Archive for the ‘Robot Parts’ Category


April 16th, 2013 No comments

UDOO is a project on Kickstarter that adds 4 rasperry Pi’s with an Arduino on one board. Look really neat and it is already way past its fundraising goal!

Check it out:

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Liquid metal used to create wires that stretch eight times original length – Electronic Products

January 18th, 2013 No comments

Electronic Products
by Jeffery Bausch

Have you ever gone to plug something in but found yourself an inch or two short of the outlet? This may soon be an inconvenience of the past thanks to some outside-the-wire thinking by researchers at North Carolina State University. They’ve developed wires that can be stretched up to eight times their original length and still function just as effectively.


What’s more, beyond connecting to a power source, the can also be used for headphones. They also present a unique opportunity when it comes to electronic textiles.

How they did it

The group started with a thin tube made of extremely elastic polymer. They then filled the tube with a liquid metal alloy made up of gallium and indium, an effective conductor of electricity.


“Previous efforts to create stretchable wires focus on embedding metals or other electrical conductors in elastic polymers, but that creates a trade-off,” explains Dr. Michael Dickey, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research.

“Increasing the amount of metal improves the conductivity of the composite, but diminishes its elasticity,” he adds. “Our approach keeps the materials separate, so you have maximum conductivity without impairing elasticity. In short, our wires are orders of magnitude more stretchable than the most conductive wires, and at least an order of magnitude more conductive than the most stretchable wires currently in the literature.”


While the video below isn’t exactly the most entertaining piece of media ever created, it does demonstrate the effectiveness of the stretchable wire pretty clearly.


Manufacturing the wire is pretty simple, but it’s still going to be some time before it hits the shelves. Dickey notes that, of the challenges the group still faces with the technology, figuring out how to minimize leakage of the liquid metal should the wires be severed absolutely needs to be addressed.

In the meantime, you can check out the group’s paper, entitled “ Ultrastretchable Fibers with Metallic Conductivity Using a Liquid Metal Alloy Core ” in the online edition of Advanced Functional Materials. Free log-in is required.

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Webots: robot simulator

January 18th, 2013 No comments

Here is a link to a mobile robot simulation program. it has a 30 day free trial then it costs. See

Hackable Lego Robot Runs Linux

January 9th, 2013 No comments

Here is a link to a more detailed description of the new Lego NXT Hackable Lego Robot Runs Linux

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Best Beginner Robotics Products – LockerGnome

December 27th, 2012 No comments

From: Locker Gnome
By Ryan Matthew Pierson

What do you buy for someone aspiring to become a robotics engineer? You could go all out and hit them with all the parts and software they might need to develop their own advanced robotics projects from scratch, but what about someone who is a bit young or inexperienced?

It might be argued that the best way to get someone started is to take advantage of some of the robotics products already on the market that empower just about anyone to build and design their own robotic creations.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more interesting kits that make getting started just a little easier.

Arduino Board

Arduino is an incredibly versatile open-source platform. You can create a wide range of things using boards made for Arduino projects, including robots.

This might be a bit on the complex side for a first-time robot builder, but there are plenty of kits out there that work very well with Arduino boards. In fact, there’s an entire book on the subject of building Arduino-powered robots.

With this particular platform, the sky is the limit.

Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi made headlines when it became perhaps the cheapest all-in-one computer solution at just $25-35. All you have to do is plug it in, load a low-demand Linux distro on it, and start computing.

While it isn’t exactly intended for use in robotics, it can and has become a popular solution for hobbyist robotics engineers who wish to extend the functionality of existing designs or build something entirely new off the inexpensive platform. The folks at Raspberri Pi have acknowledged this growing trend and dedicated a category of posts to the use of Raspberri Pi boards in robotics.

If you ever thought about building a seriously cheap robot without having to resort to using off-the-shelf kits, this might be an excellent option for you.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT

Few robotics kits out there are as versatile and easy to get into as LEGO Mindstorms NXT. This kit, coming in at around $450, is certainly no impulse buy. The lessons you can learn from building and designing robots using Mindstorms makes it a great value for young folks and adults alike interested in learning a little more about robotics.

