Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Start of summer updates...

My schedule is pretty messed up, and the next few steps for the rover will need more focus than I can give it for the next month. Part of the reason is the super limited testing schedule, which means all the outdoor tests will have to wait until August. In the meantime I'm re-baselining the project, which in project management terms means hitting the reset button on the complexity of the logic.

It's also July 1st, which is an interesting date for the 2014 Robotgames. Their web page still shows the 2013 event and registration, so I don't think they'll have the same kinds of events as they did last time, since there is so little time before an outdoor robot race would attract much of a crowd. I wouldn't say no to a nice chilly snow race though! I might have to protect the drive motors more, but it might be interesting.

Several other projects have caught my interest in the meantime:

High Altitude Ballooning!

I watched the the test of the NASA/JPL LDSD (Low Density Supersonic Decelerator), which was a balloon + rocket launched payload to test an inflatable device that increases drag on a Mars entry vehicle. It was a pretty interesting test to watch, and gave me some ideas; I've seen amateur flights that can actually accomplish some engineering and science test goals, and I think there is room there for a commercial niche.

Primarily, I can see having two primary classes for balloon launch. One would be a flat triangle frame for initial testing and to carry payloads, and the other would be a tetrahedron, for self-contained flights. A scaled up version of the tetrahedron would make a nice self-righting lander. I could also see doing a tri-copter flight at the last stage of decent; maybe something like the Curiosity skycrane. It would certainly be of use to get rovers or lander payloads to places where you might not want a person to go; i.e. a volcano.

An offshoot of the rover work to date has also produced some scaled down designs that would be more suited to solar powered rovers here on earth. The challenge is making it big enough to traverse real-world terrain but light enough that the solar panel area is still realistic.

Another project that might have more global appeal is the Bee-O-Neo-Tweet-O, which is basically a "log sensor data to twitter" idea for an open source wireless sensor platform to monitor neonictonoids that are suspected of causing or contributing to bee colony collapse disorder. It's on Hackaday, since the prize is a trip to space...

On the personal project front, I'd like to create a small diorama for an Alien Xenomorph art statue my wife bought me last year. I think it'll be the bridge of the Nostromo, complete with an animated OLED display as one of the monitors, and tons of LED light & sound effects.

We'll see...