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Magnetic Comic Kickstarter ~ Homebrewed CNC Machine

7 March 2013 | No Comments »

Just a quick post, today I am helping Erik, owner of the Magnetic Comic Kickstarter to build his product. He designed a walnut/white board comic strip:

Magnetic Comic Strip. Courtesy from the project’s Kickstarter website

I am currently running two brand new CNC machines (built at Artisan’s Asylum for Erik):

Wood CNC Machines at Artisan’s Asylum

And here is a close-up of the work area: 

CNC Machine Close-up

Erik is planning on delivering the first batch of boards next week!

Climb on, 

Felipe

Woodwork ~ Beach Themed Towel Hanger

20 February 2013 | No Comments »

Me and Alison have recently vacationed to Myrtle Beach, and while there we were looking to buy a local souvenir to remind us of this awesome trip. Instead of buying something ready we ended up just buying a few shells, as well as collecting sand and shells from the beach.  This is what we came up with:

Final product

This frame is suppose to hang on the wall, therefore all the shells are glued in place. The plan is to find some long white hooks to attach to the back, making this a bathroom towel hanger.

Backtracking a bit, last week I built a wood frame for our little project:

Poplar wood frame pieces

Frame finished

Next we transformed our dining room into a painting workshop:

Intense headlamp paint job inspection

To glue the sand to the backboard we used a couple of layers of wood glue; After applying a layer of glue we sprinkled the sand while using a piece of hard cardboard to spread it even. After the glue dried we shook off the excess sand and repeated the process.

The final step was to use clear silicon with a caulk gun to glue all the shells in place. The silicon takes over 12 hours to fully dry. Here is the final product:

Final product

Me and Alison designed and built this “to-be” towel hanger together, which makes it all the more meaningful. Now the only thing missing is finding some hooks to transform this into an actual towel hanger for the bathroom. Oh, and a house we can actually put holes on the wall!

Climb on,

Felipe

 

Robotics Companies

22 January 2013 | No Comments »

In the search for possible robotics job opportunities I created a google map with a wide range of robotics companies in North America:


View Robotics Companies in a larger map

The companies are color coded in respect to the nature of the work:

  • Red ~ Defense
  • Yellow ~ Medical Applications
  • Green ~ Industrial and Automation
  • Blue ~ Various

If you have any other company/companies you would like to add please e-mail me.

Another great resource; there exist a moderated worldwide robotics research mailing list where many job opportunities are posted:

Worldwide-Robotics 

Enjoy it!

Climb on,

Felipe

Prometheus ~ IGVC 2011

10 January 2013 | No Comments »

For my senior project at WPI I developed a robotic entry for the 18th Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition along with a group of five other students. The IGVC is an annual competition sponsored partly by the US Department of Defense.

Prometheus

Our vehicle, Prometheus, has a custom aluminum chassis and fuses the sensory input from a LIDAR, stereo vision cameras, 6 DOF Inertial Measurement Unit, and Global Positioning System signal to drive autonomously through a complex outdoor obstacle course. My major responsibilities on the project were as follow:

  • Low level processing: Design and implementation of PID motor control loops, wireless manual control communication, and on-board LabVIEW FPGA software. Acquisition and processing of IMU and encoder data.
  • Power electronics: Design and implementation of a power distribution system from the batteries to the wide range of components and their respective power requirements on-board Prometheus.
  • Communication: Connecting and interfacing the wide range of components to the on-board computer (running ROS) and FPGA.
  • Project manager: administrate a group of five fellow students with a wide range of skills, including Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Computer Science, to design, prototype and build a competitive robotics entry to the IGVC.
Here is a quick overview of the vehicle itself:

Prometheus overview

Next is a video of Prometheus running a mock up qualifying course for the IGVC competition. To qualify Prometheus had to demonstrate the ability to drive autonomously to multiple GPS coordinates while avoiding line and obstacles:

And it is not all hard work in the life of an engineer:

BONUS: Our group also adapted Prometheus to compete on the 2011 ION Robotic Lawn Mower Competition. For the purpose of this competition we design and built an attachment to the back of Prometheus with the purpose of efficiently mowing the lawn:

Lawn mower attachement

I would like to note that this post was a rather superficial overview of the project. If you would like to go more in depth into the design and methodology please check out the following documents:

Climb on,

Felipe

Quadrotor ~ Chassis and Electronics

10 January 2013 | No Comments »

Every once in a while the idea of building an Unnamed Aerial Vehicle ( UAV) gets stuck in my head, and the last time it happened it was coincidentally the first post of this blog.

