Hydroponics Update : July 2020

Finally, got some decent seedlings started. Had a great vacation, which killed my plants. Seedlings got restarted, sort of. Had to make some modifications. Designing and printing new connectors. Unable to find food grade buckets.

Decent Start

I went out of state for a few weeks to an area that isn’t an epicenter of COVID-19. A friend of mine was gracious enough to take care of the seedlings till I got back, but I think moving them and putting them in a warmer and drier environment put them into shock. Not sure if putting them outside for a few hours a day would have ‘hardened’ them or not, but that is what a bit of research seems to indicate, though. They went into shock and just didn’t come back from it.

Great Vacation

Took a trip to Roswell, New Mexico for about two weeks and had an awesome time. Mostly, drove around and took in the dry desert air while taking in the sights. If you like to shop and want to try ‘altitude training’ then I wholeheartedly suggest going to Riodoso, New Mexico and visiting all, and I mean all the little shops there on foot. I’d suggest getting a cabin so that you can take your time and not worry about how long it takes you to crawl back to it, once your low lander lungs start giving out on you and resting a few doesn’t give you a second wind to continue on. There’s lot to explore and you will see why outlaws liked hiding out in New Mexico, trust me. I’d planned on a week or so, but after the report of my plants going into shock and knowing my lack of skill wouldn’t save them, I decided to stay longer and hang out with my New Mexico friends.

Seedlings! Restart!

Not everything died, I’d transplanted the Marigolds and had mixed in the ‘failed’ seed pods into their pot to add volume to the pot, which turned out in my favor. It seems that some spinach and kale seeds finally decided to start growing, so not all was lost. I also replanted everything that I could, and have even more spinach and kale growing and not much else. I do hope that the cherry tomatoes or such do spring to life and push up above the soil, but I’m not putting much stock in that hope. Going to redesign the frame though, so they have time!

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t take up skydiving

Trying to use 3/4″ pvc was not my best ideas. seems that the light and Mylar were too heavy for it, let along hanging four pots of vegetables from it. So back to the drawing board and try again, I decided on tossing a few monkey wrenches into that thought process, the first being wider PVC pipe, the second being design for PETG and the last being to make it modular. I tried to just make it bigger to fit of course, and ended up with 20 hour prints for each piece and there are six altogether, and lots of supports. I tried my hand at designing for PETG, and that was interesting, to say the least.

Printing in PETG, isn’t vastly different, but not using supports is advised since the material is quite tough and getting the supports out or off takes more than an exacto blade or even a hot knife to do. So you have to split things into parts, which you can use the geometry of the printing process to make even stronger parts, that can be assembled or glued or both later. So I initially tried to print as if using PETG, and my printer isn’t dialed in enough or the print came out poorly due to operator error, so going to the drawing board and redesigning the model into something more modular. It’s a good distraction when trying to locate food grade buckets, especially the 5 gallon variety without holes.

Buck, Buck, Buck, Buck, Bucketttss!

Trying to find black food grade 5 gallon buckets has been an adventure, in of itself. Seems that everybody sells them, but doesn’t have them in stock. I thought of mail order, but I don’t need nor want 25 or even 10. One would think that buying more would make the price come down a bit, but ’tis not the case. Though may find out if I can sell the extra buckets, but does seem to be a hassle, though.

Update, get yer fresh update!

Due to operator (Me) error, this didn’t post Friday. I try to schedule the posts to happen during the day, so that it doesn’t get lost in the email black hole and so that it doesn’t disturb anybody’s down time. If I did this right, this post at noon CST.

Robot update

I really should have opted for a bigger robot body. I went with what I thought would be medium sized robot body that would be a bit cramped, but doable. It seems that it’s a small medium body and it’s going to be quite cramped, mainly due to late additions to the design such as using 18650 batteries instead of AA rechargeable batteries. The battery change also prompted heavier duty motors to move this robot around, no additional weight, more torque and no step down converter needed(Sounds like a win to me). So decided to create my own battery cases with a short grocery list of things that I wanted. Here’s that list:

  • Holds 2 18650 batteries
  • Airflow to draw off heat
  • Integrated BMS
  • As few as possible bought parts
  • Durable

Not a lot, is what you are possibly thinking and I was too. For me it’s a slow design process, due to my unimpressive CAD skills and being thorough. Though with PLA being more available, I am more likely to do a few test prints for fitting purposes and to be able to wrap my brain around things for it to problem solve. For increased airflow and economical use of PLA, a hexagonal mesh design was incorporated into the case design to hold 2 18650 batteries, a BMS board and be sturdy enough to hold 4 battery clips.

