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$79 er


For a liimited time get the BASIC St,amp ActivUy 11Ft (#90005) for just $79.00! This all-in-one set-up features the HomeWork[Jj Board project platform with a BASIC Stamp@ 2 mkmcontroller bllilt onto the board. This convenient board is accompanied by the "Wflat's a Mkrocontrol!er 7" (WAM?} Text our i ntroductory guide to the world of BASIC Stamp microcontrollers. Once you have completed the 40+ a'Ctiviti,e.s, in the WAM? Text you will be able to create your own micro-controlled projects. The component kit Includes a Parallax Standard Servo, LEOs. resisters, capadtors, a speaker, and more. The BASIC Stamp Editor Software is included on the CD-ROM (or available online). Order online at www.paraIJax.wmorcalltheParallaxSalesDeportment·to#-free.at 888-511-1014 (Monday-Friday, 7 a,m. - 5 p.m., Pacific Time).

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Lee Alexander,Jim Campilongo~

fNorab JDne!ii, R:ichard Julian & Dan Rie5er

Orlg'mnlly conceived as a Wime Nelson cover band; The Little WIllies arehoWlJkytonkin' ci'tybillie.s who blend cears-ln-your-beer ballads

wid1 cowparty-kickin' "lwingers. On their self-titled CD. they combine covers of namesake Nel~on. Kris !<nsooffers.on, and Towne5 Yal'li Zartdt with originals from the band, www.tbelittlewi1lies.com


The Wood IBrather5 are lIan imesi!iitibly slinky duo witlh I

a Suuthern drawl and great material'; {SeattJe 'limes)'. I

Moenlighting from his role In Medesk1 Martin & Wood, bassist

Chris Wood is [oiaed by his guibr.slinging vocalist brother,

OHver. and the It:WO ard"IJ~ly blend blues, folk. and rock inoo a tasty; , rootsy brew, www,thewoodbrQthers.cQm


* CASSANDRA W,ILSO,N thunderbird

Caned "the best slnger in Am,erit:a'~ by Time magazfl'la. Cassandra Wilson has become one Cif ;:he premiere artises in music: ,today. artfully blendll"lg jazz, folk .• blues, R&B. and even C,QUfl'try.

Her !ate&t album finc;ls her teaming wi~h producer T Bone fil.lrnett and ee-prcdueer Keefu5 Cianda. and the result is a stu~nil1g hew chapter in the story of one of the finest velces of our time, wwW.bIIJEllilJote.cam/cassanc:ilra

* MEDESKI IMARTIN &' WOOD NOTE BlEU: THE BfST Of THE BLUE NGrE YEARS The grooves go deep iruto the funkie~t recesses "lhhe dancefloer and the soundscapes soar to heights beyond the stratosphere. This album eelleees the,ir linest Blue No~e work into one musthave 15-trad< ill'1Jtholog)', Also aVf)jlabte <IS llmlted edition with addftlonal roue tracks. deluxe package,:!iru:! bonus DVD with

videos, dille" and live footage, wWW.mmW.J1et .



technolo,gy on your time

Volume 06 Features

40.: Pr'M,o

Meet the ,engin'ne,ers who make 0aU cons for pl.arnetary ax plo ration , By David PasOO\lUz

54: MAKE'.sSpeciarl S~di,ol1l: Rolilotics

Learn how to make and mod.i1y robots in this 18· pag e spec[!al section .Irrclu died: IBM"s, Thomas Zlmmarrnan shows you now 110 constructa "miin~ Mars Rover" o tilt of an RG truck and a wireless webcam, fig htii ng tankswlth oi core Dr,a~r1S, 10 tlps for lego Dot btJIild,ers, an lntroductlon 1<0 BE,AM robots, a rewiew of RaCiioSh,aek':s IAex rebol res system, and a 'lI~sit to an electromechanical bartender convention.


11: Dale DIlIUglfll~r1!y Shouldn'tpeople ~na~e thei r O\!Jf1 rlngtones, ITTIO! buythern?

13: r i lin O'R'eilly "Wehave met the artificial irltell,lgerloo, and ~e is ~S.

14: life Hacks HO'wtodo borlngtasks, By Merlin M.anrn and DanllY O'Brien

16: Bruce Sterling W~ydesrgner Miieliiele De tuechl makes co r1Ieeptu.all art w~tt"n chainsaws.

2-6: Cory Docliorow HoIll:yv,!,ood feel s tha sUqg of itsown cop'yright laws.

44: Distri~utist Tech To I k~"m meets capita I is tn, By Tom Owad


48: Saul Griffith

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153: Giti21Em SdEmtist Build ,8 visibla hazs photoFl1eterwit~ an old video GaSE! and $20 wortt"no! mart. By Dr. Snawn

185: R,etroComp;util1lg SCi'lllf!ITilgrng components from cast-off tech, ByTomOwad

190: G,eolfge Dy.SOiil '"]l;i5I T~;edawj"J ol the '0 Iglta~ L1ij"J i verse_

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microcontroller for all things 0 !Y.

[By David Wi~liams and Liam Staskawicz

ShopBotin Santiago lCiverde's SJClICIge $hop sllowil"l:9 hi! Itlrsi pro~eci. a c:ircul·artCible kip wilih i~ns'eb (l:aly. IX).

A Shop Bot, to MAKE Things ...

You Illike to make things, and so do we. The nrst ShopBots were 01 MAKE reeder's dreorncome-true as there was definitely "some ossembly required.l! Those eorly Shoplsots were largeliy selt-replicofinc ... cutting its own mojor components from plywood and then being fitted with a lew parts from the hcrdwore store and some stepper motors.

Shoplsots have evolved - no longer a project in themselves. They're sh~pped itorgeiy preassembled and ready for work. Iodov's ShopBots are the ulnmatetool for your MAKER toolbox. lhey am high-performance eNC robotic tools that precisely cut rnocbine. carve and drill the parts for your next protect or prototype.

Of course, we hoven't Iorqolten our mots, and we know you like to do things yourself" So, you can buy a complete Shopbol CNC tool (bench-top orful~-sjze) ond stort making things. Or, you can purchase our Control System and make your own eNC.

Shoplsot is the leoder ln cftordobte CNC robotic tools you can use in your shop today .


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www.shopbo.tfools.com .

Volume 06


18: Made ,CUi'! Ea.l'th

S~ap.sMts. from the world of backyard tedHl.oI~ogy_

27: 1+2+3 -"Ji'-Shirt La p,top' Pow:::!i1

Gorrvert anolcshlrt into a computer tore. By Ross Orr

28: Mai:<:,er Profile: Stevieii'! R,oberts

iFs'"a mad, mad. mad. ted'l~omadic wortd, By Howard Wen

36: Sky CuUers

~oo knte loverscongregate in Berl<leley, Callf, 8y AMen O'R,eil:~y

38: Boiler Room

AvLslt to the arlnLDal Yankee Steam-Up. By Brlan Jepson

39: Ship, of Ca.rd.s

PoPtillarcard games beoornean exercise in rnlnjehrre constructlon. By Alex. Handy

46: You AI'i'Gl the PI.a,iI:1oll'm

'Kidware hackers are r,emak[r;'igtliTIeir bodliies_ By QLD~rHi Norton

U4: OW.n. YOUI'" OWriI

tower pes are b~,es.sedl!y modular, By Hobert Bnjoe Thompson

lUi: 1+2+3 - LED Tluowies

~teil.aIlY ferrmrmgrrlet[c surface. By Gr.af1it~ Heseardl Lab

15B:W,orksilop: R,oss Shafer

Inside a versi'ltil'e maker's machlne s.ffiop. By SMwll COmJally

160: 1'1tl'ElOFY &. Pra.ctice

ExperimEHJt wrth an RFID kit. By Joe Grand


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I 'R ~A[) ME':. ~'ay t be~~re you get start,ed.There I I, With '7·a~hpr°rtleC t updates, or corrections.

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117: Circui'ts

~: Com.puters 129: Gaming 133: Home

143: Ima,ging

170: Hawloons

~ YOLDr ,own lea cream. 8y SaLDI GriffiUi. N[ck Dragotta. and Joost Bamse n

112: MakeShift: Bood Panic

Tile creator of MOIcGYVE1r ch1l~I'enge:s Y'OLD to surviva an Harth' quake, a flood,iilflO <"i hllmgoveI nelghoor. By Le'e D. Zlotott

114: l'oolbo.x

"11i8"best tools, software, gadg,et;s, books, magllZirD'les,ano websltes,

182: Alma! Puzzle Tl1is

"Wii""YOllr roommate'ssock jflJ~1 of quarters. and othee puzzles. By Michaell H- Pryor

183: R:ea.cil,er Imlput

W~e"e makers. t,ell~l:~e1r tales and offer praise, brlckbsts, and S\yell ldoas.

184: Bla.st 1l1l',om P.a.st

""ATci'Ok at tile glory years of f,olk eIT"Jgineering. By Milsber Ja~,opy

188: ira Ie,.:;; fllOm the MAKE B log

F'loornba hacks ,00~d robot ccckflghtlng, By PIlH~[p Torrona

189: Ma.ker's Calendar

~avorite 'eVetilts around tile world, By wmialm Gurstelle

192: H,omel:new

My version of [instein's. ,a~plitilt;'r. By Tyler Rourke

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Learn how to enhance your images with Photos hop. Create a texture map from a snapshot of tree hark or concrete. Create composite effects for your movies. Design aliens, superheroes, cities, and racecars, Sculpt digital creatures from ori9rnal sketches, Anim<lte water, flames, and smoke, Learn to use O~gita~ Fu::;ion, lightWave, Maya, Mental Ray, NlJK.E., and Shake.

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Learn how to make music. Build your own guitar. Build a robot. Build a guitar-playing robot. Put a better stereo in your car.or tune up your engine. Pinstripe your ride, or paint on some flames. Make small items by casting. Make hig things with fiberg~ass. Make dinner. Make soap. Make a house out of brick or straw. Make clothing. Make armor. Make anything you want

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That.s Just RAW.

This month on digitallmediia.oreilly.com, d~glitall photoqraphy pioneer, Mikkel Aaland, talks about taking control of his an with Photoshop C52 RAW. Read the full interview see a gailiery of Mikke~'s work, and expose yoursef to the future of audio, Video, and photoqraphy,


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.A.'II ,(~:hrt"""''''r~_lro"prodlJC'fuion withouti permission is pro hi bltsd.

Pr,ll'ited In Ihe USA by Schu man n p,~ nt.w5, lrre.

~ MAKEls prlnledon recyciled paperwitih.l0% pest-consumer ~ wasle .ancU is aCI,di-'!ree~ SUDscriber cnples 0'1 MA!:<E Wluf"ne 06 were shl pped r n .roecycla ble pia stlc bags.

IPleaoSe note: Jec hoolOW, the ~aws., and II mila hlons lrnposed by manu'fGc'burers a,ildoonlent OWtleIS, are ronsl3nlly cllan8Jir~g. Thus, $Ome'~f the pmje~I;;d,e$'Cribed moy ~'~ wort~; ·moy 1!:>i>III'IC(IMI,lent WlUl t;urrelltlaWSl)<r IJ5oI!r agraaments, or may damage'or ~.dve~ly affect rome' equlpme,rrl.

Your safety ls YlI\Ir QW,n resjIIOlISib.i:!i t),', li~ Willg!lJ'Wllmsa' o~ equlpme(lt ,Hid SiI'feky gea~, ~M d~t'er.fi1ii\i.1!g \!IootJier you ~ve ~i'lilu~t~ skLI! a,1)d <l:('pei"lieJWi\ F\Gwer tOOI$, lE!Je!:'tri~i 1:1, a{ld ot:trer resources l1$erj tor these ,m)a¢~~ Jill' da,i'Iglerlll.<S, tmletS used ,flTO:j)\lhly and withaOOqoole plllClI,ihiki'i'iS; ~!1C~!KIi'ng$al:e'ly gear, Soll1e illystrafive Illlotas d(I r)l)td~pict saFety ~rec~'lItl(l~ QraijiIipmen!; ~nM1er lJ) ~w '~~mJl);Gt$l<lps more c.le<lfly, ~s.:: pfoJed-s Jre'ootlntlilooeil~or USe lOY citllifreil

~O'f U;ei,rosiruc:lioi\$ aq;d$~~oFl$ in MAKE il,sJ'~YOlIrQwnilis~.

O'Reilly MMiJ, :IIIC., IftSclaimsa!1I respD:ilsibilily for any reStiI'~i'lgilamage, ~nJuI)', or expense. I tis )'OLlI" res,rKJ;nsibilllyro makesure bltat yoor actlvi ties comply wJlhJpj:flicatileilaws, ii\oClLiding oo;pJi~~ht

\lot 06, M<zy 2006, MAKE (I SS N 15513-23361 is puhlls hed qua rtlir~ by O',Re.i.lly Media, Inc, ~n the rM.nHIS o~ FebrlLary, MaY,August and Novl3.rnber, O',Reilly Media ls ~atlida~ lO05Gr3veMtliin Hwy, North, ,S€b.a;stopcll, CJ\ 95472, OW') 82nODJ). SUBSCR I PTIONS: Serld E II $lIbsc "ip~oO reqwe$l"< to M~KE, po. 'ElQx ]]046, North Ha:llywoocl, CA 9]61:5-9588 or su'b$crlbE Mllne'at mal!.ezine.crml! ~orVIa p~ooFl$'a'l866-289-<'l347 ('US, ~!iidGa'ItO(Ia), ~II o~l\€r oolfj1[~esdl (IDB) 487'203], SubocwiptiDM are3!l<lilable far $3495 ror lye13r (4quarill rily l$slJes) Infue'Ll$.C<!nada:$:;t9.95 usn: aU oti!ler~o)J:fi~~t'<S: $4'l951JSC\ Ap. jil~",~on to M~il atp.eriodic~!> Pa$t.a~.IRa~ ~$ P'eildki$ Jt Stiha$ffiprl.!. CAaoo tit additional liiai!i'ng(lr~C<'l$. POSTMAST'ER: Sei1<;laddre$5 (:na~ to MAKE. PD BID: D'{I46, tNiJrbh f'lOllywoM, CA 9161~9588

WITOR·IN·CHI EF Ma.~k F"ta u en ie,lder nll3fk1@Jlnellly.mm

IMA+lAGij,I-lG EDITOR SlTIiawriU 'Comnally ,~"",,,,@;J""IIy.""'"

S'ENIIIR EDITOR Phillip Tor ron e pl@m;)1;ez:i" .... OiJm

PROJE.CTS EDITOR P,aul Spinraodl ~r~1«ll'i;';".mm

ECD ITOR AT L ARG'E David Pescevitz

S'TA F,F' E 01 TO R ,ArwEln .o'Reilly

COPYOflIE:F 'Goli MGhamm.H'Jli

co:py :m'ITOIVRIES'EA~Cf!

Keiithi H~ilmmGntl!

Lee Z]o!of~ (M<lkeShift), screenwriter for HU80rigi'nal MacGyver series, has been makilig things since he realized both ~is hands were atllldied to the same brain. 'No questlcn. the frnspiratiolil lor th·e Mi'lcGyver charactsrcarna {rom cellar slojol'Jrns. wlth my father,wnoCQLUld pr'etty rnuch mo'ike anything work," He IliVeS,orj 1'1 hi II in Toparnga,and wliTIern he lsn't surfing or designing fiurliilit1ur,e and fountains, he makes tel evi sion end fil'm for HollY't'Jood. Most r'eoerntlly he's I ilLJnicMd hts own media productlon ,OLD I:HI , Custom Image Co Me pts, "TM muse said It was tlrne to rock tt"u,e bOi'ltWho am I to argua?"

Oan l1y O'Briern (We Hacks) I ~V'es In San FrMd'SCQ with hls wlfeand daughter. By day, Ine tlghts.crlrne <It tfle Ellecboruic hormti er Fo~mdlltiorn as iitsllctivi.sm coordl nator; By night. he also 'Iig!it's crime, [J:1!J1 only by m'egledlirng to get around to lit.

MaUhew Russell ([ego Soccer project) is .21 Mac zealot, a s.~ydijver. and a Krr:spy Kr,eme ad{ji ct {he onca ate 26 [nOM slttlng). Ha gmdUJ,ateOi from tha Air Force A,cademy in 2003, ls a cam p·me r scientist by trade, and has 450 skydivi.rng jumps under fiis belt, An [tlliabitllnt 01 the DC Metro area, he's a frequent contributor to O'ReiJlty's. Mac [)e\lDeITiller and likes to dabh le witt"u open source soltwera for Macllir:mx. H,e has two pet ferrets, loves a lreshliy rn[x<!O black and tar! trorn I he tap, and alw3y~ has too many irons ~n th.a liire,

Howard WenCM<Jker prQfile) ~s obsessed with the weathe,- fretting over t1O'l{ hot [t is or 1'101'.' col dI it is. That's bacause he's from DalTas, where lt's not'unusual for the tsrnperatures to change as fiJi8! as it takes you 10 r,ea(Ji thls paragraph. For hls profile On'; tech- nomad pioni,eer St'even RoMrts, How.ard braced ~i mself tor tM dlr.eary gray s kil,es and dli Ily rain of the S·eattJ.e wtnler- bill: the \YeaHner was surmy and warm when he vlslted, So he fpeUed about how hot rtwas.

Roy Ooffiy (A~! liJ[:I$troticm) ltas been a cartoonist slnce the tcurth grade, A dl;!gree if]

filme arts and a stint lin the 1I.S,AHny dLiriilg'WWlld [[jn't dlstract him, and he stl III drsws nonstop, NameQ Illustrator 61 true Year slx times ~.y tne Nationall Cartoonists S.ociety,M has iHlcJ~trateol176 books (2:9 of 'which t1e wrote), arid his drawings have beern p!Jblli ~herd [n so marlY rnagazlnes tfTIat the list would f II t~i$enUm page. H ~~ "Viloedll;!sS Work~hQP" lor The Family I-iandymal'i [5 fn lts 50t~ year. His favm~te ~iE:' lie? "TMt I'm 45ye3FS old," H[5 proudast i>c!lievernet;l? "That I have ('TI,ever nad a job tor a si ngl:e d3;Y in my m.fe~"

Coi'itliblrt.ing Writet:s.:

TIm Arid erson. Joost Bensen. GaFeU~ Branwyn, r:.Aa~k R. Browrl. Snawn Carlsol"'l. Bill Doderre. Travis J.I. OmCOr11l"'l. Larry Cotton. Cory Docrorow, Ntck Dragotta. Goorge DySOl"'l. Dan G'Onsi[lrow!:;kl.Graffltt Rest1arch Lab, Joe Grand.

Sa.LJI Grlffitl'n, WllllamGl.mltelle. Tom 'goe, Brian Jepson, SIeve JO~nSOI'i, Hale Jan Kamps, Pete'!' Kim. Mike KUl'1ravsky. wmram Ud~ll, Matt lind. Gr;eg l.lpscoma. Merlin Mann, Mi5'tef Jatopy, Annalee Newrtl. QUinn Norton, Danny O"Srfet1. TIm O·Retily. Ross Orr, Tom Owad, Dave Prochnow. MLcnael H. Pryo r, J ]]el Raedeke, Mrchael Ro,sen blatt, Tyler Roll rke, Matthew Russell, Bob Scott l~amStas~awfcz, Bruce Sterlfng. Damiel<1 Stolarz, Dan Stn.mkc, Robert Bruce Thompson, ~ward Wen, David Wrlflam~. Tom ZImmerman, l1!e D, Ztotoff

Contributing Artists:

Doug fas Adesko. JaKaAppelbaLl m Nahan ArM Id. Kwln Balrl. Scott Bea~, Rlcardo Blan!!, Roy Dcty, Nfck Dragotta, eboy, Mike F1efds, John GrariM. Alex Handy. DCJstl1"l Amory Hostetler, Harold It Harlo. TImmy Kucynda, Chrls l.eschlnsky

Tim lillis, Chdstopher lucas. DEfIle McMahorcl. Jim MLJlllns, Visa Parllrafnen, Joe Reinhardt, Seth Schoen. Damferi Scogin, Sr1awn Slnyork, James SUey, Robin Tafel, Travis Thatcher, Jay Townsend. Susan WHI~ms


Adrienne For.eman (web) Jake: McKenLie (engr.)

Ty Nowotny (engr.)

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AT THE WEB 2 .. 0 CONFERENlCE, A PANIEL of teens talked about. their habits and attitudes tor a wide rangeof gadgets. and services, Allof them said they almost never pay tor digital music, and seemed incredulousthat anyone would. Then the moderatorasked them about cellphones, 0 ne .0.1' th e teen s contesse d that. he spent $50 a month on rlngtones, FIFTY DOLLARS A MONTH! A redllight on my maker radar went off.

Shouldn't. people make their own ringtones, not buy them? They alreadyown the music. Don't. they know how to get it on theircellphDnes?

The business press. is happy to. repeat the phrase, "the blah-blah billion-dollar ringtone market worldwide" (the number they say is $4 billion, but when they use big, unsubstantiated numbers so treely, what II hear is "blah-blah "), This means. lots Df people are making money on rlngtones, and they do. so mostly by pickpccketing teens and their parents.

Imagine if websltescould automatically charge your II SP tor activities that you r children engage in online. Ringtone vendors, wh lch lncju de carriers, phone manutactu rers, and third-party vendors, are taklngadvantage Df theautornatlc billing relationShip behind every cellphone, lncreaslngly, the game is to get teens to initiate recurring monthly tees hidden from parents in a large, complicated phone bill.

One San Diego. parent has brought a class action suit against Jamster, charging fraudand mise advertising. Th isverisign subsidiary otfers a "free"

ringtone and then enrolls anyone who asks tor it in a service costing $5.99 a month. They advertise on MTV, Nickelodenn, and the Cartoon Network, also promising a free ringtone it you send therna text message What they don't advertise is that they automatically sign you up for their costly service,

Another infuriated father set. upa webpage (www.sleaze-mobilecom) to rant about what happenedon ce he noticed that his It-year-old daughter had been duped intoa $3.99-a-week ringtone serviae. His screenshots sh ow how a teen could easily think she is saying yes to a free d ownload, since th e message saying that she is actually signing up for the service is on a later screen.

Whly wouldl anyone pay more tor a 30-sewnd ringtone than for a song on i'lunes? One answer is that teens see rlngtonss as personalizing their phones while music d ownloads are just pure entertainment. Isn't this a terribly shoddy view of personalization?

Do. you personalize your phone by signing up tor a $5.99 monthly plan to download ''II"m N l.uv (Wit A Stripper)" by I-Paln, the number one rlngtone

on Jarnster today? 0" by downloading Beyonce's "Check On It" from Cingular's Media Mall for $2.49, where you can't get to the song without s.eeing prornos to "II dollze My Phone" by dlownloading "Yo Dawg" and oth er "famous arid fun sayings" from Americarl Idol?

An dI why do teen s buy so. many ringtones?

Apparently, teens ass ign a dlstlnctlvs ringtDne to each friend. The more friends, the more ringtones YDU buy. Or is it the more ringtonesyou buy, the more friends you have? lt'sa sign of your social network.

Of c DU rse, DII Y rl ngt ones a n:e the b est opt i on tor true personalization, but don't expect to fin dl good infDrmatiDn in your phone's manual Dr on your carrier's website. They don't wBnt you to know how

You can own your own ringtones,and we" II do our best on makezine.com tocover the tools. and techniqu es tor making: them on YDU r own.

Next time you MAKE sornethinq, try eMachineShop.coml .. • Download' our FREE CA.D/CAMI software • Deslqn your custom part

• Get an instant price quote

• Cl:ick "accept"

Easy as that- your parts are on the way. eMachineShop.com give·s you a wide assortment of materials i;ncl'Udillg plastics, cornposltes, metals and more, There are plenty of online tools too.Jncludinq plasma, laser and water jet cutters, and enough mills, brake's, and finishes to satisfy the most dlscrlrnlnatinq machinist. Ouantity 1 to 11~ miHion ..

The' II ndustrial Revolution is now a free crick on your desktop ..

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_, The Six Mi.ll.io..n Dollar Man? It featured Lee , Majors. as an lnlured astronaut rebuilt with technology that made him taster, stronger.and more capable, He 'was a cyborg, .21 fusion of man and machine,

Anyone 'with prosthetics - even someone with eyeglasses - is a cyborgof sorts, but what really excites the imagination is today's news, of direct connection between brain and machine.

