Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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

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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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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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20161201_212909539_iOSBack in November, I got a Phantom 3 Standard drone. The stock drone is a lot of fun, but it could use a couple upgrades. The first upgrade wanted was to replace the stock phone mount with a tablet mount. The larger screen on the table makes it easier to track objects. I got some really cool photos of an RC DC-3 flying around my drone at the local flying field, but following the small plane was difficult on the tablet, likely impossible on my phone.

The original phone mount is not very durable and after using it a few times, the plastic broke as you can see in the photo. DJI did send a replacement that was metal, but it would still limit me to my cell phone.

I found a tutorial on Phantom Help that used the DJI Inspire 1’s tablet mount. I initially decided to just screw the tablet mount into the plastic. I used some glue to add support. The upgrade was well worth it and it functioned well when out at the field flying.

However, within a week the mount broke. The plastic shell was fine, but the metal support broke. You can see the damage in the photo below. To be fair, this was after shipping my drone to my parent’s house for the holidays. While I packed the controller well, it appears some of the packing air bags broke in transit. I am still not quite sure how the plastic shell escaped damage (especially since it looks like the metal was crushed ).
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Once I was home, I decided to order the metal insert. The threaded insert would allow me to remove the mount for shipping. To accommodate the new insert, I had to make the hole larger. I screwed the insert into the plastic and attached the nut. To make sure it stays secure, I used some hot glue. I also used hot glue to hold down wires that I had to reroute after the install.

The picture of the final install is below. I highly recommend this upgrade to anyone that got a DJI Phantom 3 Standard for the holidays! I also picked up a hard shell case for the drone and the accessories. For return shipping to Florida, I did remove the tablet mount and used the case. Both the controller and drone returned in perfect condition. I can’t wait to start flying again! 20170112_013145784_iOS

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My favorite building platform is LEGO. I have boxes of LEGO Technic. I frequently build robots and then take them apart. To make finding the right part easier, I sort most of my LEGO. The image above is a small stash of my sorted LEGO Technic parts.

There are three stages to my sorting scheme. First is what you see in the picture, little bins holding small quantities of parts. I typically use these bins to build a model as they are handy and portable.

Bins work well for small amounts of parts, but if your addicted to LEGO like I am, you probably have way more parts than you can fit in bins. Inside the cardboard box you see in the photo (and several others around my apartment) is a similar assortment of parts, but in bags. Each type of part gets its own bag and these bags hold the overflow of parts. For larger projects where I need a lot of one part, I will usually pull the bags and keep them handy. Some parts, like LEGO Technic pins, I keep in soda bottles. I find it is easier to fill up a 2 liter bottle with black friction pins and pour from that. Bags have a nasty habit of friction pins all over my work area.

My last level or sorting is something I affectionately call MUL or Miscellaneous Unsorted LEGO. MUL is typically a box (or now 3) of past projects or sets I have parted out to get sorted. A few times a year (and I am in the middle of one right now), I take all my MUL parts and sort them. Most of the time parts go directly to a bag as I like to keep my bins stocked.

While I sort parts by type, I do not sort by color. While I would love to have that much organization, it simply isn’t practical for me to spend the time parting things out that far. I also do not have that many parts on hand (although I’m sure my brother, parents, girlfriend, and apartment maintenance manager would disagree).

I enjoy keeping my LEGO parts sorted and organized. It lets me build without having to dig for a part. This is just one method of organization and I know many other AFOLs sort their bricks as well. It is software a work in progress as it has evolved over time. I am always open to new sorting ideas!