The initial design needs to be longer and a bit taller, because the battery clips are tight and will eventually over stress the thin walled meshed case and to contain the batteries and so it’s necessary to make it more rigid.

One will fit in the base, and the other will be somewhere else. I’d hoped to be able to use three such packs, 1 for the MPUs, 1 for the motors and a backup or alternate one for either more MPUs or accessories such as an arm or or other servos.

Should have the case printed out tomorrow, so that progress can be made on the lid and housing the BMS.

P.S. I’ll be adding to the discussion of robot behavioral programming soon. I’ve also been reading up on behavior trees as far as robotics and AI go, ,quite interesting. Also got my first visitor from China, lately. I’m international!!

A Step Forward!

Finally bought a membership and got a real Domain name! I feel all professional and such, now. Seriously, it’s always a good idea to support those that support you, because without their support you have to do a lot more work and when there are problems with their services you are higher on the priority list of getting things fixed.

A bit about me

I grew up amongst crafters and have been crafting since before my teens. Being crafty is totally responsible for me being creative, because if I can create it in my imagination then I can make it. I also know the value of my skills, my products, and my time. I can remember a few times when people told my aunt, mother or grandmother that they charge too much or that they could make it better and cheaper, and they would not argue with them and ask the next person if they needed some assistance with a smile. It pays nothing to argue with fools, and it doesn’t take long for bystanders to wonder which is the real fool. The lessons I learned from them was to have great products, good customer service, cut your losses and be more willing to walk away than the other person is willing to bargain. The last is because there are always more customers that want your products than there are negotiators, so find the customers and ignore the bargain hunters, because they both will be looking for you with the right advertising.

Celebrating this auspicious occasion

I’ve started a poll for you readers to find out what you want to see more of, so go vote!

So What is Planned for the rest of July 2020?

Hydroponics

Still getting the hang of growing food, if the world depended on me to grow their food, I’d be hunted down and probably end up in a pot *nervous chuckle*. Like all skills, it takes time to get it right and more time to perfect it, so I’m not worried, yet. Fortunately, the endgame strategy is to have an Arduino or such regulate the nutrient content, grow light times and such, so I only have to get good enough to code basic skills into the arduino and have an Neural Network System or a smart enough expert system take over to grow vegetables and such. So, the plan for the rest of this month is to transfer the seedlings that have survived thus far into a hydroponic system and hope they thrive, while setting up a system for tomatoes, beans and probably peppers of some sort. About my only fear is that I may have to rely on my ability to grow plants for my continued survival, at some future date.

Robotics

Either have to redesign the battery holders or butcher the base to be able to store the batteries in it, so far redesigning seems to be the best option, thus far. I got the line following kit in the mail and got it assembled, so just need to tune it. After the battery storage is solved, the Arduino and ESP modules can be made and put in the bot. It seems that a lot of stuff is being crammed into the base, but it’s all necessary and I will agree that a bigger base is necessary in the future, but that may require switching over to stepper motors for locomotion. Once stuff is all in it, then coding can begin. This is probably the biggest and most complex personal project ever.

PCB Factory

This project is going so very slowly, I know. Mainly due to the lack of available resources, because I’m a poor geek. It’s also a very resource hungry project that has multiple parts that are not cheap, such as the spindle, PSU and controller board, which all are above the $50 range before shipping and handling charges. Plus, some parts are designed be others and therefore they may have to be modified to fit what parts can be procured. So will be assembling as parts come in.

This may be the most used piece of equipment in my future arsenal of tools for robotics and automation.

3D Printing

I’d like to get Octoprint set up on one of my printers this month. It’s more of a ‘sit down and do it’ kind of project, really. It isn’t just a cool mod, but also a time saver since I could check the progress from anywhere within my network range to see how the current print is coming along and to be able to remotely set up prints.

TTFN!