Well… it happened again, and this time around I am going for a more “classical” quadrotor project:

The specific design is not the fastest or the lightest, but it is rather inexpensive with all the parts that I previously owned; The 6 channel 2.4GHz FHSS controller as well as the battery system were originally from an RC Helicopter kit I bought a few years back. The outrunner motors and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) motor drivers were also bought a few years back for another project in college.

I was missing both a chassis and an autopilot ( “brain”, or processing unit) to complete the project. For the chassis I ordered a Turnigy H.A.L from Hobby King for $33 + shipping and handling.  Once it arrived I was able to put it all together:

Quadrotor chassis and controller

The power distribution board is also from HobbyKing, but the correct connectors had to be adapted to match the ESCs. A second level was added on top of the power board for the autopilot:

Quadrotor center piece and power distribution board

Quadrotor motor

For the autopilot, instead of making my own from an Arduino like last time, I decided to commit and order an APM 2.5 from 3D Robotics. The guys from DIY Drones definitely  have it figured out when it comes to UAVs, and I quote from their website:

The ArduPilot Mega 2.5 is a complete open source autopilot system and the bestselling technology that won the prestigious 2012 Outback Challenge UAV competition. It allows the user to turn any fixed, rotary wing or multirotor vehicle (even cars and boats) into a fully autonomous vehicle; capable of performing programmed GPS missions with waypoints.  

Unfortunately I was unlucky enough to get a defective board. The APM 2.5 board was working enough to load different firmwares as well as read RC commands, but it fails to initialize the internal gyroscope ( similar case study here).  The 3D Robotics customer support have been contacted and I am currently waiting on a RMA # to get a replacement.

Climb on,

Felipe

Rock Climbing Room

2 December 2012 | No Comments »

Sophomore year of college (2008) I decided to go all out on my room furniture. With only a circular saw and a power drill I built the most awesome room I ever lived in. The room included:

  • 150 square foot rock climbing wall with variable angles
  • Hammock
  • Elevated bed
  • 8′ x 30″ Worktable + 8′ x 18″ shelf
  • Lounge chair( with sun light most of the day)

And now for some pictures:

View from the living room

View from under the bed

View from the bed( worth noting from the desktop background that I was single back then)

On the next picture you can see how the climbing wall angle could be adjusted by changing the chain’s length. One of the features was that the wall could be rotate all the way to the ground, transforming the back side of it into a ladder for the bed( hence the visible pipes to step on)

View from the shelf

And myself, hard at work…

The whole setup cost me almost $800 at home depot, but it was worth every dollar :) I would like to note we hosted a few “Climbing+Wine+Cheese” events in there, with upwards of 15 people at once.

Climb on,

Felipe

Artisan’s Asylum

27 November 2012 | No Comments »

I am now a member of  Artisan’s Asylum in Sommerville MA!

http://artisansasylum.com/

Artisan’s Asylum is a 31,000 square foot “hackerspace” warehouse with tons of tools for wood work, metal work, electronics, etc… Basically a dream workshop with the community to back it up!

They house lots of cool projects including a massive Hexapod:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/projecthexapod/stompy-the-giant-rideable-walking-robot-0

Here is a picture of my friend Mali underneath one of the legs:

Mali underneath a prototype leg of the massive hexapod robot.

Climb on,

Felipe

Sea Rabbit ~ Overnight Lights

24 November 2012 | No Comments »

Over this past summer I did a couple of overnight sailing trips in the Sea Rabbit. Federal regulation mandates that any anchored boat must have a signal light on top of the mast at night; law which conflicted with the fact that the Sea Rabbit has no electrical system whatsoever.

For more information on the federal requirements for recreational boats please go to:

http://nyss.com/federal

Well, in order to do follow the law I decided to hack up something really quick. My plan was to built a light that could be raised using the halyard since we only need the light when the sail is down. It also had to be visible 360 degrees around, as well as last at last a couple nights on one charge of battery.

The solution was to build the following:

Removable Anchor Light

The center point of the light is connected to halyard so it can be raised to the top of the mast. Once that is done the black line attached to the bottom can be pulled tight and secured in order to keep the whole system upright. The white wire is connected directly to the battery. The LED housing contains a small piece of white LED strip ( 3 watts per inch) and it is even a little too bright for the job.

