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  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 19:01
    Retrotectacular: The Science of Derailing Trains

    retrotechtacular-derailing-trains

    Look closely above and you’ll see there’s a section of track missing. There are actually two, a section from each side has been plucked out with a pair of eight-ounce plastic explosive charges — and yet the train keeps barreling onward. The World War II era reel is demonstrating some military testing of the effect of damaged tracks on a train. The amount of missing track the train can stand up to came as quite a surprise for us!

    The test setup itself is neat. An old derelict locomotive is used. It, as well as a number of trailing cars, is pushed by a functioning engine from behind. Once up to about 26 MPH the pusher stops and the rest keep going. There are many tests, starting with just a few inches of track missing from one side. This gap is increased, then gaps are added both sides, then the two sides are offset. Even a 5-foot gap is crossed easily by the locomotive. The weak link turns out to be the empty cars. We suppose their mass is small enough that they can’t rely on inertia to keep them on the straight path.

    If you don’t appreciate the destructive nature of this Retrotechtacular installment, you can still get your train fix. There is another offering which shows off the modernization of a signaling system.

    [Thanks LC]

    Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.

    Filed under: Hackaday Columns, Retrotechtacular

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 19:00
    Paper Dreams: How one maker’s paper model building hobby landed him a job with a formula one racing team #ArtTuesday



    Check out this inspirational mini documentary that Siemens posted on their YouTube channel- just goes to show that sharing your projects with the world can lead to great things! We encourage all makers out there to keep building and sharing with the community – you never know where it could land you.

    Paul used to build race cars out of paper. Today, he designs the real thing with sophisticated software, as part of the Infiniti Red Bull Racing team.

    Read more.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 18:59
    Extreme Fashion and Dancing Robots at Maker Faire Shenzen

    13902187176_91852648a2_zMaker Faire Shenzhen concluded on April 7, making Shenzhen the seventh city in the world to host a Featured Maker Faire.

    Read more on MAKE


  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 18:32
    Happy Earth Day 2014! Here’s some giant images of the Earth via NASA #earthday2014


    NewImage

    Today is Earth Day! Every year we celebrate by posting some of our favorite images of the earth. These are from the NASA catalog called visible earth. You can view more images here. Here’s a little background on the history of earth day:

    Earth Day is an annual event, celebrated on April 22, on which events are held worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

    In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. This day of nature’s equipoise was later sanctioned in a Proclamation written by McConnell and signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations. A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970. Nelson was later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in recognition of his work. While this April 22 Earth Day was focused on the United States, an organization launched by Denis Hayes, who was the original national coordinator in 1970, took it international in 1990 and organized events in 141 nations. Numerous communities celebrate Earth Week, an entire week of activities focused on environmental issues.

    Read more.

    NewImage

    NewImage

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 18:00
    STEM Apps Beyond the Classroom #makereducation


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    Einstein in a Box has compiled a list of great educational STEM apps for kids, including “Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game”, which we blogged about here, and more!

    STEM Apps Beyond the Classroom

    Are you concerned that your child spends too much time playing meaningless games on the smartphone or tablet? Don’t fret! Apple features over 65,000 educational apps, designed specifically for the iOS platform that reaches all levels of education. But, with so many apps to choose from, parents may find it challenging to know which apps are best for their children. Here are a few apps that teach STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) material that are educational, but fun and entertaining.

    Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game by Electric Eggplant in partnership with Kalani Games and the Heirs of Rube Goldberg and published by Unity Games

    Age: 8+

    Where to download: iTunes App Store; Google Play

    This app combines puzzles, humor and creative problem solving in a whimsical environment. Users enter the wacky world of Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) to learn the logic of physics through the connection of oddball items, inventing machines that solve problems.

    Read more.


    Adafruit_Learning_SystemEach Tuesday is EducationTuesday here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts about educators and all things STEM. Adafruit supports our educators and loves to spread the good word about educational STEM innovations!

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 17:25
    And the Winner of the Maker Faire Design Challenge is…

    Pierre Grande from Cestas, France and his design "The Ark."Almost two dozen makers from around the world participated in the first-ever Maker Faire Design Challenge, a competition to create a new kind of temporary information kiosk for use at Maker Faire. We're pleased to announce the winner, runner-up, and honorable mention entries.

    Read more on MAKE


  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 17:00
    Build A BeagleBone Black Linux Music Server #BeagleBoneBlack @TXInstruments @BeagleBoardOrg


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    Computer Audiophile shows us how to build a Linux music server using a BeagleBone Black.

