The February Update

Welcome to another monthly update, I hope the start of your year is going well. So off the top of my head, February does not feel like a productive month. I can’t pull out much that makes headlines. I lost at least 1 week to car (Jeep) issues, another morning to Governor duties, and so on.

The Jeep

So my father and I bought a Jeep (secondhand) to take the kids out more, my current car only has 4 seats and as I have 3 kids we always needed to take 2 cars. This has turned into a nightmare and has already wasted 2 of my Wednesdays (viewing it, picking it up) however I am sure something good will happen. This is not a project just a pain in the arse!

Governor Duties

So I am proud to say I am now a Governor for my kid’s local schools (notice schools, not school). I wanted to give back and try and be useful somehow however this got a be mixed up and I am now a Governor of 3 schools. The workload so far has been more than expected however it’s around learning what goes on and training. I am honestly hoping I can be helpful but balance this out with the robotics stuff.

Nissan Micra

So my epic neighbour gave me his old Micra which was lovely. It’s not moved for years so the idea was to get it back on the road and see how I can go with making it drive itself. Well at least detect the road etc. This had its MOT today and failed on 1 tire, however by the end of the day, that should be done.

FOCUS ūüôĀ

So if you read last month’s update and have read the above, you would be correct in thinking I am massively failing in being focused. The first 3 items seem to be nothing to do with the focused plan from last month! Let’s review last month’s main points

InMoov Humanoid Robot

So I hope to do some work on this today however progress has been made on this.

  • The front neck piston is fixed
  • The head roll now works
  • A new more powerful power supply has been fitted (6v 60 amps)
  • I have fixed the shoulder joint that broke
  • The lower torso is now working
  • Made custom cables for it
  • I also created and 3D printed an object to raise the Inmoov up as the arms were hitting the base.
  • The right arm now has an issue that needs investigating

So left to do is fix the XY eye moment (or replace it), finish a little wiring, and configure the software.

Red Inmoov Head

This was probably my favorite project last year however it always bugged me that the sound feedback was terrible and the jaw didn’t work properly. I decided to try and fix this and it’s now a lot better. It’s stopped using the Burf.co chat API which I need to fix.

Mobility Scooter / Electric Wheelchair

So my PS2 controller sensor turned up from China which meant I was able to use it with my little Arduino project. It works pretty well now and can control the wheelchair

Maths

Very little progress was made here and I need to work on fixing that.

Autonomous Car: Deep Learning & Computer Vision for Beginners

Nothing was done, again I need to work harder to get this done

Burf.co

Now that it is easy to deploy, I have been doing some vital bug fixes for it.

Running

I have started running again which can only be a good thing ūüôā

Defining some goals and staying to them

So it’s the 1st of March and I think I have made some good progress over the last 2 months however there has been a lack of focus and life has thrown in some issues. Life will always get in the way but I can try and reduce the noise and lack of focus.

  • Goal 1: Finish the Inmoov robot and fix the issues listed above so that the robot can be demonstrated to people. This is not far away and has been my main focus!
  • Goal 2: Remove the grounding issue from the Red Inmoov robot.
  • Goal 3: Add paging to Burf.co and update the database. Done
  • Goal 4: Create a demo of controlling the Electric wheelchair with a PS2 controller. Done
  • Goal 5: Create a demo of controlling the mobility scooter with a PS2 controller (reducing to low priority)
  • Goal 6: Spend some time at Khan Academy on Algebra and Geometry. (increasing the priority to medium)
  • Goal 7: Do something around self-driving with the Micra else sell it. (high)
  • Goal 8: Continue with self-driving courses (medium)
  • Goal 9: Improve Burf.co Chat API (low)

Reviewing the list from last month (above), things are looking pretty good. One goal has been added around the Micra however if I do not set one, it’s a waste of money and needs to be sold.

Friday Update: Where has the time gone?

Hello and welcome to another Burf update! I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post and it’s nearly Christmas. I think quite a lot has happened over the last month, but who knows until I list it?

