Archive for February, 2015

A trip to The Plant

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

DSCN0288On a cold Feburary morning, we were contacted by a local group seeking assistance. Plant Chicago is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that acts as a small business incubator, and aims to assist the urban agriculture movement through education. They were in need of equipment in order to collect data from their aquaponic systems, aiming to monitor temperature, Ph, dissolved oxygen, humidity, and even plant growth, via the arduino platform. Being that this project is super cool and we have the Geekduino platform, combined with our Sensor Shield which allows for simple and rapid prototyping using a wide range of sensors, we obliged this request. Excited to see what Plant Chicago had in the works, we arranged a trip to The Plant.

Our first chance to visit was on Valentine’s Day, and what a lovely day to make new friends. Nestled in a group of enormous industrial parks, this old building, known as The Plant, is the home of Plant Chicago. Though it is massive, it stands unassuming among the smoke stacks and steel frame factories nearby. Like your mama probably told you, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and we were excited to see what they had to offer. We met up with the President of the Auxiliary Board, and began the tour.

DSCN0295There is a large, inviting lobby beyond the entry steps. Every room bustles with activity. There are several businesses taking residence there, and more moving in. There are algae bioreactors in the windows, giant water tanks on the walls, and everywhere you look, there are signs of activity. There is a small table in this enormous room, with a small fish tank on it. A healthy fish swims around the tank, as water flows to the plants above. This is the first aquaponic system you see in the building, and it is a teaching tool, showing the nature of a closed-loop system.

Being shown around some of the more seemingly vacant areas of the building, we are informed of business that came and went, as well as ones that are moving in, and plans to use spaces as community areas and markets. There is a bakery and a fromagere on the upper floors. A mushroom farm, and a battery of aquaponic farms reside in the basement. The Plant is bustling with activity, and big changes are happening constantly.

DSCN0299 We got a chance to look at the aquaponic systems that Plant Chicago employs, growing food and providing a valuable learning environment for urban agriculture. Seeing the systems up close and personal was a good way to work out the methods with which experiment data collection could be done with the resources that were available, as well as how we could expand upon them with the equipment we were donating. This is a huge undertaking, but with a Geekduino and the willingness to learn, Plant Chicago will be logging experimental data on these systems in no time. We at Trossen Robotics are confident that Plant Chicago is growing, and we’re looking forward to a relationship that broadens the horizons of both organizations together.

The LIDAR-Lite Is In Stock at Trossen Robotics!

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015


You may have heard about the LIDAR-Lite , a small, low cost, high performance distance sensing module. With a range of up to 40m and an accuracy of 2.5cm, we absolutely love the LIDAR lite. The LIDAR Lite is very easy to work with – you can connect to it via I2C or PWM to read distance data. We’re including several goodies with the LIDAR Lite, like cable ends and heat shrink tube so you can solder onto the LIDAR Lite’s cable that will let you plug it directly into the RobotGeek Sensor Shield or the ArbotiX-M Robocontroller. You’ll also get mounting hardware to help you mount the LIDAR-Lite to any of our robots with the centimeter grid pattern.

We’ve created two demos with the LIDAR Lite using Interbotix Robots. First we put a LIDAR Lite on our PhantomX Hexapod and programmed the Hexapod to move back and forth depending on where an object is. Move the object closer to the Hexapod and it will back up, move it farther, and the hexapod will run after it. After we did that project, we built a small scanner application that will take data from the LIDAR lite connected to a Robot Turret and display the perimeter of the room on your screen – see the video below to see it in action.

New Products – 2/17/2015

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Doctors, Gators, Splices, and Cerberus – We have what you need to get your prototype hooked up and tested out!

USB Charger Doctor - In-line Voltage and Current Meter

The USB Charger Doctor is a handy tool that measures the working voltage and current output for any USB port and project. Plug the Doctor between a USB port and your USB device, and it will check the current draw with a 0.05 ohm resistor in line with the power pin. Data lines pass through as normal. You can use this device from 3.5-7VDC input voltage (although most USB devices tend to hover around 4.75 to 5.25) and up to 3A of current. It flips between voltage and current readouts roughly every 3 seconds.