Last tall, University of Florida researcher Thomas Dernarse grew a cu ltu re of 2'5,000 rat n eu rons,

th en watched as it. taught itself to control an F -2.2 tlight simulator lin February, Klaus-Peter Zauner

at the University of Southampton, UK, hooked up a slime moldl to a six-legged robot The biologically controlled robot scrabbles away from bright lights, emulating the behavior of th e mold, Last year, a monkey with a brain implant learned to control a robotic arm with its thoughts, In human clinical triels, paraplegic Brian Nagle has succeeded in playing video games with a similar implant.

It irs possible tor neurons to control a machine,

it should also be possible tor machines to control the brain, DARPA researchers recently presented a plan to remotely control hammerhead sharks via a neural implant The hope' stealth spies able to hack enemy ships,

But what has put bionics and the man-machine interrace on my radar lately isn't just these modern echoes of old science fiction, but. rather the idea that the latest web applications, are forging a more subtle, but no less profound, mergerof man and machine,

Boxxet founder YbtJ Mon Tsang recently lntroduced a new rnerne into my vocabulary: .bio.nic softwal:e. Boxxet is an example of such a system. lit's a collaborative news. site (a kind of "my.dlgg.corn") in which customers. can put Boxxets spiders to work collecting data on any subject - and then site users rate the results to train th e spid er; Th e resu It isa tool that harnesses both computers and humans to deliver better results than either can do alone,

When You Mon described Boxxet in this way, it struck me that this "bionic" aspect is critical to many of the most successful web applications, Back in 2003, II began using an illustration of von Kempelen's Mechanical Turk in my talks, to emphasize the point that one of the things. that distinguishes. web applications from PC-era applications is the fact that web applications actually have people inside

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them, werking daily as pant of the application. Without the programmers. running the crawl at Google (and updating the antl-sparnalgorlthrns), without the users feeding the spiders by continuously linking to new' sites, the application stops. working. II n a profou nd way, th.e users are part of the search engine, This turns. out to be true in one form or an oth er toralrnostevery breakthrough web application.

I generalized this idea into. Onle of the key principles. of Web 2,0, namely that Web 2,0 applications. ere systems tor harnessing the collective intelligence of their users. But the term b.io.nic systems gtvesa new twist on this concept.

I was talking about the idea of bionic software with venture capitalist Tom Sh!elds.a rewweeks agp,and explaining how I thoughtold dreams of artificial intelligence are being replaced by this new' model, in which we are creating mere intelligent systems by using humans as. components of the application. Shields neatly summed up the paradigm shift: "AI becomes IA" (Artifici.allntelligence becomes Intelligence Augmentation), We have met the All .and he is us,

NOiWthat I understand that we're building a next generation of bionic systems, I"m seeing them

eve ry'where. I" d love you r though ts . Where else are you seeing this fuslonot human and computer to buildl capabilities beyond the reach of either alone?

Check makezine. com/06/nff for related stories.

Tim o 'R'eilliy (timoreillv,mm) ls founder and em of O'~eiJly Media, rn,c:_ S,ee whiat'~ on nile O'Reilly Rad2l~ at radar.,or'eiliy.oofT),

Life Hocks. Overclocking Your Productivity




DU _1_1,1- 55!




By MerHn :Manni and Danny O'Brien

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I sutter from an overpowering fear of ted iu m. It's part of being a novelty-seeking kind of person:

when you get substantlalarnounts of pleasure trorn uncovering new knowledge, any task where you" re not learn ing - where you're ju st repeating - is unbearably painful to pursue.

It you're a programmer, there's an addltlonal level o.f suffering in drudgery. Doing the same thing over and over while coding, like copying and pasting the same function into different fu notion s? That's never a demonstration that you're doing good work.

lit's usually a sign that something is wrong 'with

your code. You" re paid to remove red undanclss. Programmers. look at .21 task like weeding the lavm and think, "l'vealready done this. Why can 't II wrap it ina loop, and just. run that?"

.As a res ult, geeks often get themselves into terrible trouble becsu se they cannot bear to dlo simple, everyday tasks - like pay bills on time,or till in a tax form, or wash the dishes. lt'san aesthetic and moral offense. Better, says your subconscious, to be bankrupt and on the run from the II RS, eating trorn plastic cups and plates, than to have to. do some brain-numbing piece of repetitious nonsense, even tor a moment Death before dullness!

Imagine my su rprise, then, as I researched superorganized geeks and I discovered how many apparently mind-numbing routines they indulge in. They have scripts, sure.and little automated hco-hahs, but. they also pertormcertein repetitious actions, no matter hO"w easy it might be to optimize them away.

The repetition serves to keep certeln facts fresh

in their minds. Plenty of alpha geeks have acornplex system of repeated behaviors tor tiling a new document Of creating a blog entry. Even when they keep their to-db lists on the computer, they still monkishly copy it out onto paper first thing in the morning. The ritual otfilingor blogging helps them remember what they're saving. Copying the to-do list fixes the tasks

in their minds, and helps. to keep the list small.

My favorite story regarding this skill is from the legendary coder John Carmack, creatorot Doom and Quake. Carmack went to Las. Vegas tor a break and.vegas being Vegas, decided to have a wager, Carmack being Carmack, he beat the house. The game he played was blackjack, and the technique he used was card countlng - which lets you beat the house odds as long as you persistently follow a strictly defined set of rules . .As he wrote:

"Playing blackjack properly isa test of personal discipline. It takes a small amount of skill to know

the right plays. and count the cards, but the hard part is making yourself consistently behave Ii,",e a robot, rather than succu mbing to your gut instincts."

Consistently behaving like a robot is the challenge of many everyday tasks. The hard part for many smart people is to stop thinking, and start acting as though you're run nlnga program 011 y;ourself.

For rneny of us, that goes against.our guttiest of instincts: we teelas though we're deliberately making ourselves. more stupid, But as a strategy, sometimes you really don't want,or need, to be smart.

Many geeks u s.e games. to soften the blow They take boring, monotonous. tasks, and by turning them into achallenging game.eke some tiny squib of enjoyment trorn them .

The games you play depen d on you r personality.

If you' re naturally oompetitive, you'll wi'lnt to. have

Stop thinking and start acting like you're running a program on yourself.

some external measure to constantly attempt to beat. If you're someone who. enjoys music. match your actions to. an internal, compllcated rhythm.

l'rn about as competitive as .. anyone alw-ays picked last in gym, and music is all bleep bleep bleep to me. But. I've gotten through many a terrible job by tapping into the rich bureaucracies of science rletlon and thriller shows. Progr.ams like CSI, Battlestar Ga/actica, and Star Trek: The Next Generation gain some of their appeal from the occasional glimpse of their heroes conductinga tremendously boring task, Of minions milling around busily in the background. This leaves opportunities to. place you in that world, only temporarily stuck doing the dull Space Taxes Forms.

This can work in almost.any otherwise depress-

ing scenario As science flctlon author Rudy Rucker once said: "For me, the best thingabout cyberpunk is that it taught me ho.wtoenjoy shopping malls, wh!ch used to terrlty me. N'o.W I just imagine the whole thing is M"O miles below the moon's surface.and half the people's right brains have been eaten by roboticized steel rats . And suddenly it's interesting again."

learn ~ow to reel in Y()LJr mind .a.t D.a,nlny O'Brien's Iif'E!ha.cks.corll and Merlin Mann"s 43foldE!n,.c(lrll.

8·,...11 1,"'0 S' .... rOI,...II·lln" I \.II'WW .. \'wll II I I~


I-IAI\IDS 01\1:




""..' ERTAIN AREAS OF THEWOR:LD HAVE I_an innately MAKE-like approach to life. ,..,' Northern Italy (where II'm writing this installment of my column) is one of those places .. Case in point tamed Milanese architect Michele De l.uechl.

For the Italian designer outfit Arternlde, De l.ucchicreated the legendary Iolomeo work lamp. The Tolorneo is bright, sleek, and ductile, with long columnar metal arms and tendon-like 'wire.

lit silently bends and swivels at a touch, and stays poised in any position you may place it in. Sinoe its creation in 1983, the 'lolomeo has been the numberone work lamp that. designers themselves buy for design labor lit's the designer's designer lamp and has been selling merrily for decades,

Oddly enough, De l.ucchi is not a designer. He's

a "radical architect" from the ]970s, when young ltalians rebelled at the constrictions of their discipline and exploded laterally into postrnodern home decor, weirdllaminatedl bookcases.couture, electronics, graphics - in a wordl, most anything hackable. This eclectic approach has many practicel benefits.

At Olivetti, where De l.uechl worked for 20 years, he involved himself in the production of some 240 products, finishing his career there as the corporation'screative director. He also designed door pulls, tape dispensers, laptops, chairs, vases, interior decor for banks and hotels, and much more.

So far, so gpod we're descrlblnga world-famous, multitalented Italian designer at the top of the profession. Now comes the really interesting part: explaining why De l.ucehl spent much of 2005 making conceptual art with chalnsaws,

Explaining the fondness tor chalnsawscornes easily enough. To make his point, De l.ucchl produces a cherished ]2-year-old Italian fountain pen trorn his immaculate jacket. It occurred to him that although pens and pencils are used with great grace, preclslon, elegance, and tenderness, no one has extended thisapproach toward the humble, industrial chainsaw, Why not? Are chainsaws less

li6 !.II .. ke ; V"lume (16

worthy than pencils? There is no alternative to the presence of industrial objects. in modem life.

.A large tree tell near De l.ucchi's home, That

in cid ent req uired a chalnsaw, This was a chance to learn Once he had his. goggles anclgloves on, De l.ucchl knew that thechalnsaw had been radically underexploltedas a means of creative expression. The 55-year-old maestro soon made it his business to OWnl an dI master a variety of chainsaws,

Like many arch ltects, De l.ucchl spen ds much of his protesslonal llte making small-scale models of housing. So he decided to refine his chainsaw skills by making model homes streight from the dead tree. No fussy stickler tor mere handicrafts,

"Every project is a voyage from idea to realization. There is an ocean of compromise in the middle."

De l.uechl also adlded telling m.odel details with a laser cutter and a water jet.

These chainsawed model homes look like they were whittled into shape with a giant's jackknife, but th e un 1que mod els sold at once to esgerart collectors. Some of the models were botched, Those, he discarded and wrotea book about Twelve Stories About Little Houses, These chainsaw failures were too ugly to show in public or to display as art, but the effort to make them taught him useful lessons. This resulted in a good set of design war stories.

"Every project is a vOiyage rrorn idea to realization," he tells me in carefu I English. "There is an ocean of compromise in the mid dle,"

Thearchitectural lessons from thechainsawed homes are now reflected in De l.ucchi's ambitious Japanese eco-vlllage development, outside Osaka. This is a big effort, anentlre Japanese suburb, but he has learned, he says, to seek his inspiration for

bigness in that which is small, simple. and intuitive. Big, corporate research-and-design teams are all very well in their place. but they are big by nature. and concerned with big resources. So. they are always anxious to avoid big mistakes.

One cannot experiment properly in a state of anxiety. C reativ ity is dosed ()ff by fear. lt's even worse to fail to be anxious at a big scale. It's wrong toerrogantlyexperjment witil. the lives an d fortunes of a company's employees and stockh olders - as if those many people didn't matter:

By their nature. big companies. and mass production will" commercialize. rnarketlze, banallze, and globalize:' But if ilidus:try is to improve the world.

in dustry needs something tru Iy good to work on.

TIl erefore, De l.ucchi has. divided his own work into sets of physical scales, First there are the small tI1 ings, he does-alone ina home office: "experimen ts, searches, and fun." By deslgn, these ei'forts have no deadlines, no clients, nodellverables, no budget. and they are done without corrmltment to anybody.

At the next level comes a small companycalled Produzione Privata (Private Productlon), This atellerfsatures De Lucchl himself, his design assistant .1'1 bookkeeper. and a produ cer, wh ose job it

is to outsource the manufacturing of De l.ucchi's

designs. Produzione Privata is deliberately small. but it sells real products and it has. a real budget. The next and final step is the De Lucchi architecture firm. aMDL. which does large-scale urban work in Germany. Russia. Japan. Italy. and elsewhere.

These di:fferent levels. of creative scope do not corrtllct.Jnstead. th ey support and refresh one another, One level is no more or less "serious" than the next. Ttl ey area creative ecosystem, wh ere the scale and rnu scle of the bigger firm can shelter the little greenhouse of the new, and where the small innovative experiments can provide a u niqu e edge and unheard-of innovations 'for the bigger outfit

"There is. no alternative to lndustrlalorganlzation," says De l.ucchl. "But we must also believe that we have the chance to reacha better world through industry, An industry is. more than a public investment ~f mall believes in industry. but industry fails to believe in hurnanlty, the planet is finished!,"

~ don't know about the pl.anet but having met De l.ucchtl know that Milan and he are the polar opposite Df "finished." They have lound the means, motives, and opportunities for elegant innovation,

8~iJce Stedirlg (bru[;E!@. ... eILvom) is ascl ence Hellam wdter and p,ant-lime deslgn protassor,

1!!I..I<e! 17



Johnny Jetpack

~:t 's difficult to match the sophlsticated an d subtle humor of throwing a dummy off something really high and watching it fall to the ground, but to be fair; lt's a low-tech laugh,

Luckily. Nathairi .Aliiriold of Seattle has discovered that strapplng a dummy to ,a compressed-air jetpack, launching it more than 100 'feet in the air. and then watching it fall to the ground is three times as funny and provides some geek appeal on the sidle.

Arnold's performance-art dummy show and his eternal desire to maximize mayhem led to the idea of launching the thing - Johnny, by name - as high in th ealr as poss ible ln 1983, "lt turned out to be more spectaculer thanl thought it would be:' he says. and after more than WO launches, he hasn't stopped laughing.

Johnny looks su rprislngty substantial on the launch pad, so much so that you'd] never guess. ttl at he weighs in ata svelte .8 po unds, The [etpack - a hodgepodge of carbonated beverage bottles and tubing strapped to a bamboo frame - tips the scales, at 30 pour! ds, but th e majority of th at

1!8 IM,,' •• , '""lUI .... 08

weight is llquidaccelerant, which villi be expelled forcefully within a seconder so of lau nch.

"The hardest part is getting a good seal," says Arnold, "Once you have a seal. YOU're 90% there:'

After Johnny and the [etpack are set up. pointed skyward. an d a good seal allows [he bottles to be charged with water and compressed air. Arnold has on Iy ito pu II a pin to initiate the lau nch.

Johnny accelerates rapldlyonce the [etpack

is activated. His head, filled with cattails, lolls forward from the force, and a Rube G.oldbergian sequence ,of events is set in motion. As the liquid drains from the main chamber, the drop in pressure triggers the parachute ejection device. The removal of the parachute initiates the separation of Johnny from his [etpack, and an "exploslon"

of cattails blows Johnny's head off. More compressed air chambers in.Johnny'schest cavity cause his arms to tlal I while a parachu te deploys. to return the [etpack sately to the Earth. Meanwhile, Arnold and whoever is lucky enough to be present laughat it all.

Thirteen years, ago, Johnny Jetpack made his, first flight. and oven 100 launches later Arnold refuses, to stop tinkering on what will forever be a work in progress. You have to protect the~echnology, of course, SO the decision overwho gets. the parachute - Johnny or the [etpack - is easy. But the [etpack is 'fragile, and even with a gentle landing, each launch requires rough Iy 40 hou rs of preparation. When that kind of tlrne is involved, irs easy to write it ofif as a back-tothe-drawing-bo,ard situation every launch.

What's coming next? Water, compressed air, and so da bottl es h ave served J 011 n ny Jetpa ck well for a while now, but there comesa time when the laws of physics draw a lin e. Striding over that line. Arnoldi picks upa canister of liquid nitr:ogen. "It's a poss.ibiIi ty rVe been looking at" he says.

The MythBuS'ters television guys tried to find a way to launch something more mortal than Johnny with 2-liter bottles. but without a good background. they trailed despite rnourrtlng 15 bottles. to a pack. Arnold thinks they just weren't trying hard enough.

"Improper line of force:' he says, "They concluded that there was no way to launch a person with soda bottles. I dlon'tagree with that"

-Dan GonsjomwsM

1!!I..I<e! 19

Big Heads

"rou maniacs! You blew it u pI. Ah, damn you!' Damn youall to helll" Oh, my mistake. This isn't a postapocalyp tic world where apes, rule, but rath er the parking lot behind artist David A.dickes· studio near downtown Houston.

Adickes is from the blgger-ls-betterschool of rnaking.ln addition to a 67-Toot-tall statue of Sam Houston in Huntsville. Texas, and 4.3, busts standing .20 feet tall at Presidents Park in Williamsburg, Va .. and' the Black Hills of Sou~h Dakota, Adicl\:es has big plans for a 36-f,o.ot-tall statue of the Beatles, a giant four-person bust of historic figures alongside a busy highway he'll call MountRush Hour, and a 280-foot-tall cowboy. which would be the largest statue in North America (th.e Statue of Uberty is about hair as tall),

A young 79, Adlckes fell in lave with gigantism after visiting Mount Rusi1more. Buit he soon round out that creating Rl.lshmore-siz.ed sculptures was no easy feat. He started Sam Ho uston in 1992 without re.ally kno;wing how to pull it on

"lt was, really a work of engineering witholJt any blueprint' he says. So Adickes.learnedi to apply a sirn-

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pie ruleof thumb to making man ernents of extreme proportions: "when in doubt, make it stout:' And stout they are .. His statue of Sam Houston uses five layers. of concrete poured over steel mesh attached to a welded steel framework -over 30 tons of material.

Giv·en the extra challenge of scale, why the fixation 0 n gigantic statues? "Wh at ~ am trying to prove," says Adickes, "is the same thing: FredericAuguste Bartholdi, the creator of the Statue of Uberty. was trying to prove; think big, do it right people will come. Today, 108 years. later, the Statue of Uberty is an leon, and two million people take a boat to visit lt every year. Two years. afiter Bartholdl. Gustave Eiffel built a tower in Paris, Vehemently criticized, it later became the symbol of France."

Wh eth er Adic~es.' works will endure the test of time like Bartholdi and Eiifel remains to be seen, but th ere is no question that his titanic figu rines make for big attractions and big impressions - just follow

ttl e line of tourists, -William UdwelJ

Sound Mlade Art

B'ef;ps-a-Lot Box. An::arN~ Device. and Sty/aphonic Devic« each answer a questio.n I hadn't considered: What would have happened if H.R. G.iger had decided to. teach band?

These graceful sculptures are working musical instruments produced by Gulf Coast artisan Ml~e Ford. Designed to evoke curiosity as well as admiration, each is heavy with mysterious controls. indicators. and attachments. all beckoning to be explored.

Growing up in a family af Gulffishermen, Ford learned the value of inventiveness early on. Even: as a tyke, he embraced this herl lage. secretly designlngand building a control panel for an imaginary rocket ship. Sadly. his space exploration dreams were cut short atter some critical knobs h ad to be llnglued and return ed to, his, grand mother's. TV se L

A skilled stringed instrument builder, Ford was inspired by an article on circuit bending to. start modifying discarded electronics boards. Dissatisfied with common project boxes tor these creations, he began developing cases, as exotic as h is circuits.

Finding: this, new challenge artistically satisfy-

ing, he pursued refinements to his.deslgn process and metalworking skills while an art student at the University of Mississippi.

Ncrw a full-time artist. Ford melds the electronics o.f his instruments with cases th at. despite their fluidly seamless look. are largely composed of repurposed or fou nd pieces that he works with hand tools. His design is decidedly deco-industrial, a look that has captlvated h,im since he first glimpsedl the retro-fu turlstlc gadgets in movies like Dune and Brazil.

This inspiration is easy to see in the wonderfully strange effectors on his instruments, whosefunctlons seem both obvious and inscrutable. giving his gear the look or something from a not-quite-parallel world (a world where they usea lot o,f chrome}.

8esides building up his stock of sculptu res, Ford is now constructing mlcrcsyntheslzers based on vintage analog integrated circuits. l' m guessing those

won't be in plastic boxes. -Bob Scott

»Mi~!! F;<l'~d's web~,ill!!: mlkefordsculptLJrescom }}Hi's wor~ lsalso tie.il~tllriedal!: g~tIDfi.com

Fly Boy

Look! Up ln the Sky! Is it a bird? A plane? No, it's Visa P.arviainern. Last October. Parviainen. sporting a birdman suit and 'custom jet boots. d ove face first out of a hot air balloon h lghabove Lahti, Finland. and took off into tl! e wild blue yonder,

Parviainen is one of a growing number of sky divers who wear wings.uits during their dives. The fabric spanning the legs and arms enables the free-fallers to glldea bit berol'e popping their parachutes. Boosted by his rocket boots, though, Parvialnen was able to zip along at 2,000 meters for several minutes,

To build his jet-powered flight suit, Parviainen and his cohorts at BirdMan. lnc.attach ed a pair of ofHI1 eshelf mlcroturblnes to a pair of old hockey skates. Fueled by kerosene. each ,engine spits out about 16kg of thrust Tests at a ne,arby university's wind tunnel convinced them that the aerodynamics should work out. The trick was figuring out a fuel tank system th at was lightweight and durable enough for a twisting. turning, windswept hvman body.

"Th e solution was to use hot water bottles as fuel tanks," Parviain en says. ." Since they're flexible. it's

22 IM .. · •• ' ""lUI .... 08

also easier tosqueeze t;;very last dlr:op of fuel outof them when you're flying.u

Nex1, the team built a special I aunch platform to suspen d from the side o,f th·e balloon canopy. The platform had two purposes: one. it kept exhaust from the boots alNay from the balloon and passengers as. Parviairien revved til e 'engines before takeoff', Two, it was a "nice lounge" for the ride lip.

Parviainen knows his w.ay around a machine shop, souping up cars and motorcycles for racing and hacking mounts, for helmet cams and other skydiving gear. He's spent the winter working on a new rev of the flight apparetus, subs,tituting a dlifferent set of microturbines and tweaking the engines. for more reliable operatlonat Chilly temperatures. On his next flight. he also plans to wear a black box recorder of sorts,

"Sorneday.l want to take off 'from the grou nd and land too," Parvialaen says. "It's far in the future, but ~ do think it's. possible. Right n ow though, th is is all

ju st good fun:' -Oavid PeSCDV.itz

The Ey,e Aquatic

Cousteau and the undersea world. Cameron and nt~l'1ic. And now, Joe Reinharcilt and Mike Fields and the depths, of Lake Moraine in upstate New York.

Every summer, Reinhardt and brother-in-law Fields tackle a new OW project at the family's lakeside camp.In 2005, the pair built their own underwater ROY (remote observation vehicle) with two video cameras feeding live images to a shipboardlaptop - all for about 100 bucks,

Mafi\.ing things is second nature for Reinhard t 24. acornputer tech in digital imaging. This time, he got to indulge his underwater fascination: .. ~always wanted to be a marine biologist," says Reinh ardt, "l love the water. andshtps .. , an d watch ing Discovery Channel with the real ROVsexploringthe Titanic."

Reinhardt and Fields built their homebrew RDV's frame out of PVC pipe, and its transparent camera housing out 01 scrap quarter-inch-thick acrylic tube from the local plastics. su pply (milled to watertlght to lerances ona friend's lathe). They joined the two with simple but strong carpenter's ratchet clamps.

The B&W video camera was $29 from Harbor

Freight. complete with infrared LEOs 'for night vision. power supply, and 80 f,eet of RJH cable. They scored a Chinese COIOf "Spy-Cam" tor $1 on e8ay (plus $35 shipping), and ran. its video signal up the audio wire in the RJU cable.

After an embarrassing misfire with ballast tanks ("We put "ern on top, so it sank upside down every tirne"). the explorers improvised a solution ("a big hu nk of concrete anda bungse cord") and lowered their ROVto the lake bottom to capture video of sunfish, perch.and muskie sporting in the wild. The rig proved watertight to 40 feet.

