Category Archives: robotics

Robotics Weekend Workshop for Girls Grades 8 – 12

CRASH Member Craig and his FTC robotics team are looking for new recruits for the Rock N Roll Robots Weekend Summer Workshop!

Robotics Weekend Workshop for Girls Grades 8 – 12

The Rock N’ Robots Summer Workshop is an overnight program created and run by current members of the Rock N’ Roll Robots Girl Scouts robotics team, with help from team parents and mentors from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The camp is designed to prepare girls to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics tournament. (Although participants are not required to join a robotics team.)

Robotics Weekend Workshop for Girls Grades 8 – 12 Robotics Weekend Workshop for Girls Grades 8 – 12


  • Upon arrival, campers will be organized into teams. Over the course of their weekend, each team will build and program a robot to compete in a mini-tournament on Sunday afternoon.
  • As part of this process, campers will receive instruction in the technical skills necessary to build a robot; like design, construction, and programming. In addition, campers will be introduced to other important skills like team building, fundraising, public outreach, and competition strategy.
  • But it’s not all hard work. This camp is planned by Girl Scouts who love to hang out and have a good time! Workshops will be mixed with team building activities, a movie night, and of course, s’mores around the campfire.
  • Family and friends are invited to join us at 3pm on Sunday to watch the tournament and cheer for their favorite robot.

For more information, check out the flyer!

A year of Robot Club

One late winter evening, a group of a dozen men and women gathered around a couple tables in the cramped upstairs of a hackerspace. It was the inaugural meeting of the Robot Club, and there had already been some lobbying and promoting of projects. It was generally deemed that the group should work on related projects so as to help each other. The front runner, and first project undertaken was the quadcopter.

This was an ambitious undertaking. We wanted these to be able to carry a GoPro, which meant it would be heavier and more expensive than typical learner flight craft. Though we weren’t experienced enough to know this at the time… After a few mad weeks of research, we had a BOM (Bill Of Materials) of something that might, in theory, fly. Ravi provided some much needed expertise with robotics and RC. John and Matt pulled together the specs, hoping that the calculations for propellers, motors, and battery would be okay. Parts were ordered to build 10, and the waiting began…

But while we waited, we invited people in to demo various robots and help us learn what might be needed. Ali demoed a robot from a UW Engineering class that does maze solving using ultrasonic sensors and SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). One of the primary challenges of robotics: dealing with uncertain data and the disparity between reality and the model.

Many thanks to Jim, who put together a CopterVm, and presented a lot of research around which FOSS software to use for flight control.

When the parts finally arrived, we were able to assemble and they were able to fly with surprisingly few tweaks. The first few flights were just up, hover for a while, then land. We didn’t really expect it to go well, so it was still impressive…

A year of Robot Club A year of Robot Club

After a few test flights, some UFO sightings were reported. ☺

A year of Robot Club

Many tweaks were simply hacks, like soldering the right battery connectors, which didn’t match. There were a lot of neat innovations stemming from the original project! Ryan demonstrated the importance of not flying indoors. Neil designed a shock absorbing landing gear. Jim outfitted his with remotely dimmable lights. Enrico built an emergency parachute.

A year of Robot Club A year of Robot Club

A year of Robot Club A year of Robot Club

We flashed SimonK onto the ESCs — taking care as we discovered that some of these were the newer models with inferior response time, so we had to wait for a new version that didn’t cause these to melt and fall from the sky. Kanoa replaced the frame with a more rugged one and mounted both a FPV (remote First Person View) and GoPro.

A year of Robot Club A year of Robot Club

After the summer, the projects diversifies a little for two reasons: we didn’t want to fly in the cold and dark, and others were coming out with their robots. Chris has been working on a balance bot. David has made some really cool muscle controlled actuators. Shaun hacked a RC car to turn it into a bot. There have been multi leg walkers and several other robots.

A year of Robot Club


The winter project was a tiny robot, which autonomously does challenges. We only got around to doing some line following, though looked into several other sensors too.

A year of Robot Club A year of Robot Club


Here’s an ESP8266 hooked up to 9 axis sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer) sending the information to ROS.

A year of Robot Club

We’ve learned a lot about a lot of tech. We’ve used Arduino, Teensy, RaspPi, ESP8266, and MultiWii. Sensors include accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, GPS, IR reflectance sensor, ultrasonic rangefinder. We’ve used 3D printers and a laser cutter. Software includes: ArduPilot, Robot OS, OpenSCAD, Vagrant, APM Planner, MAVProxy, mavlink, Linux, OpenCV (Computer Vision). Hope to have more frequent updates going forward!

