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Victory At Last!

So, I finally got a new paddle cage put together.  While the old one was all stylish and minimalist, this one looks like it’s built out of Legos.  Real Legos, too, not those lame Technic beams.

Features include gearing to hopefully reduce the impact of the motor overrun, a button pressing motor (Not yet active), and flexible support arm for the angled knob.

I wrote a test program that will repeatedly rotate it like crazy and hopefully shake out the bugs.  Here’s video of it in action.

[mediaplayer src=’/log/wp-content/uploads/NewRobot1.wmv’ ]

Of course, what kind of test would it be if it didn’t end in catastrophic structural failure?  Unfortunately, the camera was not rolling for the chaos, but I assure you it was about as spectacular as it could be given what it is.  Anyway, I did record the aftermath.

[mediaplayer src=’/log/wp-content/uploads/NewRobot2.wmv’ ]

The flaw is fairly obvious in the first video, there’s some tall connector blocks on the spinner that kept knocking against the gear bar.  Eventually one of them caught and didn’t knock loose, but the motor spun the 360 anyway.  It kinda popped loose for a bit, then shuddered, before eventually collapsing.  I’ve since fixed the problem ((I was going to fix it before even running it the first time, but I wanted to see if it would cause a catastrophic structural failure…)) and had it run for upwards of ten minutes without issue.

It feels good to have some forward progress.

For those curious, the paddle in the cage is one of the Indy 500 Driving Paddles with a free 360 degree range of motion.  That’s how it was able to spin all it wanted without running into the range limitation that’s in a normal paddle.

February 27, 2010   No Comments

Previously on Crazy Project Weekend…

A Crazy Project Weekend is when I take an extended weekend and dedicate my time to a AAA project:  One that is Achievable, Awesome, and slightly Abnormal.  There are a couple of rules, made up on the spot this instant, guiding the Crazy Project:

  • Work must be done within the limited weekend time frame.  You cannot begin any concrete work prior to the time window, and if you do not complete by the end of the time, you have failed.  You may do some preparation ahead of time, such as feasibility research or acquiring necessary materials, however, nothing should be built and there should be no written plans.  The point is to see what can be done in five days, not what can be done in five days and a couple of hours an evening for three weeks prior to those five days. 
  • It must not be something you would otherwise normally do.  Setting up a website with a blog and a bunch of pictures of the dog doesn’t count.  Cleaning the garage doesn’t count.  It must not be something that anyone would normally do.
  • You have to learn something.  If you know exactly what you’re doing going in, then it’s no fun.  One of the central pieces of the project must involve something you’ve never worked with before.  There must be several moments where you have no idea what in the hell you’re doing and wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into.
  • You must post regular progress updates throughout the weekend, detailing what you’re doing and what you’ve done.  Viewers must be able to get a glimpse of your thought process and understand what you’re going through.  You should talk about initial goals and milestones, obstacles you see on the path to those milestones, and the general approach you plan to take.
  • Reaction from outsiders to your project must be a mix of “Why did you do that?” and “Oh man, that is AWESOME”.
  • It’s fine to have a mental plan going in, to make sure that you’ve appropriately scoped the project so you have a reasonable chance of success, no matter how unreasonable the project itself may be.
  • Continuing the effort from a previous Crazy Project Weekend is acceptable, even though it violates some of the previous rules.

The first Crazy Weekend Project was over Labor Day Weekend, in September 2009.  I decided that it would be a good use of my time to build a robot out of Lego Mindstorms that could play a game of Pong on an unmodified Atari 2600 and win.  Initially, I had planned to make it play a perfect game of Pong, but I didn’t get there.  Full details here:  https://mathpirate.net/log/category/crazy-weekend-project-1-pong-robot/

The second Crazy Weekend Project was over Thanksgiving 2009.  It was limited, in that I only dedicated about half the day to the project (The other half being dedicated to XBox 360…).  There were two goals for this project:  Put together a speech recognition system capable of recognizing and responding to a set series of commands, as well as write a system that could identify faces.  Speech recognition came together very quickly, so the bulk of the time was spent trying to make Wesley Crusher disappear from episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Full details here:  https://mathpirate.net/log/category/crazy-weekend-project-2/

This will be my third Crazy Weekend Project.

February 25, 2010   No Comments

Web Automation (or: How To Write A Bot To Steal Porn)