This summer. they're going deeper: their 2006 model has thrusters. for true independent ROV mobility. using watertight UVDC motors cou pled to propellers by super-powerful neoclym;ium magnets .. It'll be rated to 200 feet, good enough to dive qll arries or wrecks on Lake Erie. Reinh ardt says. James. Cameron might want to check his rearview mirror,

-Keith Hammond

Good Ship Popsicle Stick

He used to break bones. Now former Hollywood sturrtrnan Robert Me-Donald uses popsicle sticks to break world records.

McD onald has built three Viking-ship replicas out of ice cream sticks. All have been seaworthy. including his latest beast, built from 15 million popsicle sticks over three years. He's now working to break another record by sailing the ship across the Atlantic Ocean in true Viking tashion,

"l have a dream to show children they can do anything," he says. "ltthey can dream it, they can diD it,"

~ n 'fact, that's, what s;t art ed MeDon aid down this popslcls path - he wanted to encourage his. 8-yearold son to aim high and believe he couldsucceed

all the while making th e world a better place. He is ad,amantabout creative recycling - all the ice cream sticks, t, e used were previously used or imperfect, and were donated by the Ola ice cream company in Europe. McDonald's home portis in the Netherlands.

"[We're] demo nstratlng h CfW ama zl ng Objects ca n be created from everyday. recycled goods," he enthuses, "Creative" and "fun" pepper his conversations, And

he lives what he speaks. ~tt!ApriI1986, McDonald rocked his way into the world record book by rocking in a chair for 340 hours. Last. year. he grabbed! another record by sailing a ship made from 370,000 ice cream sticks. the Ba,by OJa Bison.

TI1 e bigger replica is, 50 feet long and weigh s in at a hefty 13 tons, in eluding more than two tons of glue. Named Mjollnir (mil-ner) - th e Viking god of thu nder - s,h,e is an open craft with no. protection for the sailors whatsoever. The 6-person crew sleeps in true Viking style: hammocks strung across the deck. Her voyage across the Atlantic began in mid-April.

McDonaldl heads the Sea Heart Ship Foundation, a group spre,ading fun to kids in hospltalseroundthe world_ Captain ROlb Cas ~he kids call him) recently returned from a hospital tour of Florida, the Gulf Coast, and New Orleans, where he gave away 28,000 stuffed animals in 14 days (yet another record).

-Shawn ConnallY

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Duet with a Robotic Drumnler

Gil WeirnDerg ls having trouble with his dlrummer: he's trying to get both of Haile's arms to work at th e same time. That wou ld be an unusual problem, except for the fact that Haile is a robot

Haile's rrscroprocessor-cootrolled, motorized] arms are able to playordlnary acoustic drums, with expressive control over tirnbreand dyn.amics. But while the movements of its anthropornorpblc, wooden body are impressive, Haile's listening ability is as important as its playing, Using custom computer software developed in. the Max/MSP multimedia envlronment, Haile can analyze the performance of

a human drummer and respond in real-time.

"We've tried to create a new musical experience - to surprise you," says Weinberg. Haile's responses range from simple imitatio'fl, to variation and even intelligent acccrnpanjment. The results vary: sometimes, the algorithms simply don't work, or don't work in a way that makes sense to human ears. But Weinberg. who was a jazz planlstfor years, before he became interested in computers, is most excited: by the moments at which Haile feels like an equ 211

musical partner, and plays in ways no human w()uld.

.. ~ 've played with people for years ," says, \l1/einberg, "But especially when you're ina particular genre, you know what to expect Here. we are in. uncharted territory,"

While Haile"s human-robot communication skills continue to evolve, it's also getting a chance to facilitate human-human communications. Next. Haile travels to-Jerusalem to play on a program featuring collaboration s between Jewish and Arabic percussionists. The composition is called Jam 'se. or .. gathering" in Arabic. Drawing Qin til e communal tradition olf Middle Eastern music. Haile will inferact with professional derbukah and djumbe players, transforming what they play. At least. once the remaining technical bugs get solved,

"Talk to me Monday," says Weinberg; by then, he hopes Haile will be able to play with both arms, =Peter Kim

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FOR CASUAL USERS, IITUNIES D'RM doesn't look so bad, and for many 0:1 them, it's ,a pretty loose set 0:1 chains. A lot of infocivilians don't nWIiI more than five CPUs, (the limit on the numberof boxes an iTune can play on), and iTunes is new enough m:hat not many 0:1 us have had the opportunity to sink a big ililwes'lment in the technology and 'I ry to take it with us to ,a new vendor.

For th,e recording industry, iTunes represents a chance to ,ch,arge more for less, An iTune can'i[ be sold on as, ,a used good, something that we can do with our CDs. You can'tturn an l'lune into a ringtone, nor make other uses, that the record companies mighrt want to charge us' money ;lor. It's a neat and easy way to gouge us ;lor mhe stuff we used to get g rati s.

But for Apple, iTu nes is a great w,ay to lock lUIS ililri,o using iil:s products. No one is allowed t,o make a cornpatfble iTumes player without Apple's perrnisslon (when RealNe1lworks tried to make ,a IReal player that ranon the iPod, Apple threatened a lawsuit under the IDMCA).

Apple doesn't really care how many CPUs you listen to a hack on. Apple doesn't really care how many people you stream ,a song to. That'sjust a sop '1'0 the record industry. Apple cares about YOUI sinking an irwestment intoen integrated chain 0:1 technologles (iPods, CPU's, iTunes rnetadata) and media (songs), that will raise the switchingcosts if you decide to give your business to someone else,

From the recording industry's perspective, this is a disaster. OnceApple controls the relatlonsh ip with rnu sic listeners, Apple can name its price and set lts terms for selling music. The record companies are mrying desperately mo raise thecostot some hacks and lower thecostot others because they believe they'll sell more 'that w,ay, and Apple has basically laughed them oft Why? The record companies

will iii ever stop selling songs for use wiilh l'llmes. Apple controls the ilPod, and uses that control '10 lock Rh,apsody and Napster songs OUlt of the most popular portable player on the market. The music industry can'tattord to blow them o:lf.

Thee nterta i n me nt i nd ust ry, hav i ng acel de nta lIy created cozy monopolies ilor the likes of Apple, Micr,os,oft, and Maaovisi'cllil, is now busily trylng to put itself back in charge of its own destiny, Nextgeneration crippleware DVD standards, like Blu-,Ray and DV D-H D, are beingdefin ed by studio-crafted, ilragilealliaflces 0:1 bitter competitors from the technology industry, companies that will be hardpressed to presenta unified front when it comes m:im.e to negotiate terms with Hollywood.

Once Applle contrails the relationship with music [listeners, Applle can name its price and set Its terms for selling music.

WhUe monopolists rearrange the deck chairs on tneir sinking superlin ers, we m akers are busily bu ildlng, acquiringand using open technologies an d file ilmmats. that I,e"!: us move our media freely ilrom one device to another, keeping us from being locked lnto an elilrl,er"l:ainmelilrl eompanyora DRM vendor.

Let the dinosaurs go iloreach other's throats - we can s.,ee the tar rising around 'Iheir feet.

Gory [lodorow (craphound.corn) is ,<'I sci ence f etten novelist, bl ogger and tach nol ogy act lvl st. He iis co -a d ltor of ttm pop ul <'I" webl'og Boinig Boing (bcingbolng.net), and. a contributor to, Wiroo, PopuJarSci,enoe, ,and. The New 'tOrk Times.

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11II..I<o! 27

Twenty-three years ago, he 'went on a bike trip and never returned.


Steven Roberts' workshop is a mess .. Nestled in the quiet woods of Camano Island. a small community situated by Puget Sound about 90 minutes north of Seattle, the 3,OOO-square-foot building is overflowing with miscellaneous electronics, computers, and gadgets. Tools are everywhere - on shelves, on

worktables, on the floor.

28 IM .. · •• ' '""lUI .... 08

•••• • •••••

1!!I..I<e! 29

Roberts tells me he's in the process of eBaying most of these things. I notice a stack of Macintosh computers. They're the really old "classic" models, the ones with the tiny built-in blackand-white monitors. The genial Roberts, a tall and bearded fellow, says I can take one or more of th em if I'm interested. I politely decline. being one of those people who avoids collecting items for which I have no use.

I'm a little surpris ed by all of this stuff in his place. Wh en I first contacted him over the s urnmer of 2005. Roberts told me how in 1983. then 31 years old and living in the suburbs of Columbus. Ohio. in a three-bedroom ranch-style house. he worked as a freelance writer (reporting on technology and electronics). and felt trapped.

"I was working my ass off to pay for things I didn't want. a lifestyle I didn't want. I was doing things I didn't enjoy." he recalled.

Seeing his workshop, however. I was reminded of an email in which he lamented: "Almost everyone

I kn ow is bogged down by' complexity': Creaky but familiar tools one doesn't dare replace; new toys not yet learned; incompatible power supplies: unlabeled mystery cables clogging drawers; lost docu mentation: and the vulnerability of it all becoming utterly useless."

Back in 1983. back with all those things he didn't want. Roberts yearn ed for simplicity and adventure. He had not planned on it. but he was about to become a pioneer of the "tech-nomadic" life: a man wh 0 u sed mobile techn ology to live on th e road. to stay in touch with th e world wherever he was, an d to free himself from a dreary existence.

The Souped-Up Canoe

Roberts became interested in electronics when he was 8 years old and growing up in Louisville, Ky. His father was a mechanical engineer. and Roberts was inspired by him to build machines.

Roberts' road warrior box, the shacktepus contains three transceivers, G PS, wi-fi, environmental telemetry, solar power, speech synth esis, a.udio recording, B luetooth, a deployable antenna, and more.

.As a child. he made numerous electronic projects. which he usually entered into the school science fair: an induction magnet that could pick up elurnlnu m a Morse-code translator. and a speech synthesizer based on his own vocal tract. taken from an X-ray of his head.

He shows me his latest project in his workshop. a souped-up canoe. Actually. "souped-up" is an understatement. It's been totally overhauled with the addition of two smaller hulls, one connected at each side to the main hull where the pilot sits. Eight blue solar panels, four on each side, are set across from the smaller

hu lis to the main hu II. This water vehicle even has retractable wheels. Why does a boat need wh eels? Roberts felt it would be more con-

ven ient to move from sh ore to water if it had wheels, so he spent years designing and building this elaborate mechan ism.

This super-modified boat, christened the Wordplay, looks more like a starfighter out of a science fiction TV show than something meant for the water. This analogy isn't too far off, considering the on board tech nologies it packs: satellite and cellular phone. ham radio. and marine VHF. And this doesn't even include the video cameras and other gizmos that aren't mounted to it the day I visit. There's a circular, triton -looking antenn a set toward th e craft's bow that Roberts explains is an "ultrasonic transducer." Once a second. each of the three forks communicates with the oth er in order to collectively measure the surrounding air mass, wind speed, and wind direction.

Yet Wordplay travels by decidedly low-tech means: by wind with a sail.

The Winnebiko

Roberts shows me around the rest of his cluttered workshop. One item catches my eye:

it looks like a control panel ripped out of a jet fighter cockpit. It served as the control panel for his first tech-nomadic vehicle. the Winnebiko.

Back in Columbus, 1983. Roberts went to a party out in the country. That night. he stared into a campfire and then things "just all snapped

•••• • •••••

into place": why not combin e the th ings he was most passionate about - computers. writing. travel. bicycles. and romance - lnto a new life?

He ordered a custom-built recumbent (a type

of sit-down bicycle). th en grafted on a RadioShack TRS-80 Model 100 laptop. a Hewlett-Packard HP- 110 portable computer. CB radio. an d a 5-watt solar pan el to power these gadgets. He named

th e resulting vehicle the Winn ebiko.

Starting from Colu rnbus, Roberts biked 10.000 miles. passing through small towns along the southern East Coast. through Florida. the South. Texas. and the Southwest. and ending

in Silicon Valley in Californ ia about 18 month s later. Throughout this trip. he continued to earn

a living by writing articles on his laptop. He also wrote about his journey. which eventually caught the notice of people in the media. who wondered about this man bicycling across America on a "computerized bike:'

.As fulfilling as this really long bike ride had been. he found it frustrating that he could not write while riding at the same time. "I had all this mobility. but I was ju st watching the words flow away. knowing by night. when I was camping or whatever. I would not capture these thoughts." he says.

Roberts upgraded the Winnebiko for an encore trip in 1986. The Winnebiko II added packet radio for email access. a security system with motion detection and voice synthesis. and a new. more sophisticated control panel. To enable himself

to write as he pedaled. he hacked apart the keyboard of the TRS-80 Model 100. and rewired the keys to the bike's handle controls.

His second bike tou r ran from Seattle. along

th e West Coast, and across the cou ntry to the East Coast. Hie was accompanied by his girlfriend at the time. Maggie Victor. who rode her own recumbent. Together. they traveled 6.000 miles.

Behold the BEHEMOTH

The attention Roberts got from th e media led to interest from corporate sponsors. From 1988 to 1992. he threw more things ontothe Winnebiko II. A lot of things. Much like a succeeding ver-

sion of a Microsoft application. the bike quickly became bogged with too many featu res. to the

point of absurdity and uselessness. So many components were put on It that a trailer had to be designed to hold them. and forthe bike to tow.

Renamed BEHEMOTH (Big Electronic H uman-Energized Machine ... Only Too Heavy), it was ass embled in Silicon Valley by a team of volunteers assisting Roberts. It had almost every piece of mobile and computer technology at the time: a hacked Macintosh and other computer systems. tons of radio communications devices. GPS navigation. even a radiation monitor.

"I got so distracted by the tech stuff." Roberts admits. "l'd be reading a trade journal and go. 'Ooh, ooh.l could use that!' and then I would schmooze and get it."

The media and public were enchanted with his journeys. an d wowed by the tech nologyladen, though impractical. bike. Roberts was interviewed by many reporters and appeared

on TV talk sh ows, But as public interest in his project was reaching its peak. the tech-nomadic biker's passion for his original dream was dying. Iron ically, to make public appearances and do speaking gigs. he traveled the country in a diesel truck that carried th e BEHEMOTHI in its trailer.

The Laboratory on an Island

Using the money he earned from his speaking tour for the BEH EMOTH. Roberts bought property on Camano Island. choosing the region for Its variety of surrounding waterways. He put up the 3.000-squarefoot workshop to facilitate th e research. construction. and testing of small watercraft that would utilize tech-nomadic technologies. Hie brought over the volunteer-community ethic of BEHIEMOTHI by inviting engineers and other specialists to take part,

The "Microship Project"' began with the idea

of outfitting a basic kayak with communications devices. but evolved into a pair of specially modified boats, Songline and Wordplay. These water vehicles expanded upon the embedded systems technologies that Roberts and his BEHEMOTH team developed. and which allowed the pilot to control almost every aspect of the craft through a Palm-OS PDA.

In his workshop. Roberts shows me the inside of a thick plastic project box that's sitting at one

end of a worktable. It looks large enough to hold several hun dred sheets of 8. 5xll paper. This is

th e power supply he designed for the Wordplay. It uses seven microprocessors to regulate and distribute 600 watts. While the boat's solar panels alone can provide 5 knots to move the craft. this power u nit was also designed to enable th e pilot to divert all power to the thrust for emergencies (like quickly veering away from another boat).

Roberts took the Wordplay on a 132-mile ride through Puget Sound in September 2001.

Though he still considers it to be in development. the Microship Project has gone through extended inactive periods overtheyears. as personal priorities for him shifted.

"When I started this ten years ago, I was perfectly pleased with the idea of taking out on

a canoe-sized hull. spen ding two years sleeping in the bilge - it's the size of a coffin. Now I'm 52. and I'm like, 'I don't want to be that uncomfortable for that long!" he says, chuckling.

Project Shacktopus

Alongwith a weakeningtolerance for physical discomfort. Roberts has been wondering lately if maybe he has spent too much time over the past 20 years designing machines and not enough of it going out on actual adventures. He calls this consequence the "BEHEMOTH effect."

Thus, last year he decided to create an allin-one mobile communications pack. which he named the Shacktopus. He plans to make it the size of a notebook computer, or small enough to fit into a messenger bag. It's the first project of h is that he hopes to turn into a commercial product.

"Unlike the other systems [Winnebiko. et al.], which were really lifestyle choices, this is much more 'grab and go:" he says. "With Shacktopu s, I'm avoiding any more multi-year projects that tie me to a specific bike or boat."

He shows me the prototype for the Shacktopus, sitting on the same worktable where he has th e power supply box for the Wordplay. The Shacktopus is essentially a clear plastic project box with a medley of off-the-shelf communication and other computer components inside,

bashed and interfaced together through a un ified control system designed by Roberts. There's

an HFIVHF/UHFtransceiver: a GPS system; environmental telemetry; internet access with wi-fi bridging; a lithium-ion battery power system that can be charged by a solar panel. automobile cigarette lighter, orAC outlet: speech synthe-

sis: audio recording: Bluetooth interfacing to a notebook computer or PDA; and a deployable antenn a array from HF to 2.4GHz.

For something that's supposed to help simplify Roberts' life, to free him from dealing with such technically complicated projects as th e Microships. th is early version of th e Sh acktopus itself already looks to be ... complex.

Wh ile it stems from the restlessn ess that has been growing within its creator over the past few years. the Shacktopus also seems to represent the same conundrum. Roberts came tothe woods of Camano Island with what sounded like a simple enough plan: build a boat and move on to the next big adventure. This didn't happen fast en ough. Apparently. it takes a long time to build a boat, at least the way Roberts likes to bu ild one.

th anks to fancy things like retractable wheels. Things became complicated.

"I want to get moving again, and I see Shacktopus as the way of making that happen - kind of short-cutting that whole process:' he says, perhaps hopefully. "I'm looking for a big boat that I can live on and do some world traveling."

The Allure of Human Power

Wh en I started talking to Roberts for this story last summer. I immediately noted that his technomadic vehicles - the bikes and the boatsshared th e distinction of being s mall vehicles that relied mainly on people power, I wondered what the appeal in that was for him.

"I like the human scale of it. I find th at when you cruise on a motorcycle or car, you're really anonymous. You're just somebody passing through on the freeway. Whereas, when I was

on a bicycle. I was completely non-threatening," he said to me back then. "Back in the early 80s wh en I was [biking through] small towns in the South, people would take me home. Theyweren"t worried about me. Also, it's a lot more satisfying. Kayaking to an island is more exciting. There's an old saying: the smaller the boat, the bigger the adventure."

Afterwards, I mused for several months: what could be the thematic connection of a humanpowered vehicle. or wind- and solar-powered one (as in the case of the Microships). to mobile commu nlcatlons techn ology? Wh at was th e appeal of the two brought together?

When I meet the tech-nomadic pioneer in person on a sunny afternoon in February 2006. I ask him about this. Beyond the fact that the two subjects have always interested him personally, he cannot come up with some profound. satisfying explan ation for it all.

I climb aboard th e Wordplay - or climb into

it. to be more precise. At 5 '8"'. I" m mu ch shorter and thinner than Roberts, so the inside doesn't feel "coffin-like"' to me at all. There's a lot of legroom. I fiddle with some of the levers and try to relax myself into th e hard seat. I look ah ead, out the canopy. A compass is affixed to the top of the dashboard. and beyond that I see a large marker board with tech nlcal-looklng diagrams drawn on

it. hanging from the wall in front of the Wordplay. If I were on Puget Soun d. my view instead wou Id be of the water rippling out beyon d an d into a backdrop of the mountain ranges of northwestern Washington. I imagine. But it also feels like I'm in a starfighter.

It then gradually dawns on me: there's a unique feeling about being inside such a small craft th at relies upon your own physical skills and wits to control. It becomes like an extension of your own skin, your own body. It becomes personal.

Maybe that's the connection: mobile communications, and vehicles like Roberts' bikes and this boat, both evoke a personal. emotional bond between themselves and the user. The more physically invested the rider is in the direct powering of the vehicle, the more person al the journey becomes.

"My goal is not to spend my life in the lab building electronics," Roberts says. "I got this beautiful place in the woods. It looks like it ought to be paradise, but I'm just itch in' to get moving again."

The last time he felt that itch, he was living in a three-bedroom. ranch-style house somewh ere in the suburbs of Columbus. There was no eBay, so he was stuck with a bun ch of unwanted stuff that he couldn't easily get rid of.

But one day, he left it all behind - there were still dirty dishes in the kitchen sink - and didn't even bother to lock the front door of his hou se. He just pedaled away on an odd-looking bike that he had slapped computers and mobile communications gadgets onto. "It was like I reached around the back of my head and hit the reset button," he says of that day when his journey began.

The rnicrcshia Wordplay;

1. Retracta !:lIe wheels fa cilitate tra nsport. .2. The cockpit is covered with a bright red canopy made of heavy waterproof fabric. .3. Solar panels cam p rovicil e th rust irn alii emergency, otherwise it"s wind and sail.

34! !.II" ke ; V"lume (16



Pulling the strings at the Berkelley IKite Festival.

r- I r. r~. r\ S' '-'U\.\.t:1 ,-.

By Arwen O'Reilly

IF YOU"RE IN BERKELEY IN JULY, YOU GANrr miss the kites. After almost .20 years, the Ber~eley Kite Festival is a tlrne-h onoredl trad i-

tlonand one of the largest kite festivals on the West Coast.attractlng kite-flying professionals, families with children, and casual passersby. Held on parkland surrounding the Berkeley Marina, you cen see the kites - swooping, billowing, and soaring - from almost anywhere in the surrounding hills.

Tom McAlister, in love with the beauty and accessibilityQf kites, founded the festival in a desire to gIve back to his community "At the time," he points out, "most festivals were primarily either children's events or exhibitions for protesslonels, We wanted to offer all of the best that modem kiting had to offer"

McAlister, whose stepfather built gyro copte rs, grew up loving anything that flew. He discovered kites in college, and started selling them out of the back of his Hond a Civic in1985. "Y6u can be a kid or an 80- year-old in a wheelchair," he says, "and tor a modest inrvestment be cutting up the sky like the Red Baron."

Lucky for him, he was in ~ite-flying heaven:

Berkeley, just opposite the Golden Gate, is directly in the path of some truly gorgeous and reliable wind. Over time, the weekend gig turned into a fulltime job, and the festival blossomed, too. The timing W'aS perfect: a park was being constructedon top

of landfill when the festival began, and as the park grew, the festival swelled to till it, now attracting crowds of up t02 5,000 people every summer,

An d d tve rse crowds they are. Ybu r fi rst sight once you actually get to the festival is a hilltop covered in picnic blanketsand tangled kite strings, as little kids run amok trailing kites behind them. The variety is beautiful to see: there are elaborate, store-bought dragons clash ing joyfully with colorful, homemade bOI< kites and simple, hand-painted classic diamonds, The ecstasy is palpable. In the atternoon, everyone streams over to the demonstration area, where a

kite sh ewers down ca ndy, t idi ng kids over until Halloween. "We had the first candy drop anywhere in the world," McAlister delights. in mentioning. "lit's kind ot silly, but h.ey - we're proudot it,"

He's ju st as proud of the festival's oth er acts, Over the hill from the tamiliesare the professionals; champion kite fliers mix with giant three-dimensional kitten s dancing in the win d, team kite d emonstratlons share airspace with exhibition kltes.and kite manufacturers like Pris m, Revolution Kites.an d Ozone let kite buffs test. out their latest. designs,

The bronzed Ray Bethell, a seemingly ageless mu ltlple-klte-tlylng world champion, d raws gasps from even the most seasoned kite watchers with his nimble fingers an d whiz.z.ing stacks .of kites. Kite aerial ballet. groups perform with 96 kites at. once, an dI20,OOO square teetot Peter lynn's giant crsatu re kites gailop, slither.and leap in the wind,

All in all, to say th e event is "fu n for the wh ole family" is understating it, but there is more in the appeal of kites than mere child's play They have long been a symbol of freedom and hope (check out national newspaper archives tor images of ~ite flying, and you'll often see articles about emerging democracy), and it seems hard to find someone who doesn't llks them. McAlister, who has been designing his own kites for 15 years, is a firm believer in kites as an art. form: "That doesn't mean every kite is art. - and most aren't - but there's the potential, whether it's the design or the act of flying," When asked why he thought the festival had been so successful, he says: "A wlse old manonce told me, 'Kites are holding the wind in your hand"

I I •

www.hig-I.lil1ekites.col11/l3erkeley_Kite_Fes tivill

P:et,er lLynrru" wh o's beefru tilesigning kiiJe·s in NI!Yii Z:e,alarn~ fot well owr 30 yeats, eame up wilI:h 1111 is :hug,eatH:i mag-i,e a 1 trilobyt,e designs in tl"1! mid·1:9g0s, and :s:nagg,edi the world! record 'for largest kiilie in 1'995. His creature Ikibes (ii,Op) noW represent ail parts of thaanlmsl ikirlgdmm.

