.17.2009
Yesterday, check out: Day[26] = 2.16.2009
Or start from the beginning: Day[0] = 1.21.2009

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Searching LEONARDO At Linda Hall – Day 26

2.16.2009 (Monday) – Day 26 –

Searching Linda Hall Library Online

Searching Linda Hall Library Online

It is amazing how much information I can find by searching the Internet. As I mentioned yesterday some topics are harder to find. When I need to find some kind of scientific or engineering related technical information, I turn to the Linda Hall Library’s LEONARDO Catalog. My Internet research provided me with a couple of titles to interesting books, “Mechanics of Composite Materials” and “Composites Engineering Handbook”.

Linda Hall Library - Composites Engineering

Linda Hall Library - Composites Engineering

The Linda Hall Library is the top library in the country if not the world for Science, Engineering and Technology Information. My search with LEONARDO paid off and both books were checked in and on the shelf. Luckily, the library is only a few miles away surrounded by the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC) campus. The Linda Hall Library is not part of UMKC but has a special relationship there.

I didn’t have very much time today to look throught the books. The titles I searched for had some interesting information but still wasn’t quite what I wanted. The “Composites Engineering Handbook” did provide some helpful information, a new search term, “Sandwich Laminates”.

I did end up checking out a book titled “Plastics And Resin Compositions”. There is information in this book about paper impregnated with phenolic resin. Our labyrinth platform needs holes for the soccer ball to fall through and our original intent is to use concrete column forms to close out these holes. The forms are made of approximately 1/8″ cardboard. Bob has been talking about soaking the cardboard in a phenolic resin or other similar mixtures. I think we still need some way of fabricating a collar around both ends of the concrete form.

Read on, check out: Day[27] = 2.17.2009
Yesterday, check out: Day[25] = 2.15.2009
Or start from the beginning: Day[0] = 1.21.2009

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Game Platform Considerations – Day 25

2.15.2009 (Sunday) – Day 25 –

When we decided to build Science City’s 10′ by 12′ Robotic Labyrinth using a center pivot point it became obvious that we needed a game table that could remain rigid across the surface and still be light weight. That Balancing Act was described previously by using an aluminum skinned composite with an extruded polystyrene foam core.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been searching for information about aluminum composite panels and other variations of this general search criteria. Most of the hits seem to be related to insulated building panels with wooden skins while others discuss composite materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass materials.

Finally I came across the Bluebird Electric Bodywork web page that offered some clues into the relationships within their composite design. Of particular interest is the effect the thickness of materials have on stiffness. The site provides some interesting general engineering information about the design and core material types but it left me wanting to find more proof of the claims.

The Aluminum Panels

The desired size of our game platform halves are 6 foot by 10 foot panels designed to fit through doorways. We can easily order 4 foot by 10 foot sheets of aluminum which leaves us with a seam formed by a 2 foot by 10 foot section. Welding aluminum without seriously warping and distorting the sheet is beyond my current skill level. This is a big reason we are pursuing the 3M Aerospace Adhesive engineers to find their best adhesive for the job. The product they suggest is Scotch-Weld Epoxy Adhesive 2216 in the Gray compound.

A couple of years ago I stopped in a West Marine store in Miami and found their book section. I like books about building things and found the book titled “Aluminum Boat Building” by Ernest Sims which I bought. I pulled that book out tonight and noticed Appendix 2 is about adhesives for marine applications. It was Appendix 1 that really caught my attention. That section is about a relatively new process called Friction Stir Welding (FSW) developed in the UK by “The Welding Institute”. This process uses heat generated by a rotating tool which only heats the aluminum up to a plasticized state staying below the melting point. I don’t know of any companies in the Kansas City area yet that offer this process. I did some searching on the Internet and found the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla is doing research on this process.

