Fooling around with the Arachnio at lab

Fooling around with the Arachnio at lab

Last night, Jeremy showed off the bot he built around the Arachnio! The cool thing about it is that you can connect to it over WiFi from your phone or laptop and it will serve you a set of Javascript buttons that control the bot. It’s still a work in progress, and it may get […]

Payload hull building!

Payload hull building!

JonM and I started construction on the payload hull tonight for AHAB3. We had a pretty easy job figuring out where to put everything, given that we only have one camera, a transmitter and some batteries. Then we cut some pink foam to rough size – 3 8″ x 12″ pieces of 2″ foam and […]

High Speed Coin Shrinking

High Speed Coin Shrinking

We recently had a chance to work with the fine folks at Intellectual Ventures to quantify some of what goes on with our coin shrinker. Using a bunch of neat gear (including an extremely high speed camera), we were able to learn all sorts of things about our amazing chamber of shrink. Here is some […]

The Arachnio — the first Arduino Micro variant with onboard WiFi

The Arachnio — the first Arduino Micro variant with onboard WiFi

The Arachnio is something I’ve been working on for a few months, and it’s now up on Kickstarter! The subject line is the elevator pitch — it’s the first Arduino Micro variant with onboard WiFi, via the increasingly popular ESP8266. It’s pin and software compatible with the existing Arduino Micro, and only slightly larger to […]

Last night, Jeremy showed off the bot he built around the Arachnio! The cool thing about it is that you can connect to it over WiFi from your phone or laptop and it will serve you a set of Javascript buttons that control the bot. It’s still a work in progress, and it may get an SD card slot in the future to enable it to serve up a better joystick than it does now.

You can download the source code for the bot from Github.

Please support the Arachnio on Kickstarter!

The Arachnio is something I’ve been working on for a few months, and it’s now up on Kickstarter! The subject line is the elevator pitch — it’s the first Arduino Micro variant with onboard WiFi, via the increasingly popular ESP8266. It’s pin and software compatible with the existing Arduino Micro, and only slightly larger to accommodate the antenna. Naturally, it’s entirely open source (unlike other Arduino variants with on-board WiFi, such as the Yun).

kickstarter-logo-dark

 

The Arachnio

The Arachnio

Putting WiFi together with the Arduino, especially in a small, low power package, is a really natural fit. For example, every Arduino-powered robotics or LED project is made immensely cooler by having the capability to control it from your smartphone baked right in.

Since the Arachnio is small and low power, it also makes a great brain for a remote sensor. The fact that it’s an Arduino variant makes the programming simple and the wealth of on-board peripherals make it straightforward to connect most common sensors. WiFi lets your remote sensor connect to your phone or tap into the Internet to get the data back to you.

Including both the ESP8266 and the 32u4 on a single board provides a much more useful package than either one alone. The capabilities of the ESP8266 and the 32u4 complement each other nicely. Here are some of the advantages of the Arachnio over an ESP8266 module alone:

  • More GPIO — The Arachnio has more than twice as many GPIO pins available as any ESP8266 module.
  • More ADC — The Arachnio has twelve usable analog to digital channels versus a single channel for an ESP8266.
  • Hardware PWM
  • Dedicated hardware I2C and SPI interfaces
  • Full Arduino library compatibility 
  • Native USB — The Arachnio’s ATmega32u4 provides a full speed hardware USB interface. The Arduino environment provides libraries that make the USB function as a serial port, a mouse, or a USB keyboard.
  • Breadboard compatible — The Arachnio’s headers are on 0.1″ centers and narrow enough to fit into standard breadboards with room to plug jumpers in on both sides.

And of course the ESP8266 provides WiFi and, for more advanced users, a more powerful processor to use for more computationally intensive tasks.

All of the vital statistics can be found on the Arachnio product page.

I decided I also needed a couple of expansion boards available immediately in order to really make it sing. The first is of course a prototyping board, the ArachnoProto.

ArachnoProto with Arachnio and supports

ArachnoProto with Arachnio and supports

The ArachnoProto is designed to fill the same role as an Arduino protoshield. It has two large prototyping areas, a programming header,  mounting holes for 3mm screws, two LEDs and a pair of push buttons.

You can tell this is a prototype because the board house managed to mess up my logo on the board.

There’s also another less obvious feature here, which is that this board has been assembled with bottom-entry headers on the underside. The upshot of this is that the assembled Arachnio + ArachnoProto is much thinner than with conventional headers. These headers are included with every ArachoProto.

The Arachnode is designed to give users a way to quickly build flexible and independent sensor and network nodes. It has a solar battery charger, a real time clock, a microSD card slot, and an optional crypto module.

I just got a new release candidate board which has some tweaks arising from the testing we’ve been doing, mostly to improve fit and clearances. This is the first one that’s really feature complete, since I’ve been focusing on the Arachnio rather than the Arachnode for most of my development. I haven’t had time to assemble the new ones, but here’s the bare PCB:

Arachnode bare board

Arachnode bare board

One of the things I’ve enjoyed doing that I wish more Kickstarter creators would do is post Instructables for the Arachnio. I’ve only got two of them up so far, but they address questions that people have asked me about using the Arachnio.

Please don’t forget to back the Arachnio on Kickstarter so we can make it a reality!

Update:

Thanks to gorgeous weather here in Seattle yesterday, I was able to get some great pictures of the ArachnoProto and Arachnode prototypes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of months ago, we revived an old project, the Hackerboat. The original project was building a boat to circumnavigate the globe autonomously. This was, to put it mildly, rather a bigger thing than we could chew. So the revival is a bit more modest in scope — we’re building an autonomous boat capable of doing sonar surveys of dive sites in the Puget Sound. Once that’s working, we’ll go from there. Since Toorcamp was then a couple of months out, we made that our target. The boat was there, but not entirely functional. More on that later.