It’s a Bluetooth-ready kit that empowers you to design robots to do the simple things that much more expensive kits have problems doing. You get several different robots in a single kit as well, with transitions between one form to another being a matter of disconnecting and rearranging the pieces.

Revell Vexplorer Robotics System

With 300 parts, on-board video with a 150′ foot range, and an endless number of potential configurations, the Revell Vexplorer Robotics System is perhaps one of the best robotics kits out there. Recommended for users 14 or older, this is no simple toy. Vexplorer is a fully functional robotics system that enables you to grab and move objects or spy on your dog.

This system certainly isn’t cheap, but it is a great way to get a real look at what it takes to build a fully-functioning robot. After a while with this system, you’ll be ready to build your battle bot from scratch. Just don’t hook it up to Skynet.

Categories: Robot Parts, Teaching Technology Tags:

How It Works: How Servo Motors Work

December 19th, 2012 No comments

From: Jameco

How Servo Motors Work
This little motor-that-could is high in efficiency and power
By Frances Reed – Jameco Content Manager

Servo motors have been around for a long time and are utilized in many applications. They are small in size but pack a big punch and are very energy-efficient. Because of these features, they can be used to operate remote-controlled or radio-controlled toy cars, robots and airplanes. Servo motors are also used in industrial applications, robotics, in-line manufacturing, pharmaceutics and food services. But how do the little guys work?

The servo circuitry is built right inside the motor unit and has a positionable shaft, which usually is fitted with a gear (as shown below). The motor is controlled with an electric signal which determines the amount of movement of the shaft.

What’s inside the servo?
To fully understand how the servo works, you need to take a look under the hood. Inside there is a pretty simple set-up: a small DC motor, potentiometer, and a control circuit. The motor is attached by gears to the control wheel. As the motor rotates, the potentiometer’s resistance changes, so the control circuit can precisely regulate how much movement there is and in which direction.


When the shaft of the motor is at the desired position, power supplied to the motor is stopped. If not, the motor is turned in the appropriate direction. The desired position is sent via electrical pulses through the signal wire. The motor’s speed is proportional to the difference between its actual position and desired position. So if the motor is near the desired position, it will turn slowly, otherwise it will turn fast. This is called proportional control. This means the motor will only run as hard as necessary to accomplish the task at hand, a very efficient little guy.

How is the servo controlled?
Servos are controlled by sending an electrical pulse of variable width, or pulse width modulation (PWM), through the control wire. There is a minimum pulse, a maximum pulse, and a repetition rate. A servo motor can usually only turn 90 degrees in either direction for a total of 180 degree movement. The motor’s neutral position is defined as the position where the servo has the same amount of potential rotation in the both the clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. The PWM sent to the motor determines position of the shaft, and based on the duration of the pulse sent via the control wire; the rotor will turn to the desired position. The servo motor expects to see a pulse every 20 milliseconds (ms) and the length of the pulse will determine how far the motor turns. For example, a 1.5ms pulse will make the motor turn to the 90-degree position. Shorter than 1.5ms moves it to 0 degrees, and any longer than 1.5ms will turn the servo to 180 degrees, as diagramed below:


When these servos are commanded to move, they will move to the position and hold that position. If an external force pushes against the servo while the servo is holding a position, the servo will resist from moving out of that position. The maximum amount of force the servo can exert is called the torque rating of the servo. Servos will not hold their position forever though; the position pulse must be repeated to instruct the servo to stay in position.

Types of Servo Motors
There are two types of servo motors – AC and DC. AC servo can handle higher current surges and tend to be used in industrial machinery. DC servos are not designed for high current surges and are usually better suited for smaller applications. Generally speaking, DC motors are less expensive than their AC counterparts. These are also servo motors that have been built specifically for continuous rotation, making it an easy way to get your robot moving. They feature two ball bearings on the output shaft for reduced friction and easy access to the rest-point adjustment potentiometer.