Read on, check out: Day[26] = 2.16.2009
Yesterday, check out: Day[24] = 2.14.2009
Or start from the beginning: Day[0] = 1.21.2009

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Build A Minty Boost For Your Sweetheart – Day 24

2.14.2009 (Saturday) – Day 24 –

Minty Boost Workshop

Minty Boost Workshop. (photo courtesy Tom Collins)

Tom has been working on getting our Robotic Labyrinth base designed and built through the Sheet Metal Labor Union training facility. Today he took the day off and brought his daughter in for my soldering workshop at the HMS Beagle Science Store. Since it’s Valentines Day the store wanted to offer a session to build a Minty Boost for your sweetheart.

Soldering the Minty Boost kits.

Soldering the Minty Boost kits. (photos courtesy Tom Collins)

I enjoy teaching these workshops particularly when we have kids wanting to learn about building things and electronics soldering is a great skill to have. Often the participants in these workshops have never soldered anything electronic before. The Minty Boost kit is an ideal first time project because its easy to build and the supporting documentation on the LadyAda web site is fantastic. This site contains all kinds of information about the tools you need and tutorials on soldering. The step by step instructions are easy enough to build one on your own. Most electronic kits end about there with some DIY instructions but LadyAda takes this experience much further.

One of the best things about the Minty Boost support site is the level of detail she reveals about the process of designing these kits. Anyone who is interested in becoming an engineer should examine what decisions were involved as she designed this product. You can even download the design files for the electronic printed circuit board schematics and layout in EagleCAD format.

Minty Boost finished and working.

Minty Boost finished and working. (photos courtesy Tom Collins)

The whole process of building the Minty Boost is well designed. I do, however, make one change to the assembly of the case. Instead of cutting the Altoids Tin as she describes I use a different approach. I like to bring some of my tools in from workshops where we build robots from scratch and the drill press is one of my favorite tools. Often, this has been the first exposure to using a drill press for kids and adults both. I feel that fabrication is an important part of learning to build robots.

Altoids Tin Modification

Altoids Tin Modification

For my Altoids tins I like to mark a line just below the lid with the tin closed. That marks the upper limit of the slit for the USB connector to stick through. I like to drill holes to form the ends of the slit. If you measure the height of the USB connector it is around 1/4″ so a corresponding (or slightly larger) drill bit will be used. Be sure to mark the center where each drilled hole will be. Once marked, use a center punch (not shown) to put a dimple where the drill bit will go to keep it from wandering around as you try drilling the hole. After the two holes are drilled I use the small snippers to cut between the holes forming the slit. This method leaves the upper lip of the Altoids tin intact without any sharp edges inside.

Read on, check out: Day[25] = 2.15.2009
Yesterday, check out: Day[23] = 2.13.2009
Or start from the beginning: Day[0] = 1.21.2009

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Making It To The Party – Day 23

2.13.2009 (Friday) –  Day 23  –

The Party Game That Rocks…

HackDC Party

HackDC Party

Our original wooden labyrinth spent last weekend in Washington DC with Bill (@hevnsnt). The HackDC group threw a party and Bill picked a prime location for this party game. Bill posted more pictures on his flickr account.

Behind the scenes…

Reports were all great from the SchmooCon and HackDC party where everyone seemed to love the labywiinth party game. The behind the scenes activities leading up to the party reveal some hectic challenges to get everything working.

The decision to take it to DC was made just a couple of days before Bill flew out. He was going to operate the game from his own computer and we didn’t have time to test anything out before he left. As usual, demo mode kicked into effect and things weren’t working. Jestin has an interesting chronicle of events on his web site titled Remote Robot Debugging.

Bill said he put the labyrinth in a protective box buried deep in his checked luggage. I though he should take the game as carry on instead. It would have been interesting hearing his explaination to TSA about this device with a timer thingy, motors, and wires hanging off.

Read on, check out: Day[24] = 2.14.2009
Yesterday, check out: Day[22] = 2.12.2009
Or start from the beginning: Day[0] = 1.21.2009

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