    Warning the following article contains some geeky stuff. What follows is a step by step guide to building a tiny 2.4″ x 0.82″ x 3.54″ Linux music server. It’s not rocket science and the instructions make the process fairly easy, but the article isn’t for everybody. Thanks to CA readers K-man and Richard Dale for additional information and tweaks for setting up the BeagleBone Black so it runs great. Please note there are many ways to setup and configure the BBB. This is just one way using either Mac OS X or Windows. Readers are encouraged to leave comments with additional tips, tricks, and tweaks. I will update this article accordingly.

    Read more.


    BeagleBone Adafruit Industries Unique fun DIY electronics and kitsEach Tuesday is BeagleBone Black Day here Adafruit! What is the BeagleBone? The BeagleBones are a line of affordable single-board Linux computers (SBCs) created by Texas Instruments. New to the Bone? Grab one of our Adafruit BeagleBone Black Starter Packs and check out our extensive resources available on the Adafruit Learning System including a guide to setting up the Adafruit BeagleBone IO Python Library. We have a number of Bone accessories including add-on shields (called “capes”) and USB devices to help you do even more with your SBC. Need a nice display to go along with your Bone? Check out our fine selection of HDMI displays, we’ve tested all of them with the Beagle Bone Black!

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 16:00
    Autodesk Updates 123D Design for Desktop #3DPrinting


    Autodesk 123D Design Update 1.4 for Desktop

    Just when we weren’t sure if Autodesk was ever going to update 123D Design for Desktop, a brand new 1.4 update comes out and surprises us. The details from their history update from their website looks very promising.

    Get Autodesk 123D Design 1.4 Update[for Desktop]

    • A new UI introduces similar look and feel with other products from the 123D family, like Tinkercad.
    • Easier access to all of your models and projects, regardless of the app you made them in. MyProjects provides access to models created in 123D Catch, 123D Make and 123D Creature.
    • Support for opening, inserting, and saving meshes in STL and OBJ formats.
    • Perform Combine, Subtract and Intersect operations between meshes and solids.
    • New option for combining objects on STL export in order to support printers that read first body only.
    • Import SVG files and use them as sketches or as simple extrusions.
    • Drop selected objects to the grid with a simple key (F10).
    • Added option for hiding grid.
    • New toggle for enabling or disabling implicit grouping when snapping between parts.
    • New option for defining snapping increments for different operations.
    • 3D Print now sends model to Meshmixer for processing before 3D printing.
    • Premium members can now download unlimited models from 123D Content Library.
    • Free members can now download up to 10 models a month.
    • A brand new car! (Just kidding)
    • Stability fixes on Copy-Paste.
    • Performance and stability bug fixes.
    • Support for 3dconnexion devices.
    • Shortcut Keys on F1.
    • Feedback Survey directly in app under Help.
    • Also includes updates for 123D Premium members, and bug fixes.

    123D Design 1.4 Tools

    Autodesk 123D 1.4 New UI

    We think this is a really big update. Our first impressions with the UI redesign are really good. Things did not move around, it’s mostly a graphical refresh, which looks very sharp and clean.

    123D Snapping Units

    Objects have a nice lime green outline when its selected, making it more distinct. Features that might get overlooked that seem minor are actually handy in use. Hover over the bottom right to quickly change snapping increments and measuring units. Toggling on/off groups when snapping is a time saver and turning the grid off allows you to project sketches from irregular surfaces.

    123D Adafruit Logo SVG Import

    123D SVG Import Adafruit Font

    The biggest feature update is SVG import. This is great for making solids from outline sketches made from a vector drawling app like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape. In our tests, the feature worked best on simple paths. It did an OK job at importing our Adafruit font, but crapped out on our icon. Importing SVG option is available in either a Sketch or Solid. Doesn’t seem like there’s an option (yet) to set the height of an extruded object when importing as an object. You can’t apply construct operations to extruded SVGs which is a bummer but expected from a new feature.

    123D Autodesk 1.4 STL Import

    Importing STL is also very welcomed feature that we feel was probably the most requested feature. Tinkercad did this really well and now 123D Design can too. It also gives you a ability to apply basic combine operations like merge, subtract and intersect to solids and other meshes. The best uses of this feature could be for anyone who is looking to make remixes/fixes/customizations/upgrades to STL models like scanned data. You also can’t apply construct operations to imported meshes.

    Overall it’s a great update and we really recommend upgrading if you’re already a user. If you’re thinking about learning some CAD for 3D Printing, now is a great time! Special thanks goes out to 123D Design team from Autodesk for making kick ass free CAD software!