LED Housing

The main purpose for the metallic tape is for heat dissipation, although it also helps reflecting some of the light in the right direction. The power wire comes up through a hole on the opposite side of the PVC pipe and is soldered into the LED strip. I used an acrylic tube with a glued end piece to form a weather proof protection cup, the tube was just the right diameter for a tight fit.

I also added a cabin light:

Sea Rabbit temporary cabin light

The cabin light is also made with a piece of waterproof white LED strip. The LED strip was glued into a aluminum U-channel for heat dissipation and to block the light from coming out through the sides and blinding anyone on the boat. The aluminum channel was then glued into the structural column on the center of the boat using commercial grade double side tape.

The anchor lights consumes around 250mA @ 12V, while the interior light consumes around 500mA. With the 12V 7Ah (Amp-hour) battery I am using I should be able to keep the anchor light running for 28 hours, or the inside light running for 14 hours straight with one charge. If I keep the cabin light on for 3 hours and the anchor light on for 8 hours each night the battery should last me 2 days.

During the overnight trips we did over the summer the lights worked like a charm! It was a very simple and practical solution which I do recommend if you are in the same situation.

The obvious next step is the project I am currently working on: build a wind turbine to charge the battery on the run.

Climb on,

Felipe

Sea Rabbit ~ Interior Restoration Progress

23 November 2012 | No Comments »

Throughout this past summer/fall a lot of time was committed restoring my 1973 O’day 20 sailboat. The interior went through the most changes:

  • Removing the rotted wood that made up the berths, walls, galley. Also removing the old cushions, storage compartment and the vinyl wallpaper.
  • Making and installing a temporary support structure column out of Mahogany.
  • Cutting to shape and gluing the new vinyl wallpaper.
  • Making and installing the new berths( shown at a previous post ).
  • Measuring the old cushions as a template.
  • Cutting foam for the new cushions and making new covers .

And fast forwarding a bunch…here is the current look:

Sea Rabbit ~  interior as of Nov 2012

Sea Rabbit ~ new berth accommodations as of Nov 2012

The cushions were made by my mom, Cecilia, free of charge! ( it is worth nothing that she DID enjoy countless hours sailing as well on the boat). She does a lot of upholstering , curtains and boat cushions in the Hamptons, NY (click here to access her work blog).

Mom posing after finishing up the new cushions

And here is a picture of the old cushions being measured out and cut:

Old cushions being measured for templates

Next was the work done on the walls:

Sea Rabbit after the old vinyl wallpaper was stripped

Gluing  the new vinyl wallpaper while keeping it stretched was a real headache!

Gluing the new vinyl sheets in place

Go back to the beginning of the post to see the final results.

Lastly, I would like to mention another quick fix: the spreaders were looking yellow and frail:

Spreaders

I painted them with a metallic paint spray used for car wheels( a.k.a. outdoor tough). The end caps were a little harder; the rubber material was really dry from so many years of abuse. In order to save buying new ones I gave the old ones several coats of silicone until it formed a thick uniform layer, after that I applied black paint for a nicer look.

Spreaders after treatment

The boat got off the water the Friday before Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast (mid November), and it is now resting on our driveway till next spring!

Climb on,

Felipe

Middle School Homemade Motor

23 November 2012 | No Comments »

This is a REALLY OLD one, like 1998 old… My middle school teacher gave us instructions to build one of those super simple electric motors using only wire and a battery, very much like this one:

Battery electric motor

Middle school electric motor concept

Well, with some parental help(…thanks Dad!) and a lot of determination me and my partner, Rafael, were able to improve upon the design slightly:

Middle school electric motor design 2.0

Mechanical improvements:

  • Aluminum posts for stability (scrap from another project, already with bearings)
  • Bearings for easy rotation
  • Carbon fiber shaft ( yeah, just showing off… really the only thing that fit)
  • Motor brushes were built with thick gauge wire for an ajustable contact (in blue)
  • Magnet to coil distance is very small for high efficiency.
Electrical improvements:
  • On/Off switch
  • Reverse rotation toggle switch
  • Coil built with hundreds of wraps around a metal core

This was all built with parts lying around my dad’s shop, he did help us a good share.  I do remember having to look up how to wire the reversible switch on my own on the internet.

It is enough to say that this baby spun really fast!

Climb on,

Felipe