Sparkfun Cerberus USB Cable

You are in the middle of working on your latest robot, when you need to program a new board you just got in. You dig through your bin of USB cables only to find that you have hundreds that have the wrong end, and exactly zero that have the end you’re looking for. As luck would have it, you remember that you ordered the Sparkfun Cerberus USB Cable! With this cable, you will always have the right connection.

The Cerberus USB Cable has the standard A-type connector, which you can plug into your computer or USB power supply; At the other end are three common USB connectors: B, mini-B and micro-B. Want to transfer data and power three devices at the same time? This cable comes standard with a USB hub built in, so you’ll never have to worry about deciding between charging your phone and moving your extensive collection of sci-fi movies to an external hard drive.

We’ve got Alligator clips of all sorts, so you can rapidly make the connections you need to prototype your project! We have a 10 pack of standard multicolored gators, a couple of gator to 2.1mm barrel plug/jack adapters, and some alligator clips with pigtails that terminate to a male single pin hookup that you can use with a breadboard or any 0.1″ standard connector!

Get connected quickly with a Cold Splice! These little wonders bite into any 22-26 AWG solid core wire with a quick squeeze from some parallel-jaw or slip joint pliers, making a solid butt splice connection. Though not waterproof, the splices contain silicone jelly to keep the cold splice from oxidizing. They come in packs of 10 splices, and can join 2 or 3 wires.

 As always, there’s more to come soon. Prototype well, and check back often, we have exciting things happening this year!

New Products – 2/12/2015

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

We’ve got some fantastic new products to light up the night and get you moving!

Neopixel Jewel 7

The NeoPixel Jewel is a lovely round PCB, home to 7 tiny WS2812 5050 (5mm x 5mm) smart RGB LEDs. Each LED has a driver chip built into it, making them individually addressable. Many units can be chained together and run by a single microcontroller by connecting the output of one Jewel into the input of another! Each NeoPixel has ~18mA constant current drive so the color will be very consistent even if the voltage varies, and runs on 5V.

 Adafruit 16-Channel 12-bit PWM/Servo Driver - I2C interface - PCA9685

Want to make a hexapod walker? Maybe you’re making a piece of art with tons of moving parts, or you need to drive a ton of LEDs with precise PWM output. Your microcontroller has a limited number of PWM outputs, and you find yourself running out! Not with the Adafruit 16-Channel 12-bit PWM/Servo Driver – I2C interface. With this pwm and servo driver breakout, you can control 16 free-running PWM outputs with just two pins! Need to run more than 16 PWM outputs? No problem. Chain together up to 62 of these beauties for up to an outstanding 992 PWM outputs.

 Analog Feedback Micro Servo - Metal Gear

The Analog Feedback Micro Servo may appear to be a normal micro servo, but it is so much more. What makes this little fella special? Beyond the metal gears which keep this servo solid for the long haul in hobby systems, this servo has feedback via a potentiometer wiper on a separate wire that can be read with an analog input, such as those on an Arduino, to get the servo’s position. This gives you the ability to “record” the servo’s motion, or improve stability.

SparkFun Transceiver Breakout - RS-485

The SparkFun Transceiver Breakout – RS-485 is a breakout board for the SP3485 RS-485 transceiver IC, which will convert a UART serial stream to RS-485. The SP3485 is a half-duplex transceiver, so it can only communicate one way at a time, but it can reach transmission speeds of up to 10Mbps. This board requires a very low amount of power and can operate from a single +3.3VDC supply.

This breakout board includes the SP3485 RS-485 transceiver, filter capacitor, and other components shown on the schematic. The RS-485 output has been broken out to three different connections: (1) an RJ-45 connector, (2) a 3-pin 3.55mm screw terminal, and (3) a 3-pin 0.1″ pitch header; none of these output connectors come populated.

5mm Plastic Bevel LED Holder - Pack of 5This pack of 5 5mm Plastic Bevel LED Holders will keep your LEDs in place. Made of the ever ubiquitous black plastic, with a subtle bevel that gracefully leans into the curve of your LED, people will take notice of your great taste in flush mounting hardware.


Keep your receive pin connected, we have more to share!