Archive for August, 2007

FlexiForce FSR’s: accurate and affordable force sensing!

Friday, August 31st, 2007

We’ve recently added FlexiForce FSR’s (force sensing resistors) to our catalog!  We’ve been carrying various FSR’s for a while now, but FlexiForce sensors are pretty much the best we’ve encountered so far.  With a simple op-amp drive circuit, you can get a beautifully linear force-to-voltage response like this:

We offer FlexiForce FSR’s in three different sensitivity ranges: 0-1 lbs, 0-25 lbs, and 0-100 lbs.  Choose the sensor that’s right for your application!  For more information on our FSR’s, and to see our new and improved force/pressure/touch sensor page, click anywhere in this sentence.

VEXplorer Unboxed!

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

We've just received our first shipment of VEXplorer kits, and we couldn't resist cracking one open to peer at all the goodies inside.  Here's a quick look at what we found.  Click on any picture to see a larger version.

The box exterior

The packaging is pretty slick.  The box is a big, shiny, and does a good job of showing off the goods.  It's a commercial for itself.  If you saw this in Wal Mart, you'd buy it.  Well, you'd buy it if you were the kind of unscrupulous individual who thinks shopping at Wal Mart is a good idea.  You're not unscrupulous, are you?

The major mechanical bits

The major mechanical modules come preassembled.  For those of us with painfully short attention spans, this is very good news.  Revell claims that you can put everything together and get it running in an hour.  Having seen the preassembled arm, gripper, and drive modules; this figure sounds much more realistic.  Everything looks very solid and well-built, as well.  The gripper looks good.  The gripping surface is curved and coated in a rubbery substance, for maximum grabbing potential.  The gripper has some springs built into it, to lessen strain on the motor when it clamps down on something.  The apparatus on the left is the shoulder for the arm.  Everything is driven by DC gear motors.

Structural components: some assembly required.

We've got chassis frame pieces, brackets, nuts, bolts, a mounting panel, a crescent wrench, two allen wrenches, and (of course) zip ties!

Controller, receivers, and Camera

Here, following the picture in a clockwise fashion, are the controller, receiver, battery pack, wireless camera, camera receiver, and A/V cables for the camera receiver.
The controller is a bit large, but comfortable to hold.  Remember the original XBox controllers?  The morbidly obese ones that had all that wasted real estate?  This controller is kind of like that, except there are just two control sticks and four shoulder buttons.
I was hoping to see some servo ports on the receiver, but instead you get 6 DC motor channels and two auxiliary ports.  Initially, the kit was going to have servo support (all of the concept art had 3-wire cables leading to the actuators), but I'm guessing this was removed to keep the price down.
The battery holder takes 6 AA batteries, but it has a standard Tamaya connector, so it could easily be replaced by a higher capacity 7.2V R/C battery pack.  If VEX was going to pick one thing to not make proprietary, I'm glad it was the battery.
The camera has a built-in microphone, which is pretty cool.  It takes power from the main VEX receiver unit, but otherwise the camera/receiver system stands alone, so you could potentially incorporate it into any teleoperation or surveillance project.
The camera receiver is powered by an AC adapter and plugs directly into a TV, video card, or anything that has a composite video RCA input.

The manual is strait forward and easy to follow

A kit can have fancy electronics, precision motors, and sprockets forged of pure platinum; but if the manual is garbage, it could be a frustrating disaster.  Now, the VEXplorer kit may not have any platinum sprockets, but it does have a damn fine manual.  You'll find big, clear pictures of the assemblies and the parts needed to complete each step. 
Of course, you can put the thing together however you want, but this gives you a
good place to start.

Free SolidWorks DVD included

VEXplorer also comes with a SolidWorks "student design kit."  Basically, this means you get a copy of SolidWorks and a limited free licence.  SolidWorks is a very powerful design tool, and knowing how to use it is a valuable skill for those who are moving into professional design fields.  Not too shabby!

To purchase this kit, you canfollow this link to our VEXplorer product page.

4 Bottle Robot Race – Anyone can enter !

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

4 Bottle Robot Race – Anyone can enter !

Robot magazine, in collaboration with, run by founding blogger Lem Fugitt, is pleased to announce a robot contest that is easy to participate in, anywhere on the planet.

Trossen Robotics has donated a SVR-1 kit to the winner of the wheel/track race. There is also a version of the race for walking robots.

Anyone can enter the contest with any robot., including MINDSTORMS, Robosapiens, Sumo designs, Vex design system robots, scratch-built or any toy or hobby robot purchased as a ready-to-run. RC cars, buggies and trucks are eligible in the remote control class. Robots with the fastest demonstrated run times will be awarded first place titles. Winners will be posted at and featured in Robot magazine.

Visit Robot Magazine to read more details about the race and how to enter.

Click here to see Dynamizer running the 4Bottle race
(video provided by, video supplied by Tomio Sugiura,
Dynamizer’s creator)

Crabfu reviews Genex suit for KHR-2HV

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007
This KHR-2HV beats up KHR-1’s on the playground and steals their lunch money.