Servo Motor Applications
Servos are used in radio-controlled airplanes to position control surfaces like elevators, rudders, walking a robot, or operating grippers. Servo motors are small, have built-in control circuitry and have good power for their size.

In food services and pharmaceuticals, the tools are designed to be used in harsher environments, where the potential for corrosion is high due to being washed at high pressures and temperatures repeatedly to maintain strict hygiene standards. Servos are also used in in-line manufacturing, where high repetition yet precise work is necessary.

Of course, you don’t have to know how a servo works to use one, but as with most electronics, the more you understand, the more doors open for expanded projects and projects’ capabilities. Whether you’re a hobbyist building robots, an engineer designing industrial systems, or just constantly curious, where will servo motors take you?

Seattle Robotics Society
AI Shack Blog
Jameco Workshop

Categories: Robot Parts, Teaching Technology Tags:

Smart building blocks let kids engineer tech creations with ease – GadgetBox on

December 19th, 2012 No comments

From: NBCNews Gadget Box


A new toy company is using Kickstarter to help fund a set of intelligent building blocks called Atoms Express Toys. They fit together like LEGO blocks, but also work as sensors, motors and wireless connectors, allowing a child to build a remote control car in a matter of minutes.

Seamless Toy Company is making Atoms, which is the brainchild of CEO and founder Michael Rosenblatt, a former MIT Media Lab member who worked at Apple. On Wednesday, Atoms Express Toys hit their $100,000 goal on Kickstarter. NBC News talked with Rosenblatt about his new endeavor.

This area of the toy world is largely dominated by LEGO’s Mindstorms sets and a couple other smart-blocks products. Rosenblatt says that while what’s out there is very cool and capable, it’s both expensive and not really conducive to plain old play.

“There’s a lot of steps when you get it out of the box — you have to install software, download stuff. It’s hard for kids to pick up and run with,” Rosenblatt said. “Our immediate plan for the kits was to give kids something to do right out of the box.”

Indeed, the process of creating something like a robot with wheels and headlights, controlled by a tilt-sensitive remote, is accomplished in minutes rather than hours. Construction acts as a tutorial as well: Plug the wires in differently and you’ll reverse the way something spins, or make a lamp that turns on in the dark rather than the light.


That’s an important part of the process, Rosenblatt said. Creation and experimentation are critical to making future scientists and engineers, which is why he decided to make Atoms in the first place. And he’s not the only one who thinks so.

Mitchel Resnick, a former colleague of Rosenblatt’s at MIT and creator of Scratch, a programming environment for kids, agrees that “the most important thing that’s needed is more opportunities for young people to design, create, and experiment,” he told NBC News.

“We need people to grow up as creative thinkers. We should be developing high-tech toys that embody that same creative spirit of building blocks and modeling clay.”

Instead, high-tech toys try to deliver entertainment, he said. And that doesn’t just mean video games: “The key issue is not whether it’s on or off the screen, it’s whether the kids are in control of the experience.” He cited “Minecraft” and his own Scratch project as toys or games that provided tools for creation rather than just a single experience.

Of course, kids want to be entertained as well. To that end, the first Atoms kits include pieces that form basic projects like a rolling monster or remote-control propeller, but modules can be combined with LEGO and other decorative pieces to extend their versatility. Every piece has Velcro for easy attachment, and little loops so they can be sewn onto clothing or stuffed animals. There’s software available for iOS devices, and Android support is on the way.

Altogether there are 13 modules, from battery and Bluetooth blocks to motors and lights. The company focused on kid-friendly modules for the launch, but more advanced ones are on the way after the product gets out the door, likely in spring 2013.

Proximity and RFID sensors, stronger motors, fans, even a camera attachment are in the works. Building a robot you can log into from your iPad and roll around the house with could be done with a handful of blocks.


