Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ok. Thanks for stopping back.

A Symet is the most basic BEAM entity that you can develop. It has (if you choose) one motor, 3-4 1000uF capacitors and a Solar Cell that outputs at least 3.0V in power. It also has a nifty circuit called a Solar Engine that powers that whole contraption (to learn more about Solar Engines visit .

Like I said in the previous post - I had major problems in creating my first Symet. After some soul searching I realized that I had these "newbie" defiencies going into the project:

1) I didn't know how to solder. Any BEAM project requires that you know how to manipulate a soldering iron. After a few tries, I realized that I needed to practice soldering on some blank PCB boards to learn how to handle the tool and solder. This is the most important advice I can give you - don't start BEAMING until you know how to solder a clean - shiny silver joint.

2) I didn't have the right solder! When you solder, you are putting a blazing hot iron to a material that melts under heat. However Solder when it melts creates a by-product called flux that starts off as a liquid then hardens into a sticky mess called flux. Flux actually resists electrical current - too much of it destroys your circuit. And since, I am a newbie I created a ton of flux. So as I was learning to Solder (stay with it no matter how frustrated you become!), I searched for a the right solder - that's when I discovered the Holy Grail - Multicore Hydro-X Solder. Check it out at

3. Take Your Time! - I was so excited about building my Symet that I made alot of stupid mistakes. Print out your instructions and wire and solder like your life depended on it. I trashed over $40 in parts rushing like a starving man into Sizzlers.

4. Scuff Your Motor - Any motor you get (which runs your BEAM) will come to you in a shining metal case. When I got my first kit from - I broke out the motor and started soldering. To my horror, everytime I soldered a part to the motor, It broke off like a brittle twig in a winter breeze. I tried solder paste, solder tape, swearing, prayer - and STILL with a slight twist the soldered wire broke off from the motor.

I was done until I read a post on a discussion group that said that I needed to sand, scuff , file, the motor's outer housing until the shiny metal was off. After buying some 50 cent sand paper, I was back in business - the solder joints held - and my prspects were looking up!

Enough for now - I'll let you in my the most important tips next week.


Man - Did that BEAM just jump?!*&^^

BEAM of Light

A Thrilling BEAM

I just got turned on to BEAM robotics. A little background for the virgins:
B= Biology
E = Electronics
A = Aesthetics
M = Mechaniccs

BEAM Robotics is a theory that explore how robotics can mimic nature to produce emergent behavior. In a word = WICKED! . BEAM was pioneered by Mark Tilden a brilliant Las Alamos Laboratories Researcher. Mark (sorry for the name dropping) sought to create machine entities that reacted to their environement using simple circuits that mimiked the neurons that are present in the central nervous system of all intelligent life. His theories were the rage in the late 90's and a my latest project utilizing his theories is ALIVE on my desk right now!.

Anyway - I created a basic robot that uses a solar cell engine to run a simple motor that scoots a hodgepodge of circutry across my desk. No batteries Mom!. So what did I create? A basic syment (and its ugly and totally cool!). My symet took 6 tries and $20 dollars to make (yea - because I am an idiot) but the results are totally gratifying. While there are tons of links to get you started ( to get you started - I wanted to tell you how to sidestep my early mistakes. So read the next post for the tips.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

GP2D02 - Solved!

A couple of posts ago, I was lamenting my problems with interfacing my GP2D02 sensor to my Basic Stamp II. As you remember, I was killing myself over this problem. So I decided to go back to the basics. And the solution will my you cry with laughter - at least I did.

The sensors I received from came with a 4 wire JST connector. Immediately after consulting the wiring diagrams at I realized that I had a problem. For some reason, the 4 wires were color coded differently! I tried figuring out the new wiring scheme with no luck. So I popped over to and ordered a new connector with the right color scheme. You guessed it - the sensors worked like a charm!

Here's to the basics - check, recheck, and check again to make sure you have the right equipment.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Curious Behavior

I've just wired my first successful Solar Engine. For those who have no clue wat I am talking about: A Solar Engine is a simple little circuit that give your robot the capacity to drive circuits using incandescent light as a power supply - ie. a solar engine.

