Tag Archive for: design

More puppets!

We’ve been delighted to welcome more puppets to the Connect network this term, with workshops running in several schools. Our pace of delivery is picking up now, with our colleagues at the Life Science Centre slotting loads of sessions in for the new year. If your school (or library, community centre, or other venue) is interested in hosting a series of workshops, please do get in touch: email us at jonathan.sanderson@northumbria.ac.uk. Also watch this space, we’ll post details as soon as we have them.

Mechanisms

Connect is an Internet of Things digital making project, and it’s easy to assume that coding is the hard part. But if we’ve got Connect’s coding system right – and we don’t yet know if we have, but bear with me – then the most challenging part becomes the mechanism. We’ve known this for some time, but getting the programming system even close to right has been a battle. So we’re only now managing to turn our attention to mechanical engineering.

Most of the time, we don’t have to think too much about how different mechanisms work. Yet simple mechanisms are a basic building block of mechanical engineering, and they’re even written into the national curriculum at key stages 1 and 2. Indeed, our resource page is consistently one of the most popular areas of this website, seeing many thousands of views each year.

Simple mechanisms are surprisingly challenging to explore, however – particularly ones which can be operated using little servo motors. Which is why we’ve started exploring with parts like these, above. Based on the dimensions of lolly sticks, they’re neatly drilled so we can use straightened-out paperclips as pivots and linkages.

These test pieces don’t quite work, but we’re making some adjustments and later in the week we’ll try again. Fingers crossed we can bring you some example mechanisms built using these components, which we’ll then roll into the next Connect course.

Ohbot on Kickstarter

I may be a little obsessed with DIY robots. We’re gradually building up a robot menagerie in the Think Physics office, and I’m planning a comparative review of some of the available kits and plans. But that’s not ready yet, and in the meantime you may like to know about this:

I met Matt and Dan at BETT at the beginning of the year, where they had a tiny stand showcasing early prototypes of their Ohbot robotic head. Think Physics bought a couple – we were showcasing one of them at the Juice Festival last week, and you’ll see them around at more of our events over the coming months. I continue to be impressed by them, and the software’s particularly good. It’s Windows-only, but adopts a Scratch-like block programming system which is both straightforward and quite flexible.

Right now, the guys are back on Kickstarter with a more developed, easier-to-build and more expressive version of Ohbot. It’s turning even more into a robot puppet, and once they get over the injection moulding hurdle it should be considerably cheaper than the previous short-run laser cut prototypes.

Ohbot’s interesting because while it is a robotics and programming project, it’s also about self-expression, dialogue, emotion, and our responses to technology. I very much like the pure robotics approach of miniature robotic arm MeArm, and the accessible turtle-graphics programming focus of Mirobot, but Ohbot is a fascinating addition to the mix. For Think Physics’ purposes, I like it because it’s clearly using the same palette of components and techniques as our other robots, and it’s also doing something rather different. If the Maker movement is about any one thing, that thing has to be “technology put to creative use”, and Ohbot is an excellent invitation to think beyond Arduino coding and wiring components together, and to really explore how we want our technology to work for us.

The Ohbot2 Kickstarter closes on Sunday morning (!), and as I write this is tantalisingly close to success. If you can help it reach its target, do pledge for one of the rewards.

Update: Success!
The Ohbot2 Kickstarter was successful on Sunday, so the team are gearing up for full-pelt production in time for Christmas. Congratulations, guys!

Stepping into the (not-so-lime) light!

The Centre for Life’s forthcoming live science show In a Spin is being produced in collaboration with Think Physics. Today, therefore, has involved much sketching, planning and calculating, as Joe and Duncan from Life build props and set-pieces for the show.

Don’t be fooled by the cobbled-together appearance of the strip of lightbulbs above. Oh, no. That is a very rough-around-the-edges prototype. What it shows, however, is that we’ve done our sums more-or-less correctly, and we can indeed switch a bunch of lamps with a controller and a relay without blowing anything up unintentionally. Which would have been embarrassing.

Tomorrow, Joe’s world will revolve around a pile of laser-cut arrows, and new intern Callum will hopefully show us how to draw up a PCB which we can get fabricated by Northumbria’s magnificent milling machine.

I’d say ‘watch this space,’ but really, don’t: watch the show at the Centre for Life, from 16th June.

Tag Archive for: design

Elvie

Find out more about Elvie, a Femtech company dedicated to improving the lives of women worldwide.

Tag Archive for: design

Mini Mangonel

A simple design for an elastic band-powered catapult, which can be used as the starting point for tinkering experiments.