Wheelchair Hacking
So in my last post, I wrote about trying to hack the wheelchair. I decided to take a different direction in this by designing and 3D printing a device that would control it for me. This taught me some useful skills including using Fusion 360.


DevCon
Compsoft Creative hosted another DevCon which was great! I showed people 3D printing, VR and then moved on to continue my work with Wheelchair Hacking. I focused on programming the remote for the wheelchair using Arduino IDE.

I plan to continue on this today as I have the day off. The aim is to be able to control it via an infrared Remote Control using an Arduino Mega and some servos.

Update: IT worked!



Trigger TGB Mk1

I also bought a new vehicle, a 50CC moped trike that is known as GoCar’s in the US and used in Tourism. My dad and I have had some good fun with it already. We have some big plans for it. I technically saved it from rotting in a shop’s back garden ūüôā

The Loft

I also did some DIY!!! I know, shut the front door! Randomly I had a day off work and my dad and I boarded the loft. That was a long day!

Math

So I am still plowing through this, I have been jumping forward a little so that I can get to learning Algebra sooner. Writing this post reminds me to do more

The Complete Self-Driving Car Course – Applied Deep Learning

So this was one of the courses I wanted to do this year, and I have now started it. I should have probably started the Coursera one first but hey ho!

Project Lancelot lives
I have taken ownership of the crazy Lancelot project my dad and I built last year and spent a bit of time getting it back up and running

Vevor CNC machine
I got this great little machine from my dad for Christmas last year and thought I would give it a go one evening. It sadly didn’t go to plan due to a malformed chuck however with a bit of brute force I managed to fire it up. I am not sure how much I will use it, I feel I need to master designing stuff for 3D printing first however it was still interesting. Again you can use Fusion 360 to design and plan your milling.


Review

So in my next blog post, I hope to review what I have done this year, the good the bad, and the failures! I also want to start to think about next year’s goals and really focus on some harder targets, ones that are less playing and more life-changing.

Book Review : Hacking Your Lego Mindstorms EV3 Kit by John Baichtal

ShowCover

I have known John for a few years now due to him¬†doing a¬†write up on my LEGO Wheelchair for Make, back then he was working on a book that covered using LEGO and Arduino’s together, called¬†Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics. ¬†It’s a fantastic book!

His new book, Hacking Your Lego Mindstorms EV3 is on a similar theme but of course for the EV3, not the NXT.  It also covers making your own parts via 3D Printing and Laser cutting which I found very useful.

The book features nice colourful based instructions to build 5 projects and then how to hack each one (e.g change the EV3 for a Arduino or Pi).  Like the previous book, this book uses products from Wayne and Layne e.g the Bricktronic Shield however also includes hacks / projects using the Raspberry Pi. I would of liked to have seen the introduction to Electronics chapter added to this book which exists in the previous book.  I believe this book is more designed for beginners than the previous book.

If you own a EV3 and want to take it to the next step by using another controller, this book is a very good introduction for you.

 

 

Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics

Just before Christmas I received this fantastic book and over the last few months I have been making my way through it.

I think this is the number 1 book if you are coming from a LEGO MINDSTORMS background and want to know more about electronics and the Arduino platform or are coming from an Arduino background and want to integrate it with an easy to use building framework like LEGO.

The book features nice big colourful photos and building instructions. It features a wide range of projects from a robotic clock to a drawing bot, you can even make a drinks dispenser.  The book also covers the basics of electronics, history and in-depth details of LEGO MINDSTORMS and the Arduino platform and how to connect a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT to an Arduino.

I would say the only¬†sticking point that people might find with this book is that it requires a Bricktronic Shield/Motor Controller to build most of the projects. ¬†Full instructions on how to make your own shield are provided in the book which is useful if you don’t have one.¬†If making one is not your thing, you can buy one from Wayne and Layne¬†(co-writers of the book)¬†for a fairly cheaply. ¬†Wayne and Layne also have some other cool projects on their site including an Arduino Mega Shield that allows you to run 6 LEGO NXT motors and 4 sensors. ¬†I will be doing a review of that soon.