CNC SIG Meeting Wed 7 May 2015

The Computer Numeric Control (CNC) Special Interest Group (SIG) will be meeting again on WEDNESDAY 7 May… note the change of day. there is another meeting using the space on tuesday.

Come down and talk story about CNC machines large and small. We will review our Shapeoko machine and discuss upgrade options. Attendees are encouraged to bring pics and samples of their own machines (i’ll assume the machines themselves are not that portable.)

First time attendance is open to all. After that we request you become at least a Friend level member of our group.

Soft Robots for Hard Problems

What is a soft robot anyway? Over the last few weeks I’ve been giving demos at Resistor to show students what they are, what they’re good for, and how you can make your own.

Resistor was host to two meetup groups: the ACM NYC Group and the Soft Robotics Technology Group. During the demonstrations I gave a brief overview of the state of the art in soft robotics and then went into how I designed and built my most popular soft robot to date: the Glaucus.

Students helped out by casting waxes, degassing silicone, and pouring up molds themselves. Maybe soon I’ll come up with a way to get an even more hands-on demo where people can each make a bot themselves to take home.

Below you can find video from the ACM lecture:


Nova Mini Maker Faire 2015

2nd Annual NoVa Mini Maker Faire, March 15, 2015

The NoVa Maker Faire is gearing up for its second annual family-friendly event that will bring more than 100 makers to a fun-filled day celebrating the diversity of makers across the region. The Faire will take place on March 15, 2015 from 10am to 5 pm at Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia.

The Faire will include makers, activities, speakers and sponsors. Makers will share their knowledge through hands-on projects for adults and kids on topics ranging from blacksmithing and primitive skills to 3D printing, drones and robots to building customized equipment for special needs children to creative art-making. Makers will be grouped in neighborhoods by their topic. Neighborhoods include: Young Makers, Creativity Lane, Drone Zone, Robotics, 3D Printing Village, Science Lab, Flight Path, Sustainability Village, and more.

Nova Labs members will be presenting Vehicles – Flight Simulator and Go Kart, STEM4Makers, Top Drone, and others.

There are many other makers to explore. The Chaos Machine is a large marble machine that can be modified by participants. Gravity is Optional presents science experiments you can do at home. The DC Area Drone User Group will also demonstrate drone design and capabilities. Jennifer Gluck of JenmadeIt and Jade Garret will present adaptive equipment for special needs children. Artistic topics include hand spinning yarn, creating art from recycled materials, 3D printed artwork, woodworking, and creating ArtBots presented by the Children’s Science Center.

You can learn about makerspaces in area schools at Camelot ES, Kilmer MS and Falls Church HS; the STEAM program at South Lakes HS; Robotics program at Westfield HS, and the maker program at Loudoun Country Day School.

There will also be five activities for Faire-goers to try: Nerdy Derby, Catapults and Ballistas, KEVA Planks, GEMS Take Apart Zone and Demo-Vation with UpCycle Creative Reuse Center. Nerdy Derby is a no-rules miniature car building and racing competition inspired by the Cub Scouts’ Pinewood Derby. In the Catapults and Ballistas you can explore trajectory, torsion, torque, force, and materials using these safe tools. KEVA Planks are addictive small building blocks to build and explore with – fun for children and adults. In the GEMS Take Apart Zone you can disassemble machines to explore how things work. And then in the adjacent Demo-Vation with UpCycle Creative Reuse Center you can create something new out of these discarded elements.

Children building with KEVA Planks. Over 10,000 KEVA Planks will be available for building during the Faire, courtesy of KEVA Planks.

G EMS (Girls in Engineering, Math & Science) Take Apart Zone

Nova Mini Maker Faire 2015

The Faire will present eight speakers this year including: Dr. Lance Bush, CEO of The Challenger Center for Space Science Education; Jennifer Gluck who creates DIY adaptive equipment for special needs children; Vicky Somma, winner 2014 White House 3D Printed Design Challenge; and Chris Vo, Chief Scientist at Sentien Robotics and President of DC Area Drone User Group.

V icki Somma, winner 2014 White House 3D Printed Design Challenge, will present “3D Printing Without a Printer”

Nova Mini Maker Faire 2015

Credit – Vicki Somma

Food will be available for sale on site by area food trucks including: Doug the Food Dude, Fava Pot, Hardy BBQ, Mama’s Donut Bites and Tasty Kabob.