ReOidy for take,aiH. du a l-llna stunt kiil\e trains make a eolerful gf.(I'IU~d display (left}

Boiler Roon

A visit to the annual Yankee Steam-Up. By Brian Jepson,

Dozens of steam engines, meet in Rhode Island every year, connect to a massive boiler, and crank away 'for all to see.

Everything from the smallest tabletop engines to large industrial models share the steam and show off what they can dlo with it, This is the annual Yankee Steam-Up, heidi on the grounds

of the New England Wireles.s..and Steam Museum (users.lds.neb'-newsrrr), an organizatlon dedicated to preserving the beginnings of wireless and steam technologies.

Throughout the day. volunteers kept 'feeding the boiler as the steam engines. kept cranking. And there are a few steam-powered vehicles prowling around as well: a steam-powered motorcycle anda vintage Stanley Steamer Bus were on hand.

In addition to this impressive display of steam power, the museum operates the oldestworking wireless station in the world, Massie Wireless

38 IM .. · •• ' '""lUI .... 08

Station PJ, Because the spark gap transmitter's bandwidth is so wide, it can't be connected to an antenn a without creating interference that 'Would draw in the FCC's vans and black helicopters, The museum has a collection of Morse code keys. radios, televislon equipment and transmitters - all vintage and antique equipment from throughout the history of wireless. communications.

Whether handmade or rescued and restored from an earlier time, all of the engines and wireless equipmeJ1t have felt a maker's touch, Museum members meet every Thursday t.o tackle the workin-progress. The Yankee Steam-Up is the museum's major public event To. s,ee the m!.JSElUJIm at other times, visitors should contact the museum in: advance at. (401) 885-0545.

Brfa In J epson I s an 0 "R'el Ily editor, prcgra mm er, a nor 00 -autho r

'01 tnreeO"Aeilltf Media books> .

Popular' card games become an exercise in miniature construction. By Alex Handly

THE WORLD OF COLLECiliIBL.E CARD games has long been dominated] by Magic:

The Gathering and Yu Gi Oh. But the 2D natu re of these games has recently been tossed aside and the world of card games has a new caveat: to play, you must first/)uiJd.

Up-and-coming games company Wil.Kids., feu nded by Jordan Weissman, created Pirates of the Spanish Main in 2004. lt's a collectlole constructible card game based aroundthe ldeaof using desks and tables as a substltute rora boerd, and tiny punch-out boats as the pieces. in a game of high-seas. cornba t and plunder.

Since then. WizKidsand its competitors have takeil this concept to new extremes, with RocketMen,a 19505 serial-style space game; a NASCAR-based racing game; a driving/jousting game called Ra.oer Knig:h;ts.;an d th e catchall game, Z Card]z.

No matter Who makes them. constructible card gamesell have me thing in corrmorr you have to. build stuff to play, Game plecescorne in the "form of perforated polystyrene cards, the parts punched out and assembled into 3D in-game characters, ships, and weapons. First came pirate ships.: now there are pterodactyls, fleets of spaceshbs.aadeven race cars that rail like their Matchbaoc equivalents.

And it all started] with Mike Mulvihill, a member

of the game design team at WizKidsand a grizzled veteranofthe game design world. "There was such a resurgence in pirates, but we couldn't afford to make ship rnlnlstures," he says,

"Wh.en the styren e thing fell into. our laps, we knew we could do sh ips with the plastic, But then the question was, if you do this. how do you make ev,erything in that pack of cards become something that is useful to. play the game with? lt Wi3S like Apollo U"

Mulvihillandl hls team eventually built Pirates of the Spanish Main lntoa game that can be played' by two people with only two packs of cards. Total price to play is about $8. Each game pack comes with a tiny die,

S punch-out islandl, two ships. a card] filled with gold punch-out pieces, and a card full of crew.

Since playing the game typically requires more than two, islands, the Instructions suggest using the frame le:ft over from the island card as an island itself. MOfe islands can be made out of the I eft aver pieces. of ships, and even the card] pack wrappers. During a game, ships move set distances that are measured by lines drawn along theedges ot theernpty cards that once housed masts, hulls, and deck plates. The game is truly a 'wond er of resourcefulness.

Alie~ HaMy IS 11 ·lreef8itioejournog.eek, and ~IS office I snow adorned wlttJlIIUI e -sty ren e pfrat.e snips. H·e blogs at gism,riet

1!!I.al<e! 39

Space Cases

Theballoon men at_N~ASA~s j-et-F'ro-p-o-I-s-j' onLab oratory '_

In ]835, an article appeared in the Southern UteraryMesserlgertelling the remarkable story of one Hans Pfaall, a bellows-mender from Rotterdam who escaped his creditors by flying a homemade hot air balloon to the moon. The story turned out to be a prototypical bit of science fiction dreamt up by a young Edlgar Allen Poe to dupe his readers. The idea of balloon ing to the moon or elsewh ere in th e solar system never took off, probably becau se it's impossible. But tora certain group of engineers, flying balloons on other planets isn't tar-retched at all. In fact, the Russians have already done it And NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is keeping the tradition alive.

A sprawling carnpu s ju st north of Los Angeles, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory was established by the California Institute of Technology in the ]930s. Emerging from the DIY mind set that

lau nched the science of rocketry in this country, JPL was where the first U.S. satellite was designed the Mariner and Voyager probes were born, and the long-running Mars rovers were built.

In a small cluster of bunkers at the heart of the campus. lies JPL's Mobility and Robotic Systems laboratory. About 100 engineers develop all of the roboticcomponents, from the autonomy so·ftware to the mechanical appendages that enable us, toexplore other worlds while staying safely on terra firma.

In a back roomof the laboratory, a white blimp, about 15 feet long, floats above a table, secured by tethers. The blimp doesn't seem particularly unique, that is until you hear that it's a prototype for an autonomous nuclear-powered aerobot that could someday explore Satu rn 's moon Titan. The blimp would fly below the dense clouds that hide the terrain from orbiting spacecraft, snapping

40 !.II" ke ; V"lume (16

high-res, photos, and possibly even scooping up surface samples roronboard analysis.

"Balloons provide a unique observation platform tor doing planetary science that you simply can't do any other way," says Jeffery Hall, the sen lor engineer who leadlsJPL"s aerobot research.

.An aeronautical engineer by training, Hall joined JPL in 1997 after gradu ating from CalTech d own the road. At the time, he workeclon cryogenic technologies, for satellites. Then, he says, the funding dried up and he was forced to expand his horizons.

"l'vealways been motivated to figure out how things work, and that inevitably leads you to building stuff for experiments," he says. "Oneot the great attractions of balloons is th at it's fairly easy to make them. Then you get to take them outside and tly thernerou nd. Fromanexperlmentellst's point ot view, they're tun things to work with."

The Titan balloon is just one of several very different aerial vehicles that Hall and his COlleagues are designing. Each vehicle's technology is dictated by its ultimate destination. For example, the very thin atmosphere of Mars requires. a spherical balloon at least ten meters in diameter to carry ju st a couple kilograms of scientific in strurnents,

In one scheme, the balloon package would be released from a spacecraft upon entry into the Mars atmosphere. As. the canopy drifts down beneath a psrachute.onboard helium tanks inflate th e "envelope," the actual balloon fabric. Once the envelope is filled, the parachute and tanks are cut loose and the balloon settles at analtitude a few miles above the surface. According to Hall, a windblown helium superpressure balloon llks this could float arou nd the plan et for up to a year, all th e wh ile transmitting data back to mission control on Earth.

To put the technology through its paces, the researchers have flown their balloons in theenvironmentclosest to. the Martian atmosphere that's readily accessible - well, relatlvelyacoesslble anyway: ]00,000 feet up in Earth's stratosphere,

"It's a difficult place to do experiments, but that's where YDU have to go it YDU 'want something similar to what you'd see .on Mars," Hlall says.

A commercial scientific balloon tows the rolledup test balloons to. the rightaltitude, From the ground, the researchersactivate a pyrotechnic cutter that releases the packaged prototype with accompanying helium tanks. Then, they cross their tingers and watch the live video fe,ed

"We've had ,a lot Df failures an dI ,a couple ot su ccesses under our belt," H all says.

The Jet PrDpulsion l.eboratory didn't invent the idea Df tlying balloon s on other planets. Early in the

su rnmer ,of 1985, a pair ot superpressure helium balloons floated through the upper atmosphere Df Venus. They were part Df the Soviet Union's Vega rnission to. study the planet's, atmosphereand surface.

Th e windblow-n balloons, ]2 feet in diameter and sewn from a Teflon-like f,abric, carried ,a gondola outtitted with thermometers, velocity sensors, light and pressure sensors, and a nephelometer to measure cloud particles. The htgh windls quickly swept the balloons across. the dark sldsot the planet at an altitude of 35 miles while their progress was. tracked by radio telescopes on Earth. After two days, the batteries died as expected.contact was lost.end the balloon rnlsslon was declared a resounding success,

The JPL RobDtics researchers have inside knowledlge of the Vegp mission. That's because one of the lead engineers on that project is now on their team. As part of his litelong career in th e Russian space program, vlktor Kerzhanovich worked on 15 Df the USSR's Mars. andvenera missions, including Vega.

"In th e Soviet, Union of the 1980s, the space program hied several noble things and the balloons were one of them:' he says.

While a follow-up balloon mission to Mars 'was planned by the USSR and the French Centre Nlational d'Etudes Spatleles (eNES), the collapse nf the Soviet Union essentially wiped aut Russia's pioneering space science program before the technical challenges could be met Kerzhanovich knew it was time to. take his talents elsewhefe.

In 11994, Kerzhanovlch emigrated to. Calltornla where he worked briefly at an aerospace engineer-

42 !.II" ke ; V"lume (16

ing consu ltancy before joining JPL. While he felt fortunate to have the opportunity to tollDW his passlon, the dlifference in culture was Ii~e, 'well, vlsltlng another planet

"The (space program) here is much more bureaucratic Ulan it. was in Russia back then," he says. "There, the governmental role was not great MDst Df the decisions were made by the projects' chief designers. Here everything goes. from the top to the bottom. The process is much more regu lated and it's directed to avoid as rnu ch risk as possible"

Kerzhanovich m.ay once again have the chance to fly balloons on Venus. He and Hall are applying to NASA's Discovery Program, aneftnrt to. launch many small missions with short development cycles, tora flight mission to Venus. (JPL's. Stardust mission that brought comet samples back to Earth was the most recent Discovery Program rnission.) The Venus hip would be a long-swatted encore of the pioneering Russian rnlsslon, but the scientific payload would be far more elaborate, including a mass spectrometer to analyze the planet's .. atmosphere.

The balloon material is also much more advanced.

Developed by JPL with prlvate-sector collaboration, the fabric is bu ilt to withstand the Venusian clou ds of sulfuric acid. It's a multilayer laminate material consisting of Mylar, Teflon, and Vectran, the highstrength fabric used for the alrbags that cu shlonsd the fallnf the Mars. rovers, Right naw, engineers are constructingan lx-tcot spherical balloon from the material to help sell the proposal.

"lit's notcommon to. ma~e prototypes as. part Df these proposals," Hall says. "But JPL ponied up money to make one so we can demonstrate the technical maturity of th is tech nology and convince skeptical reviewers . .After all, they'll get]5 or .20 proposals submitted for ju st oneor two flight missions. Not everyone gets to. go"

And if this particular design doesn't fly, there will certainly be other shots. After all, the space race may have end ed, but the makers at JPL still have their eyes on the sky.

"II don't knocw if I could work llke I dlo it II d ldn 't think one of th ese projects. wou ld fly in th e relatively near future," Kerzhannvich says.

Davi dI Pescovilz, MAKE's ed ito r at large, is a 1:5.0 co-ed itorot BOingBoirigr1l,etanld a resea~dlaffilliate wit~ tM Ir1lshtl.Ute tor the Fll/tll!!lre_





Dlsh-lbutlst . - ....... ~I I ·

........ nn nnlC ...

w\# IUIU~ w~

At last Tolkien meets capitalism. 8yfomOwad

I NI THE LORD OF THE R/N,GS. J.R.R. TOLK.ENI contrasts. the bucolic "hobbit sense" of the Shire with the noxiou s indu strielisrn Df Mom Dr: "The

one small garden of a tree gardener 'was all his need andl due, not a garden swollen to a realm: his own hands to use it not the hands or others to command."

Communal in structure, nonrnechanical, and inhabited by individual craftsmen and farmers, the Shire clearly parallels preindustrial England. Its ravaging bears an epic similarity to the transtormations that have taken place in our own world since the Industrial Revolution.

As 'was abun dantly dear in Tolkien's time, to control the means of production is to control llte. Industrial capitalism placed thiscontrol in the hands ota wealthy elite; communism placed it with the state. Whether at. the Carnegie Steel Company or the Lenin Steelworks, and whether the bullets came from the Plnkertons or the Red Army, the power over life and death didl not rest with the indio vidual but. with a hostile external torce.

The distributists of the early 20th century rejectedl both vlslons, "Too much capitalism," wrote G.K. Chesterton, "does no.t mean too many capitalists, but too. tew" Drawing upon th e principles of subsidiarltyand solidarity put fDrth by Pope Leo. XIII II's social encyclical Rerum Novarum. the dlstrlbutlsts sought a society where each individual provided both his own labor and hlsowncapltal. The small garden of Sam Gamgee was the dlstrlbutlst ideal.

Distributist principles took rootallover the

world, but the lu xuries of the II ndu striel Revolution triumphed aver the freedom of the homestead . .A similar phenomenon occurred in the 1970s, with the introduction of Schumacher's economic treatise SmaHls Beautiful and the back-to-the-land move-

44 !.II" ke ; V"lume (16

ment, Urban idealists also. round themselves ill-

eq uipped an dl un prepared to deal with the hardships of living an essentially preindustrial agrarian life.

Today, freedom and technology no longer stand

in juxtaposition. A CNC lathe or milling rnaehlnecsn be bu lit for $500. RffW materials can be prepared in homemade foundries. Solar power and 'wind turbines make it possible to livecomfortably otf the grid.

Open source sortware is ublqultou s, and hardware is tollowlng the same path. The pages. of MAKE illustrate the countless sophistlcated d evices that can be built without. a factory. The internet allows tor worldwide collaboration on a level never before possible. Goods can be exchanged between lndlvldualcraftsrnen without the need tor distribution networks and middlemen.

Advancements in personal fabrication at the

MilT Center tor Bits and Atoms hold the greatest promise. Their aim is to produce a personal fabricator that can menutactureanythlng trorna doll

to a precise replica of itself. The current MilT Fab Lab (see MAKE, Volum,e 01, page 23), which has been deployed in nine countries, is itself an lmpresslve teat. The equlpment can be assembled for $20,000; the software is open source and tree. FOn" the price ota new car, it's already PDSS ible to establish an effective personal fabrlcatlon laboratory

Tools such as th ese have th e potential to personsllze th e II nd ustrial Revolutio.n - to. place the means. of production not in the control of select capitalists or of the state, but with every individlual seeking

to' partake in the act Df creation. Li~e the soil, the machine yields in response to the labor of ou r hands.

Tom OwaD .( owad@appl efr iUer . .co rn) is a Ma.c:int,osh consultant i il Yo~l:r., Pa., and! ed!itor of applefriUeroorn.

How hardware hackers are remaking their bodies. 18y Quinn Norton

THE li'ERM BODY MODlFICATJON BR.INGS to mind piercing and tattooing for cosmetic reasons. But body modis. can also be assistive, by changing a person's experience of their own body or even giving them a rJew ability. How would you like to be able to sense an electric field at a dlstan ce? Talk to Steve Haworth of Phoenix (stevehawnrth.com). He has. experimented on human volunteers by making: a small incision in the fingertip and lnsertlnga small neodyms magnet coated! in gold, then silicone. The magnet is nestled into a bed alf nerves between the epidermis. and

'fascia layers of the ring finger, and til e cut. is neatly sutured up. For most magnetic implants, Haworth can have the job done in less than ten minutes.

Over the next few weeks, the finger heals" and the nerves begin to interpret electromagnetism and movement in the magnet Some things, like other magnets, can even cause the magnet to spin freely up against the nerves. The new sensations pass to the brain. where evolution's own favorite primate hack takes over - parts of the brain become more in tune with the new signals from the han dl,and the perceptual sensitivny improves. How much sensitivity

46. IM .. ' •• , v;"IUI .... 08

you experience depends on rneny factors - the sizeand placement of the magnets, how many you have, and, probably, ho'wwell you train to use them

Every magnetically rnodded person tested, trorn two weeks to several months, could easily pick out a live cord running with 110 volts. Many report being able to sen Ole electrical motors running from distances of a few inches to a few feet, dspendlng on the strengthof the motor and the size an dl healing time o.f the implant.

Shannon l.erratt,

o.f the body modd.ing publication and community BME, reported that wBlking througha retail security device was. like .. sticking my hand inan ultrasonic cleaner." Any

with .any piercing," says S ooy. Next, you're going to. need screws that match you r barbell. "We called up the piercing studio to find out exactly what threading the barbell was, and just ordered the screws."

The elbow brackets that tit on the end of the barbell were cut. out of aluminum ona tabletop mill. Th ere's some artistic license here, but make sure you leave a front-facing divot to fit in a set ot rare earth magnets. It's the magnets. that actually hold on the glasses - and make it. safe tor them to. be

strong inductive wire has achanoe ot causing a sensation in the magnetic finger.

(For a time, Haworth stopped implanting the magnets because, in some cases, the medicalgrade silicone sheathing had brokenexposing the magnets." metal to the body. He is now using a harder type of silicone to make the implant sarer.)


When you meet James Sooy, you might initially assu me he's wearlnga pair otold -tashloned pincenez eyeglasses. But it you look more closely, you'll notice there's nothing pinching the bridge o.f his nose Each lens seems to be glued to either side 0.1 his nose. In fact, they" reattached by magnets on a rod of steel that pierces the fleshy part above the bridge of his nose. They're more like pi,eroe-nez glasses (piercedglasses.com ).

Cheaper and less permanent than l.aslk, easier to cope with than contacts, Scoychose piercing to get rid of the earpieces o.f his glasses. While he plans to make a product, for now it's strictly DlIY.

It you want your own pair, you'll need: a small tabletop mill, tour small rare earth magnets, a bridge barbell piercing, six small screws that fit the barbell piercing, and a pair of plastic eyeglass lenses,

The first step to pierced glasses is the bridge piercing itselra barbell that goes through the skin above the bridge of the nose. Get internally threaded jewelry - this is a good idea in general, and very important in this case. "11"d suggest to wait at least a couple months, healing time, before playing around

knockedort you r faoe. H old the lenses up to your plerclngand mark the drilling spot to mount the fitting for the other pair of magnets. Don't discard the nose pads - as with traditional glasses, it's actually the nose pads. that hold the weight

Ql.UiliH"n Norton ils a freelance writer am dI co-bloggar at 21mb iguaus. argo







- (computer-aided design) prograrnout there

I at least once, II thought there was no. chance

th ey wou Idlever be simple .. u ntlll met 'Iakeo lgarashl, Takeo WBS a gradl student from Japan who wrote an incredible little piece ef software called leddy. It's basically CAD fer 5-year-olds: it you want to. design a plush toy, this is the program. It's intu itlva lit's beautltul. CAD doesn't have to. be awful or expensive. It doesn't have to' come with 1l,OOO-page instruction manuals.

My hope was that Ted dy wou ld influence the world of GAD and make incredible packages. cheap and easy to use. That WBS six years ago.. Things haven'tchanged that much, but there is still hope,

Why, as a reader ef MAKE, should you care? I care because I just enjoy using GAD; it's better than playing a computer game. You can spend the same 36 sleepless h curs in front Df the computer, but at th e end Df it, YDU have a beautiful 3DobjecUrom your imagination, plannedout and ready to be built or shared. But the real and exciting reason to. care is because someday kids should be able to. unleash th elr lrnagln atlons on a Teddly-type CAD program and then print their imaginings into. the real world on a chocolate-or sugar-powder 3D printer.

You should care because the capacity to share .20 and 3D models isat leastas important as sharing music and video, Making CAD representations of your "makings" makes it easier tor oth er makers to make things too.

48 !.II .. ke ; V"lume (16

Before l leu rich into. my CAD diatribe, let me sketch out the playing field fer the uninitiated. Very broadly. CAD programs. can beclassed in a number of WByS. On the hardcore engineering sidle, there is parametric 3D solidi modeling, withi exact equationdriven descriptions of objects; there are surfacing or wire-trarne-based programs, which bring nice rounded surfaces and squishy shapes to life; there's a world of rend ering tools tor making the 3D models IDOk 000.1; and therearearchitectural-type 20 drafting programs tor laying out plans in 2D.

FDr completeness, I should also. mention CAM, which iscomputer-aided manufacturing software, It takes your CAD design and converts it into a "toolpath" tora drlllblt, mill, laser, inkjet heador some other tool to rollowandconstruct your object

Contrary to popular belief, you don't needa laser cutter or a 3D printer Of an NC mill to realize your CAD dlesigns. On your desk, you li~ely already have a high-precision machine tool: an inkjet printer. These things will print designs onto paper with 50-micron,

Build your dream house and stick it in Google Earth! How cool is that?

or better, accu racy. I very often use the inkjet printer to print a pattern or template, which then can be used to align th e holes you will drill try hand or to' cut out th e fabric you will stitch together. So, in fact, the world already has the capacity to build 0001 CAD 3D models and sh are them via their desktops.

One program taking advantage of this is Pepakura Design er - it. calcu latesa patternot triangles

that when folded up, can make your 3Dcbjed.llfs high-tech origami. I"ve seen business cards that told into toy cars mad e by this technlq ue, and Japan ese anirne charactersand dinosaurs.

lin the same vein isa program. called Lamina Design, which takes 3D curved surfaces and figures out howtoconstruct them from flat sheets. Again, the nice thing here is that you don't needl NC machine tools to get real-world cut put; you could use this program, print to paper, trace to plYWOOd, cut with

a hacksaw.and make beeutltulorganicfurniture.or even designyour own kayaks.

A great little company celled S~etchUp has a GAD package that allows you to. build buildiing'S and place the 3D models in G.oo.gle Earth. Of all the packages

out them. S ketcntlp is the. closest in my mind to the Teddy ideal of simplicity. They have great tutorials and an intuitive interface; and if you've never used CAD before, you' II just enjoy this. Build your dream house an dl stick It in Google Earth! How cool is that?

The online world' Second Life now has. CAD packages. built into it, so you can realize 'fantasy objects in the other world. This is 0001 to me because ~ can now see real/virtual world CfO.S save r; Make something uber-ccol in Second Life? Bring it into the first Iife1

So where should you get started? Before you

spen d a few thousand dollars on a pro CAD package, try some free alternatlves: freeCAD.com reviews.a bunch. My favorite right now is AUble Design Xpress, lts a free parametric CAD program with most ofthe functionality ofthe pro packages.

Their business model is interesting (9 professor of mine once described it as "crack for babies"}: they give YaH the free software, you get addicted, and then if you need h igherfunctionality (more parts, more tOOlS), you cen purchase more. Their prices .are reason able, and you only purchase the extras you need.

lif you're cornforteble in lllustratorcr CoreIDRAW< YOij can do a surpris,ing amount in these programs. There are dimensioning plcg-lnsforlllustrator, and with these programs, you can produce nice .20 plans

otyour wooden boat air-powered potato cannon. or cigar box guitar. Eagle CAD is a free circuit board design andllaY0t.Jt tool. ~lf electronics is your gjg< you can CAD it up in Eagle and split the cost of sending out fur boards with your friends who also want mint-box MP3 players ..

Another idea is to write your own CAD program.

David Aherdeenwmte a farrtastlc CAD package for kite design, called' Surfplan. that led a whole cornmunity ot arnateu r kite builders to build cool kites for surfing. A lot of people have built small CAD packages within MATLAB and Mathematica with outpu ts for DXF or PostScript Robert Lang uses such a thing to create his awesome computational origami models.

