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.

A Rather Busy Week

Progress and Such

It’s been a rather hectic week, trying to get enough dry goods to last for awhile and get some work done on a few projects, has been quite challenging since it’s getting hot and going into any store requires a mask. Both even together are not bad, but combined with humidity, it does complicate things, quite a bit. Plus, doing the exchange of effort for monetary gain was a good thing, as well. Most can’t wait for things to go back to the good ol’ days, but I’m beginning to believe that they are gone for good and this is the new normal. By the way, feeling much better than last week, was out and about in the heat a bit too much, I guess.

Off to more fun topics, though. Mr. Robot has tracks and a chassis now, and the hydroponics mini lab is coming along fine.

Mr. Robot Has Bod!

Got another track set made and sealed the ends and the chassis modified and printed. I found the 6V-12V motors that will fit in the Tamiya Dual Gear Drive kit and the Line Follower kit came in, as well. So, just need to hook those to an Arduino and a Dual H-Bridge for the coding to begin.

Mr. Robot's grey tracks and orange chassis

Plenty of internal storage for things like battery banks, the line follower kit and the dual drive motor kit, and maybe a few small sensors. This coming week, I’d like to get the battery banks done, at the very least designed. I’ve gone with this particular layout, because it’s quite modular and when I change or add things, I don’t have to reprint an entire chassis and such. This is very much a rough draft.

Hydroponics Laboratory Update

Got the base done last weekend and let it dry completely outside for a few days, it came out rather well since I’m not a great carpenter, mediocre would be a better term for my carpentry skills(smile). I did mount the stand on it, hung the grow light and put the seedlings under it. I had tried a method of growing the seedling using a compact fluorescent light, but they really did not take to it, very well.

It may just be my lack of skill, or too much water or something else. It looks like the kale, cherry tomatoes and the marigolds made it, though. It was not a complete failure, I should water less and use a grow light for seedlings, especially for indoor hydroponics. I’d thought of putting it outside, but figured that the heat would have destroyed the seedlings’ chances altogether.

DIY grow tent out of mylar sheeting to reflect back the light from the grow light for the plants to absorb

The frame was mounted on the base, and the next experiment is in progress, which is the grow tent. I did tape the mylar sheeting to the outside of the frame, and it’s not entirely transparent, but let’s just say that my living room has a creepy purplish glow to it in the evening till the timer shuts off.

Some future goals are:

  • Wash the hydroton
  • Set up a way to measure the water/nutrient level of the reservoir
  • Print the venturi tube for the pump system
  • Upgrade the frame to thicker tubing

An update on the PCB factory

Got the GRBL kit in this week and was quite impressed, actually. Everything was professionally packaged in a very proper manner. <insert ebay website> has it together and looks to be around for quite some time. I’d expected to get a bag of parts, some packaged in static proof bags and the others just loose and this was not the case. Everything was packaged and grouped as it should be.

This is a significant step towards getting the PCB factory to completion, with the next big purchase being the spindle. Once, the PCB factory is up and running, then it will be time to design and build an enclosure around for the safety of those around it and those around it. It’s not a matter of if an micro sized endmill is going to break, but when. Not sure about most people, but personally would rather have a 1/8 inch ball endmill be bouncing around in an enclosure between me and it, instead of around my shop with a bunch of other breakable things or people.

Major Steps for Hydro!

Got the hydroponic garden started, the brains and muscles of the PCB factory got delivered,

Baby Pictures

Later today, there will be pics of the seeds in their new nursery. I had planned on designing and printing something, but in the interest of saving filament for more useful projects, since my plan is to keep growing the plants for as long as they produce, so a nursery can be improvised at anytime for growing more seedlings.

For right now, the plan is:

  • going to use a deep plastic ware(A little irony)
  • grow pods to give them a strong healthy start
  • add some friendly fungi to the soil
  • plant and water as needed
  • transplant to hydroponic garden when mature enough.

Here’s the baby(seed) pics:

Quite a bit done this week, not as much as I had hoped, though. Over the weekend, I ate something that really didn’t agree with me for a few days and is still having a residual effect to an extent. Hopefully, the next few days will show a lot of the progress of the other projects I have going on, though.