As I have already said, this book is awesome if you want to extend the possibilities of your LEGO MINDSTORMS kit or use LEGO with the Arduino platform.

If you would like more information on this book, check it out on Amazon

 

Christmas comes early at the Burfield household!

So Christmas has definitley come early this year for me and has come in the form of 3 wise companies!

The first of these was HiTechnic.com who sent me a SuperPro Experimental kit AND a MiniScope.  Both of these products where on my Christmas list for my wife to get me!

So the first of these products allow you to build your own circuits and sensors that can be used with the LEGO NXT (and a whole lot more).  It comes with a handy Experimenter’s Kit Handbook to take you through the basics up to some more advance stuff.  I will be doing a full review of this very soon and hope to build some very neat things!

The second product which has only been released recently is the MiniScope.  This is a full featured dual channel digital oscilloscope with an auxiliary 4 channel digital input option.  This is the perfect companion for the SuperPro because it will allow you to see what your circuits/sensors are outputting on your PC

The second of these wise companies was Matrix Robotics. ¬†They make a metal building kit that is completely compatible with LEGO. ¬†You still use the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT as the brain however you plug the MATRIX Controller (supports 4 motors and 4 servos) into the NXT sensor port (amazing!!). ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I love my LEGO and I believe that you can build most things out of it however, sometimes you wish there was a longer/stronger beam, a more powerful motor, servo support or that you want your model to be indestructible.

So what did they send me?  1 of each of their sets!!!! (yes I must of been a very good person this year!).  My plan is to build a few small models first and then build something epic!! Matrix Wheelchair, a Terminator? who knows!

So who was the 3rd wise company? The popular blog/magazine MAKE who featured my LEGO Wheelchair a few months back.

So what did they send me? ¬†Well to answer that I first need to tell you that for Christmas I hope to get some Arduino stuff including a Mindsensors NXShield¬†which will allow me to control 4 LEGO NXT motors, 4 sensors and 12 Mindsensors servo’s from a single Arduino. ¬†Also the Arduino I hope to get will have ADK support so that I can control it via an Android phone. ¬†Again, I am not moving away from LEGO, I love it however its always good to know what other options are out there that I can use with LEGO.

Knowing what I hope to get for Christmas, you can appreciate how happy I am to get what MAKE sent me:  Make: Lego and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics.  Another item that I had on my wishlist for Christmas!  Again, I plan to do a full review once I get my Arduino!

 

Well, I am going to have a very busy few months with this stuff!  Many thanks goes out to HiTechnic, Matrix Robotics and MAKE.

Merry Christmas

Mindsensors RCX Multiplexer controlled via Android and RobotC

As you may be aware I have been building a Robot called Wheeler out of old parts (old grey and RCX 9V motors etc).  I was hoping to have it finished over the Christmas break but had hit a small issue with driving the wheels with the new weight of the body.  Anyway what I managed to get up and running is the top half of Wheeer and the controller which is a Android phone (Dell Streak).

Mindsensors RCX Multiplexer

I was utterly impressed with the Mindsensors.com RCX Multiplexer and using Xanders driver suite (check BotBench) how fast I was up and running.  I wish there was a way to run the RCX Multiplexer off the NXT power supply but thats a small thing compared to how useful it is.  I wish I had 3 more of them so that I could control 16 RCX motors!

Android NXT Remote Control

So to try and work out how to control the NXT via Android, I stumbled across the NXT Remote Control project which is free to download.¬† This uses Lego’s Direct Commands to control the 3 motor ports on the NXT.¬† This means it bypasses your own code and you have no control over it.¬† However, what I managed to do is reduce it down to a very simple program that sends messages to the NXT which you can deal with in your own program.¬† In RobotC, it sends messages that are compatible with the MessageParam command and so you can send a message ID and 2 params to the NXT and deal with them in RobotC anyway you want to.

Code will be available soon once I have tidied it up ūüôā