The world of CAD s1l:ill isn't perfect, Converting between platforms is. a nightmare. Learning curves are long. Thlngs have come a long way. though" and there area fe'iN packages to get you started with little pain. Hopefully, out there in the MAKE readership, there are hackers who will write 0001 new CAD progrerns with simple interfaces and open source extenslbillty Get towork.

Sa~1 GrifHl:l"l thillks aMut opensCiiLiroe ~ardw,arE! wliiil'e working wlth nne powsrnerds <It Squid l.abs (squld-labs.enrn).


'T •• n


By Tlim Anderson


L orle~ HTbftCt_:hh" IBIErownll'ldivedhi~' theh~ TI'lhOI~fsaIHn? IfSllan,ds ti region 0' e verg ac es liS woe II e. IS ascma mg

autobiography, Totcn. A Life in the Everglades (Universi-

ty of Florida Press, 1993), relates his adventures, and its cover depicts him propelling a strange little boat with a push pole.

lt'scslled a "pit pan" and is now on display at Smallwood"s store in Chokolos"'ee, Ha (floridaeverglad es,co m/chokol/sm allw,htm),

When the water was too deep tor the push pole, he used a paddle, and when the water was too shallow, he dragged or carried it

He made many such boats tor hunting alligators over the years, Despite ltscru de appearan ce, this is a very elegant boat It is burdened with no unnecessary features, You can carny it, and you can sleep in it That makes it a magic carpet to freedom.

In designing boats, people get hung up about the speeclot the boat rather than th e speeclot bu ildling the boat, and they target that to go fast you have to

50 !.II" ke ; V"lume (16

work hard, If you want a boat you can take a nap in, you need something Ii~e this,

Rolled up in the bottom of the boat is Totch's mosquito net or "skeeter bar;" so named because lt's where the insects go to drink and socialize, lit's ,a rectangular mosquito net just big enough to not touch the person sleeping under it, In the old days, gauze, cheesecloth, or ,any open weave fabric was used, The net is heidi up at the comers by sticks, It it rains.a tarp just big enough to keep the rain oft goes over that

A boat can be part swan, part guitar, This boat is a box with no lid, Start your boat-bulldlng hobby by bu ilding this one,

To~tl' Brnwn"s Pit Pan Gator Boat ln Smal]",ood'g S~",e, CIID~"IDs'kee, fL

Dmwl1 by TLfI1 AnOOrs-on 0.2005

dimensione. in inches

1.25 .1..

midships cross-section


1.6.~' g~.25" IoI1@ 'O¥pJ""S push pol. \O;!Io 'gato, 000. 1

~~============::==========::::::::::::::::::::============================~l T ~~ T

side view


allcka 1"'lo:ifbotlom .75

• ..,p baggage dry""d

prevent cans from IfO'liing I



.1------ 2~ 49-"'ce .. ~'...:tjon, is Hat; L---- IB ____.j .2

The :00:11 was olligi:I"J3lI'f nailed! ~lJifIe1::hE£. He 1a~E!'f~bergla.s_-sed O'iieI'tn~ chin.:es...

Attach all the pieces together with flails and screws.

To make the boat INatertight paint the mating' surfaces of each joint with epoxy glue befere nailing. To keep the epoxy 'from nmning out ot the joints, add enough white tlour to thicken it to the consistency Oof pancake batter. Fine wood dust from sanding 1NOrks also, Whole wheat flour makes lumps, and' isn't as good as wh.ite f!o.urfOor this, Don't use fi-rninute epoxy 'for anything: it's not fully water resistant. To get more working time with your glue. pour it out onto .8 pan. That will keep it from getting too hot andlcuring before you're ready,

Paint the whole boat with linseed ell, and after a couple of days., paint the whole boat with whatever paint youcan find. preferably oil-based, Roofing tar 1513150 re.ally good for sealing the joints.

'Iotchcovered th e outside edges of his boat with fiberglass, which is elsoa good me thad.

If you don't have plywood, Dan 8e.ard·s1882' classic, The American Boy's Handy Book (see Figure 1). shows how to build this boat from boards. Beard. the toonder of the Bo~ Scouts of America. suggests. putting paint-soaked strips of wool between the boards to seal them.



s'licl;.'S to elevete


f- f- I- -, ·1






I B ~---...._........._",._U.



Want to try salllng your new boat? figure 2 ~rom the same book shows a good sprltsall rig for th is boat The push pole becomes a mast, andthe tarp becomesasall.

A leeboard (G} hangs over each side to keep ~h\e boat from driwting sldeways, (A "no parking" sign works well for thls.) The sail isa rectangular tarp, sheet, poncho. or tablecloth !tied to the mast and sprlt at ~hecorners.. The mast (8) arid s prit (C) are short enough to stow in the boat. The mast can be stepped off-.cel)ter, if you prefer; Th esprit hasa notch (E) at its end for the "snottsr line" The snotter is tightened ailt the cleat (F) mo .adjust the sail. ~ n light winds, th e sail does n't need 110 be ]ully laced to the mast. Jus,Hhe corners. is fine.

Figure 3 shows a simpler way of attach lng the sprlt, Thssnotter lsa loop of cord formed lnto "cow hitches," on the mastand sprit, The sail is "peaked" or adjusted by sliding the cow hitches up and dOWTTI!. To s~'ow the sail. mt ~:he notched end o~ the sprlt off 11 he snotter, Tha:l will give you enoughslack ~o Plnl~ the mast and sprlt together, so you can roll the sail up on ~hElm.

Fig. 2

Fig. 4.

!f YIl'Ii P I'f!tIe '\' u...,j n& lapa Ii dl i tIg, the se .. arloc 10.5 are ea'5Y·~.i.,Ud(AI1)".~I);r;ar wDmi will ;ri:Il, but the:.' "'k·t' a f.all amDll'nt M tdctlol1l and prassure, sa till' wDOd shDuld be strtll'lg. Milk~ sure ta

anc~lIr thel1lser.ll~i"'~· .





Useful knots tor the sailor begin w'ith the "sheet bend," a.k.a, "bowline" (Jand K). Learn it well and don't use an~other knot without a goodl reason. This knot will not jam up. lit can join dissimilar ropes.

The square knot.a.k.a. "reef knot" (L and M) is easy to untie, which can be a good thing .. It only works with same-size rope and mu st be properly formed to holdl.

The "granny knot" (N) is often tied by rnlstake

in steaclot the sq uare knot. Th is knot slips, cau sing many tragedies. I'd always been told that the granny knot was. only ever a mistake and sometimes, a tragic one. Then an Ojibway female canoe builder showed me how to tie split spruce root with a granny knot. Other knots bend the material too much and it may break. So even the granny knot has ,a us,e, anda pretty good one at that.

For more knots, see realknots.com/knots.






+ -1+

A Beginner's Guide to BEAM

The BIEAIM design approach creates nimble robots from simple components, with no programrriing required,

By Gareth, Branwyn

EXPECTATIONS FOR CREATING THINKING and actuating machines were high in the 1960s and 70s,as universities began estab-

lishing robotics and artificial intelligence labs. But researchers soon realized that even the most basic physical tasks, such as getting a cart to sense obstacles ina space, plana route, anclexecute it (called serls,e-plarl-act architecture) were daunting assign rnents. Some wrestled with these problems, by developing tweakler algorithms, ,an d throwing more, faster hardware at the problems, but MITs Rodney Brooks took a radically different tack. Iinspired by insects and other teeny-brained critters, h,e wondler,ed what a sens,e-8ct architecture might look like, one where the bots didn"t bother to create a map of their 'world to plan from, but rather, reacted directly to environmental stimuli.

The results were impressive' bug-like bets that could do most o.f what the sense-plan-act robots could db, but with scant little computing power. Many roboticists were inspired by Brooks' work, and one, Mark Tilden, took the idea even further. After seeing Brooks lecture in the early 90s, he wondered whether it was poss ible to create sense-act robots that used no digital computation at all. The answer was yes.and BEAM robotics was born.

The initials "BEAM_" stand tor the four components ot the BEAM design approach:

Biology: l.lkeother sclencesand technologies these days, BEAM looks to nature for design inspiration. After all, billions of years of design, fabrication, and ia-field testing shouldn't be taken lightly, BEAM also. encourages the human's role in robotic evolution Olympic-style BEAM competitions are held each ye,ar,and in the spirit of hacking and open sourcing,

builders share their winning design concepts tor incorporation into tutu re robotic competitors. In BEAM evolution, humans are the way fora robot to make a better robot

Electronics: A hallmark of BEAM technology is the cyberpunky "abuse" of electronics, re-purposing components in ways that their designers never intended. Chips. used in common householclelectronlcs to amplity sounds, dlirect data traffic, or invert signals are conn ected in new w.ays. lnorder tocontrol motors, process sensor input, and act as state timers. Chain some of these sub-circuits together, and you have a robot brain with no need tor a programmable rnlcrocontroller,

Aesthetics: Buckminster Fuller once said: "When

II 'rn working on a problem, I never think about beauty; I only think about how to solve the problem. But when II have fin ished, if the solution is not beautiful, II know it is wrong." Tilden and fellow BEAMers understand thatelegance in robot design serves theevolutionary purpose (see Biology) of attracting the enthu slasm o.f fellow build ers, which lead s to replication. Many also take pains to make thejr creations beautifu I because they see their robots as. a form of kinetic sculptural art

Mechanics: Like BEAM's electronics. its mechanics and build techniques .. are often quite clever in how they maximize efficiency. For instance. many BEAM bets use free-tormedclrcuitry, where the components are soldered directly to each other rather than to a printed circuit board Th is lowers cost and weight, and it shows off the engineering prowess and soldering skills o.f the builder.

A tewcther key BEAM precepts are worth detailing, as they say a lot about how BEAM dliHers from other robot design approaches.

tKeep lt Slmple, Stupiid (K.LS.S.) SEAM's Zen-like simplicity strips .away assumptions to get at the essence ota problem. Look at the Robosapien, a toy humanoid robot designed by Tilden that incorporates many BEAM concepts, Robosapien uses almost no digital processing. yet

1. Protect thy ass. 2. Feed thy ass. 3. Get thy ass to better real estate.

it performs many of tile behaviors of corporate research robots like Sony Qrloand Honda AS~MO, A Robos.apiencosts. less. than $100. while these high-end industrial fussybots aren't even on the market - and would cost a fortune if ~hey were.

Junkbots and Appropriarte Techli1,ology BEAM also emphasizes, recycling. One of Tilden's early BEAMbots. Vbug 1.5, was made from little

Haroldl R, llano's Black Vermin Ll. a 'replic.;llOf Mark Tilden's infamous Vbug L5, llSi.ng hobby servos in.stea1i ofWal.kman motors. MOIII! images. schematics. and video at ri3v,I,E'm 'h[H5.o;!llill bo tll5.1l1'~ :~, ar WI, JI 011..0.1 lJ

more than a few ch eap an alog ~ Cs, parts. lifted from several Sony Pro Walkmans. an oven timer; and some wire. BEAM enthusiasts do use rnicrocontrollers and other high-end components, but only if cheaper and simpler solutions are not possible,

My Many !Dumb tBots Beat Your One Smart Bot

Implied within the BEAM philosophy is Brooks' idea that a bunch of working dumb bats is better than

one brokensmart bot BEAM

enthusiasts envision a future in which swarms of cheap robots could do such things as. clean skyscrepers, toxic waste sites, andeven your house, lf atew of

them break or run out of juice, that's fine, but i'f a single highpriced tussybot breaks SO much as cneendeftector, you're out of luck

Real Robots tfernd for Themselves Whenever possible, BEAM builders design bats that can take care of themselves, Many older designs are sal.ar-poweredl. Some more recent BEAM and BEAM-inspired designs do require batteries. but ingenious. engin eering maximizes: their efficiency.

jim Mlllllins' Symet3-Vlrus, Which is basically OJ Typi! 1 (vol!age'-friggered) Sulal'l!,ngine' wit'hl all added ball·tip "motiVator'" Dill tllel'llotQt 500ft and a set of si,x legs. UP"" which this robwic top 1).1n skitter around,

A s¥ilarmcf RobosapleA5i, OJ commercially ava ila'b Ie' to!/ r,obot designed by Tilden Ulat. incorporates man)! BEA.Mptinciples.

Robosapiel1. for example. oo~~ain5 seven motors, btJ~ its gearboxes are designed to allow powered movement along one joint to transfer over to neighboring joints without engaging the additional motor. So the Robosapien's torso will passively rotate backand forth in response to i~s powered waving of anarm,

Thanks to such eptlmlzations. BEAM bots will likely be arnorg the first ~,o achieve power autonamy with the arrival of cheaper, moreefflclent solar cellsand power storage technologies" This will fUlI'uili one of Tilden's Laws o~ Robotics (laid down in response to Aslrnov's Laws}:: 1. A robot must protect its, existence at all costs. ,;2:. A robot must obtain and maintain access to its, own power source .. 3. ,A robot must continually search for better power sources. (Or.as ~liey are more widely recited: 1. Protect thy ass, 2. Feed thy ass, 3. Get thy ass ~o betfer real estate.)

Basic BEAM Circuits

BEAM prides itself on minimalist design and an anyorn,e-can-play openness, Even so, there are dozens of bas ie BEAM circuits, tar too many to explain here, But to give you a taste 0] BEAM

el ectron i cs let's look at two ftJ:rn,da me nta I f:i rc ults: the Solarengine and the bicore,

TIu:! Solar engjne (SE): A SolarengJne lsa powi'lr circuit btJliltaroundl.a solar cell and .0':1 storage capacitor. The solar cell triekle-charges the cap, and when the amount of stored energy is high enough, the cap dumps;U1e charge imo~he <Circuit to power the robot

Differ,ent types of Solarenglnes sre defined by the method they lise to trigger the dump. l)rp,e 1 SEs use a voltage-sensing trigger; Type 2 SEs use a timer. and TYpe 3 SEs monitor the c urre lit tha~ Hows into ~he cap and trigger the dump once the capacitor's charge-rate begins 110. slow down as

a result or getting ~IJII. A :imJrthand final illavoroilf SE is the nocturnal variety, which reads ambient light levels and tu rn s on the poweronce darkness descends on the robot.

,A Typ e 1 Sola rengi 1i19 provid es the ba sis for the Irlmet and Solarroller prolectlater in this issue (page 76< with at'l'annottl/Eddrcultdjagram ()f) page 79 that shows 11'.ow .its Inslc Sola.rengine works),ln :this design, the voltage trigger lsa 138], chip, a threepin component that opens the connection between the power and output pins when there's a 3.4 volt (or other voltage) dJifferel!ce between the powerand ground pins, This sends the stored capacltor power in:loa motor.

The Bicore: Many of the most lntsrestlng BEAMbot be havl orsa re con trolle d by '" nervous nets:' The Sill are simple controlclrcults that emulate law-level peripheral nerves ina spinal column Each "neuron" withinl "these circuits, is, 'Iypicallycomposed

0'1 a timer sub-circuit (a resistorend capacitor) combined wi~h one or more inverters (logical NOT gates). Because a 20-pin inverter chip can house eight gates, one inverter chip can simultaneously support several such neurons.

The most basic nervous net has two neurons, and is therefore called a ,bicOf'e. When the two neurons feed back to one another, they can create an osclllatingsignel to generate a legged robot's walking gait. Bioores can also control motors for steering and] LEDstor signaling. like in Dave Prochnow's Panzerolds project OHi page 58.

] madea simple waH"er usinga Tilden-designed bicore built trorn a 74HCT2L10 eight-gate inverter chip, ~ n making this two-neuron oscillator. you soldertour gates of the lnvsrterchlp together. Hook this simple controller up to a gearmotor; and the back-and-forth signal makes the little critter walk and even climb over low objects ..

To take it further, you can chain several blcores together in master-slave configuration. creating a multi-motor walker. The network"s master bicore sets tile rhyithmMd sends the signal down to the next bicore. ~esistors chaining the series together set the time delay. determinlngthe walker's gait.

You can also attach a touch sensor bumper to a blcore, and use it to invert the direction 'of power to the motors. This will make the walker back up when it runs into any Objects. Combinea bump sensor

A Dr;e~momr walkar I bLiiltfrom a 74HCT240 :bicore and ill servomotor wifih Its conttDI eli!Ctmrtics removed. Tile, bh::ol'J(! creates an os;aillai'ing signal that generates a back-and-forth walking gait.

bicore with a two-bicore, two-motor walker and you have a very cool little bugbot that can navigate a spaceand negotiate small obstacles. Not too bad for a couple of gearrnotors anda handtul of cheap analog parts.

Getting Start.ed in BEAM

t,omlhe Grounci'tlJp online tuilimial,at sglarlmtiw n et/bftgu. Also clruieck [out lihe· .rest of if.l,e S~I.a,~bolfkB sit,e: iltt lias ~i'lfla5Siileam(}ulilts 'of :how",to iiftide.s, elrcults, c,ompoI'J.elil[t d!ahls'heeb. alld! a BE.AM eliluyclopedia ant! "best'ia~y:" The commercial si[d'e [of the s;jt1e 'oHers BEAM paril:s, books, ki~:s,a.ndlll'ther roboil:r,e"aij:,ed ,pJiod!u.d_s.AfniY one. ,of their i.nexpensive Ik.iltsis al!irlea~ way to get yOLlrfeef wet.

Also see D,rnte Hi1!tTI'kiw '<Ind Milt,k Tildenl':5 irTIi:lis:pens· at)!!! book J4mkbQ!ts. BUglXlt,5',acnd BQfs:!;In Whe,Is (Osbo.rne, 2;(02),011'11:1 my ow~.book, 'fhe.AbsoJillfe Segini:ier'$ Guiae 'IV Bl:lilaitt{f IWbots{Que, :2Q04).

GaJret~ Braf'a','Jyn wr[tes<libQ~tthe intersectton 01 te'ch~QI.ogy and culture for Wired andother puIJlli.caliOrls, an[j is a member of MAKE's Mvisory Board. He ~s Cyborg-iii-Chief ol StreE!1.tech.oom.

I!'I..""" 57



Become a desktop general with these battlin' bot tanks.

By Dave Prochnow

W ~h~~f~:~e~~h:~e~:~:~:~~~,~~ ~:ht to.

decide the political power of their human commanders. Robots have replaced human soldiers. and! human deaths on the field! of battle are a historical memory, Yeah. right - dreamonl

\Nell, actually. this vision of tomorrow is here today, scaled down a bit Behold: Panzeroids, robot tanks that battle to the death - an LED-flashing death. The field of conflict? YOijF kitchen floor. The scale may be sm,all, but the combat is, real, Best of all. Pan~eroids won't cost you the national debt: you can easily build two dueljng tanks for less than $50.

To build a Panzeroid, you start with a stock motorized model tank kit. Then you hack in a type of control clrcu it called a" bicore '" and an infrared (I R) LED emitter flasher, What you get is a robotank that can independently locate, track, and "killanother similarly equipped! tan k .. Here's how ~ built mine.

5:3 IM .. ' •• , '""lUI .... 08

A :Robot Hacker's IOell.ight

For tanks, ~ used two Leclerc French .Army Main Battle Tank (MBT) kits from Academy Models,. I bought them 'for just $]6 each, and at that price, these kits represent one of the best bargains in robot hacking, You get two motors, complete with gearboxes, mounted lna neat.self-contalned chassis. Even it you don't build a tracked robot, you can use the kit's motor/gearbox combination for nurnerOt~S either projects.

The 'first step is to assemble the plastic body of your model tank. as described in the kit's instructions, But you should stop just before the part where you attach the remote control cable to the motor gearboxes. This is where the hacking begin s an dI the Panzerolds are born .. lnstead of conn eating to tile tethered remote, each motor gearbox: will connect to your robot's bicore "brain."

Two-Track IMiinds

The next step is to build your robots' brains. There are many dififerentandequally valid ways for building bicores. andl won't explain how to do it here: but check the "Plans and Sources" list at the end of the sidebar on page 61 for where to find some good] instructions. You'll need two suspended bicores for each tank One will control the tank's movements by dividing and adjusting the power (OV to +5V) between each of its t1NO motors. and the other will control the ~ R LED flash er "gun" that's mounted inside the tank turret

The bicores ~ built are based on the 74AC240 Octal Buffer lnverter ~C. In addition to these chips, you also needa few garden-variety capacitors, resistors, photodiodes, and LEDs. Th eire simple circuits to put together.andall told, the total cost for two tanks' worth ot bicore brains was about $6.

.Fllasher vs. IMotor IBic:ores

Note that for the Panzerold flasher controller biomes, the suspended resistance lsa simple resistor. as, shown in most bicore schematics. But ttl e motorcontrol circuits have on e su bstitution: in stead (If a resistor between the two cores, you. use a pair of photodlodes connected in series and oriented in opposite directions. These twin photo-


The .Academy Models Leclerc MBT kits indude motor:!> and gearboxes. and rep.resent a il:errifiebargai.n fm robot hackers,

The Ue{.;lerc model tank fits mgetiher witoout 'ool1!lent, so it'!> easy to access the batteries Inside.

Each Panzerold tant.k. has tW'o5uspe.litde.tl blcore "brains" based on a TI 7411.0240 chip.

diodes tunctlon like a resistor, and also alternately modulate the power runn ing to each tan k motor. depending on the level of IR they receive. This, is, what makes, th e tank locate and steer toward the strongest ~Rsignal,

Before soldering together my bicore circuits,

1 tested them out on a breadboard, temporarily attaching two red LEOs to the control voltages. Each blcore has tou r connection points: power, ground, and the two control voltages. With the 74AG240 chip-based design I used, these correspan d to pins .20, ]0, 9, andl12, respectively.

Rebraining Procedure

Once you have your blcores built, it's time to hook th em in. Each Academy Leclerc model kit comes with a tethered remote control. We'll use the remote's wires to connect the motors to the bicore brains. Open up the remote u nit an d. d esolder the four control wires (blue, yellow, red, an d white) from the circuit board.

Take the four wires you i~ st desoldered, an d solder them to th e four terrnln els on the tan k's two motors. Connect the white wire to the top (ground} terminal of the tanks left motor and the blue wire to tile top terminal o,f the tank's right motor. Solder th e remain ing red an d yello'w wires to the bottom (power) terminals of the tank's left and right motor terminals, respectively, Then cut off all but about 18 inches of the ribbon cable, and separate and strip th e other ends for co nnecting later.

1!!I..I<e! 59


Basic bicore(from JuntbOts. BugOGtS', .MtI SOts II on me.,s., p.2SB) a.sSl!rribled lett testing 01'1 a breadboarti. Resistor-LED pairs simulat,e the 'motors, and the black redangles at left are photodiodes.

Wir,es from m:he, remote solde.A!d to the motors. The other ends connect to !hi!' "motor bicore in t~e turret.

Ma,s'er bicore brains Inside tan.k turret (also f:rom JunklJotst p. 278). One conn,ect5 to two I:R LEOs on lire left side, and the other t:onnects to t.he, 'motors anti two phiotodiotie.s on the' riglrt side.

GO IM .. ' •• , v;"IUI .... 08

Try to squeeze your two bicore brains into the tank's turret Connect the blcore with the resis-

tor to the IIR LEOs positionedlalong the left side of th e tu rret.and put the twin photodicdes from th e motor-control bicore on the opposite, right side .. Then run some wires up the turret from the battery compartment in order to hook the two blcores up to power. Connect the power pinon each lie (pin 20) to the positive battery terrnin 2'11, and the grou ndl pin (pin ]0) to the negative battery terminal.

Decide how you want to posltlon the ph otodlod esc and LED flashers. For optlrnallk light sensitivity, the two photcdiodes should be spaced away trorneach other. I installed them. poking out. of d ifterent port details in the turret.one next to the barrel and the other on the sidle. I put the LED flashers on the rear comers. of the turret,

Hook up the blcores' outputs. With the II R blcore, wire its IIC's output pins (pins 9 and 12) to the anodes .of the two IR LED emitters. Then connect

th e LED cath odes to groun dI. For the motor control. with the twin photodlodss, sold er the left motor power (red wire from the remote cable) to pin9

and the right motor power (yellow wire) to pin 12. Conned the motor grounds (white and blue) to ground, via pin ]0 or the negative battery termlnel. Finally, join the turret to the tank's body, oon nect the battery, and let the tank run ona test drive. The motors should steer the tank arou ndas it seeks out an IIR light source.

