Check out the live stream as we go about making our game! Watch our video last night to see what we are doing!

Follow us on here, on Twitter @KK4LWR or on Youtube!

Makeathon 0.0 Team MakEARs

Posted: September 14, 2019 in Engineering, News
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20190913_230304370_iOSSo the Makeathon has started. A few of my friends from work are teaming up for this fundraiser for The Maker Effect Foundation. You can follow us live on this blog, or on my twitter @kk4lwr or at youtube.com/08milluz.

Below is the intro video from our first day! Check it out!

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February 2018 welcomed a new official LEGO event in the USA: LEGO LIVE. This event celebrated community, creativity, and of course those iconic bricks. I, along with Kyle (aka Builderdude35), Justine, and Jon took charge of developing an interactive LEGO MINDSTORMS Booth. Besides showing off some exclusive MOCs, our both was also home to an epic LEGO MINDSTORMS Sumo Challenge!

Our sumo challenge invited guests to modify the tracker robot that can be built with the LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 set. Once modified, guests could program the bot with the use of colorful blocks. This idea is hardly new, having previously been used other projects, such as NXT P-Sumo with RFID cards, and color blocks with the EV3 Fix-It Factory. This approach provides an easy interface to program a robot while at a show, without the need for lots of laptops or iPads.

After building and programming their bots, our guests were invited to compete against each other in our sumo right. Yours truly spent the majority of the event announcing matches and celebrating these matches, but traded off with Jon and some of our assistants. With thousands of guests per session, we hosted several hundred sumo matches!

While sumo was a huge draw for the booth, we also came with some unique EV3 MOCs. Kyle brought his hallmark grunt while Jon brought his incredible LEGO birds. Justine showcased her EV3-ified Millennium Falcon. I brought Creep3r. Just naming a few. With so many bots, it was a struggle to keep batteries charged and man all the tables! Not bad for this small group.

The booth often had a wait of 20 or 30 minutes to play sumo. Our MOCs provided a great distraction for kids and adults waiting in line. We were able to catch one calm shot before the crowds and it was impressive to see what 4 AFOLs could create in their spare time!

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Even with all the crowds and robots to maintain, we still found time for fun! There were some human-sized minifigs walking around and Justine and I were able to score a selfie with LEGO Lady Liberty!

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It was a great weekend and come Sunday night it was hard to believe it was over. Packing up, we were all sad to leave.

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As cool as LEGO LIVE was, I was disappointed to leave one MOC behind. I haven’t showcased this creation yet, but here’s a sneak peek for those of you who read the whole post! Stay tuned for more!

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20180210_155017413_iOSThis past weekend was the 2018 Orlando Hamcation. This year was my 5th year attending and it was another great event! My brother, Tony KD8RTT, and I teamed up to present the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative forum. Tony live streamed the forum and it can be found after the break.

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New Test Equipment

Posted: February 7, 2018 in Engineering, News

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I recently got a brand new oscilloscope and DC power supply for my home maker lab. These two tools enable me to analyze signals and power prototype circuits. These are also great instruments for any maker. Let me explain why after the break!

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Website Updates and New Content!

Posted: January 31, 2018 in News

UFGrad-Andy-2017-3Life has been a little crazy for me lately. I finished my PhD (please don’t call me “doctor”, it’s much too formal and my name is Andy), moved to Orlando, and began a new day job. I’m still involved with the Maker Community (actually hanging out at MakerFX a lot!) and LEGO and of course, FIRST. I’m just now getting back to my blog. I spent a few hours this week ensuring images load and things are running smoothly (and removing ads). There are probably a few more changes coming, some under the hood, some more obvious.

My goal is to get back to the usual Wednesday updates with projects and tips. I have a few exciting trips coming up, including LEGO LIVE in New York City in a few weeks. I also have some book reviews to share. My lab has a few new instruments and my collection of tools has grown. It’s amazing what you can do in your free time when you don’t have a dissertation to write! So stay tuned!

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I love watching Battlebots. As an engineer I really enjoy seeing the design and strategy of each bot. I was delighted to find a box from VEX at my front door recently. Luckily I opened it right away (I thought it might be parts for a FIRST team) and found a Minotaur set. Minotaur is one of my favorite bots in the show. This bot from Brazil and is a joy to watch. Its spinning drum eats through other bots. Follow me past the break to see what I thought of this building set.

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This year I ventured up to Dayton Hamvention and had my sights set on getting a new radio. I was able to purchase a Connect Systems CS800D dual band FM/DMR radio. I naturally removed the cover to get a peak under the hood as seen in the photo above. Once I was done understanding the basic layout of the PCB (note the UHF PA mounted to the back of the case, top of the image, and VHF PA at the front of the case, bottom of the image). I found it interesting how they fit so much radio into such a tiny package.

After some bench testing, I decided it was time to figure out how to mount it in my car. With a remote control head, I can simply mount it with the same setup as my Yaesu 7900R control head (which has since been sold). One problem, the remote control head mounter supplied with the radio does not match the mounting plate I have in my car. To fix this, I need to create a new mounting plate (or at least an interface plate). I started up Autodesk Inventor. Follow me after the break for more details or check out the part on Thingiverse!

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Arduino Playground by Warren Andrews is a great collection of Arduino projects. With an ever-growing collection of Arduino books on the market, it is getting difficult for a book to stand out. Many books are introductory project books to get someone up and running. The projects and programming in most books is simple and offers little to a more advanced user.

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Sample page posted with permission from No Starch Press

Arduino Playground  focuses on more advanced projects and cod that is often pages long. The sample page, right, shows the end of a program and some brief discussion. While the code printed in the book lacks comments, important lines are marked with numbers. This makes it very easy to identify critical lines of code and the expanded discussion following the code provides lots of insight.

The sample page on the right also mentions shields. Arduino shields are expansion boards for the basic microcontroller. These boards can add everything from sound to motors to sensors. Many Arduino projects use one or more shields. For example, the project referenced in this sample page discusses a motor controller shield. Arudino Playground goes into good detail to discuss how things things are electrically wired. The author discusses power loads and various votlage supply rails. This information is critical to more-complex projects and is a welcomed addition to this book.

Most Arudino books focus on the Arduino Uno board, the most famous form factor of the popular microcontroller. Arduino Playground uses the right board for the right project. This means some projects use the compact Arduino (my preferred board). This board requires a bit more work as the user needs to solder wires to the various pads. The sample page below shows a nice project photo with the Arduino nano and various modules and plugs. However, even with cool projects, the book does not do well to promote the projects on the cover or early in a chapter. The lack of color print also detracts from the promotion many of these projects deserve.

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Sample page posted with permission form No Starch Press.

Overall I really liked the Arduino Playground. I enjoyed working with more than just an Arduino Uno. The scope of the book is great for those looking for something a little more complex than the range of starter books already on the market. However, this book is in a very crowded market and it lacks the color print of other Arduino books. While it certainly is a good book content wise, I think it could have been even stronger with color printer and better presentation of the projects.

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Today launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center roared to life for the first time in over half a decade as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. Follow me after the break to learn why this launch means a lot to me an see some photos.

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