You’ve seen self-balancing robots, where a pair of wheels suspend a mass above them in what’s known as an inverted pendulum configuration. As neat as they are, the “Augmented Arthropod” by Grzegorz Lochnicki and Nicolas Kubail Kalousdian puts a new spin on things.
The structure for the build consists of three platforms separated on threaded rod and a couple of rather standard DC gear motors. Electronics include an Arduino Uno, a BNO055 IMU, and an L298N motor driver.
Where things get a bit interesting, though, is that the mech is piloted by the movements of an insect placed inside a plastic case using two HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensors.
Perhaps the most valuable part of the project write-up is the discussion about how it balances via PID, or proportional, integral, and derivative control.
In the Earth’s atmosphere, a drone can adjust its heading by varying the speed of the propellers, and thus the thrust output of each. If you wanted to land something on a lunar surface, or maneuver a spaceship, the lack of atmosphere means a different technique must be used.
While not going to space (yet), Tom Stanton decided to create a demonstrator for this technique, similar to how the manned Lunar Landing Research Vehicle (LLRV) operated in the 1960s and ’70s. Stanton’s device employs a central electric ducted fan (EDF) to hold the craft up, while three compressed air nozzles provide most of its directional control.
In action, an RC flight controller’s signals are modified by an Arduino Nano to accommodate this unique control scheme, pulsing out bursts of air via three solenoid valves.
Check out the build and experimental process in the video below, culminating with untethered tests starting at around 17:30.
While most 3D printers deposit melted plastic in carefully controlled positions to build up a physical model, a similar process called “bioprinting” can be accomplished with biological materials. Commercial bioprinters can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more, but as shown here you can make your own using the shell an inexpensive desktop machine.
In this example, a Monoprice MP Select Mini V2 is stripped down to its bones and motors, subbing in an Arduino Mega and RAMPS 1.4 stepper driver board.
A syringe-like extruder is added to push out custom bioink, and the Z-axis switch mounting and Marlin firmware is modified to accommodate the new device. The homing sequence is modeled in the video below, giving a short snippet of how it works.
Embedded programming using the Arduino IDE has become an important part of STEM education, and while more accessible than ever before, getting started still requires some coding and basic electronics skills. To explore a different paradigm for starting out on this journey, researchers have developed Flowboard to facilitate visual flow-based programming.
This device consists of an iPad Pro and a set of breadboards on either side. Users can arrange electrical components on these breadboards, changing the flow-based program on the screen as needed to perform the desired actions. Custom ‘switchboard’ hardware, along with an Arduino Uno running a modified version of Firmata, communicate with the iPad editor via Bluetooth.
With maker-friendly environments like the Arduino IDE, embedded programming has become an important part of STEM education. But learning embedded programming is still hard, requiring both coding and basic electronics skills. To understand if a different programming paradigm can help, we developed Flowboard, which uses Flow-Based Programming (FBP) rather than the usual imperative programming paradigm. Instead of command sequences, learners assemble processing nodes into a graph through which signals and data flow. Flowboard consists of a visual flow-based editor on an iPad, a hardware frame integrating the iPad, an Arduino board and two breadboards next to the iPad, letting learners connect their visual graphs seamlessly to the input and output electronics. Graph edits take effect immediately, making Flowboard a live coding environment.
While the hoverboard craze has faded somewhat, the good news is that this means their powerful wheel motors can easily be found on online auction sites. Lukas Kaul took advantage of this component’s availability, and created his own “HoverBot” which acts as something in between a radio-controlled skateboarder and a rather large self-balancing bot.
The device is built around an Arduino Mega, which takes input from an RC receiver, along with a Bosch BNO055 IMU, and passes appropriate signals to the motors through an ODrive controller.
The HoverBot is a bit unsteady at high speeds, requiring close operator supervision. However, it looks like a lot of fun, especially when attempting tricks—sometimes successfully—at a skate park in the video below.