My New jellyBot Prototype, Racky

 

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About a year ago I started building a robotic jellyfish inspired by Festo’s submergible AquaJelly. I was just beginning to figure out how to get the thing moving when I got sidetracked with the prospect of launching a Kickstarter campaign and dropped the project cold. During this whole long year while I’ve been fulfilling the said Kickstarter, this poor jelly prototype (“Boney”) has watched silently from a distant shelf in the workroom, begging me to pick it up again. Finally this weekend I was able to spend some time giving the old parts a makeover… in yellow.

I added a nice gentle curve to the moving pieces, taking after the design of its cousins, the delta robots :

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Last year I decided to use a rack and pinion to get the parts to move in leu of Festo’s fancy linear actuator that they showcase in their model. Never having used, let alone designed a working rack and pinion before, this took some fussing about to get just right. The two servo motors I chose to drive the jelly’s motion are attached to a fixed central core of steel rods which two separate radial disks glide up down upon. All of the jelly’s flowing arms will be attached to the elbow of the mechanical arms, and as the disks these arms are attached to move back and forth, towards and away from each other, a sort of circular pumping motion is made.

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The two rack and pinion sets are in place now, each on opposite sides from one another moving different pieces in opposite directions. The rack passes through a slot in the opposing central disk, allowing it a deeper breadth of motion as well as keeping it in place. The only thing I seem to be missing at this point is a tensioner to press the rack against the gear on the driveshaft of the motor, so I have plans to whip one up later tonight.

On my old prototype, I used plain long strips of sheet ABS as stand ins for the jelly’s long flowing arms. They worked more or less, but weren’t very nice to look at :

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For this rendition of the bot, Mark offered me some of his old shelf liners from the garage to use. These happened to be an awesome semitransparent gray that matches the printed parts of the jelly perfectly! I decided on an elongated spade shape for the tendrils this time :

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These pieces connect at one end to a small ring, creating the umbrella of the jelly (the delta robots watch from the side in aw…) :

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The center of the umbrella mounts to the top portion of the drive shaft with a fancy pants shape sandwiching it in place like so :

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Once I design my tensioner for the rack and pinion and finish printing and attaching the rest of the jelly’s small arms (all of this depending on whether or not my printer stops being a butt) I can then start working on some test code to get the thing moving! I have no idea really if my design will work at all… I’ll just have to wait and see. For now though, it’s getting acquainted with all of its brothers and sisters in the war room. =]

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My next post will likely be about whether or not I succeeded mechanically in getting the jelly to do what its supposed to. Cheers!

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Robot Army : Family Photos

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While waiting for parts and components to funnel our way, Mark and I got around to taking some promotional photos of our brood. We have these 30 cool robots and soon enough we hope to start displaying them around town. Getting the word out about them is a must, and nothing conveys the idea of a dancing field of light wielding minions better than long exposure shots like these!

I can’t wait until all 200 of them are built and dancing. ^.^

To see the whole album visit here : Long Exposure Shoot

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Maybe we’ll try getting them to spell out words… =o

Robot Army : Maker Faire

Mark and I rolled into Vegas yesterday right before the sun started to bow out of the sky. We stopped at Chipotle and picked up some over-stuffed puppy bags to push into our faces with beer upon finally returning to the house we left in pieces a week earlier. It felt like we had survived the apocalypse. After that ice-cold Carona we untethered everything from the clump in the back of Mark’s Kia and began dragging things into the house where they belonged. Once all three pallets of robots made it onto the table we both collapsed on the couch and giggled in delirious exhaustion.

Maker Faire was exactly like it was last year; bursting with stimuli. The visuals were nonstop, even being trapped in our booth the whole time… which was right next to the bleeding stage Arc Attack performs on. I don’t care for tesla coils. They’re cool, but I don’t trust the continuity of physics enough to be so close to man-made lightning. I even told the Arc Attack guy that, not realizing he was the Arc Attack guy. Oops. In any case… none of our kids got zapped. The show didn’t interfere with our installation. I didn’t die. So I guess I’m over my phobia. Heh.

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The faire in itself was grueling. It had all of the monotony of booth duty at a trade show compounded with the claustrophobic *loud* nature of a rock concert. We had to invest in hearing protection just to get through the hourly performances, which was really just an excuse to buy cool yellow and grey Ryobi earphones. These came in handy for sneaking a sample of what people were whispering to one another around our booth. The headphones canceled out loud sound yet amplified near-by speech with the tiny microphones mounted on their front; great for ease dropping.

I’m ecstatic to report that setup went smoothly and we had no major failures. I had to get over the idea of other people controlling my babies… and again like at the Mini Maker Faire in Vegas, the small children couldn’t help from waving their hands around like seizuring addicts to see the robots whip around at neck-braking speed. In spite of all the jarring back and forth, they held up just fine, and by the second day I stopped being an obsessive mother and finally just let go.

Make posted a nice little article about the installation on their main page right before the show… I even got interviewed real quick by one of their editors which resulted in a video. Sweet!

