SERVO Magazine - February 2008

Cover Story: Playing with Pleo


Features

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The MechBash Traveling Robot Show
by Jon Vandervelde
One night, a gaggle of robot builders were posing questions like “how can we get robot combat — with all its associated cultural and educational benefits — back into the public eye?” Another question that came up was “how can I get paid to blow things up, and yet stay out of jail?” Needless to say, with the sheer, concentrated weight of genius crammed into that tiny, bamboo paneled Tiki bar, answers to these questions and many more besides were soon flowing thick and fast. And from these ... Page 39

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MAKER Fair
by R. Steven Rainwater
What do robots have in common with recycled clothes, root beer, and medieval siege weapons? Why are the creators of these wonderfully interesting things suddenly more visible than they were in the past? What is Hyperbolic Origami? These are a few of the questions I pondered as I drove from Dallas to Austin, TX for the 2007 Austin Maker Faire. I had just returned from a road trip to Marfa, TX for the annual Chinati Open House art festival. It struck me as I took in the art and talked to the ... Page 43

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Capacity: The Key to Battery Runtime
by Isidor Buchmann
A look at emerging rapid-test technologies for deep-cycle, lead-acid batteries | The secret of battery runtime lies in the capacity. Capacity defines the energy a battery can hold. The definition for capacity is usually given in ampere-hours (Ah); it specifies the elapsed time when discharging a battery at a calibrated current to the end-of-discharge voltage. Portable batteries commonly use a one hour discharge; larger batteries are rated at either a five or 20 hour discharge period... Page 54

Projects

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The RoboCooler

by Jerry Reed

I teach introductory programming classes at a local community college and I’m always looking for an involving project for my students. One of the problems with entry-level programming classes is that many students find the example programs they construct boring and somewhat removed from the real world. It’s hard for anyone — myself included — to get too excited about coding a bubble sort, for instance. I’ve tried various simple control projects before and sometimes the devices themselves ... Page 31

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Building a Stepper Mottor Controller | Part 1

by Fred Eady

That figures as for the past six months, I’ve been working on an embedded project that is dependent upon the motion provided by the shaft of a stepper motor. So, it would be an understatement to say that I’ve been heads down in the design and implementation phases of deploying the embedded motor control application I’ve been sleeping with for the past six months. Along the way, I’ve had the opportunity to build up and test various stepper motor control circuits. I’m on the verge of building ... Page 48

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Reviving an Androbot BOB | Part 1

by Robert Doerr

I enjoy restoring early personal robots to their original working condition. Most of my time is spent working on the HERO robots, but I always have other projects going on. One robot in particular — an early Androbot BOB prototype — was missing all of his brains and had been sitting for years as an empty shell. That was just not acceptable! Since the original electronics would probably never be found, I decided that I should at least use some of the extra robot parts from past projects to get... Page 57

Columns

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Robytes
by Jeff Eckert
Robytes | February 2008 | UAV Imitates Sea Birds
So one day Guy Meadows, director of the Marine Hydrodynamics Labs at the University of Michigan (www.umich.edu), was floating around and saw a flying fish pop out of the water and soar over the waves. He was so impressed and inspired that he said, “Wow. I’ll bet I can build one of those,” hence the name of the UAV that he and some engineering researchers designed and built. Somehow the concept evolved away from fish and focused on sea birds, but the name stuck. In any event, Meadows and his ... Page 08

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GeerHead
by David Geer
Robot Leaves Breadcrumbs
Moravian College student and roboticist Wesley Moser (class of ‘08) built a robot that could trace its steps and map them out on a computer screen, albeit with a lot of help from Moser’s own software, which he programmed using multiple languages. The robot was the result of Moser’s Student Opportunity for Academic Research (SOAR) project at Moravian. Ben Coleman, assistant professor of computer science at the academic institution, guided Moser. The robot uses a variety of sensors to ... Page 10

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Ask Mr. Roboto
by Pete Miles
Ask Mr. Roboto | February 2008
Your Problems Solved Here. Page 14

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Robotics Resources
by Gordon McComb
The Recycled Robot
There’s an old saying — maybe it’s a new saying — that goes “Everything old is new again.” What we used to throw out in the trash are now collector’s items people buy and sell on eBay for top dollar. Popular fashions that peaked then ebbed in decades long past and were considered passé, are now all the rage. Again. Recycling is something we humans do by nature. Old things get repurposed inside new ideas. In the case of mechanical constructions such as robots, recycling is often cheaper and ... Page 62

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Lessons From The Lab
by James Isom
NXT Packbot | Part 3
Let’s pick up where we left off in December and finish up the main chassis of the Packbot. Rear Chassis Assembly: The two sides are mirror images of one another that come together with a middle bracket that will eventually help organize the wires for your motors and sensors. Once again, I’ll include instructions for both sides to make it easier... Page 67

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Appetizer
by Kevin Berry
The Door Into Spring
WARNING: This Appetizer contains opinions which may not taste good to the robotics community! Consume with caution! It’s New Year’s Eve, I’m 50 years old, and instead of partying until I’m stupid, I’m home writing a column for SERVO. It’s amazing how a few years change things! Three decades ago, I thought New Years was the best party opportunity of the year; now it’s a quiet night to write. I’m reminded of the changes time brings because the soundtrack to this evening’s writing is my wife’s ... Page 76

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Then and Now
by Tom Carroll
Personal Robots: From Science Fiction to Reality
I’ve written about personal robots for years in this column. I’ve discussed some of the early machines available back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s such as the Heath Hero series, the Androbots, and the RB5X, among others. These machines certainly differed from their industrial cousins that toiled away in modern factories. They also differ from service robots that include ROVs (remotely operated vehicles), UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that I wrote about last month, and AUVs ... Page 78