I hope everybody is doing well and please subscribe to this blog if you are getting something from it or at least enjoying it

Back From Vacation

The World is Losing It’s Mind and so was I

Pandemic, Covid-19 Wave 2, Kanye 4 Prez, Protests, Riots, zoom meetings about putting children back in schools and more than most people can stand or choose to handle. Have people just gone mad from being quarantined with their loved ones or is it something else, altogether? I was supposed to be at Galacticon 2020 (https://www.roswellgalacticon.com/) in Roswell NM, around this time of year, so didn’t bail out, but did go hang out with some awesome people for quite a bit.

This pandemic is quite serious and even has the experts baffled on how to handle it or even treat it, let alone cure it. I get that people are scared, running out of money, looking to the Government for a solution to their problems, and not getting any real answers except to wait. About the insanity that abounds, I’m not even diving into that rabbit hole or would it be holes? I hope that people are making intelligent decisions as far as their health and that of their of their family members go. I figure people are really getting to know their loved ones and probably flipping from WTF moments to ‘ah how cute’ responses and wondering when this will end. So, social distance and wear your mask, and this means you Karen!!

The first week of July is reserved for vending at Roswell’s Galacticon, which is an awesome event with amazing local vendors and some out of stater’s like myself. You can find RPG games, figurines, anime drawings, steampunk gear(some of my stuff) and much much more. So why did I go out there even though the event has been postponed? To hang out with my family of choice, and yes we have all been in self quarantine a long time prior to meeting up and took such precautions as social distancing, wearing masks and driving with fewer stops(mainly to walk around to prevent blood clots and to revive the sensation in the buttocks), though I could have personally skipped Post, Tx due to the smell of cattle and the oil industry. It was a good vacation, even though we just hung out with each other and not talk about business and such.

It will be interesting to see how A-Kon, Comicon, Texas Frightmare and the big conventions end up being held next year.

[Rant Over]

I’ve been on Covid-19 time…

The Isolation Blues

Oh wow, I know it’s been more than a few days, but it doesn’t feel like it’s been over ten days since the last post. It certainly doesn’t feel like I have gotten enough done over the last ten days, either. A solution to the time lapse between posts, I hope.

I’ve not totally slacking off, just sorta, really. My days have been filled with errands and trying to stay comfortable. I’ve tried doing the online ordering thing, both Amazon Fresh and Instacart, not total disasters, but was left quite underwhelmed and a bit confused. I’m a guy whom lives by himself, and routinely does my own food shopping and prep, so I have a clue or three about groceries and some of the toughness of certain things like milk, bread and eggs. You keep the fragile stuff either on the top of the bag or that stuff gets it’s own bag or two, just an FYI. So, having to go out and get stuff while abiding the new protocols in place such as face covering, social distancing and what’s open when. The heat is bad enough without having to breathe through a few layers of cloth, but it’s important to keep up the practice of these things so that we can eventually get back to some sort on normalcy.

It usually just takes a day to get errands done even with the extreme heat, but having to wear a mask, maintain social distancing and opting out of eating lunch at a restaurant as a respite and reward for adulting is both a physical and mental toll that has to be paid and without delay. Plus, had some pro bono jobs to do that were not labor intensive, but emotional taxing due to the new protocols. I just feel like I should have gotten a lot more accomplished than I have, which may be the reason for the sense of time distortion.

This blog is one of the more interesting parts of my week, and I most certainly look forward to writing it. It’s like writing about the events and milestones of my hobbies, as they happen. So, I’ve decided to kick it up a notch or three, and register this blog. That will make it more real for me, because I’ve spent money on it and therefore I am literally invested in it. It also gives you, my readers, an option to invest this blog’s entertainment and education values(I was good and didn’t use the words synergy or edutainment, lol), as well.

Teasers tease…

I’m working on a few updates for the hydroponics and the robot, and might even do something on 3D printing, as well.

Mr. Robot Throws His Track Out

Fast! Faster! Throw a Track!

Well, got the motors hooked up, propped everything up on a box, attached the bench power supply to it and tested the track system out. I knew that the tracks were a bit loose, dropping a tread made it too tight and hard for the sprockets to turn, and I thought that they wouldn’t be too loose. I was wrong!

The test went well till about half power, and then it threw a track. I noticed that it started skipping a bit as it got faster and definitely got louder the faster it went. I might be able to get away with the present tracks, but why invite failure? So found the original drive sprockets and printing out sixty new tracks. These should work better, just will have a lower cool factor.