After the lights turned back on at the end of the day we got to mingle with the other makers at the show. Mark and I met fellow inventors as well as some people who we’ve been in contact with through email since the launch of our Kickstarter. We finally got to hob-knob with the OSH Park crew, who we exchanged swag with and were promoting like hell in our booth for all the fantastic work they’ve done fabricating our boards. I saw some people I met from last year’s “bring a hack” dinner who were exhibiting with a laser shooting gallery. I also met a fellow kinetic artist whose area of interest is in drawing machines, the like of which I’ve been fascinated with since my early days in tech. I found a video this morning featuring Dan and his super sharp “Makelangelo” here :

All and all this was an amazing experience. We learned a lot and will likely change the format of our presentation as a result. The army will keep growing and the installation will naturally evolve over time.

Mark and I agreed not to set foot inside the war room until Monday… maybe even Tuesday… so until then I think I’m going to indulge in some frivolous Team Fortress 2. For those who we met this weekend, it was a pleasure making all these awesome memories with you. I hope to see you all soon enough (maybe at Defcon).

Robot Army : All Systems GO!

Ok, ok… I’m done lamenting about the late nights. They work… I’m happy. Time for a beer and some heavy hype building. Share this with your friends and stop by our booth at Maker Faire if you plan to be there. =] Robot Army FTW

Bunny Slippers of Death

My birthday was this past week and Mark made me something so frekkin awesome that I had to write a post to share it. First of all, we all know gifts that are made are far better than gifts which are bought. Gifts are even better still when they were made with inspiration from something you did… in this case, a drawing I made that Mark pulled into reality with his craftsman/techie prowess!

BEHOLD. Bunny feet of death :

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Mark collaborated on these with his awesomely talented friend from work, Emily Wiersma… who designed the ears, which she engineered to stand up and hold their shape when worn, as well as the adorable bunny faces!

Mark created the eyes, which are 3D printed compartments that hold both a power supply and tiny SMT LED!

I drew these almost a year ago back when I first started planning the Robot Army Kickstarter Campaign. Since I already own the red hooded robe, I can now actually wear this costume to Maker Faire. All I need now is the big centurion helm :

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HUZZAH!

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❤ Thank you Mark and Emily for yet another amazing life relic.

Robot Army : Our First Rush

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There were some experiences involved with launching a Kickstarter that I had been heavily anticipating. The most obvious of which being the excitement that follows your first big rush of backers. – Sort of like Christmas, but in the form of a global affirmation that your ideas are liked, understood, and that there is a place in the world for people who dare to seize their dreams.

Though Mark and I were off to a respectable start… our momentum pittered out rather quickly and for a good day and a half we crawled through six or seven percent. It was agonizing. Maybe we were expecting too much. Since we haven’t yet been picked up by any major feeds, its been a matter of sitting in front of the laptop every morning and kindly reminding/begging people to post about our project and help us get the word out.

After blasting yet another batch of such emails to a whole bucket of contacts, I sprawled out on the couch and dozed off. It was a nap of acceptance and release. At some point, Mark walked into the living room and yelled at me for sleeping. He sat down next to me quietly and gave me a hug, feeling something similar- which I can’t really define. A moment later I picked up my phone and checked to see how long I had been out, to find that I had an endless list of push notifications informing us that we had new backers.

Long story short… I suppose Kickstarter featured our project, and once this happened we started getting traffic in a big way. We went from 37% to 76% by the end of the day… which is huge! It’s still sort of funny that this wasn’t the result of any PR we have done. Never the less… it’s good to see your hard work pay off.

Today, I am answering questions about international shipping costs. It eludes me how I can only seem to get astronomical quotes outside of the US. =/ It’s like I’m missing something. Angry customers is bad- so I’m doing everything I can to fix this. We are almost to 90% now. I feel lite and giddy. I may have a piece of cheesecake in celebration. As soon as we are funded however, Mark and I are both getting mega steak.

Robot Army : Deltas in the Window

Mark and I finished up our window display at SYN Shop last night, which we set up to look kinda like a pet shop window. You know, with shredded graph paper at the bottom, little boxes stacked up to play in, and food dishes filled with misc components on the side. We have a rather busy taco joint next door with a walk up bar, so maybe…. just maybe…  the drunken shrapnel off Fremont Street will walk by, see my adorable little babies wiggling, be mystified by them, and feel compelled to rip one of our links off the adoption flyer.

Sadly by the time I woke up this morning our friend Pawel reported that two of our kids had destroyed themselves over night. Leaving them there running all night was kind of an unfair endurance test though. We switched out all their parts for the new tighter beefier versions we designed last week… all but the paddles. – You know, the part that bares all the weight. Guess which pieces failed. So, at some point today we’ll come rescue our kids and give them new little chicken wings… Then hopefully we don’t end up with a pile of sticks again… Saddest thing to see ever : http://moby.to/k4zpr1

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Yup. I can be honest and admit to you that Mark and I have been checking our phones, or updating our browsers every five minutes to see if we have new backers. Yesterday during the Super Bowl we forced ourselves only to check in between quarters and otherwise drank wine and talked about our campaign, ignoring the game. After the first two days we were at 25% and at this very moment as I type this we are hanging just above $3k. It’s a promising start… but none of my PR has paid off yet. I really hope that’s due to it being Monday and not the fact that I am either unpopular, unskilled at writing about my ideas, or too much of a tart to take seriously. Ahhh….. and this is yet another thing that’s feeding the neurosis. On that note, check out our page.