IPatton vs. IRommel

Now, let's 'watch two Panzeroids battle it out Each will pulse I R trorn its flashers in back, wh ile sirnu 1- tan eou sly trying to drive toward aneth er IIR light source - namely, th e flashers on the other tank.

Th e tanks will steer arou nd, reacting to variations in flash intensity, battery strength.embient light. visual obstacles, and other factors. Whenl Onle tan k senses the oth er, it will steer toward it. The first tank that locks on long enough to drive up to and ram th e other tank is declared the Panzeroids champ. Die, robot, die!

Note that strong sunlight can adversely affect the performance o.f your Panzeroldscorrpetltlon. Therefore, if you don't wi3nt your Panzerolds trying to fight the sun, you should confine your combatants. to a dlimly lit coliseum.

Dav,!;! Prochnow ls a frequent contrlbutor to MAKE andan award-winningauthorot 25 nonfiction books, i ncludlng tM bestselling PSP Hacks, Moos, <'irldfxpansions (IvioGmw·HiU, 2006). You can I'eam more 1l~01l1l; ~is projects <'It pco.2go.com.

More ,01'11 tfi'l.e Bicol'e

The blcora was inJvel1lted! by Mark 1iildetil, the father of BEAM R,obotics atil:d the Robosapien toy,(seepage~. DUling ,eat'ly rasaarch itilltoO USing elaetronlcs to sirnula~'e .mi rna I neural ne~works, Tildie.1iI1 developed th.e Nv neuron, a simple circuit that uses a reslstor-capacljur (R,C) timer and an ilil,verner to slow eledrical signals down, so thai!' they pN~pagah at meai!'ware spaeds. This lets electronic circults ~ime-.slice changes in

the real world at about ~h:e Same rate that biological systems do, giving !hem a "reflex" speed! that works well for,col1lhollitilg lriertla-bound physical object-slik,e motors and wheels,

Tilden! atil:d others cernblned these N:V n eu rons

in!'o natwcrks, whidil h:eorigim'llly termed Very Slow Pr,opaga!ion Ar!'i1icial Neural Sys!'ems (lISPANIS). Now they're called "n:ervous networks;" and people t'efer

to them by the n umber of N:V "cores" they contain.

A n:etwork wi!h !wo Nlv neurons is a blcore, on e with three til euron s ls a trlc ore, and so Olill.

Our Pan zereld confrol eireults have· two cores built u Sing one ,chiip, connaetee inl series, with a resistor suspended between ~hem. Tlhlis is a "suspended bleore" de siglill , and ~he resistance ~liI!at separates the coras prevldas a "virtu1al ground!" It:hat swaps clrcult action back. and forth beil:weetill the two. 1ihis creates a rill oscillator ~hat can drive many !types of circuit's, including the Panl!etoidis' motors an d IR flash ers,

You can learn how 11;0 build blcoreelreults Irom either of the followitillg sources:

.. BEAM Onlilil.e: make.zime.com/go/beamonlitile

.. Jl:lnkbot's, Bugbofs,aoo Bot's on Wlteels

by D'ave Hrynklw and Mark W.1iilden (McGraw-Hili, 20(2). 1ilh is is !he must-read bible for anyone inter'ested! ln BEAM robotics.

Or, you can buy a Sioore Experimetill~'ers PCB from Solarbotics {solarbotiGs.com, prod!uct' #BEP, $35).

Modell"2l'11k sources

If you h:ave a hankering for hacking motorized modiels into viable· robots, hara ara thiree· manufaeturers who prod! UDe· aeeeptabla tarrk kits. YOUI can order kits orallne frorm Squ!ad!ron Hobby (squadron.com) and Tower Hobbies Howerh ebbles.com).

.. Academy (acadermyh obby.com): :1:48 scale Kor,eanJ kih; best for general robot hacking.

.. Micro·X·Tech (dragcnmcdelsusa.ccms: 1:72 scale Hong Kotilg klts: titily, detailed! kib that raqulre advan:oedl hacking skills.

.. Tamlya (tamlyauaa.comj: :1:35 and! :1: 16 'scale Japa n e sa klts: ouh!alild i ng qua I ity fo r hig hpetfor,mam:e hacking.


Bats in a Snap

The nuts and bolts of l.ego robot design. By Michael ROS811blatt

W :~t~~le~:I~~ hla~~~ee~~~~'[~~~~~ce

2002 when ~ had the job Qif building a robotic search and rescue demonstration for the U.S. Office of Naval Research. This job was commlsslonsd [,0 develop an lmmerslve activity exposing trainees to the very real challenges Qif robotic

search an d rescue. With anaggressive bud'get and schedule. ~ decided to use a combination rtf l.ego and custorn-tabrleated materials to build the WQirking search: robots, The two robots had to be durable and powerful ennugh to climb steep inclines and simulated staircases, have working pan-tilt cameras. an d. partieu larly ch sllenglngcarry a smaller "scout" robot onboard,

The l.ego purists will cringe, but I adopted a liberal approach to construction, using .any materials and fabrication methods available to achieve runctionality and scale. This article shares ten tips l learned during this project th at I think you will fin d usefu I when applied to your awn contraptions.

1 Use vertical through-bulb for strornger structures,

You ,I: a Il reei m,or,ce, struetures by addling more Leg OS;, but bolts are, stronger and use less space,

#4-40 Sll'Je

as you: might crack the Lego plastic.

2 Use machine screws to mount 11011l-Lego rnaferlals on to your creattoras.

.. .Add,a plaUorm aslargeas you want for your lego brieks, as welles retntorclng

- .

. . .

- Drill holes in your sheet rnaterlal ",t the appreprlate places for your design, Drill through the m.ating Lego studs with a 1/0" bit.The larger machine screws will s,ecurely thr,ead into the holloW'eC!llLego studs to mount y.our sheet Be careful flot to strip the holes lYy ovet-Ughternirng,

3- Use art-store alulI1f1inl.l11:1 tubesilo make linear

_ slide mol!cliarnisms.

. Gut the- tube/rod to CiI~ired length, Actuate with lego flat-gears, astring/pulley mechanism, or springs.

5 Make your own Lego elu:oderwith iln LED , a m:I ptmte,se nsor,

l:t;s a cheap.compact rotation sernsor ..

. . - T-l¥4 size' !LED,. r-i ¥4 pheto-dlede 01' photo transistor, lego pulley. and

• • - • . Press lED

and sensor into the beams. Allow the pulley to spin. May require.an analog rnlcrocontroller il1lput to read, a.s the holes do nat fully bleck the lED light.

4 lnstall ,cheap rotary sensors (elu::oders, potentiom,eiters, rotary switches).

Use a multitude of lnexpensivesensors that interface' dli redly with your lego PJlojects.

e, Expal1ld tt~,e hole ina Lego Technic beam with a 10/64" bit. Force-thr,e,ad the sensor into the' enlarged hole, being eareful te keep the shaft perfectly centered in the hole, Pr,ess the' 1ST gear onto the shaft .. If the gear slips on the shaft usaa little plasti'cepoxy.

6 Mount a servo with horiwl1Iital axis t'D drive LegD gear tralns.

ActU!,at,e Lego gear tralns with yeurservo,

RIG hobby servo. #4-40 screws, nuts, washers •. Leg,f) pul.ley, LE}go Technic beam. and two-sided foam tape ..

• - •. Tape the ,------------------------------------------------------,

servo ente smooth-top

lego plates, Reinforce, with vertiCally locking ll.egostructu.r1e. To drive ILego gear tralns, make SUife the servo's output shaft is aligned with the holE!! of a Lego Technic beam, Cr,eat'El a shaft coupling by screwing

a pulley to the appropriate servo horn.

7 Mould a servo wilth a verl!ical axis. to drive meeharalsms via lillJkag'l!s.

#4-40sCN~WS, rlIuts, washe.rs, servo horns, #2-56 ball 5wiv,el or ban joints. and #,2-56 ithfleadeCl FOell.

Constructa structure around your' servo. Hef,er to il:ip'#,2 fer screw mounting.

MQunt one ball swivel onto servo horn with scr,ew. Mournt the other ball ,swivel onto any lego part you wish to actuate.

8 MOUlmt PCBs ,mod] elaetrenics , te Lego medals,

Savespaoe by removing unnecessary el e etren lc senelesu res.

I-Iot glue and dispenser, or 3M double-sided foam tape,

- Wli1Iel1l mounting PCBs en top ota Lege stud surface, use hot glue, Whern mounting 01'1 the smooth surtaess (siQlesandl smooth plates), the 3M tape will work best.

10- Mount graphics on your Lego creations.

Adell graphics to

di mensions of an individual Lego brick side, or an entire surface. Print and cutout. Spr,ay glue onto the back oftne graphic and press errte your smooth surface,

64 1111 .. ' •• , '""lUI .... 08

9 Mak-e a,cryli,c or wood plates that fit with Lego studs.

Make custom-

sized plates to add functionality anCi structure to your Lego, eonstructinns. Va "ao ryli c,

. I[)esign

your pattern in Adobe Illustrator-or a 2D CAD package, based on the' eli meeslons given in the' dr:awi,ng. Then fabrlcatayeur plate with a drill press, scroll saw,. and/or band saw, or send the [oh to a fabrication shop that can make it with a laser or w.ate,r-jet clJtite-r.

III Fora list of resources, vi:sit n:mk,ezil'l.e.oom/06/Iego.

1rihlisart!:icle WilS in~pire,d by'Tho!l'J~rt ~j' LEG 0 De!'iWIi !by Frerll 'G. Marilin (1995): handyboilrd.oom/t,ectndm:;s/artoflegJ).pdi'.

M~{;~ael li!og,erlblattwQrks <i~ a program manager atA~plle Computer <lind ls a graduate of thoe MIT ME!oialab, HE! is thE! IOLlrnd,er 001 i,nvenUonDB..oom, whlch <I SS ist:;; designers and eng! neers il n q u lc kly do CLD me r1li rig pro] ects,

Meet the drink-serving, drunk-driving droids at Roboexotica.

!By Cory Doctorow

T :~g~~~~~~~lx:I:: :~o~~~ :~h~jmes,

tumble, landing in a machine that squeezes their juice into a glass. Then, a clanking chain drive moves the glass through a series of stations: a mint dispenser, a muddler that pounds the leaves in with the lime juice. thence to rum, sugar syrup, ice, and soda dispensers. The whole thing is festooned with blobby welds. snaking cables. and exposed logic.







" "






::l ,til

'§l all. ittlspire conversation, Participants come from


~ all over the world and every level of expertise, from

8: Silicon Valley professors to a guy who simply exhib.!ll: ited a tank of beer with a submersible in the suds. >, £l J=' Q_




o ..E. ,tL.

For three years now, Robert Martin, an ex-CNC techniciM. has brought his rnollto robot to Vienna's

annI.Jal Roboexotica convention (roboexotica.org), where he and other amateur roboticlsts showofftheir

motley, semi-functional "cocktail robots .. - droids that mixand pour drinks. light clgarettes.andebove

The mojito robot never successfully prepares a drink. but H: always draws a crowd. lt's so pretty.

5.0 impractical, and so teasing in its potential that wat.ching it not work is more fum than watching

it work would be, "It's about beautiful failure and int,eractivity:' says, Johannes Gr·enzfurthnerof Monochuom, a Viennese tech/arts group that co-organizes Roboexntica along with another tech-creative outflt called Shitz.

Magnus. Wurzn er, the rlngleader of Shifz. leads me past two 7-year-oldls remotely piloting a robot to bump into people and offer them peanuts, DOiwn the hall a roaring slot-car race is controlled by EEG contacts - the drunker the drivers get the faster their cars go. At.a chrome bar, ananirnatronlc drunkard vomits copiously into .21 cocktail glass.

Behind th e bar looms Thu nder One, a giant cornrnercial drink-mixiJ1g machine with an LCD interface and a snake's nest of tubes that require regular flushing to clean ttl em, Wur.zner points and s houts over ttl e din: "Thunder On e is wh at cocktail CIj lture will come to if we don't intervene. It's allabout efficiency and not about. aesthetics or irony. That's what cockta] robots and cocktail culture are for"

Cory Doctorow (craphound.c[)m) wr,ole "A HOi:JS>e Di.v[iJ,ed" on page~

The Vex Robotics Design System

Vorsattlc, powerful design raises the bot in prefab robotics construction kits. B,y Gareth Branwyn

G ~~G:~~~n~KsSe~w~~~n~~~o~. ~~a~~:~~~1

is associated 'with is going to be in novatlve, possibly ,a bit over-hyped ,an d un dbu btedly expensive. Such is the case with the Vex Robotics Design System (vexrobotics.corn), Offered exclusively

at Rad.ioShack, Vex grew outof Kamen's FIRST Robotics Competition (www.usfirst.org).

Where the Lego Mindlstorms Robotics Invention System grew, in pad, out of research and robotics competitions, at MIT, Vex has origins in Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics lnstltute, The result is, like l.ego, ,a friendly and open-ended user experience with a 'wealth of onlin e resources.

Even at $299, the Vex Robotics Design System Starter Kit is reasonably priced tor what you get (the add-ens, however, are another story}. Iits handsome carrying case comes filled 'with over

500 parts, including three gear rn otorson e servo, a variety of tires and hu bs, 14 different gears.a microcontroller module, an RF

If Mindstorms is the robotic answer to Lego, then Vex is the Erector/Meccano analog.

receiver module with a

replaceable trequencycrystal.and a surprisingly decent 6-channel radio transmitter.

It Mindstorms is the robotic answer to l.ego, then Vex is the Erector/Meccano analog. The main building components are stamped steel beams, mils, angle pieces, and panels, with attendant nuts, bolts, washers, and other hardware, The structural pieces are Swiss-cheesed with square holes to providea maximum number of attachment points. The Starter Kit also includes tour sensors: two limit swikhes and two bump sensors.

Your first Vex projectassernble the binder. The t42x Inventor's Guide that comes with th e kit is a

thick D-ring binder and a bundle of lcose-leat pages that you have to organize into it, including instructions for building a starter bot and other kit details. But each! tabbed section has an excellent beginner's tutorial on mechanical engineeriag.electronics, or other concepts used in robot building. The guide is thoughtfu lIy modular, and as you buy add-on SUbsystems, they come with hole-pun ched documentation th at you ad d to the proper tabbed section of the binder. Guide sections are all color-coded with the kit parts themselves - sllverestructural materiels, greenemotlon, red=sensors.end so on - and this color-matching helps newbie builders understand the mechanical and electronic subsystems and how they interrelate. Product boxes for the add-on subsystems. and components .. are similarly color-coded.

TheAdd~OlilsAdd Up

lit is in the add-on systems that the "eal cost of the Vex system reveals itself. Wh ile the Starter Kit does give you a lot of great cornpon ents for the money, you don't get a tull, true robot experience until you add a number ot parts .. Beyond using the included remote control radio tooperate your creations (not very bot-ish), the Starter Kit's microcontrolier can be programmed only minimally out of the box, using ban ks of jumper blocks and little keys that turn on pre-wired routines. To do true programming, you need to purchase the Programming Accessory Kit ($99}. Also, the Starter Kit ships

Helle!s one sophisUcaled de slgn , till! Vel( To~hawk from Ve,xl.ilbs, which originally designed l'1u! Vex sys~tn. It's a four-wheel,ed vehicle that uses two servos and! dl'ffel!enti;:tI pH)wer to lean Inte turns, IUp to 30 degrees. with S{!gway·lik.e ease ..

Vex Labs' remorecon.trolled (no tniorocolllti'olll!r') Ping· Pong"Bol uses an acetrmulator aim to scoop up andi carry up to seven ping-pong balls, which it can thcE!J1 flir;g lnto the air one by one with a spring"loaded firing meebarslsm,

with a battery holder, but you have to supply ]4 AA NiCad reehargeables you rse It. 0 relse buy th e Vex Power Pack ($50). ~r you want to use yo ur bot and RC transmitter in <competition against another Vex robot, you need another crystal set with a different frequency 'from your competitor ($50}. Andllimi± swltchesaad bump sensors get old pretty qu ickly, To adld other sensors, you'll need to buy them, ata cost of between $20 and $40 per sensor kit. So a complete user-programmable, 'Competition-ready Vex system can appmach $500 or more.

While the true cost of entry may be higher than RadioShack"s pro motional Stari,er Kit pricing might imply, things do start to get interesting once you add the Programming Kit and additional sensor sets, When the l.ego Mindstorms line was introduced, Lego was surprised to see ltemoraced not only by kids as. an educational toy, but also by robot hobbyists.serlous robot developers, and prototypers, But th ese grcu ps discovered' some drawbacks in l.ego-based robotics, includlng the relative fr.agility of the in1erlocking bricks .. and the limitations. of exclusively brtck-baseddeslgn, Vex components offer many more structural configuration options. than Lego .. Everything is fastened withconven±ional nut-washer-bolt hardware, and you can bend and cut components .. ThisallO"ws the Vex system to scale from kid's buildingset all the way up to professional development tool

58 IM .. · •• ' '""lUI .... 08

The Versatiility of Vex

To, demonstrate the Vex system's versatility, Grant Imahara, of BattleBots and MythB'uste.rs fame,

built a working replica of iRobot's military PackBot using Vex, inclu ding th e Starter Kit, Programming Kit Tank Tread Kit ($30), and the Ultrasonic Range Finder Kit (also $30). An article describing the build can be round at makezine.com(go/vexroba.

lmahara was impressed at haw quickly he could construct the Vex PackBot. and the degree of sophistication it could achieve. The dlual-tank-tread robot used a remote, semi-autonorncusco-control system whichallowed it to make some of its own decision s about. h ow to negotiate obstacles.

Jamie Hyneman, also known for BattJeBotsand MythBtlsters. repurposed the Vex. system's radio control system and rnlcrocontroller unlit to create a series of full-sized, computer-and remote-controlled bumper cars fora corporate client =abeadof time and well underbudget,

The Vex system offers a great "out ot box" expertence, and more robust components than Lege, With its versatile mlcrocomrollerandeasy graphical programming environment (based on the EasyC language), Ve,x combines constructlon-toyease with grown-up computer power, Addl the already large user community. thanks. to, F~Rsr; and! th ere's monstrous. potential tor this. system. Being able to snag parts at any RadioShack doesn't hurteither,

As wi'fl1 ilffi Min.ti:s'!i!otms fmll'!beats, it IIl:ICii't ilake long bet.or,e' Ini,i l'r!!e r.s "Wll!m cJacki I1Igopl! n 1111 ee Ve:x ~y;st,e m':s mi,cf)o,eOI'll1::rolle:r un'it (MCU) and byil1lg to figur,e ,out h:(}lI\! to [rnake'a prograrnrnfngeable thil~ eould talk til it,.1i'h.e Vex is basleally a simpler, che.iiper:, eerornerelal versional l~N!Viouls FIRST r{l)boti&:s bu:iltling c!l}iTI.P!l>nents!>ol,d] by li1IlIlfil<l~iGn First (ifi rD bot ics.c om), and]

th.e Vex MCU uses the Silrne Mkrachip PIC 18F85'2.D mlcroprcceseor found irru theoldi'e.r FIRST Ro'bo:l:'k CGnit'riol (FRC) :s)ist,etns.,

Thismeans tha~: ii yOllitill1i biIiltl a seriaUnil:etf.ace cable 'for t;ll.eVax M<CU, YI)U should be .<ible·il:o l.Dad c,ocie' GrruiQ itusing existing FRC sGfiwamifro()ls sucb as ilJil!' I.FlI lillladl·er (fr.ee) and Mic;IDilhip's MPLAB ID,E iitul CIS Compiler (hee60-daydlermo).

As of till is wri~irng, noone hits dime this y.e!. •. and dlscusslons ofU;e possibiliiy,ar,e frow·nedl1lpD.nJ~.11 Dffidal Vie·x an.D FIRST sites, But it's ,~nly a ·maHer of time be·fGr,e such IPr,ogr.amming 'Op~j,OiiiS beCGm,e available. nll!rl! is .01 pneliminary discu.ssionl OIW il'l>,!es1:iga;lj:l1Ilg the MCU's seriallpilll'ou~s a~ Inakszine·.cIJm/.I'('o/vexl1iJck.

Gareth Brarrwyrl wrote "A Begii'lril·er'S GLJi·(],et·o BEAM" ali page 54 an d th,e "Two BEAM bets: Tr imetilJnol SoIlarro I II,er" pr.oj"ecl

on page7lQ_

A wireless remote control camera on wheels. !By Tom Ztrnrnerrnan

W :~:eln~s~~~u'~:~~~~:e~~~:~Eote

control robot with cameras that roams around Mars. Then I tell them they're going to drive one. Well, not exactly, I bring out a remote control truck with a wireless video camera an top and

cE magnets on the front bumper. Then I spread' tin

E cans, on the floor and have studients remote-control ~. the truck tocollect th ern - just like the Mars Rover, E


E ',2

.E E





o ..E. ,0....

except with cans instead of rocks. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. They can only see what thecernera sees, on a TV screen, and til ey soon find out that driving is a lot harder when thek 'field of vision is as

narrow as a video. camera's.

You, too, can build the Mars. Rover. Here's, how

to do it in a few hours tor under $L50, The main

components area remote control (RIC) truck and an XIO wireless camera and receiver, The only tools you need are a hand drill. diagon.al cutters" a saw" an 01 sclsso rs, And su rprisingly, the hardest part of the project is arranging the magnets,


Be:fore you start drilling" make sure the wireless, camera works. Load 4 AA batteries into the camera's battery pack. and plug the lNireless receiver into a TV using the RCVaudio/video cable, (If the TV lacks separate video and audio jacks, plug its RF output into the antenna inpu t.) Use the small slide switches or) both the camera and wireless receiver to set each device to channel t and try other channels if you don't get a clear signal. lif yousre neara wireless

network (WLAN), which also operates at2.4GHz, you may see white horizontal lines in the image. The 2AGHIz. band is unlicensed, and devices operating on this band must. accep t lnterference.ff this is a problem. move to another room orsomewhereelse,

Another thing to consld er is communication range. The camera manufacturer claims a rang:e of up to 100 feet, butas with all wireless cornrrjunication, this depends on your environment, Outside gives the best range, and buildings with metal in the \NaUS will give you the shortest White snow in the video image, which is how analog signals like this degrade, means til at you're reaching maximu m range and 'shouldl move closer. Once you

lose the video, yo,u'li be driving blind"

The camera's battery pack has, a long cable. which you can elth er fold neatly an d tie out of the way or shorten dow n. I cut mine down because

II wanted to get to the wires anyway, in order to test the camera's voltage and power consumption so II shortened the cable to about 2 Weeii', (Power consumption turned out to be about II watt 16.5 V x 65mA.)

70 IM .. ' •• , '""lUI .... 08


When you shop around for the RIC truck, think about where you will attach the camera an d battery pack. The truck I bought has r.ailing in back where yo.u can attach cable ties. and the cab's roof is hollow, so you can drill mounting holes. into the plastic.


Cut a piece of cardboard! to fit the front of the truck bumper, about4"xJQ", then PlHIChl pairs of holes

in itand cable-tie it on. If your truck d cesn 't have a bumper, drill some W'i holes in the 'front plastic, but make sure you don't d!rill into til e tu rning mechanism or any other crttlcal components.

The card board supports flexible, hanging strips of magnets that wrap against the cans to ensure a strong hold (Fig. 1). To make each strip, cuta

6'" piece of tape and place 4 magnets lengthwise. starting at the bottom left sidle of the tape. This leaves. about 2" of tapeat tile top, where you conned it to the cardboard, Carefully fold the right side of

til e tape over the lett side, enclosing th e magnets in the tape. I used 7 strips, ·of magnets. fo .. my truck.

Finally, tape th e top of each strip to til e cardboard bumper, As the truck moves, the tape will allow the magnets to grab and hold a can. If can s slip Lindler the bumper, move it lower to the floor.


Before you commit toa mou ntlng location, try the camera out ail: different places on the truck's mot and see what kind of image you get onscreen, ldeally, the view will be straight ah ead, with the top of the bumper visible at the bottom of the image.

Mount the camera with cable ties, which are cheaper and easier than nuts and bolts, and don't requlreexact alignment lit the cable ties are too wide to pass through the camera's mounting holes, widen them with a 1M" drill.