I-Wei, the mechanical guru responsible for the many fascinating creations of Crabfu Steamworks, has recently jumped headlong into the world of humanoid robotics.  Ever since he purchased his KHR-2HV, he has been keeping the world updated on his progress by releasing a steady stream of impressive videos.  His latest contribution is a tell-all review of Kondo’s A-621 Genex suit for the KHR-2HV humanoid.  He goes into detail regarding everything he likes and dislikes about the kit, and also provides valuable tips and pointers.  Go check out the A-621 Genex suit review over at Robots-Dreams!

Grab a Burger at the Trossen Robotics Drive In

Monday, August 27th, 2007

We heard about Robot Portraits from a post over at Suicide Bots. We couldn’t resist and had a piece drawn up for us and we love it. Anyone who wants a portrait can have one done for $10. Grab one now before prices go up!

TR drivein

Trossen Robotics is Having a Garage Sale

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Everyone loves a
garage sale

We now have a garage sale area. In there you can find really good deals on discontinued items, overstock, scratched or banged up stuff, robots that were used in demos, and other various goodies.

Here are some of the current garage sale items:

3 robotic arms! Arm 1, Arm 2, Arm 3
A Mini Hexabot
a 1000 feet of sensor cable
Extra AndyMark wheels

For all you bargain hunters out there this is a great place to bookmark and check in on once in awhile. Happy hunting!

Pictures of the Robot Arms

The Wowwee Dragonfly is Here !

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

When the new Dragonfly came in we charged one up and ran downstairs to try it out right away. We started out in the lobby and it took about 45 seconds for us to get yelled at (never lease to robot geeks) so we took it outside.

It took us a few minutes to figure out how to fly it. Here are the things we learned: The main thing to remember is to not try to throw it when launching it. It works best when you just let it go with a really gentle forward motion. It also will fly best in no wind environments, due to it being so light. It also needs a decent amount of room to get around so I really wouldn’t plan on flying this indoors too much.

The Dragonfly really is a lot of fun. It’s uncanny how fast you forget it’s an RC toy and feel like it’s a really a large insect flying around in front of you. The flapping wings and shape of this toy really seem to trick the mind in to thinking it’s seeing a real live animal.

We were surprised how well this product worked for under $50. You really can steer it around. For a foam toy it’s pretty crash resilient. We did break one wing, but after that we crashed it plenty of times with no problems. (It comes with a set of spare wings.) The battery life was also impressively long. We expected it to be really short like the PicoZ, but it lasted at least twice as long if not more. This is a great toy to play with in the yard or at picnics. The Dragonfly is a good gift idea. We don’t recommend it for young kids however, quick eye hand coordination is needed to fly it.

Keepon is the main character in a Spoon video!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Spoon just became one of the coolest bands in the world. They made Keepon the main character in their new video “Don’t You Evah” There are even cameos at the end of the video by other robot buddies of ours such as Manoi. Too cool.

Post via boingboing

Overview of Top Robotics Software Platforms

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Michael Somby has done an great job at breaking down some of the top Robotics Software Platforms into short and sweet overviews in his article, “A Review of Robotics Software Platforms“. There are still some that he hasn’t had the chance to fully review (but he still provides some good resources for), but this will definitely help those (including myself) who like to get the question “Yes, but what is it?” answered quickly without having to read through 80 pages of documentation. He touched base on Evolution Robotics ERSP, Microsoft Robotics Studio, OROCOS, Skilligent, URBI, Webots, Player, Stage, Gazebo, iRobot AWARE, OpenJAUS, CLARAty.

Visuals are always nice to give a little taste, so here’s a table that I grabbed from Michael’s article:

Robotic Software Platforms
Platform Type
Evolution Robotics ERSP Platform Commercial
Microsoft Robotics Studio Platform Commercial Free of charge for research and hobby
OROCOS Machine and robot control libraries Open source & free
Skilligent Robot learning add on Commercial
URBI Platform Commercial
Webots Simulation environment Commercial
Player, Stage, Gazebo Platform Open Source & Free
iRobot AWARE Platform Commercial
OpenJAUS Platform Open source
CLARAty Platform Open source

Read the article!

VEXplorer Modular Robotics Kit

Monday, August 20th, 2007

The newest incarnation of the VEX system is almost here!  The hotly anticipated VEXplorer kit will be available from our store in just a few weeks, and we’re really looking forward to getting our hands on it.  Check out some of the cool features:

"The Spycam" — see and hear what you want, and maybe in places you shouldn’t, with live color picture and sound transmission to your TV. 2.4 GHz, 4-channel. Range 150′.
"The Claw" — build it to pick up a soda can, or a feather. Mount it horizontal or vertical to grab what you want.  Great for terrorizing your pets!
"The Arm" — servo motors let you manipulate the action to reach high, low, and in-between.
All Terrain Tires — Go anywhere, inside or outside, with six heavy-duty, gear-driven wheels.
6-channel hobby-class transmitter — 4 analog and 2 digital channels offer maximum flexibility to control servos and provide exceptional stability to avoid frequency drift.
  The VEXplorer Kit also includes:

  • 4 servos
  • 24 gears
  • various coated heavy metal parts
  • cables / harnesses
  • tools
  • screws, nuts, bolts, etc.

VEXplorer will be compatible with the older VEX hardware, so if you have a bunch of sensors and servos and whatnot lying around from the previous generation, don’t sweat it.  VEXplorer kits are currently available for pre-order, and will begin shipping at the end of August.

Link: VEXplorer pre-order page