More Good Progress

This has been a busy weekend, found the right items for things and took some small, but significant steps in most areas. I’ve been looking over some of my stuff, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say that I was colorblind. The good thing about all this being experimental is that it’s not for sale and I don’t have to really impress anybody, just keep the few followers that I have with ongoing progress reports. Yes, there will be a few picks of the completed steps, at least one I promise. Why the pics of just completed steps, well I don’t like pics of my unfinished stuff. Sometimes, I have bad ideas or took on way more than my skill set allows. It’s never a good idea to try to make elephant soup out of a living dragon, and yes I mixed those up intentionally. *wink*

Go Hydro!!

Now that all the Canadian Marvel fans are confused, lets talk about hydroponics while they uncunfuzzle themselves. Lots of good progress this weekend, got the table designed and initial cuts made for it. There was a bit of an evolutionary process even while making the cuts, had an epiphany while the saw was NOT running. The epiphany was on how to check the nutrient depth of the nutrient in the bucket under the frame without having to put another probe in the nutrient. Also, got the the plant tags printed out. I used orange and brown filament, since the brown is almost completely out so used it for the lettering on the tags, there is maybe just a meter left on the spool.

<insert pic here>

New 3D printed veggie tags, brown on orange

CNC Fun

Finally found the right parts(sorta) and they should be here by Thursday, supposedly. Been researching different controller boards, lots of knockoffs out there and they don’t say which one they poorly copied to generate their ‘version’. I did find the source of the GRBL controller sheild in New Zealand, but they are still in shutdown due to the COVID-19 there, so will have to contact their distributors. Protoneer.com if you desire to look them up, for yourselves. On a happier note, I was going through some stuff and found a piece of 1/4 inch acrylic, it’s kinda scratched up, but looks like it’ might either repel or slow down an shattered tool end, so it doesn’t cause bodily harm or just bounce off the sheet rock. Just my opinion, no responsibility taken here or ever, remember that if you do this, you are responsible for your actions and accept the consequences of such actions.

Do the Robot Dance!

Yes, Mr. Robot gets another post all his own, again! There are pics, too!!

Mr. Robot Gets His Own Post

Strategy to Start With

Since vision, multiple motor control, internal state management and environment awareness are all resource intensive tasks and are all taking place in real time, and are somewhat interdependent on each other. This is why a fairly complex strategy is needed to with the main variables that the limited reality that the robot will experience. Since most resources are limited, mainly space, time and money, a plan that uses those wisely is best and not necessarily balanced. While, it would be cheaper and use less space inside the robot to just use one micro controller, but then a lot of time would be used to program some sort of multitasking system into the main program and that has it’s own inherent problems. Discussing all the different strategies would not be the best use of one particular resource which is time, it’s the one resource that we never have enough of, cannot store and are literally losing it second by second. Skipping to the best solution, in my opinion at least, is to divide the tasks up by area of the robot and have the appropriate sized or easiest procured micro controller take care of those tasks, report sensor readings and task status to the main controller. This frees up programming time and clock cycles for more complex problems such vision and human interaction. Once the base micro controllers are programmed well enough to do their tasks adequately or better, they can just do their tasks like a well coded sub routine. Just think of the various micro controllers as physical sub routines in a box that can do a set number of tasks when called by the main controller.

You could say that this is Physical Object Oriented Programming or POOP for short. Go ahead and put that on a resume’. *smiles*

Now the Plan!

Here is a plan in place for the bot, it has three layers, and while each layers has it’s own sensor and working payload, it is governed by the one above it in some way. The working plan for the layers are:

  • Bottom layer; battery storage, locomotion and base sensors
  • Mid layer; secondary micro controller storage, some advanced sensors
  • Top layer; main micro controller, manipulator and probable payload area

The bottom layer is the base, which will be really quite stuffed with batteries, a gearbox, tachometers, line following hardware, and charging contacts. Trying to put most of the weight in the bottom of the bot and lower than the axles of the gear box. This will help lower the center of gravity and hopefully the need of heat dissipation

That leaves, the secondary micro controller, power management micro controller, charging circuits and anti-collision sensors for the middle layer. The secondary micro controller captures all the sensor information and reports it the main controller, while getting heading and distance parameters from the main controller, as well.

