General

snowbotAfter finding out that mowing a lawn in a rectangular pattern is quite difficult, I decided to spend some time perfecting our use of rotary encoders and the Piksi GPS by building a small robot that could plow the snow for me each winter.  A driveway offers a smooth, rectangular area to traverse, which should be fairly simple for a robot.  To start, I decided to construct a remote controlled snow plow with a first person view (FPV) camera.  Eventually, I will add the GPS and self-driving capability.  This robot was a blast to drive, especially sitting inside where it was warm while it was cold and snowing outside! Continue Reading

stickman-photoOur local high school has a drum line that provides the community with an outstanding indoor performance each year.  Yes, you read that correctly.  An indoor performance.  As in, one million decibels of drumming in a closed auditorium.  Well, it is actually a full band concert, but the drum line steals the show.  It’s a blast, and I was asked to come up with some unique lighting for the drummers this year. Continue Reading

meters

This project was one of the more enjoyable projects that I’ve worked on in a long time.  Instead of taking the easy way out and displaying the current weather conditions on a web site or cell phone, this project focused on simplicity.  Minimal information, displayed in a visually appealing non-screen format.  This project makes use of several d’Arsonval meters and a Particle Core microcontroller to view the current weather and forecast at a glance. Continue Reading

mowbot2

Our first generation robotic lawn mower wasn’t the complete success that we hoped it would be.  It started off simple enough, as a remote controlled lawn mower, using a hobby RC controller and some used wheelchair motors.  With some simple steel framing, the lawn mower was durable, easy to drive, and worked surprisingly well for a remote controlled mower.  Well, it was a little hard to steer in a straight line.  That’s why I added a GPS.  However, when I attempted to add the GPS and inertial guidance functionality to see if it would operate autonomously, it failed miserably.  Although it would navigate to preset waypoints, it would only find one waypoint on the North side of lawn, and one waypoint on the South side.  Obviously, this wouldn’t be sufficient to operate as an autonomous lawn mower.  The goal here was not a random pattern, but a parallel path mowed lawn. Continue Reading

IMG_0807After setting up the Probotix Fireball V90 CNC machine, and using it to cut out a number of pieces for various projects, I decided I wanted a better way to control the router’s spindle speed.  Although the Bosch Colt router that I was using had a speed dial, it was impractical to adjust it as I was cutting a project, and impossible to tell what speed it was actually running at.  A setting of “7” on a 1-10 dial means nothing in terms of actual spindle RPM. Continue Reading

finished mowbotWe were only about one month into the 2013 lawn mowing season when we decided that we had had enough.  Mowing the lawn wasn’t fun.  It’s hot, dirty, smelly work that is better left to someone, or something else.  We decided right then and there that we needed to make a robotic lawn mower.  One that could be controlled by remote control, or if we were adventurous enough, one that was fully autonomous.

We had only one requirement for this project.  The robotic lawn mower would need to mow in a pattern similar to how a human would mow – with straight lines.  A lawn mower that operated like a Roomba in a crazy, random pattern was not going to work.  We planned to start with an existing lawn mower, modify it for remote control, and then eventually include an inertial guidance system and microprocessor to allow it to mow on its own. Continue Reading