.After driving my truck arou ndl, I realized that ~ 'd get a better view if ~ placed the camera higher and farther back. So I cut a pieceof scrap wood to fit between the huck cab and the plastic railing, san dedi the top corners, and then drilled holes to cabletie tM wood to the railing and the camera. I secured the block a,f wood to the truck bed with .21 bead of silicone glue. It took me a couple of tries to get the camera properly aligned - and if you look carefully, you can s.ee a few 'extra holes - but the result was a better view o.f the floorand bumper (Fig .. 2),


III's a good idea to mount the battery pack case upside dOiwnr so you can replace batteries without removing the case from the truck. I put my case to one sideof the truck's. back railing. Make sure the power switches 'for both truck and camera are easily accessible. Label the camera's power switch, since it will be facing downward and th ere is no power indicator lighttosh.ow that irs on,

Once you know where to place the case, mark and drill four 1,4" holes into the plasticon the rim. Start witil. M;"' pilot holes, since big drill bits tend to grab in plastic, and use a strip of wood to support the fragile lip while the case is being drilled (Fig.

3). Cable-tie the case onto the truck, and trim the excess length. If you make a mistake or change your mind, just cut the t16S and try again,

IROll. m

Now your Mars, Raver is. ready to roll. Remember:

The magnets will attract only tin cans, which contain iron, and not alurnlnum cans. The audio track will be noisy, picking up the sound 'Of the grinding gears and the giggles of children as you drive by their feet.

Going Filirther

Her,e':s a game for YOlllr R:IJ!i·e.rs and .if few people: I?la.ce f·om carts i'n fil1etlil'i,dJ~le of tbe fl'Oot, a:ndJ ch:illle:nge t;,e\Oltl1s bo pi,c'k Up a.s,mafty as possible in ons mirnuim. O.ne· team llJi'le.rniber wa!lclles the screen al'l~ drive,s, w;hile tI1iJ,e' lOiiher is "h()me base" andi Ire moves cans. lihe d river col 11mb a 'COl n, :Ill riv,e 5 it horne, amI:! returns fo r mere, onlY'lIi'eYilirng Ihe scraan _. m~ peeli:if!:g allowed!

For ~11 e a.t!iiialU.c,ei:l1i'i nk.I!"er, ,h ereare scm e more it!:eas tueirt'e nei y,O<Ut furn':

MAKE 'r(QUR OWN BATTERY PA:CK. T:l:m "camera says 12V, but Ii measUil'ed tha baH'ery lpack. at 16,,5\(, :65.tIilA. At ilha~ IGLlrl'el'l:t:, a redl LED' ,tlIm,p:s mearly ZIl. So 101]<1'1· n·ededi ~wo '~V batileries an·r:j addled a :~edl LED irn' series with Uveuame.ra, lI::ha't acts as a poweril1d'ic,a'f:ot.

ADD A C.AMER.A Since the wireless cameraand receiver sU,Rporl fOlllr channels, you 'C:0I.11I lp:uf: :l!ICitra cameras oil Uie tr,u.c·k, t'O loo.k' ba.ckwarti or WS;{H! canson ru'e' bllmpet. .sell" the wirele!>!> camerasen ,Ii'i'fMr,en:t clHlrn' n'els .mll!! use two Ifll!:()e'lv;er:s .and TVs, orelsl!SVilikb between the .c:tmnlitelsJ'ea.lliiIeras 'on 'Ii'he rlece,iv,er.

ADD LIGHTS TI1ecameta,doestn't tio w.elUnrthe ~ai'k, bcu:t YOUI canadd sorrra w;l\i,it:e' LEOs nr bulbs on iihe trUck fO.t illuminati!)n. FOJ powe!', tap lrrto Ute trirck's baHe:ry.Evell eGol,er; opan ftne camera ,011]1:1 :retlilDve·t'tne infta.reDi·:blocklng filter '(a little ci~cularmagil!tnJta pleea Ilf glass)t'll boom: IR :5'ensitilli~]I, ~hen use infrar.ed LEOs <;IS headligtn,~s. andi se .. e i,n c~mplete d!<lrk,M.e,s5.

ADD ULTRASONICS This is W<lJ:I .a.uvam:edi, bu,1 you uouldi buHd ."til ult'fasoni'll ,ra:nge fiiii tl"et Ul:m' 'Ilo'nllerlii,s disiarn'oe 11:'1() autHble pih:h, ail.t! send ill: ~.hro!lgh the camera's .micm,phol1e.This would ilU,O!N YOIII iodrive in c'Gmpll!te diir:kn.e5s, like a loot, ifa. bat could drive ..

FLo.ATING CAMERAS Instead 'i.)i a tru,dk. attac;.h iI".hewirell:!s's 'oameram a 3' weather' balloon fillet! with heliulm.Use ~OO f·eel ,of sbong fisl1.in.g line ,or :strif!lg.

I .aHilclru,ecl! my 'UiInf1eta toa 4"x12."piece Of plasiic, lashiorneGilike,.a Win,l:Imjll tail; w :stiibili;i!Je' it iim the wind.


XI0 (wlrelass 'camera, r.eDeiv.ecr;batiier'y pmik}:. !dO.com.

EdililUndi SCiHll)~'i1ic:. TwG 3" diamefeF w;eathet halloons. $.26, i!:e:m #30:41755 s'ci e mt ifi CSOIJ I ill e·.'~D m



Worksl1Q,p mips, fr,o(n Mister Jal,opy's gtJrag,e.

Hot Air

Build a do-everything manifold to control, dry, route, and use compressed air.

A brand-new compressor might impress your mother-in-law, but wnen you're ready to lhit tlhe !big time, build this manifold system to get clean, dry air wlhere you need it.

List of M,aterials

Most of the material you need 'for the Quick and Dirty Air Compressor Mami'fold cam be purchased at a well-stocked hardware store,

[A]] Compressor outlet E:vern small "pancake' compressors will operate-a nail gum or small air tools" burt don'texpect to soray pai ntor repair a big rlg, The slzeof the airoutlet wi II v,ary by compressor size and output, so adapt it to Sis".

[B] Flexible hook-up hose Compressors tend ito jiggle around, so use a flexible hose to connect to your hard line manlfold, !Don't use a regular air hose! Use a special ccmpressor connection hose that is rated ail: 200psi working pressure/ 800psi burst pressure.

[C] Ball valve lnaddltlon to turning off the air from the compressor; am inline 3fs" valve can

be usedasa manifold drain valve. A simple manifold won't accumulate much moisture" but when running longer lines" it's a good idea to have a drain at the lowest point.

[D] Galvamized steel lines Why use SIs" galvanlzed steel pipe for air Ii nas? PVC is a poor choice as ltcan shatter under pressure. Copper is ideal if you are not daunted by higher costs, lncreased laber.and great difficulty to make changes, I would use copper 'exclusively if I were a quadzillionaire with a plumber om staff. The pipe shoul d have a slight decli ne down toward the drain valve to make sure moisture doesn't get trapped ln the line,

72 Ma ke: \IokJma 06

[L] !Drop hose The ubiquitous yellow drop hose is 'found in every self-respecting auto shop in the world, I woutdn't dream of rebuilding a carburetor without orne.

[E] Regulator/moisture trap/filter Moistlllre

is an unavoidable and damaging byproduct of compressing alr, An all-in-one trap/regulator/ filter is cheap i nsurance to protect ai r ito 01 s from wet, dirty air pumpedcut ail: potentially damaging pressure,

[F] Tvcormector Use a Sfs" galvanized steel T wherever you want a drop.

[G] s/a" male to 1/4" female connector Maybe you will get lucky and find a Sfs" T connector wiil:h a 1/4"ouil:let, but I had to adapt 3fa" ito ]/4".

[H] W' brass nipple Rather than a galvanized nipple, use a brass nipple with a hex in the center so yoU! cam use a wrench to get a tighter fit,

[I] 3-way air connector What klndof a savage doesn't love a brass 3-way air connector? Tidy and professional, it is am absol ute delight.

[J]] Combo coupler The bad mews is there are three' dlfferent "standard' compressor plugs - lndustrial jnterchange, AUit,omotive Standard, and ARO Speed. The good news is Amflo makes a combo coupler that works with all three.

[K] S/s" elbow Use ito get around corners,

~!!11 iii Iii B

, \

, ,



Great Tire G,auge

SurH,~IuJ"mi! ar'Il,Il,igi~al tire gauges ilha~5p,e a k, bWlI 'have·etitolig:h friends .. nidi don't W'olltt ito WQtty if I am :5,pendil~g ,enough time with ,my ~:ire g,ilug,e. For $,,2.0, yo Ii 'Gilt, get a polishelil brass EZ·Ait (,u::cUl·~ap;e.com) wi~h

a ,sii:arud a .rod f.lm::iufll list

mllirie impressive fh.m'l:lTIe

Windo,:," si:icket Oill a mew 'Cadillac. Fill !tires ,dJirec~ly thrp~gh iI.he gauge am:iielimill'ate swapplng between lI'~e' flll hose' and ,gauge - jus~ whl:d~ the pressure tHie' as you fill!



, ,




\ \

I I i I

, J

, t

Why not 1/2" or larger air lines? This 3/S11 system 15 adequate for most ~asks, but some jobs - like sprayIng auto paint - will 'require a mote robust system with larger lines and specialized filters,

A. R N I N G. Com,p.ressedl ai r ~'I1geTs iI're no jorK,.

Sounds fal"fetclted. bLit II<:;ncW a fe'lloW wi10

Is dj~bled due te, a COn1l.p'res.sedi air accident. Wear AN SI.ap,rolllid safety gla 55($. readitne manumcturer's irtsffrIJ,ct:'icflS. and N'E.V'ER pGiflit a oompres.sed. air stream at firieTfdS., enemies, dogs,

or wen parakeets. 'Be safel

M "" 73


There are only two ways to put on Tetlon tape - and one of them is wrong.

Holding the !,lipe with the open end facing y"OU, start tape at 2 o'clock. A.lw,ays wrap Hie' tape, clockwlse around the threads. Otherwis,e, when yOUI connect the female fititil1lg" it- will "roll.up" the leading edge of the tape .. re·sulting Ir1I am i nferioF seal,

What if theconnectlons ara r,8verse thread?' OK. smarty-pants, reverse threads (a .. k .. a. lefthand threadsjare taped counter-clockwise.

a Why use pipe j oint ,compound if you are already usirng "Feflon tape? SO.me Would say it's ov,erkill, but the eornpeued is a lubricant that allows you toturn the pipe an extra half turn tighter,

No'w M,ake Yourself Useful

A whole world of nail guns, impact wrenches, cut-off wheels, pneumatic ratchets. die grinders, air hammers, and hjgh-speed sanders will soon fm your dreams and make you forget about pllJgg'~ng

p.: o.w,. er tOOlS, ~In.to. elect.fical outlets" Behold the awesome power of

compressed air~

If you dot"!'it re.qUJire a heavy-dutya'ir compresser; Hiitachj"s EC79 6-gallon pancake air compressor might fit the em. The oil-free eornpresser; wnich Wiili'ghs 60 IDs, and delivers 2.7cfm at 90psi" is perfect fm finishing rna il, staple, and other short burst work. hitacnipDweriools .. com.

Make: Projects

Bask in the glow of your soldering iron and build a geeky-cool bot battalion that follows the sun. If irs gloomy outside, just start practicing for RoboCup 2050 with a soccer-playing robot. Or reach new heights by delving into tensional integrity with tabletop sculptures that soar.

lego Soccer


BE.AM Robot:s


Tensegrlty Tower




By Gareth Branwyn



The low-tech, analog, dumpster-diving, and hack-friendly world of B,EAIM robotics (see pege 54) has produced a bestiary of bot types, inclluding Syrnets, Rollers, Walkers, Jumpers, Climbers.Swimmers, Flyers, and Crawlers, Many of these creatures can be powered and controlled by a Solarengine, a simplle and popular IBIEAM circuit that draws energy from a solar celill and temporarilly stores and dispenses it using one or more capacitors,

We'll make a couple of voltage-triggered Solarengine circuits, and then build them into two Ilittile bats: a Trlmet, which looks Ilike a sateillite in orbit as it's moved around by a spinning, toplike base, and a Solarroller, which drives straight ahead in fits and starts. These light-sensitive critters williliook cool and tres geeky on your desk, as long as you can keep them from wandering off the edge (they're both active diurnally, and they don't have an off switch).

"A Beglnne~'s GUide to BEAM" 0

78 !.II" ke ; V"lume (16


IBEAMbGts use simple circuits that interact with the world directly. Unllke contrail-freak robots, their' brainless, reflexive reactivity is the whole point.

I'n BEAM parlance, a Trime,i!: isa Symet (s'hort for symmellri,eal) Wi~ih ilhree, capacltors. A splnnlng diriv,s slmilt uIII,derne,a:th pulls iii's, ~iop·like body, whh!h bumps around a'ny obstacles,

Solarroller.s aNO! liUI,e solar-powered race ,Cllts.,At BEAMarnd other ro,llIot Ilolli'ipeti~ions, Ibuilner:spit Sol a rrollers against road. ,olil,her ln a kind lof robomecha:lUkal PimH!IIood Derby.

roller hots are based

on a vQltage·~riggered (lI"ype l}Solarengine. These circuits c,lI!U,ed elil,etgyfN)m a small solar Dell, ami periodkally releasa it when ilhere's eIUH],ugh stored up ~o m:lh.ially tio sotne~'hing" like rulnl a mo!lor.

[)VJt'ing d.isclmarge. cltlrrentflQws to the t)i1se 0fU~e 3906 translstor, Thls takes UHO!c:L38l trtgg~rofflirue. altowii1lg It 'to ,eset, (In d. routes curre fit to t~ a $904 base, wh tch keelD~ tile. rTI\lto fcircu it Hpwirng !1nHI tne IGaIf! jS. fu Ily III ~sc ha rg,e.Q.,

Thaselar (Jell converts Ifgnt ili1ooel'ectrical 'ene[gyrs1c;wly [Lnicil1)g up the eapacltor (em mLnltipre €apacitors),

TJl e IGa pacllo r iCQIIle.cl~, and "tor,,<!s,,a vo ltage, w hi ch dlsch,arge's'whle.n,ffiie.r ths droLJtI: isoomJ'lI'eted ~eh"e.en ft'!, "vi) lermiMls.

The ;::l.:2t.;Q reslstcr reduces the vo [tage to tne3905 base. p,fn, SD tt cHver:ts less power away from tliie m()tor(l!Jrr~g lllisc:hlarg;B. This maKes tl!1,e elrcuil mora ,e'ffl'cienl aSol'ateogJrnesdwnafi:;:; ~kezil'1E".cnm/06/bI'"mbnI5

T~a 081 vo~t'igE! [~igge" mea:s'U)res tfrie. volta~e.at~oss the capacitor. and sends a trigg;e.r srglilaloricelt's, nigih eli1otlg~ (.2 .. 4 votts wrth a 1381·G trigger).

When th~ ba·>ie. pln of tJfe 3904 (rarillfstDr reoelves Ui,e t,igge[ .slgna], ul GDmpletes aeonneetlcn th!at aUQws, t~e capacltor s power todisoharge through the, motor,

1!!I..I<e! 79


ij ~ au II I



The followlng parts will build ~'WIJ Solatengines.

.ru si! ge'iI: 0. n e 0''1"; aa ell i1 yo.u'~e (IInlly :building the' Trillilei!: 'or ~he' Solarroll,er:, butnot beth, All p a rt nurm· ben. ,~eifie r miD :S:olar:bltti cs (solarbotics.ccrn):

[.11] 37x33mm polycrysa lIine solar cell. part #SCC3733 (2)

[B] CLissette momr (2) From an ol,dj Walkman or olher 1:)layer, part #M:CM2

['OJ 1381-G voltagl! trigger IC. part #1381-G (2)

[0'] 2N3904 ("'3904") NPN t.r.ansistD r. part #TR3904 (2.)

[E] 2N3906 ("3906"} PNP cruris tsto r, part #TR3906 (2)

80 IM,,' •• , '""lUI .... 0.8

[F] 2.2kr.! raslsrcr (2)

[G,] 4700jJ.F cepaeirurs (4) Or usa th te,e 47 DOli If'

capac itors (for the '[timef). and 1 "superca p" such a So a 033F Gold C,apaciit'o.t, part #<CP.33F'(IfiGr:a !higher-

p e,r1ormatuc,e Sola rroller)

[H] Hook-up wire. r~ and black 24-g;auge strunuea

[IJ Paper clips (2) one small. one large


[.J] Pinch roller and arm 'rom iii VCR. or similar Smooth itubber roller; about ~h:" in dlameter and ~Iilr' wi de


[I<] Pinch roller and arm 'rom iI cassette player.

o.r similar Srnoa}1!:h rubber 'rolle.r.abCi!u~ 112" iii ,Iliimm,e:~'er amiI1/.t."wide

[IL] Olive wheel of ;JnY ligtn.weight materl a l, with iI diameter slightly greater thar, d'il motor easing

B etw,een l!f.;"an d 1:!/lt'" i 5 g,ood. An olldl VCR might :mave ,<I suilabh:lpulley, or try the d lsc t ha~: !;roll:ls ih e c ollrtro I rodsl lUI a :setvo.ili1O'tor. '!ItH. can also tisea wheel fJiO:1'iI:I a toy, 'Off' any o~h e r .rig h 1:·:5 i:z:edl plasili,c disc.

Rubber band

[M] Epoxy

[N] Whit!! glue


~O] Soldering equipmenL lren, s~,arnd. solder. and solde r-sueker, d,eso 1,l1I:e ri ng bulb, or hrald

Dremel tool with grinding wheel. ell .·off wh eel. and router bits

"Thrrd han d" tool witI' alligatcr clips Two am .hieal

[P] NeedhllloDSI! Dr longnesa pliers

Wire rutters

~Q] HQbby kn if I!

Medium-WLldl! sandpaper cr me tal file


[It] Poster putty or tLipe

Safety J1;IOIsses



Time: A Da

: Med~um Low



We'll be freeforrning these circuits. which means connecting components. together directly, without a board. Normally I well Id breadboard and test my circuits before soldering, but til is on e is so simple an dI has so few parts that we can live dangero usly, Parts areeas ily desolderedand resoldsred if there's a problem,

b. Face the two transistors up with their pins. toward each other. Solder the base pin (middle) 01 the 3904 transistor to the collector pin of the 3906 (the right pin. as you read the printing).

!lb. Use neecrenose pliers to gently bend the 3'904 emitter pin (left) 90 degrees to the sidle and its collector (right) '90 degrees up. Bend the 3906 base pin (middle) 90 degrees up and its emitter (left) 90 degrees to the side. Solder the 22kOresistor from the 3904 collector toth,e3906 base.

Ic, Trim excess lead length from previous step. Place the 138] voltage trigger to the right of the 3906, taelng the same way, Soldier its Pin 3 (right): to the 3904 emitterand its Pinl ] (left) to the 3906 collector, Finally, arc its Pin 2' (rnidd Ie) around an d solder it to the 3906 emitter (left). There'syour basic circuit ready for motor and powerl

Lctlf you're making both BEAMbots, buildi a second Solarengine circuit by repeating steps, ]a-k above. From here. you can con tinueon to step 2 tOI builda Irjmet. or jumpahead to step 3 an dI build a Solarroller ..




2a_ Prepare the motor by removing any mounting tabs with a Dremel grinding wheel. Then us.e sandpaper or a metal file to scuff the drive-shaft side of the case until you 're down to tile shiny metal underneath. Really scuff it up good; you'll be solderlng capacitors directly to the case, and they'll need to hold as the Trlmet drags. andl bumps.around,

2b,_ Clip the negative/cathode leads. on the three 4700pF capacitors so there's just enough wire to solder them to the motor casing, Bend the posltlve/anode leads up, making

sure they comfortably clear the casing. Find 3 equidistant points at the perimeter of the rnoto r, and solder th e 3 cath odes to these points so that the cepacltcrs form an eqUilateral triangle radiating out from the motor's center. Use generous gobs of solder. and use poster putty or tape to hold the caps in place while you soldier.

2e. Center the circuit assembly over the motor. and solder a scrap lead from the 3904 emitter to the motor casing. Th is grou nds the clrcu it, while also attaching it to the motor. For optimal balance. bend this connecting wire at '90 dlegrees, and try to position the circuit in the middle of the motor,

2d1. The motor case is our circuit's ground C-); now let's workonthe power (+) side, Take a small paper clip and bend it into a ring with the same diameter as the motor. (Conveniently, Walkman motors are the size of a quarter. 8.0 you can use one ass form to bend! the Clip around) When you have a decent circle, solder it together.

82IM .. · •• ' '""lUI .... 08

2e. Ben dl and trim the capacitor anode leads evenly. so that they extend

just above the control circuit Soldier the "power ring" to the ends, of the 3 leads, preserving: theequ ilail:eral symmetry,

2f_ if you can ben d the 3906 emit-

ter lead to reach the paper-clip ring, do so, and. soldier iton, Otherwise, connect it wi~h a short piece of wire or scrap component lead.

2g. Now, the solar cell. ~f yours. has pre-tinned pads but no wires (most small cells come this way), start try soldering the 2 wires onto it - but be careful, because solar cells are fragile. Then solder the positive/red wire to the ring and the negative/black wire to the motor casing, Make the wires, long en ough so you can still work on th e circuit but shortenough so they'll stow neatly underneath when you finally glue the solar cell down onto the ring.

211. Conn ect the motor, Solder the negative/black motor wire ito the point where the 2 .2kQ resistor meets, the 3904 collector, Solder the positive/red motor wire to the pspsr-cllp ring,.

NoVil, place the solar cell on top of

th e Sym.et and shine a light on it, or put it in the sun. Afiter JlO seconds or so. it should fire and' scoot along. or spin around if you're holding it by the driveshaft u rrderneath.ft so, congratulations - you're the proud parent of a 8EAMbotl Yi)u can go ahead and glue the solar cell onto the paper-clip ring. Or. if the cell stays in place without

glu e, leave it that way so that people can pe,ek under the hood.




Solarroller bu ilders have u sed all so rts of materials, from Lego bricks to soldered paper clips to computer mouse cases. This. popular approach relies on parts from an old cassette player and VCR. "taw' mileage may vary. depending: an th e parts that you Lise for the body and drivetrain.

3a. Gut thearrns on the 2 pin ch rollers with a Dremel and cut-off wheel, so that they make full, flat contact against the motor casing. The Solarroller will stand on the triangular base that's formed by these 2 idler wheels and the larger drive wheel that will go onto the motor's drive shaft.

310. Prepare your drive wheel, First. check that it will fit on the motor's drive shaft .. (The hole in the hub ot the disc I used was tao small. so ~ reamed it out u sing a Dremel router bit) Then glue a rubber band arouad the outside of the wheel, to improve traction. Cut the band. smear a thin layer of glue onto one side, arid wh en it gets tacky, carefully roll the wheel over this "tire" until it cernes full circle .. Let th e join overlap, then use a hobby knife to cut away excess rubber and make sure the ends. are perfectly joined ..

3c. Epoxy the.2 idler wheel arms into position on the motor casing. then 'fit the drive who ee I onto the mo to rshatt without gluing it (u se poster putty to hold It on. if needed). It is critical that all 3 wheelsru n parallel to each other and make fIJIl contact with flat ground when the Solarroller is standing. If you're !Jsing the Solsrbotlcs malar, you can affix the larger roller arm to the motor's large mounting tab, pointing toward what will be the front, and leave the twoother mounting tabs and holes pointing up an top. for attaching the circuit an d solar panel.

84 IM .. · •• ' '""lUI"" 08

3d. Cut about 4" (If wire from a large paper dipand fashion It into a U shape" For the Solarbotlcs motor. it can be

just wide enough to FUn between the two upper mounting holes Trim the remaining piece of paper-clip wire and solder it across the U as a cross-brace. about sA" from the openend.

3e. Epoxy a capacitor dlirectly to the motorcasing, running horizontally. on the side opposite the drive wheel. The leads should point backward. with the cathode (-) closer to the motor.