The top layer has the main micro controller, some sort of vision sensor and possibly a manipulator. This layer cannot be really planned in depth till the lower layers are complete and working. I’m hoping by offloading most of the tasks to other micro controllers that such problems such as vision and human interaction can solved and implemented easier.

It’s generally easier to break things into basic blocks, solve the simpler problems first, integrate the parts back into the equation that the problem is represented by and that is left to do is solve the last few variables.

Implementation!

Will be discussed in future posts.

Best Progress So Far!

Since the pandemic started there have been lots of lessons that we all have had to either learn or relearn, mostly about patience and hygiene. We have gone from a society of practically instant gratification to having to be forced to be patient even when ordering things online. One lesson that I hope that does get maintained is the bodily hygiene habit, especially during conventions like A-Kon and the like. I keep reminding myself that having patience and self-care are good things to have and do. The biggest delay has been due to massive delays, cancelled orders and not being able to find the correct parts, but it has also given me time to research decisions and products that are better or less expensive options that I would not have explored, otherwise. I believe that before this is all over and done with that there will be a lot of changes and a new normal.

Hydroponics Go!

After spending a few hours with Tinker Cad, I had either an epiphany or my brain finally clicked on. I was modelling all sorts of clips to hold the Mylar sheets to the PVC frame, when the immediate solution hit me….dun dun dun!….Tape! I just need to tape the sheets to the PVC pipe and make a roll up blind to cover the aperture at the front. The blame for overthinking things sits squarely on my shoulders. I’ve devoted a good day or three to figure out how to attach Mylar sheets to PVC, when the actual solution i going to take about 5 minutes to implement(maybe half an hour in reality). Now, just need to build it, plant the seeds in the pods and add light and water at the correct times. I’d also had over thought about the seedling nursery and started stressing about the amount of filament that was going to be necessary and such, when it hit me that I have some Pyrex baking dishes that would work wonderfully.

Speaking of seedlings, I put the mint plant and the onion in the Sun light for the last few days, since it’s not been real hot, so they could get a boost of vitamins and get the chlorophyll really working.

This project is shaping up, nicely.

PCB Manufacturing Stalled; Yet Again

Well, an order of second set of smooth rods has been cancelled, not even delayed this time, so the good news is that there is less time devoted to waiting on finding more to order, just to wait around to do it again. Yes, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but I do change the company, country of origin, etc., so it’s not truly insanity. So going to focus on some of the other aspects of the project and work on them, while I’m attempting to procure items for the main project. One such aspect is safety.

Safety, is paramount around machinery and even more so around CNC type machinery, because it will keep going and going until it runs out of code, breaks or loses power. The best option is to keep fingers and other body parts away from moving parts and tool ends, but accidents happen. I’ve lightly burned my fingers a few times on heated beds and hot ends at full temp, twas not fun at all. While 3D printers that are designed well are pretty safe for the most part, most DIY CNC machines don’t harm humans mostly due to the distance of the machine from nearby humans.

A few things to consider that may happen

  • Broken spindle mount
  • Tool end that shatters or breaks
  • Metal and work surface chips and dust
  • Work surface dislodging
  • Catastrophic failure

What prevents or minimizes the above from happening or causing harm

  • Full enclosure that electronically locks
  • Dust collection
  • Emergency stop button
  • Regular cleaning
  • Replacement of worn or broken parts
  • Routine inspections

An enclosure is only useful if it’s strong enough and used, but most things fall under user error, but it’s up to the user to minimize risks to themselves, others and the environment.

Since I don’t know how big this is going to be, I’m working on the dust collection system next.

Mr. Robot

Well, I didn’t get all the tracks assembled, because I started breaking them one after the other. I was mostly too forceful with them and the design could be improved. Like everything on this blog, it’s an ongoing experiment and I am learning a lot, actually. I am hoping to make a complete track by this weekend, though. I did finally get the battery clips in the mail, so can start working on the power management system. I will also be making a blog post about the preliminary plan for the robot soon, as well.

Have a Great Weekend!

I’m off to work on some tracks and finish up the blog post on the robot.

