Autonomous Barbie Rover (Pre-Building)

We’re one week in to our M-term course here at Ross School’s Innovation Lab.
This year’s course title: “PROGRAMMER’S WORKSHOP: Autonomous Systems and Artificial Intelligence“.

Barbie Power Wheels hack

The students have been doing some beginner to intermediate Arduino Programming and explored some of the basic electronic systems and hardware available, but in preparation for ordering parts and building something much bigger we unboxed the Barbie branded Power Wheels Kawasaki KFX with Monster Traction! …. and boy is it pink.
Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 11.34.33 PM

Screen Shot 2014-03-02 at 10.43.55 PMScreen Shot 2014-03-02 at 10.43.14 PM 

The hope is to make this into a completely autonomous GPS enabled rover that can navigate from one end of campus to the another without human interaction. Mechanically it will be an interesting hack and programming it to avoid obstacles by steering around hazards will be the biggest challenge for the students.


One Cubic Foot Connector – with MakerBot Customizer

Purpose and Inspiration:

One Square Foot - CubeIn the Innovation Lab this week we had a request from an M-Term trip to create connectors for a group students going to French Polynesia to study marine and coastal ecologies and their biodiversity.

The trip wanted us to create 3D printed corner connectors for the “One Cubic Foot” cubes they were building out of broken or damaged arrow shafts. This project was inspired by National Geographic’s coverage of David Liittschwager’s work (video)

Customize it!
Since there was a good chance that not everyone has broken arrows laying around I took this as the perfect excuse for me to finally learn the basics of MakerBot’s Customizer tool that allows Thingiverse users to create custom 3D files for printing. Users are able to change the radius of the holes and wall thickness in the model and then save the resulting custom-sized corner piece to be printed.

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 11.20.51 AMThe tool uses the OpenSCAD modeling language which creates the model from a series of commands. Some of the documentation is great but it definitely has a steep learning curve. Perhaps I’ll create a video tutorial if time permits (before I forget it all).

It is still in beta since there are a couple of tweaks to be added but it’s up and functional:

One Cubic Foot Connector

One Cubic Foot Connector

Deer track

Deer track

Completed "Cubic Foot"

Completed “Cubic Foot”

MakerBot Customizer Corner tool

MakerBot Customizer Corner tool


For those interested in David Liittschawager’s book you can find it here: A World in One Cubic Foot: Portraits of Biodiversity