To be honest, I've tried to wire a Solar Engine for a couple of months now with no luck. Tonight, I finally got my little solar engine to work! However I feel just a bit ashamed that all the engine does is twitch a DC motor - but man am I stoked! So here what is baffling me a bit -

The motor that is hooked to the solar engine - when triggered rotates clockwise and then counterclockwise - ending at its original start postition. At first blush, it would seem that a equal positive and negative voltage is being applied. Which would make sense because light is alternate current by nature representing positive and negative in amplitude. I am just shocked to see this directly represented in the output of the motor. I am going to do a little research to make sure that this isn't a bug. I would think that the motor would just rotate the shaft in one direction ( and not in the other).

If you have any insights, go ahead and comment to this post.


Found a Mistress

OK, if you read the last post you know that I've been killing myself trying to get the Sharp GP2D02 IR sensor working. Losing sleep, mumbling to myself, neglecting physical hygiene, well you get the picture - I am stumped!

So I decided to pick up a pair of Sharp GP2D12's . Now before you write me off as a total loser - understand that I am still in the fight - I just need a little confidence builder. The G12's are analog so I needed to pick up an ADC (Analog to Digital Converter) to interface them to my Basic Stamp 2. And BAM! They work. Sidenote: just type in GP2D12 Basic Stamp into Google to get the .BAS code to get the software to get these puppies working.

So did the therapy work? Absolutely - after my victory I resolved to sit down and take a fresh look at the GP2D02... We'll see if I got the skills.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Psyched and Stuck!

Remember I'm a Newbie! So here's the latest...
I just picked up 3 GP2D02 Sharp IR Sensors and for the life of me I can't get these !@#$%^&* to work.
I've been to discussion groups (no help), manufacturers (no help), and to God (inspirational but robot doesn't show up in the Gospels). So now I'm doing a little soul searching - AKA "Do I like robots or NOT!".

Good news, I LOVE robots and I will plug at these sensors until I figure them out. In a nutshell here is my problem:
- The sensors are wired correctly to my BS2 board
- When I run my ranging program - I get nothing - nada - zilch - zip - you get the point
- Tried every configuration known to modern man (Post '60s) No JOY!
- Hoping that people smarter than me reads this blog and helps a brother out.

So I am in a loop - I refuse to move forward until I get a measurement out of these stupid sensors.


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

KidBot's Done!

KidBot - Ready for his first Test (Thanks Luciana for the great photo!)

Well I finished the first version of my new Robot - called KidBot. As you can see, this was totally a scavenging job for parts. The chassis is made out of plastic CD covers. The wheels were "stolen" from my little boys tinker toy set, and the whole thing is held together by industrial strength velcro!

From the post below, you know already that I used Parallax's Stamp2 for the bot's brains. For now, the bot just scurries across the floor executing a pre-written routine. In the next week, I will give KidBot some eyes so that he can see where he is going. I'll keep you updated.

Posted by Hello

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Brains

So how do give your Robot the intelligence it needs to navigate through your workshop or call your pager when it detects an intruder? I grappled with this question until I came across what is called a Stamp Microcontroller. Now for a robotocist (that's what you are by the way), this Stamp is a dream.

I recommend that you navigate to This site has something called a Stamp microprocessor. The Basic Stamp allows you to program your Robot to do anything that you can imagine. I was so stoked when I discovered this site that I literally pulled at my credit card and bought anything that I could find. My first purchase was a Basic Stamp Homework board. This little kit that you can get at Radio Shack is jam packed with information that will teach you how to program your Robot's brains to do anything that you want.

1st Day

I've created this blog to show how a complete newbie goes about building a functional home brew robot. This blog will chronicle my successes and (gasp) failures. I will also list links that I come across that may help you get up the learning curve a hell of lot faster that I have.

Thanks for visiting this blog. Make sure you bookmark this blog, because I will be updating it regularly.