3fi~ Solder (or epoxy) the paper-clip frame atop the motor casing, using the two. moun ling holes. if present Since we didn't glue the drive wheel

on yet you can remove it to access the top of the motor. For extra sturdiness. you 'Can posltion the frame so the cross-brace rests or) the capacitor. and epoxy the brace onto the cap. Glue on the drive wheel.

3g. Position the S olarenglne circuit underneath the paper-clip frame. next to the cap. on theside opposite the motor. Solder the 3906 emitter (left) pin to the pas itive/an ode lead of the capacitor, The connection shou ld be short enough so that the cap holds

th at end ofthe circu it. up in the air.

3h. Turn the Solarengine upside

down and solder a scrap component lead to the 3904 emitter pin at the point where it attaches to the 1381 trigger's Pin 3. BeJ1d thecapacitor's negative/oath ode leadaroun d th e urtdercarrlage side of the cap's barrel. and soldier it tQi the lead you [u st connected to the 3904. This will anchor theother endof the circuit



Bipolar iral1sislo.rs cars act as switches, cormactlng parts of a circuit jUl:st Ilke ,11 machanieal swib;h wl]~ld, i, III art NIilN it,ansis-t1ot, applying a v,oltag,e with UTIe positive' .side' il:o il:he bass and the nlegat·ive side to the emii'~er aliowslluJ,rent ~o f low 1N~m emitter ~om~lIedGr, A PNiI1' iinmsistiGf go,e.s the GPP(!Isib:! way; Ittlnrnil1:g a tl.egative voltage across hom Ittru,e' base 11:0 ~he emitter allows current t,o flow from emit~er t.c~ coU.eG~D~,


!li.lif your solar cell doesn't have wires., attach some tn the pads marked (+) and (-), The wires only need to be

long enough to reach the pins on the capacitor, Thread the solar cell's wires through theframeandepoxy the cell to the top. Whenihe epoxy is. set, solder itl,e solar cell's posltlve to the cap's. positive/anode and! the cell's negative to the cap's negative/cathode.

3j. Finally, connect the motor. Solder til e positive/red motor wire 0 nto th e 3906 emitter (left) pin and the negative/black wire to the 3904 collector,

Now. put the Solarrolleron a flat surface in the sun. or shine a flashlight on the cell. After a little while, the circuit will trigger. the capacitor will dump. and your Solarroller will take ofl' 'for a short run. Shine, lhIait, and repeat.



8€i IM .. ' •• , '""lUI .... 08



~'f your BEAMbot doesn't make you beam. carefully examine all connectlons, resolder anything that looks we.ak. and separate .any components. that might be touching (shorting). It's a simple circuit so not much can go wrong besides incorrect connections or bad loins.


On the Trimet.add an outer paper-clip ring. This creates a bumper that will help prevent the robot from getting stuck.

On the Solarroller, replace the regular 470DpF capacitor witha "supercap' like a 0.33F Gold Capacitor. as shown in the project photos. These capacitors can take several minutes to juice up. but they'll make your S olarroller takeoff like a bat outta hell.

Youcaneasily convert an old Sony Walkman into a great Solarroller, Leave the motor, roller wheels. and pulleys, in the original frame's base piece, and use it as the vehicle'schassis,

Try And rew Mille(s more efficient variant of the basic Solarenglne, which is elrnost as easy to build, You need a different resis tor, an additional capacitor, and a diode, but yo 1.1 can lose the 3906 transistor. Varying the value of the small cap. between 0-471JF and 47pF., lets you "program" dif1erent d'is.charge times. (See schematic at makezine,comJ061

. beambots.)

Once you have th e basic ideas d own. you can go crazy, improvising BEAMbots with greater storage capacity, better obstacle-avoidance strategies, or swankier, more attention-getting dlesigns. Here are some Symetand Solarroller variation s (pictu red at right).


There are many more hacks and variations on

th ese two project types. as well as other appllcalions for the Solarenglne, For more information, see "Getting Started! in BEAM" on page 57.

a se- ernatic 'for Miller variant of Solarengine circuit: makez.ine.comI06/beambo±s


Robotics is one of the most multidisciplinary topics imaginable, combining artificial intelIligence (All), mechanical engineering, math, signal processing, sensor fusion, circuit design, and psychology, The resulting synergy animates applications that range from the International Space Station to kids' toys.

The most ambitious research project in robotics today may be IRoboCup (robocup.org). This effort aims to develop a team, of autonornous robots that willi beat the humanWorlld Cup champions at soccer by the year .2050,.,

You can get a small taste of this complex endeavor by building your own soccer-bot using the Lego Mindstorms IRobotics Iinvention System. This kit inclludes motors, sensors, and infrared transceivers. Add a webcam and some code, and you can make an autonomous mini robot that will retrieve a ping-pong baf and bump it into a goal box. Gooooooeit

Matth.ew Russ,ell trtss to I ive I ife as a renaissance man, but hasn't made much progress sfnce becoming enthralled by the cujt of Mac.



Showing brlghtly against a black f~e~ld, the two soccer goals, ping-pong bait

and Lego IMindstorms robot are traclked by a webcam and simple Java software. The computer sends commands to the robot via infrared transmitter, and presto - soccer-playing bot.

AI! overheat! webcam above the playing field feeds an lmageinm a com,puler. Sof1ware proc'l!sses the image In order to identify fFae robot and fIN! ball. d·etert1linJe' the s:patial relationship between fhl! MO, and ealeulatl! !the r:obOt',snm moves. The softwal'll!' then sends the corresponding commantis to ihe robot via im,rarreD (IR) transmitter. The ,robot acts accordi~ly.

Our' sofiw,Olr,e is wriUen in Java, wlik'h rUI1IS,OJl mos!!: cemputars. Using a ~(}I}I,calieti! LeJOS,

we ,(weat.e r:epkH<el1i1enil1 finnwar'e for our RG.X mi,crocontroller;lfhe big yelllolN Lego piece1i!;lmit serves as ~liIle' bra ins 00 1t:I111e LegD M'i'nds~C!,r,ms ~l)l7otics .sy.stem .. The, f[ew firmw,ar·e, enables our Java ,ootle· to ,contml ~1iIi,e Lego robot.

On ~he':hmdw a re side. we;1I construct ~be'

pblyi ng file Id, rn Gu.rru~ ~he' camera ~IJ fhll,ceiliilig, anrd IbLllilt! I!:li.erobot using Lego Mindls'lorms. The robotfellows.a simple' desigtl,th.a't rasambles a itatlk TL:h.elle's !}nly 50 'mU.D~ Iroo'm om lU!:,e :playing field, so fl:!,e I'l)bot is small, and it :follow,s t.h e Leg~ desigii'l !mIlO!i m 1Of' u,sing as few piecllS<ls possible to gel!: !U1:,ejeJ'b clone.


ac kn owl,edgement

meves from game manager

,--------, .-----~--

Game Manager

lihe :so1l1ware is whel's the blackmagic comes in. Here's the ~ol'l'·I'eIlHlloo,p, wlTIlich! cenfin lieu sly tracks the fi>eld and sends cemrnands 1\0 the ,bot.

90 IM .. · •• ' '""lUI .... 08


[A] COrJ"lpu~erwith inte:rI1et eennaetlen

[8] Apple iSight. or o'l!her web~iII11


[FJ Assorted colors of cul'Isib'udiun paper

[L] Tape rnaasure

[M1] Scissors

~G] AA bOltteries (6)

[Nil Utility knJi'fe

[H] Clear packing tape

~O] Black marker

~C] Lego MindJitarms

Robilitics Imenfrioll System [J] Glue s~iI;k (RIS} ,2.0

[0] 15" FireWire cable

[E] 32")(40" black ngid'weight <lrt boards (4), or other mort-erials to make

a fl ... !:. smooth, evenly black 3:4 ra t,io I'ed;arngu~ar surface

Su:c:~ as {lmot shown): .20"x30" whih! f·eam 'core boards (8), wi[l~ 22"lC2Sn bhlGk :post'ln'boowdis .~6) to oove,r, er 20" )(30'" hi a ek 1:0am cora boards (8)

- maka sura ifs :really' black, 110t d.ark gray

Drawing compass (not shown}

[K1 Thumbtacks

Soolch tape (nM :sh,owtiU)

Step ladder (not shown)

Ping-pong ball ('flot slitOwn)

Velcro (,optional)

Dud tape I~op~imnal)


(Oipti enal i'f yO' lIl' raeoveri ng 1'U}I1-b hUlk. fomm (lor,e)

1!.l1..1<e! '91




Time: 3-7 da



A black field sets the stage for simple. clear image analysis by reducing shadows. Goal areas are brightly colored rectangles. and a cover for the robot uses two clearly visible circles to indicate wh ich end is front enid which is back.

la.leu! amid ta.pe together foam COl1e, art board, or other rigid material to make a fie Id proportl 0 na I to you!' webcam'saspect ratio (4:3 tor the 640x480 iSightandothers). This

lets the camera capture maximum infOrmation. If you need to cover the field with black posterboard or paper, rubber-cement it down and touch up any non-black areas. witha marker.

lll, Make the goal boxes. Cuttwo rectangles out of bright construction paper, To help the sofitwar,e (s,ee sideblN~ pag!3 97). their width/depth ratio should be at least 1.5 or. even better .. 2. Glue-stick the rectangles to opposite ends of the playing field,







.2.0" 2: 0" .2.0" 6·"

19 .. 5"

l......__.......__........__ .............

Ie. Ma.l'~e the robot cover, Pick out a different color of bright construction paper, U se 1'1 compass. and scissors to cut OU t two circles with radlii of]" and 1.75"', Glue the circles, lined up and centered, on opposite ed~ges. of a 6.5"' square cut from black paper or posterooard,

92 IM .. · •• ' '""lUI .... 08

The size ,of fi,eld ifuHlc;,IHI10 fill tile· view ,04 a (N:!iling'!fu;mrllllffi,eci webearn will depen.d! on Mhe· 11i,eigh~ 0'1 your 'ce·mng.

I. used leiglnn'l 20"x3Q" :sh"H~·~g of w·hi~,e foam 'DON!, t!rimrmed as :shownl. tiO rna ke a 49"x€l6"'fi,eld .. Then II cevara iii the l'op wiilh

15 pieces of ,2,,2,"x2.8" black 'pos~,etbQ~nitL

'tOlU 'Cam also USe 4:sheet:s of 3.2:"x4D"' !bl.OIdk art board ~:o make-a 6·0"·x80" 'Held. J u:sit ,cui!: 4" off iI:'he wid~h of 2 b 0<1 ~til:5.

Oep erndil1g '@1111 th e eoler oiyout floo.r,

ill: mOlY h el p~OI put a whiil:e border around ~he Hel d. hy tuo k i.ng rpaper under th e edges.

To Imake yUill' field! lea sl er to :store. cu t it b'Hlk. down along ~'he ,elilges of ·the orlglnal rf)i,eoes, and! .ai!tadTI Veloro across t he :seam S un~·ertn.eath so you ,oan pi,eoe i't:baok ~ogether.



You probably don't want to drill holes in your nice ceiling to mount a webcam, so here's an easy camera bracket that. combines. the two greatest prototyping materials ever: Lego and tape.

2,a. Figulfe out ",ow:to snap weilca'm image.s ilfl!'llIm y,olJr comlPlJb~l'. ~ used Quicklime to control an Apple iSight l[ you're not u sing an iSight. useanother webcam that's supported by Java Med la Framework (JMF> or oth er open source drivers. S etup details can be fru strafing. but they're just one of those pains that you sometimes have to wade through,

2b. COliilned2 pairs of 6-unit and lO-unlit beams

2c. Add 2 half-bushes threaded. over a lO-unit axle.

2d. Sna.p beams cliosswa,y's on

top of four .2x1.o plates, Thread two 12-unit beams upright over th eaxle, and thread a second , 8-u nit axle ju st above. Secure beams with 4 bushes.

2e. 'fhl'E!.ad an ,a.-unit axle aad bushes through the 8 holes up in the beams, Place the FireWire cable plugon top, and secure it firmly in place with another axle and bushes,

2<1'. TIlIN:!ad the Filll'iWill',e calll~ iletweel1 the beams ale ng the plates. Finish off by placing two .2x8 grey plates with holes over the low ends

of th e beams. and plug the camera to the cable,

2g. lIJI'nplug thecame~a aad secure the bracket to the c,eiling with 10!"1g strips. of tape, relnforced with th~mbtacks so it won't peel.away. Rwn the cable along the ceiling toward the computer, and tape it up. Wherl you're confident your bracket is secure, connectyour camera and point it directly downward.

~OTE: In the i()gosDr~fr co.lIle bundle at rniike&jne 'com/06/Iego50ccer. l've irncluded 'iI Ja va script named webcampreview.sh that 1.15eS QuickTil1lle

for previewing witll tbe wabeam, Check Ute ReadMe 'file lor li:etai Is.

TI P: Wllel~ YOll remove your bracket hom till! celllng, LI!i1! adhesive rarnover to claan tlitings up.


211. Bring up tlnle pPti!view pane illl YOUIf webea.m sofiw'a.lI'f!.. Position the field] to fill the camera's field of view. a For advice on balancing your camera's focal length and distance, see makezine.com/06/legosoccer/focal.




3.a. SI'ide· :3 bushes, a whee.lsprodcet, and a fourth bush ontoa :lO-uniit. a.xle. Push them together so the fourth bush sits JL5 bush-lengths. from the end.

310_ Slide a bush,.a wheel sp'lI'ocket,

a IS-tooth gear, and a .24-tootlt:J gear onto an g-unitaxle. Pu sh together so th at the s mailer gear 'fits inside the wheel sprocketand holds it in place.

3e. lra kea !LB-unit: beam 'With the studs t.acing upwa,rds. Slide the 8-unit and ],a-unit axle assemblies througheither end o·j the beam. sprocket side first one h ole in from the ends, Secure them in place with 2 halt-bushes, and stretch a tank tread around the wheel sprockets,

3d. l'hread a 4-llInit: beam and a 12- urniili: beam, studs pointing up. onto the other sidles ofthe axles asshown, with the 4-unit beam on the geared axle. Secure with half-bus.hes.

3e. Make.a mirtlol' lmage .of time tll'ack you just made, for the other side of the chassis. Then take four .2x8 green plates and assemble them into a square. Snap th.e tank tracks onto the sql.Uare, with the beams staggered by ] unit, as shown.

3f. For the robot's motor Illiock. take two lx2 plat:es 'With ex.tend'ed mils, and saildlwich one corner ofa .2x4 black brick, with the rails pointing outward, Place a plain lx2 grey plate next to each, to level out til e surface.

3g. Sandwich tile lx:2 plates with

a grey .2x2 p,I03t'6 ,above a.rnd a blue 2)(2 plate be.low. Stack 2. more gr,ey 2x2 pi ates an d attach them under the black brick to level aut the bottom.

3111. Slide the rail ext,ensi(llI'lS lnto the grooves in the side o,t a motor piece.

3i, R,epeat St'6PS 3f t,o·3h. making a mirror image. for the other motor. Place the motors s ide by side so the gears. face outward,

3j. Join the 2: m(lltors :toget:lm,er 'with, a grey perforated 2;<4 plate connecting the black bricks, on top. Top the in side half of the perforated plate with a l!.x4 gray plate stacked on a 1x,4 beam. and then reinforce the [oln with twa parallel 2x4 yellow plates. building a platform above the motorsas.shown. Seta lx2 brick on each side of [11 e yellow plates. at the rear ,edge.

3k. Join the motors tog,et'helr with two ])(4 gr,ey plates 'on the underside ofthe block.

31. Slip, a !l2-tooth bevel ge.03il' ,ewell" each ofthe 2 axles, Setthe motor block onthe chasslsso that the gears mesh and the back of the motor block is flush with; the back ofthe chassis.


3m. Stack 4 pairs ot :2x,2 brlocks onto either endof two 2 x6 perforated plates, Then lay these compound beams across the chassis beam sin 'fmnt ot the motor block, one block on the very front, and the other toward the middle, These will support the deck.

3111. Placea lx.2 platerDli'leaCl1rof tw·o, shoirt(6") wire C'I)I1II'l1E!c'h)rs, and place the connectors on top of the connection spots on the motor block, with wires facing outward.

30. Ma.keai deck with two 12-l!Jlilit beams supporting a 6>:10 plate. a lx6 plate joining the beams underneath. andl.2 more ];.;6 plates, extem:lingalong the beams above, as shown (underside),

313' Affix: tile deck onto the ehassls sothat it overlaps the chassis' front edge by only 1 u 11: it. The deck's lx6 plates. shou Idflan k the yellow plates. Set. a perforated 2>:4 plate in the center of the yellow plates,

3q. Cover the hole with two 2.x10 plates centered on top of the chassis, leaving the front 4 units on the 6dO deck plate uncovered.

3r. F,or the IfOlJ.ot's "gra.bber'· .ann, arrange two Ix9 lift arms. so that they form a Y shape, and connect them with 1x2 and.2 x2 grey plates.

91l· IM .. · •• ' '""lUI .... 08

3s. I nsert .AA baUer'ies into the ReX unit Place .2 pairs. of stacked 1x.2 gray plates. on the RCX, just above the #1 and #3 connection slots. Mtach the grabber arm to the grey 2x6 plate under the front of the robot, and! secure the ReX on the chassis so that thefront of th e robot is flush Finally, connect the cables from the motor block onto the Rex SOl that they " r,e joined to a pposite sides, with th e cables wrapping around theoutsideas shown. Th e port (left) side motor connects to block C. anld the starboard (right) motor connects to block A,

3t, Your robot is complete! Tape the cover on top, with the smaller ." head" circle 'facing torward, and make su re the grabber arm extends out past the cover; SOUlS ping-pang ball will always be fully visible from above.


4a,. Install the Java SDK. If you've done any Java programming. you probably already h,av,e it installed Confirm by typing j1W~C and jm. into a terminal win dow. I f not, download the latest from lava ,sun.cam/12se.

4.1:i. lnsta II LeJOS. Down load the version specific to you r platte rrn from leios.so 1..Jr!::e forge.net. Readl the datu mentation. which explains how to set lip your Java classpath and oth eo environment variables., The LeJOS site also h as, some good tutorials and a signup page for ttl e lejos-dlscuss ion list, which isa great way to stay up-to-date with other LeJOS users (including me). After downloading LeJOS. install it and test your environ merit by opening up a prompt and typing inlQjo$ and lojosc, to, make sure tl1 ey'rs in your path,

4c. D,owl1loa.I!iI, install, and run NetBea.liiIs (netbeans.org). Alternatively, you can run any other Java development environment, but NetBeans is what I used to develop the LegoSocoer code,

4tl1. NetBeBI1IS isn"t ,8w·al'\e af LeJOS by def:.8iJltt, so we need to point it to the LeJOS.libraries. On the Tools -> l.lbrary Manager menu item, createa I"l ~w library item and add the to IJr LeJOS JAR files. located in you r $LEJO$_HOMEllib dlir,ectory.

4e. So tha,t iNetBealiils call ,c'ompile our ReX code, we also need to, modify a couple of project files to make them aware o'f the LeJOS compiler. Follow the LeJOS FAQ instructions at. makezine.com/go/lejos to make thesechanges, ~ f you're not using Net8eans or don't Ieel llke customizing it. you can also just compile the RCX rnlcrocontrojler oode manually.

1!.II..I<o! 97


4:f. Dawl1lroad the laqosoccer project source code at makezine.com/06/Iep,osoccer.

4g. from within N,etBeans, ropen l1he pN)ject ifile.sandcompile each of the two project directories in eluded, Leg,oSoocer and RCX5erver, Be aware that by default. only the project you have set to be the "main project" will compile. So you need tor select each project separately and navigate to Set Main Project 'for each before compiling with B~ ild Project.

411. Plug the leg,a I R tra riismitter '!;,Qwell' into. you r computerand position it to face onto th e field.

You're don e! ,All the pieces are in place. You"ve con structed a pleying field Tor less th an th e cost of a few refreshments at a stadium. Your ceiling-cam is mounted and! ready to provide live coverage. An d a lightweight and agile player is, waiting on the sidelines screaming, "Coach, put me in!" Now. let's pull aut the ping-pong ball and get ready to. rumble!



As OUT' :soth,.mr'e :prm:ess.es the pl.aying fi,!!ldI image, i't: [p'erforms tllte,!!' tasks: it Im::aities ifhe objHci!'s a§ai:n:st U~I,e, background, i~ idel1.tifi.es tll.el1ii .and th,e rt!i:ipiwt'i'OIiS th,'ey're poil~~irmg, and i[ figures out how tlte robot shculd mov,e in order ill} gelt where i~ needs 'io go. Here's how the software' accomplishes these sbeps,

Identifying BIQbs i .. an Image

Our brains au~omatically translate what we see i,~to a 3D'map of th,e objects aroumi! us, bill'!' this is a complex [p:roce,ss, as ami)' Ali rasaarehercan fiell yo<u. To make

it aasie r, we :s.et Li;P a b I ae k ba okgroumti and b.rig'hritly colored (Jr~jreds. This lets cur 'soUwar,e scan Ulie, lm.age until i~ fin ds a brigh.~ lpixel. When it ~ind5 one" i~' searehes file iml1i'll!llliate area fer Imor'!! pixels t:lmt ane ,flbow, flile brightness ihmshiold. :i:hef\eby disol)v,er=

i ng a ny 1m ge blobs of cr(Jintig linus brigh 1i:tlI,ess. 1":lile ~ it corriirrues 'o:rru m:o ~he' rest of~he' image. This is c,allreda depth-fjn;t !'leofl1J'b' because t,h,e program axpluras as far along each :branch aspesslbls before' rnevlng on,

Clilssifying Blobs

Now we· w.m'rtfo know whi,ch color-blobs are the g,oals, whiCh ara ilhe robet's .IilJ<ead ,and t:ail, and wl1liclill is. th e

bal L We do 11'111 is 'by looki ng ait ithe i r {)~I ers a n dI shapes, Our bl,o,b-cl.assifyimg routine first delt,ermi.rnes iI'he ba:u:tlla. ing ~ for 'each blob, which is Um r,ecm.ngul.ar area that fullye,ani"aitls the !lln.b. If tile width oil the boundlng !brrx ,equ.als i~s h eighil, then we probably ,lTIlave aelrela 01' bOlli, 'tatherit'l1Iatll Otn.e of the hl,nglreci:angu:largoalatieas.As a double-cheek, we then ,compare ~.he· area ,1M' the boundi'ng hox with ~he'ariea of the blob lnslde.H the blob area is :significantly smallerthan ffihe box, ~he bl,o<b is:prob· :ably I~OUltn:d, and tln.e :bou'nti!i:ng holt area indu:des corners that Une lblob doesn't fill. 'Wi~11I a m~isy source image'. hothl of 'ihese simple ~es!ls ,cal~ be fooled! :bya square-ish rfieda ngle ,_ wh le h is why +h e go,al 'box raeta ngles need to have widthJ:dl,epth ratios ",~f ,a~ least 1.5 ..

Getting Where You Wan na GD

Now we need t'!~ t,ell the I~obot w:hat t'!~ do. Firs!twe' detretn:line the robot's l,olliJt'i·otl as fhreimidway 'p'oini: between the twocircle's ceruers, and its heading as the .anlgle f,ormedi by file' twocenters ami the' x-axls:

sloprn ::: (yJai! - y. head) I tx, tail- x, h@ad)

. ~ - - .

The' robot's angle to the ball (n) is the' arctangent of trllLe slope betwe,en robot and ball. The diUer,ence between ill is atngJe (a.) and tM, :roboi'scut't',enrr heading (~) rieffietmines ,Imw 1at' i'BheuHi turn,

Using ,cakullafions like tlillis., youl carl get tln.e ItTOhGt: ~o hit tl"",· ball into fll e goal, avoid eolllslons, and! do oUmer trlcks, The actl on is'nl't ~asffi'·paced, alnce it' takes. time [<t. pass the infr.aredartd process 'the imag e, Slit we'rresllt,elkhi.ng ~he limits of Liege here,

Our ,sofilw.ar,e d,eiinles.a Java class witl1l 'ITI<I!!hodis for e a c'l~ of t'llese low-level behaviors. 1r11l'ese are called, in, turrru, by simpl'e shell scripilts youc.atnl.i.tlivok,e frrom th'e·,eollilmandlli'l1l,e·::

gotoball.sh,golagoaLsh., an.d goa lshot.sh