Archive for January, 2009

Give your Bioloid a new paint job!

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Okay, technically it isn’t ‘paint’. Dye would be more appropriate.

I decided that my plain old white Bioloid was boring, so I started looking around for the best way to change his color scheme. The Bioloid brackets are pretty sturdy, and thus resistant to paint and markers. I found mixed results searching through on various experimenters success in dying their brackets, but I figured I would give it a shot.  After playing around with individual brackets I figured out the correct dye-water mixture, length of time, and heat, and it turned out even better than expected!

Here is a step by step tutorial detailing what it takes to get your Bioloid dyed a different color. I used black, but since the brackets are white I would assume that just about any color would work.

Note: Dye your brackets at your own risk! While I’m quite detailed in my instructions, I nor Trossen Robotics hold any responsibility if your brackets end up pink, or otherwise destroyed.

Building for FIRST or Science Olympiad?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

We’ve recently started seeing the flurry of activity that marks when teams building for the upcoming national robotics competitions start shopping. Since we stock a very large selection of robot parts, finding what you need can be a bit daunting at first. To assist builders, we’ve launched our FIRST Starter Page to help get people pointed in the right direction. Within it we’ve listed the most popular items we see flying off the shelves every competition season, laid out in an easy to navigate manner. If you or someone you know is looking for parts for their competition entry, point ’em this way!

Luckily, Sarah Conner hasn’t shown up yet

Monday, January 26th, 2009

But we’re preparing for when she shows up to blow us away, because this might very well be the start of Skynet.

Robot pr0n warning. (Click for a larger picture)

Well, at least nobody can accuse us of under-engineering. Yup, that’s a pyramid of RX-64s. This is a teaser photo of a new project brewing in the Trossen Robotics Lab for the upcoming Mech Warfare competition. A fully custom aluminum frame and bracket system is being machined courtesy of Big Blue Saw, our sponsor on the project. Did we mention we’re giving it weapons? /snicker

Phidgets, Arduinos, and Axons, Oh My!

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

We love the smell of fresh circuit boards in the morning! We’re always adding new gizmos and robotic goodies, but here’s a few items we’ve added recently that might be of interest to you tinkerers out there!

From Phidgets we have the return of the 8/8/8 Interface Kit w/ USB Hub. This is a heavy duty 6 port USB Hub, supplying 500ma per port to allow daisychaining of multiple Phidgets devices.

We’d also like to introduce the new Bipolar 1 Motor Stepper controller. Stepper motor controllers can be difficult to find at times, Phidgets makes it easy with this USB board and their reknowned API and software support behind it!

Our buddies over at Sparkfun, the next-gen Radio Shack of our times, continue to amaze us with the amount of neat electronic gadgets they pump out at insane speeds. Joining our Arduino and Atmel line up are the Arduino Pro and Arduino Pro Mini. Both are a minimalist approach to the popular Arduino microcontrollers, allowing you to add headers and wires as you see fit.

And last but certainly not least, the Axon Microcontroller is back in stock! This board initially sold quicker than Society of Robots could make them, but we’re glad to say we’ve finally got them back in stock. These Atmel 640 based power-horse microcontrollers are a roboticist’s dream, boasting 55 I/O ports, a built in USB compiler, and a impressive software library. Pick yours up today!

Let’s give the Robonova a hand! Err, Stand!

Monday, January 19th, 2009

Humanoid robots are everywhere these days, and we encounter plenty of builders on our forums that come up with all sorts of ways to suspend their bots while creating new walking motions, dances, and kung fu moves. Hitec has decided to give their builders a hand by creating this inexpensive and awesomely designed Humanoid Robot Stand.

A humanoid robot stand for $25 bucks? We had to check it out for ourselves so we tore one open and got to building, and five minutes later our Robonova was kicking freely. We also found that the Bioloid humanoid fits pretty well, which effectively kills two birds with one stone!

Mech Warfare Featured in Issue 15 of Robot Magazine!

Friday, January 16th, 2009

The Mech Warfare competition, which was founded right here at the Trossen Robotics Community (TRC), continues to gain momentum as we count down the months until the debut at Robogames 2009 this summer. Our friends over at Robot Magazine had caught word of the competition, as well as the viral excitement of the builders involved, and asked me to write up an article outlining the competition, the rules, and the participants and their Mechs.

For those of you who may not have heard of Mech Warfare yet, it is a robotic competition in which participants construct remotely piloted walking robots armed with airsoft guns and other weapons to duke it out in an urban style arena. Think of it as small scale R/C MechWarrior.

If you’d like to check out the article, you can pick up the current issue of Robot Magazine in most major bookstores or order it online from our store. For more information on the Mech Warfare event, check out the Official Site and the Mech Warfare Forums. We hope to see you and your Mech at Robogames 2009!

Trossen Robotics at CES 2009!

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

“You’re going to pay me to go to Vegas? And I get to attend CES? Stop screwing with my emotions!”

I honestly thought my boss was just pulling my chain at first.

Being my first year to attend the Consumer Electronics Show I was quite excited to say the least. I had overheard someone on the shuttle claiming that attendance would be down 10-15%, but when you factor in that up to 150,000 people have attended this in the past… 10-15% was trivial, there were still a LOT of people here. Arriving at the event and seeing a vast crowd of people out front of the main exhibition halls made the enormous size of this event hit home.

At first I wandered the main hall, then ended up in the south hall, and then realized I had just lost 3 hours in what felt like 30 minutes. Electronics as far as the eye could see, multi-story booths (yes, some of the booths had stairs), and rivers of people flowing in every direction. Finally I found a map and figured out that I actually needed to be about 3 miles away at the Sands Expo Center to find the Robotics Tech Zone.

Anybots‘ booth immediately caught my attention: boasting a slick new telepresence robot, QA. This is taking telepresence a step further, in that QA actually stands about as tall as a human and acts as a physical representation for you. The concept is that if you or your company has multiple sites, and you need to say… check out the new wallpaper in your factory in China, participate at a trade show, or attend a meeting, QA grants you the ability to do so in style. You see and hear what QA does, can look and move around fluidly, and speak as if you were on site. Aesthetically QA is very slick, a robot that would easily fit into a scene from a sci-fi movie based in the future.

The crew behind MechRC also had a booth, showcasing their new Groundpounder variant as well as the their upcoming Educational Program. I got a chance to talk with Dr. Jim Wyatt and Victor Chen about their plans for the robotic line, which includes a K-12 adaptable curriculum, future variants such as the Groundpounder pictured above, and the possibilties of Laser Tag kit upgrades!

Also showcasing at the CES was WowWee, iRobot, Kowatech, Robolabs, Hagisonic, and many more. While the Robotics Techzone wasn’t as big as I had hoped, it was somewhat expected as the show is based around consumer electronics, and consumer level robots are still considered new territory. The great thing about robotics however is that there will always be more in the future!

Feel free to check out our CES 2009 Photo Gallery (and if you were there, add your own!). I focused on taking pictures of things relative to robotics seeing as though the rest of CES is covered by everyone and their grandmother. We’ll see you there next year!