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

Neurosky Mindwave & Arduino Connected

Bluetooth Mindwave connection

Bluetooth Mindwave connection

Following a guide on one of Neurosky’s developer pages, we connected their bluetooth enabled Mindwave Mobile headset (an EEG) to an Arduino that had a bluetooth module connected to it.  Also on the breadboard is a LED bar graph that is setup to display the level of “concentration” for the wearer of the synced headset.

Once the bluetooth connection was made and an appropriate Arduino sketch (code) was uploaded,  the computer was able to also display the headset’s values via the Arduino USB serial monitor. (displayed on the screen here)

It should be fairly to easily modify this code and create “mind control devices” that are connected to the Arduino (ie: a motor). We should also be able to capture data from the EEG for future experiments and areas of study.

Neurosky's Mindwave Mobile bluetooth EEG headset and an Arduino with a bluesmirf module.

Neurosky’s Mindwave Mobile bluetooth EEG headset and an Arduino with a bluesmirf module.








This site has some inspirational ideas and experiments:

Quick Video:

Feeling a bit of little inspiration from this idea for a battery

“Harvard University researchers say they’ve developed a new type of battery that could make it economical to store a couple of days of electricity from wind farms and other sources of power. The new battery, which is described in the journal Nature, is based on an organic molecule—called a quinone—that’s found in plants such as rhubarb and can be cheaply synthesized from crude oil. The molecules could reduce, by two-thirds, the cost of energy storage materials in a type of battery called a flow battery, which is particularly well suited to storing large amounts of energy.”


Un-clogged MakerBot and BlueSmirf prep

A quick test print after filament

A quick test print after filament

Our MakerBot Replicator Dual needed some help. One of the extruders was clogged. It was the type of clog that could only be fixed by partial disassembly. It seems to be pretty happy now but the filament loading sequence seemed to produce an extrusion that periodically sounded like it was slipping. This test print seems to have worked out fine, so we’ll just keep an eye on it.




bluetooth for Arduino

Bluetooth hardware with pins added

A BlueSmirf is a bluetooth modem that can be integrated in to Arduino based systems. I’ve added some pins that I’ve bent to allow the card to be positioned vertically from a breadboard for easy test and hopefully better range. The bent pins will likely work well if we plan to integrate it in to a headband or other wearable project later on.

Scallop 3D Cut Out of Clay – CNC Router

So… I finally got around to trying it out. The scallop that I scanned some time ago and have 3D printed in ABS plastic and CNC carved in wood now has been done in clay. I used a chunk of “bone” dry clay and a two stage router bit series. I’m pretty happy with it for a first go round and still have to trim and fire it.


CNC routed Scallop with a ShopBot

Trimmed the excess before firing.

Trimmed the excess before firing.

This video shows the router on it’s second finishing pass with a finer bit:

This video gives you an idea of how thick the block is/was:

Can You 3D Print a Bike?

During a week when the students were on break, I was thinking about what could be the largest usable item that we could 3D print? There are lots of models of motors, cars, and other junk for download on but I was wondering if we could print a skateboard, a scooter, a bike!

I had all but forgot about the idea until recently when Shad had brought up something similar and then we started to brain storm about it and decided to see if we could at least start with making a scooter.

Here is version 0.2 of a wheel for the scooter. (3D printed in ABS, Fill 15%, Shells 2, Layer height 0.2mm)

scooterwheel v02

Arduino Controlled Piano

Using an older Yamaha Disklavier grand piano that has an outdated floppy disk driven interface, we added a Sparkfun MIDI shield to an Arduino to drive the piano. The laptop is connected to the Arduino in the video only to supply power to the microcontroller.

The video shows a program Dr. Morgan wrote that generates a random but vaguely-musical-sounding melody.

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