In Other News

Still working on the battery holder design, have designed the holder for the SR-4 SONAR systems and looking into making the Arduino Bluetooth enabled so it can be monitored in real time. I may make a video on how to setup the ESP-12 WeMos Microcontroller, since I’m not finding a very good one on YouTube.com, so far.

Hydroponics No No No!!

The reason of why there is NOT an update for the Urban Hydroponic Project is quite simple, I fried the seedlings *head desk and sad face*. I should have read the instructions and tested the timer before I left, totally my fault and I own that completely. I could blame my impatience and bad instructions, but I won’t and the reason why is simple, I totally failed at testing and studying the results. Let’s just say that I was away for a job for three days total, was not expecting to be gone that long and I failed to test the equipment beforehand.

What happened? I fried the seedlings. I thought I’d had set the timer to give them 16 hours of grow light time and I had figured that I’d be back within a day. What happened is that I was gone for three days and hadn’t fully checked out the timer module and didn’t understand how it worked. Without delving into details, I got home with some very fried seedlings that had four days of grow light time and not enough water. I tried to revive them, and had very unsuccessful results comparatively. The young onion may make it and maybe a marigold plant or two. I tried to revive the rest, but I’d have better luck reviving King Tut with CPR. So starting over after putting the surviving marigold plants in some soil, as well as the lone onion. I have decided on trying the cherry tomatoes, red beans, kale and spinach, this time for their hardiness.

Try try again

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. I did go over the instructions a bit and played around with the timers, so now I’m an expert…well..just with these timers. I have them set for 12 hour intervals of grow light time. I put a lid on the plastic ware, it’s just laying on the bowl and not sealed down. I’ve noticed that the grow light really dries out the soil, so if I’m going to be gone for days again before I automate the system, I may have to just open the curtains and the tent and let the plants just be in sunlight. Just some thoughts.

Behavioral Programming : Intro

A more in depth explanation of behavioral programming. Starting off about what it is, how to implement it and what are the benefits of it.

What is behavioral programming?

Behavioral programming is using simple to complex behaviors to accomplish a set goal. A behavior is something that physically affects either the robot or it’s external environment. Simple behaviors are such things as turning on a motor, turning a servo, getting a distance reading from a sonar sensor, checking an infrared sensor, storing a value in a variable, and checking the status of a battery. Individually simple behaviors don’t do much, but when you call each one as needed in a linear fashion, they can be a more complex behavior such mapping, moving the robot in a straight line or turning to set direction, reading an array of infrared sensors to follow a line, etc.

Implementing Behavioral Programming

How do you use behavioral programming? You start off with making some primitive behaviors that control motors that you are using, to read whatever sensors you are in your robot and to implement the algorithms that manipulate internal variables such as the data collected by the sensors. These can be combined to make simple behaviors such as turning on the motors for a set distance and speed while taking continuous readings from their encoders, getting a distance reading from a servo mounted SONAR sensor at a specific angle and taking data gathered from the robot’s internal state and it’s sensor readings to create things like maps, maximum distance before needing to recharge and what it’s next goal is. I’ll list some simple behaviors and a few examples that combine them into more complex behaviors.

Some simple behaviors

  • Motor A(Direction, Speed)
  • Motor B(Direction, Speed)
  • Read Encoder(Pin #)
  • Servo A(Angle)
  • Trigger SONAR
  • Read SONAR

Some Simple Behaviors Combined into Complex Behaviors

Move Forward 100 encoder steps

  1. Motor A(Forward, 100)
  2. Motor B(Forward, 100)
  3. Read Encoder(Pin 5)
  4. Get 100 Encoder Steps
  5. Motor A(Forward, 0)
  6. Motor B(Forward, 0)

Get SONAR Reading

  • Trigger SONAR
  • Read SONAR

Read SONAR at a Specific Angle

  • Servo A(Angle)
  • Get SONAR Reading

This is how you combine simple behaviors into complex behaviors, so that the robot to achieve goals that require complex actions.

Benefits of Behavioral Programming

The main benefits of Behavioral Programming are:

  • saving time
  • saving memory space
  • simplifying tasks
  • simplifying problems
  • making coding less stressful

Those things allow the programmer to have more time and energy to make more complex robots that can achieve greater goals, or just have more time for other projects.