Another update: Slow Progress

This week is proving to be a week of slow progress, a couple of key orders were cancelled by the sellers and a key component is taking a tour of the U.S. On a personal note, been dealing with a migraine, as well.

I had tried to initially go through Amazon, but due to the fact that what I require is considered non-essential parts there was a probable delay well into May which is like ordering from China. So I went on eBay and basically did that, still to no avail since both sellers have cancelled and refunded my order. Though, most people would be jealous of one order, because it’s travelling about the Lower 48 like a tourist, I’m expecting post cards from it, any day now.

Plus, I have been dealing with a migraine since Sunday and sudden storm Tuesday night, that wasn’t in the forecast, only encouraged it to continue to take up residence in my head. On the upside of things, I have had time to brainstorm, to figure out some designs and to think of other projects and devices to make. Even when down, I try to make positive progress.

Besides the some delays in procurement and an annoying health issue, the plans are moving along at a decent pace.

Hydroponics Update

Trying my hand at actually growing something the past few weeks, some mint and an onion, and have been working on the design of the connectors for the PVC frame, as well.

About a month ago, I found a few mint seedlings at a big box store and by the time I got it home it had gone into shock. I gave it some water and a bit of plant food with plenty of light after deciding to try to bring it back. That’s been somewhat successful, half of the seedlings survived and their roots are bunched up, so going to try make cuttings out of the surviving plants. So will be trimming them off at the base with sharp scissors and pinching the tops, before putting the cut ends in water to try to encourage new roots to grow. Pinching the tops discourages growth on that end so most of the plants’ energy will be used to grow out the root system. The plants that look like they have the best chance to live will be planted in pods and given beneficial fungi treatment. I feel for the plants, because they got a bad start and I’m very much a novice at this.

Speaking of moments of spontaneity, I was fixing some Frito pie and was chopping an onion and decided to try to regrow the onion for chives and eventually the onion back, in less than a week it’s root system is developing rather nicely. I’m giving it plenty of light and once the roots start really developing, I will cut the center part and plant them in soil pods and given the beneficial fungi treatment. Best of luck to it!

3D printers are amazing machines to have and use, that being said, you can find what your current limits on designing objects and just being patient while waiting for it make an object is not the only test of your patience that you will find. It takes patience and skill to design objects that are worth your time, money for electricity and consumables such as filament that are not just functional, worth using a lot and joyfully claiming that you made it. Which why I’m probably on my 5th maybe 7th version of the connectors before finally printing them. Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

Cyclone PCB, a Mini Update

Going to have to find new suppliers for the smooth rods and threaded rod for the Cyclone PCB cloner, but the good news is that a complete refund for all that was not delivered. I do try to go with U.S. based sellers if possible, but quite a few have shut down or on staycation. I have been researching different modifications and upgrades, but really want to get it working first. From personal experience, it’s easier to start with a basic and functional project to build off of, than it is to troubleshoot something that should work in theory. I’m going to be printing the rest of the parts and assembling what I can by the end of this weekend

Robot Tracks and Power Management

I haven’t been printing at night, mainly due to the frequent storms that we have been having, therefore there have been power outages and brown outs. Since filament is neither easy nor cheap to procure, I’ve been playing it safe in order to not waste filament. There are still lots of tracks to print and assemble before the fun parts of this particular project can have a chance at having it’s own posts in the robotics category. I have purchased a smallish battery back up to put between the surge protector and the electrical outlet that they are on, so over night printing may continue.

I was planning out and procuring the basic parts for the power subsystem such as charging circuit boards, battery springs, etc. The springs might come in next week, or next month. I’m not entirely sure of how I am going to do power management, so I’m not going to solder bars of metal across the battery terminals just, yet. Power management is a big challenge, because a robot can only go as far as it’s batteries can take it and hopefully there is a plan for it to be able to recharge.

Some Goals for This Weekend

Goals for this weekend;

  • Print all connectors for the hydroponics and assemble
  • Separate the mint and start their rooting process
  • Solve and implement how to hang the Mylar sheets
  • Monitor the onion and decide when to take it to the next stage
  • Get as much as the PCB Cyclone built as I can
  • Print and assemble at least 40 treads