Rosenblatt says that projects like this last one, which could be enjoyed both by kids and their parents, are critical to making Atoms and Seamless Toy a success.

“There are people out there who think that starting a toy company in 2012 is like starting a record shop,” he said. And indeed, from the proliferation of tablets and video games, it might seem that toys are a dwindling market. And it’s true that the toy industry is shrinking — but it’s also changing.

“That’s why it needs to be multi-generational,” Rosenblatt said. In other words, it’s important that this “toy” can be made into either a spinning magic wand… or a keyless ignition system for a car. The devices are simple and open enough that such things are possible, although naturally making a remote control door lock or email-activated cat feeder takes a bit more work.

But it’s a toy first and foremost, and the team looks to children for inspiration.

“It’s neat to see what they want to do,” said Rosenblatt, “Because they’re not thinking in terms of proximity sensors — they’re saying ‘I want this to activate when the cat walks by.’ ”

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is

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New Arduino WiFi Shield

August 21st, 2012 No comments

From Life Hacker

The Arduino Wi-Fi Shield Makes Taking Your DIY Projects Online Simple
Thorin Klosowski

We’re always fans of a good Arduino project. While a few Wi-Fi solutions have existed to connect your Arduino to the internet wirelessly, the release of the new Arduino Wi-Fi shield makes those projects even simpler.

What’s nice about the Arduino Wi-Fi shield is that it’s incredibly simple to use and set up. As is always the case with Arduino, everything is open sourced, and the reference materials make it easy to learn how to use. The Wi-Fi shield snaps on to an Arduino, connects over 802.11b/g networks, and features both WEB and WPA2 encryption. From a physical standpoint, all you have to do is connect the shield to your Arduino and you’re good to go.

More Info

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Every Kid Needs One of These DIY Robotics Kits

July 24th, 2012 No comments

From IEEE Spectrum
Posted by Evan Ackerman
Wen July 11, 2012

Robots are intimidating, and starting from scratch with them is hard, no matter what age you are. You usually have to learn both hardware and software at the same time to get a robot to do anything cool, and for people without a background in either of these things, surmounting that initial learning curve can be scary. BirdBrain Technologies, a spinoff from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, has just released a new DIY kit called Hummingbird that promises to make building a robot as easy (and affordable) as possible.

As you’d expect, the Hummingbird kit involves both a hardware component and a software component. Let’s take a look at the hardware first:

We really like the fact that everything’s included here, with a clearly marked board and color coded wiring. It’s also nifty that the wires just snap in and out, no soldering required, although (to be honest) soldering is not that hard and building simple robots is a great excuse to learn how. But you know, for kids (or clumsy adults), soldering might not always be the safest way to go.

On the software side, the kit comes with a Java-based drag-and-drop visual programming interface that doesn’t require any previous experience at all, and anyone with a passing obsession with their iPhone should be able to get it working in no time. There’s a demo video here.

Now, although this is called a “kit,” it’s not like there’s instructions that tell you what to build. It’s the best kind of robot kit: the kind where you use your imagination and some creativity to build a robot of your very own. You might need some additional structural components (like cardboard), but beyond that, all it takes is a good idea to make whatever you want, which (in essence) is what’s so great about robots in general. Take a kit like this, come up with an idea, and make it real. Here’s just one example of what you can do:

The Hummingbird kit is intended for kids of ages 10 and up, although it’s not a bad way for people of any age to get familiar with getting hardware and software to work together. At $199 each, it might be a little more realistic to see the kit become part of an educational curriculum as opposed to something that kids will be able to buy for themselves, but if you’ve got a budding roboticist in your family who you’d like to foster, we’d say that this would be a pretty good investment.

To get one click HERE

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Mobot for STEM Education

April 29th, 2012 No comments

From Barobo, Inc Website

The Mobot educational robot broadens student participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. Mobot teamwork will engage students on collaborative learning who might otherwise be inclined not to participate in classroom activities.