We chose solar-electric propulsion as the easiest to implement quickly. Truly long distance cruising will require something like sail or wave power, but that’s immaterial to our more limited goals for operations within Puget Sound and in near coastal waters.

We bought an old kayak off Craigslist and set about modifying it. We made the following major modifications:

  • Added center, forward, and aft bulkheads
  • Added a keelson to allow us to bolt a keel and other equipment to the bottom of the boat
  • Added stringers under the deck along the rails between the forward and aft bulkheads for mounting solar panels etc
  • Built up the hatch comings to flat surfaces for simple hatches
  • Motor mount for a trolling motor
  • Geared, waterproof steering servo
  • Lead-acid batteries
  • A mounting frame for solar panels
  • A radio mast
  • Control electronics
Hackerboat under modification, showing the motor, radio mast, solar panels, and Jenny.

Hackerboat under modification, showing the motor, radio mast, solar panels, and Jenny.

The physical modifications ended up taking more time than planned, leaving the software and testing than would have been optimal. There was still significant amounts of electronics assembly, all the final integration work, and all but a tiny bit of the software to write when we left for Toorcamp with the boat in tow.

At Toorcamp, thanks to a tremendous amount of help from incidental volunteers, we were able to finish the electrical work, test the solar panels, test the low-level control electronics, test the motor, and add some status lights. We even got the radios up and working.

On Friday, we did a basic float test with an empty boat (no batteries, no solar panels). It floated well and we devised a system of ropes (thanks to Ratha and Trout) to make it easier to lift and carry the boat. There was no problem handling it in the low surf present that day. We also dropped the motor and connected the steering linkage in the waves. While not an ideal operation, we determined that this was a doable thing.

While we were able to get the low level control code up and running, we were not able to get the GPS navigation code or the shore station code running. With the end of Toorcamp fast approaching, we decided to launch anyways on Sunday and use the low level panic mode (run due east) to demonstrate the boat in action. We left off the keel, due to the difficult of beach launching with it in place. Neither of these turned out to be a great decision.

The lack of the keel is what truly doomed the attempt. We took the boat out into the surf, dropped the motor, and maneuvered it out to where Jenny was waiting for us. At that point, we had about ten minutes before the low level control system concluded that all was broken and it needed to run in to shore.

The  weight of the boat more that doubled with the addition of the solar panels and the batteries. We re-arranged the ropes so eight people could carry it, and took it down to the water. When we took it out into the water, we discovered two problems. First, the front hatch was askew. We fixed that. Second, the boat was listing to the right. We re-arranged the batteries (while chest-deep in the surf, naturally) to take care of some of the list. Not enough, as it turns out. As soon as Jenny took the boat under tow and we let it go, it rolled over. We grabbed it, turned it back over, and hauled it out onto the beach, done for the day.

Jenny preparing to take the Hackerboat under tow immediately prior to the capsize. Photo courtesy of Becki Brotman.

Jenny preparing to take the Hackerboat under tow immediately prior to the capsize. Photo courtesy of Becki Brotman.

Hackerboat on the shore after the roll-over. Note the GPS antenna on the bow. Photo courtesy of Zack Archer.

Hackerboat on the shore after the capsize. Note the GPS antenna on the bow. Photo courtesy of Zack Archer.

hackerboat-linkage

Installing the steering linkage in the surf. Photo courtesy Becki Brotman.

hackerboat-recovery

Recovering the Hackerboat post capsize

There was some water in the boat when we got it onto the beach, but not as much as I expected given that waves had broken over the askew hatch and we’d rolled it completely over. Nothing appeared to be broken, but the batteries were loose in their mounts and of course there was salt water on the outside of the electronics boxes.

Our current plan is to work to correct the mechanical, stability, and software deficiencies and get the boat back in the water at the end of August. We’ll do it in far more protected waters this time.

Hello interwebbernet,

We’ve been so busy trying to reinvent wireless power that we didn’t notice this internet thing growing in popularity. To that end, we are trying to catch up. We are on the brink of many changes here at hackerbot labs, and one of the first major changes we would like to announce is the launching of our meetup group.

  • The meetup group enables us to communicate much more clearly when we are open and operating.  We’ve been doing stuff, but.. umm. forgot to tell anyone else.
  • It helps us make new friends better.  We need new minds, many of us have gotten old and cranky in the 9 years we’ve had the space open.
  • It might help dispel some of the myths and rumors spread far and wide about hackerbot labs.
  • Some day it might help us pay the bills.
  • The other day our website went down.  For 2 months.  Nobody noticed.   Yes, we are doing it wrong.   The meetup site might have a better uptime.  :)

Regardless, please join the meetup group, and RSVP for any meetings you see posted there you’d like to join.  If they are posted there, you are welcome to show up if you RSVP.

Cheers, -3ric

PS. I hear there is an infestation of cats on the internet.  However, I was highly, highly disappointed in the selection of long-haired cats playing with van de graaff generators.  Please help.  Meow.

Everybody loves angry birds. We had a creative bird who really wanted to build nests around hackerbot labs. We found three of them in time and had them removed, but then the sneaky angry mamma bird formed a nest and eggs in our fastener container. As punishment, we’ve decided to pull a truman show and make these little baby angry birds famous.
Best we can tell, these eggs got laid sometime around May 26.. and we expect them to hatch sometime between now and June 9th. This totally beats the flying toast screensaver.