Advance tickets are available online now. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children through March 14, 2015. Tickets at the door are $20 for adults and $8 for children. Volunteer opportunities are still available which include a free admission ticket.

The Faire is thankful for the support of its sponsors including: Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax Connector, The Innovation Fund of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, Google, AOL, School for Tomorrow, Reston Association, and Merrill Lynch. Community partners include: Reston Community Center, GEMS (Girls Excelling in Math & Science), and Workhouse Arts Center. Media sponsors include Activity Rocket and Reston Association.

Free parking is available at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station in the County garage. Free shuttle bus service will be provided from the south side of the Metro station to Langston Hughes Middle School and South Lakes High School. Only handicapped parking is available at the schools. A bike valet will be available at the event.

Check the mobile website for complete list of makers and speakers, to volunteer and to purchase tickets. The site will be finalized the week of the Faire.

Nova Mini Maker Faire 2015

Blacksmithing, Credit – Everest Gromoll

Nova Mini Maker Faire 2015

Drone from DC Area Drone Group, credit – DC Area Drone Group

Nova Mini Maker Faire 2015

Solutions for special needs by Jennifer Gluck, Maker and Speaker, Credit – Jennifer Gluck

Sumobot Tournament and Halloween Party

Saturday November 1 will be LVL1′s 5th annual Sumobot tournament and Halloween party. I know it is the day after Halloween, but you will not be ready to put your costume up, will you? So dress up and bring your Sumobots down to the space and fight them for eternal glory and fame! Don’t have […]

BarBot Fundraising Party – Saturday, 16 August

The initial design for BarBot.

On Saturday, 16th August, Nottingham Hackspace will be hosting the BarBot Fundraiser Party.

Members of Nottingham Hackspace have been working steadily on BarBot, a cocktail-making robot, since March. This robot will serve cocktails at Electromagnetic Field, the hacker camp in Bletchley on 29 – 31 August.

BarBot has been a labour of love for these members, and on Saturday, 16th August, you can see BarBot in action, and help out to support BarBot contributors for the cost of materials used, and start buying ingredients to take to EMF Camp.

The party will start at 6pm, and run until 9pm. It will give you a chance to see BarBot in action, and enjoy a robot-made cocktail or non-alcoholic drink. Plus, members will be getting together to design artwork and décor for BarBot, choose a name, and enjoy the robotically engineered drinking experience.

For more information on BarBot, please see the Wiki page on BarBot. For more information on the fundraising party, please contact Mouse.

Razorbots Class!

We are thrilled to announce our Razorbots class August 10-17! Razorbots are small, simple R/C robots that wield razorblades against one another to pop their opponent’s balloon. They’re good fun even for the most seasoned roboticist and a great entry point for anybody who wants to learn about robotics, electronics, or DIY tech in general. Sign up here!

The class will take place over 2 sessions: The first, on Sunday August 10 2pm-4pm, will be the introduction and kickoff. A classroom discussion will be held to explain tech stuff, followed by distribution of components and a build party. You’ll then have the rest of the week to finish your robot at your own pace using the tools and resources available at Hive76. The second session will be held on the following Sunday, August 17, again at 2pm. This is where your Razorbot will prove its mettle against all others and battle for the coveted Inaugral Razorbot Cup! Both classes are open to continue well past 4pm!

The class cost is $150 per kit (more than one person is welcome to share a kit; bring friends and split the cost! Bring the family!)

  • 2.4GHZ 4-Channel Radio System
  • Servo mixer
  • 2 continuous rotation servos + wheels for drive system
  • 2 sub-micro servos for weapon arms
  • 2 razorblades
  • 1 battery holder
  • AA batteries for robot + radio
  • 36″ of 1/4″ square wooden dowel rod
  • 6″ x 6″ square fiberboard

We will be supplying additional materials such as fishing line, hot glue, balloons and painters tape. We will be following a constricted rule set to keep everybody on an even playing field. You’ll have to rely on cunning, ingenuity, and driving skill to win. The rules are those we’ve been following at Hive76 with our prototype Razorbots:

“You may only use what’s in your kit, plus hot glue. Absolutely no outside materials or fasteners. Your fiberboard base must remain a 6″ square. At the start of the match, your entire robot must fit within the 6″ square, drive wheels excluded. Your balloon must be mounted dead center on your bot. It may only be as high as if it were sitting on the battery pack. ‘Defensive’ structures are not allowed. You may not build a wooden framework to shelter your balloon. All construction must be offensive. You must construct feet under your 6″ square to ensure that it remains vaguely level.

