Building the Hexagonal Junk Array

The Hexagonal Repurposed Junk Array #1

I finally got around to writing an article on the construction of the Hexagonal Repurposed Junk Array #1, my art piece for RZN8, this year’s Art Conspiracy SEED auction. The piece was made from surplus electronics and laser-cut salvaged acrylic. It functioned as a combination speaker dock and retro-style light organ for MP3 players. And for those who were about to ask: my audio player is a Sansa Clip+ running Rockbox, the open source audio player firmware that runs on some iPods and other players.

My write-up includes lots of photos and some video shot during construction and after completion. There are links to more photos of the piece and of the ArtCon RZN8 auction. I included all the SVG drawings used to laser cut the parts. I provided a brief description of the LED driver circuit but didn’t bother including a schematic since it only has four components and is pretty trivial. The speaker pods would probably have to be modified to fit another pair of speakers but, otherwise, I think there’s enough info in the article to allow you to build your own unit. If you build one, send me a photo.

2012 ASABE Robot Contest Photos

2012 ASABE Robot Competition

I was able to attend the 2012 robot competition of the American Society of Agricultural & Biological Engineers (ASABE) recently. When did agricultural engineering students start studying robots? Just as students in any field need to know about computers, it seems robots too are becoming ubiquitous. This year’s contest was designed to encourage students to think about ways robots could solve agricultural problems such as optimizing distribution of feed in cattle lots.

The competition field is intended to represent a scale model of a cattle feed lot containing many cattle pens. Within each pen is a feed container. The robot’s job is to read feed allotments from a flash card provided at the start of the run and distribute the correct amount of feed into each pen’s feed container. Feed is simulated by 6mm Airsoft pellets. Judges score the robots based on both speed and accuracy. The weight of each feed container is measured after a run. Robots lost points if they collided with fences or walls, or if the they required hands-on assistance from a human during a run.

The feed pellets complicated the competition in a way I’ve not seen in other types of events. If a robot missed a feed container and dumped a load of feed pellets onto the playing field, it created a constantly changing area of small obstacles that the robot had to move through.

I was impressed by the range of feed dispensing mechanisms the contestants came up with, ranging from elegant and simple to over-engineered Rube Goldberg contraptions. You can see more photos of the event in my flickr set: ASABE Student Robotics Contest 2012. I also wrote a bit more about the event in the October 2012 issue of SERVO Magazine.

Books I’m Reading

If anybody out there is a long-time reader of this blog, you may recall that at one time in the distant past, I used to mention what books I was reading. I haven’t done that in a long time and it occurred to me today that it would be really trivial to do now that I’m using WordPress. So I’ve added a new little box over in the right sidebar where you can find out what I’m currently reading. It’s usually several books at once. Susan and I always have a book we’re reading aloud to each other. We take turns picking the next book. Often it’s a book that at least one of us has read before. I also have at least one book on the headboard at all times for that night time urge to read as the brain winds down for sleep. And I have a variety of transient books that come and go quickly just because I’m interested in the topic at the moment and want to read (or re-read) them.

So what about you? Do you read multiple books at once or do you read them one at time? If you have any recommendations for books to read, I’d love to hear them.