spacer Welcome to my Workshop

This is my vivarium where I create, nurture and house my creations. You are invited to browse and enjoy. But watch your fingers. No telling who might have evolved teeth overnight.

I've started a new diary for a long-term project I'm working on. The March Break 2012 challenge has become the Fitzy and Carraldo project. I'm trying to develop a more sophisticated robot on which to build some 'artificial life' experiments. We aim high so as not to shoot ourselves in the foot. :-)

Programming Löve and Lua - Asteroids

Asteroids game in Love/LuaA few months ago my 12 year old niece asked my if I could help her learn how to program. An interesting question. I've been programming for more than 30 years so the answer should be yes. But what to teach her? After much searching I stumbled across Löve 2D which is an engine that can be scripted using Lua. With it I develop an Asteroids game and some tutorials.

Feeding Fitzy - Variable Buck Regulator - Project Update - April 9 , 2013

SPI debuggingProjects seem to be composed of a series of loosly related tangents that eventually culminate in the thing you're trying to build. In this project update I take some time to build a buck regulator to convert my ~10.8V battery supply to the 6V Fitzy likes to eat. I managed to destroy two commercial units so thought this was a sign to learn how to build my own.

Wireless USB dongle for PC - Project Update - March 17 , 2013

SPI debuggingThe mRF24J40MA wireless USB dongle is done. Fitzy and Carraldo got wireless transceivers so they can communicate with each other. Now my PC can join in their conversations.The wireless has already proven invaluable as I troubleshoot elements of the robot design. My next project is a wireless remote station that you'll be able to control wirelessly from your PC.

The Fitzy and Carraldo Project Update - February 14 , 2013

SPI debuggingFitzy and Carraldo just got wireless transceivers so they can communicate with each other. In the next installment, I'll be bundling up the wireless code into a USB dongle so my PC can join the fun. I'll be sharing this design and code as soon as it's done.


The Fitzy and Carraldo Project (updated Apr. 9, 2013)

March Break RobotFitzy and Carraldo are twin robots. While robots with similar physical attributes have been built before, I hope to push the envelope just a little further by giving them wants and needs. Even a gnat knows what it wants so why not robots. In the first entry in the series I explore what I hope to instill into these two modest 'organisms'.

Viktor Gets a Head

March Break RobotThis year's Halloween costume was a bit of a departure. In the past we've done a bunch of themed costumes based on Sci-Fi games and movies; Star Wars, Dr. Who, and Bioshock. This year we created a mildly creepy character of our own called Viktor. Viktor is on the run for various unnatural human experiments. His only companion is the head he carries around in a metal container.

LED Cyber Brows

March Break RobotA couple of months ago my son gave me a cool suggestion for a project. And so LED Cyber Brows were born. The perfect 'fashion' accessory for when you're just not feeling GEEKY enough. This little gizmo attaches to your glasses and uses high-intensity LEDs to get your flash on. Nod your head in various directions to change patterns. Fun fun fun!

March Break 2012 - Robot Challenge (updated Mar 1, 2012)

March Break RobotLast year my son and I built some robots. They performed some simple behaviours and I considered the build a success. But the design did suffer from several flaws which I hope to remedy in this year's build. This is a project in-progress but I hope to finish before the 3rd week in March.

DIY Fresnel Reflector

Fresnel MirrorFresnel reflectors consist of concentric mirrored rings. Each ring is tilted inward by a precise angle. Any light falling on the ring from above is reflected toward a central focal point. The angle of the tilt needs to be quite precise and this makes the construction of a Fresnel reflector a bit tricky. In this post I present a program that you can use to generate an easy cutting guide that will guarantee a working Fresnel reflector.

T-Pro SG90 Micro Servo - Autopsy

Servo AutopsyIn the course of troubleshooting my PolyPod project I performed an autopsy on a T-Pro SG90 servo. I was looking for the source of a problem I was having but it turned out to be somewhere else entirely. During the autopsy I mapped out the PCB and discovered that the servo uses the AA51880 servo chip and virtually the reference design. Most interestingly, the PCB has untapped potential to drive larger motors using transistors or MOSFETs.

Building a Better Bipolar Stepper Motor Driver

Stepper Driver BoardI've been working on and toward this project for some time and have finally finished. Making physical things move under computer control gives me a special thrill. There's a special enjoyment to be had watching stepper motors spinning about. I've provided full schematics, gerber files and code.

Using a Light-Pipe as a Robotic Sensor

A light-pipe made using water-filled plastic tubingAs I work on my polypod robot I'm considering options for sensors. I've always felt that a machine needs to be autonomous for it to really be a robot. That means it has to sense the world and make decisions based on what it detects. I've been trying to come up with an idea for force sensors on the feet so they can tell when they're touching something. I had an idea that a simple DIY light-pipe might work.

Building a Big Daddy Halloween costume - 2011

Designing a multi-legged Walking RobotLast year we built a DALEK. My son won a prize and got his 15 seconds of fame when he was later recognized by another kid as the 'robot' guy. This year we're building a Big Daddy from the game Bioshock. All done, so come see the video and construction process.

Designing a Multi-legged Walking Robot

Designing a multi-legged Walking RobotI've started designing a quaduped walking robot. The design will be flexible enough to allow a hexapod to be built using the same components. I'm designing my own boards so you'll be able to make your own. I'm keeping a diary of the development and will share the design when it's done. So hop on board and come along for the ride.

5V Boost Switching Regulator

5V Boost Switching RegulatorHere's a little project I put together for a friend. It's a small switching regulator that takes the output of 1 or 2 AA or AAA batteries and boosts it to 5V. Infact the part can be programed for any output voltage between 1.8V to 5.0V using two resistors. If you leave off the resistors you get a 3.3V output. Sweet.

March Break 2011 - Robot Challenge

March Break RobotR/C robots are fine but I like autonomous robots best. For this March Break I'm hoping to host a "Build You Own Robot" party for my son and his two friends. I've built small robots in the past so I thought I would challenge myself to come up with an easy to build, cheap robot "kit" plus code. I have two and a half weeks.

T-Pro SG90 Micro Servo - Continuous Rotation Modification

9gram T-Pro ServoI'm designing a small robot kit for my son's March break. I'm using some remarkable 9 gram micro-servos that I found on-line for $2.77 US. The first step is to modify these servos for continuous rotation so I can use them to drive the robot. Lot's of pictures show what you can expect.

Building a DALEK Halloween costume - 2010

DALEK CostumeMy son and I make him a Halloween costume each year. In the past he's been such things as an astronaut, a steampunk robot, a man with a fish eating his head, and in 2009 Boba Fett. This year we tried for our most ambitious costume yet; a DALEK from the popular TV series "Dr Who".

LEDactus - Controlling many LEDs with only a few data lines

LEDactusEverybody loves flashing lights. Here's a design that uses charlieplexing to control a large number of LED's with only a few data lines.

Fabricating a compact PIC microcontroller board

PIC18F1320 BoardHere's a PIC board based on the PIC18F1320 that you can use for a multitude of projects. Full schematic, PCB patterns and build instructions. This board is used as the basis of the LEDactus project.

Disclaimer: I am not an electrical engineer or even an electronics technician. I am a chemist and a computer programmer. My designs might be stupid, violate guidelines, and be an affront to any self-respecting engineer. I'm a hobbyist and I do this for fun. Build these projects at your own risk.