Two robots, one tabletop arena. Last robot to have its balloon intact is the winner.”

Of course, rules may be bent as the class organizer sees fit.

At the completion of this class, not only will you have a one-of-a-kind razor toothed robot, but also the know-how to move onto more sophisticated robotics projects. Plus, all the components in the kits can be reused and reconfigured any number of ways in a variety of R/C and robotics projects.

Due to lead time on components, the signup deadline is FRIDAY JULY 11
Class reservations:

What? Robots armed with flailing razor blades attempt to pop their opponent’s balloon.
When? Sundays August 10th + 17th 2pm-4pm. Deadline to sign up is Friday, July 11.
How? Make a reservation at
Who? All ages! Minors under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Where? Hive76 – 915 Spring Garden Suite #519, Philadelphia, PA 19123
How much? $150

About the instructor: Daniel Provenzano is Hive76′s resident roboticist. With over ten years experience building fighting robots, he also holds a BS Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University. Currently he works as a civilian engineer for the US Navy specializing in machinery acoustics. His most recent robotics project can be found here.

Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics

Editors Note: This is a guest blog post by Beth Riddick, who grows and sells Heirloom Tomato seedlings at her home at 792 Grant St, Herndon, VA to raise money for Nova Labs FIRST Robotics teams. This year’s sale was held Saturday April 26th.

I saw first hand how Robotics benefited both my kids, even though they are very different from each other. After my son, Ian, took part in Tom Welsh’s LEGO Robotics team, he started to say how he really loved math and wanted to program robots for a living. My daughter, Leah, joined the Herndon High—NASA Headquarters Team 116, and helped establish an Animation Award hosted by Team 116. She brought her writing skills and creativity to the team.

Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics

FIRST Robotics gives young inventors a way to pursue their passion, the same way that sports programs give athletes a chance to  perform at their best. FIRST also teaches kids to work with people of different talents to create something new and exciting.

Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs RoboticsJust as we give every kid a chance to try sports, we need to make Robotics available to every child. The best way to do this is to incorporate it into our schools, as we do with sports, art, drama, and music. Until that happens, groups like Nova Labs Robotics gives kids that opportunity.

Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs RoboticsAnd since I can’t coach, I fundraise!

Rather than sell the tomatoes themselves, we sell the seedlings for gardeners to grow their own plants. The varieties we offer are rarely found in nurseries: dwarf tomatoes that can be grown in pots but produce full-sized, delicious fruit; blue tomatoes that produce anthocyanins in their skin.

Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics

All of them are heirlooms, so as long as you make sure they are not cross-pollinated by a different type, you can save the seeds and grow the same type next year. Of course, you’re always welcome to come back and buy new seedlings from us.

Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics

Each year, we offer varieties we have grown in our garden ourselves as well as some that are new to us. We mark the ones we have grown before with an asterisk, and only bring back varieties that we really love.

This pic was taken about a week ago.

Robot Tomato Sale Seeks to Raise $5,000 for Nova Labs Robotics

Cherokee Purple is an old favorite dating back to the 1800′s. Indigo Apple is a new variety that we hope to test this year.

Along with tomato seedlings, we have seedlings for sweet and hot peppers, eggplants, and basil, over 50 varieties in total.  We suggest a $3 donation for a well-formed seedling in a 3-inch pot.

With gratitude, I invite all of you back to my front porch. Have a cup of coffee with us, chat about tomatoes, choose something special for your garden.

Beth Riddick
Robot Tomatoes

Robot Gripper Improvements

Solidworks Gripper Design by Karl Williams

Designing and creating robot grippers and wrists is something I enjoy working on. Becoming proficient in Solidworks has been a great tool for creativity and realizing designs. The picture above shows a Solidworks rendering of the latest gripper design. Being able to assemble the parts in Solidworks and simulate the movement speeds up the design process. Any miscalculations or wrong dimensions are caught immediately. The last gripper I blogged about was too small for the arm I’m working on right now so I was happy to start designing a new one. This gripper has a smaller parts count, a wider grip of 3-inches and because of the ribs, uses less plastic when 3D printed. I will probably add a top cover as well.

Robot Gripper Improvements

3D Printed Gripper



















The gripper was printed with a Makergear M2 3D printer in PLA plastic. Because the design and simulation was done in CAD, the first print was perfect. I will be blogging about the robot wrist soon. Here are the previous gripper related blog entries:

Karl P. Williams