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 16:00
    [Balint]‘s GNU Radio Tutorials

    Waterfall

    [Balint] has a bit of history in dealing with software defined radios and cheap USB TV tuners turned into what would have been very expensive hardware a few years ago. Now [Balint] is finally posting a few really great GNU Radio tutorials, aimed at getting software defined radio beginners up and running with some of the coolest hardware around today.

    [Balint] is well-known around these parts for being the first person to create a GNU Radio source block for the implausibly inexpensive USB TV tuners, allowing anyone with $20 and enough patience to wait for a package from China to listen in on everything from 22 to 2200 MHz. There’s a lot of interesting stuff happening in that band, including the ACARS messages between airliners and traffic control, something that allowed [Balint] to play air traffic controller with a minimal amount of hardware.

    Right now the tutorials are geared towards the absolute beginner, starting at the beginning with getting GNU Radio up and running. From there the tutorials continue to receiving FM radio, and with a small hardware investment, even transmitting over multiple frequencies.

    It’s not much of an understatement to say software defined radio is one of the most versatile and fun projects out there. [Balint] even demonstrated triggering restaurant pagers with a simple SDR project, a fun project that is sure to annoy his coworkers.

    Filed under: radio hacks

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 16:00
    New Film Shows Hunter Thompson and Ralph Steadman on Wild and Crazy Ride #ArtTuesday


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    (1995 caricature of Hunter S. Thompson by Steadman, Sony Pictures Classics)

    For No Good Reason, which will hit theaters on April 25, is a film that documents the wild collaboration between writer Hunter S. Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman. via ARTnews:

    Over the course of several decades, writer Hunter S. Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman, partners in work (and sometimes in mischief), traveled together to report from Kentucky to Zaire to Honolulu. Why? “For no good reason,” the famed gonzo journalist often sardonically told Steadman, who recounts their adventures in a new documentary of the same title.

    While the pair’s antics launched Steadman to international success, For No Good Reason centers on the art-making practices of this rather reclusive British artist. Unlike his late collaborator, Steadman has led a disciplined and drug-fee life in Kent, England. “We were like chalk and cheese,” the artist says in the film.

    His caricatures, cartoons, and drawings depict human suffering and dread, always punctuated with sickly ink splatters. Such images provided the perfect complement to Thompson’s maniacal, self-sabotaging stories for Rolling Stone, Scanlan’s, and Running, and illuminated the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Of his partnership with Thompson, Steadman notes, “I met up with the one man I needed to meet.”

    The two were introduced on assignment in 1970—Steadman’s first trip to the United States—when Thompson was reporting from Louisville to write “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” for Scanlan’s. Steadman provided grotesque illustrations of racers and audience members alike, and the story garnered widespread attention for both men.

    For No Good Reason, hitting theaters April 25, features interviews with friends and associates, including Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner and actor Johnny Depp, as they unpack how Steadman’s anarchic pictures gave a visual record of this celebrated collaboration.

    Read more.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 15:36
    Pimoroni stats #makerbusiness


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    Pimoroni Shop stats.

    The past twenty months have been an absolute whirlwind for Paul, Jon, and our growing team of stellar individuals Here’s a run-down by the numbers of how that time has passed…

    Read more and congrats Pimoroni, nicely done. Check out all the Pimoroni products here and here.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 15:00
    This is Why Kids Need to Learn to Code #makereducation


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    Doug Belshaw emphasizes some of the key reasons why coding is an important skill for kids to learn, from DMLcentral.

    Why Is Coding Important?

    Now that we’ve defined coding as the ability to read and write a machine language and think computationally, it’s worth turning to the ‘so what?’ question. Why do we need the general population to be able to do this? Why not leave it to a subset of very highly-specialised individuals and teams who can do this on our behalf? After all, we need roads and buildings but we don’t require kids to learn civil engineering and architecture.

    Leaving to one side the top-down argument that it’s ‘good for the economy’, I’d argue that there’s at least three important reasons why kids should learn to code: They are: problem-solving, (digital) confidence, and understanding the world around them. I should re-emphasise that by ‘learning to code’ we’re talking about skills and competencies that people can be better or worse. The important thing here is the attitude and approach of the individual, not necessarily how polished their outputs are.

    1. Problem-solving

    Writing, debugging and remixing your own and other people’s code are fundamentally problem-solving activities. Whether it’s code that won’t run because of syntax errors, something working differently than you expected, or figuring out how to do something cool, these are all things that involve lateral thinking. And often this problem-solving involves working with other people – either in real-time or following tutorials, blog posts and howtos (and then sharing back).

    2. (Digital) confidence

    Literacy often leads to an increased sense of confidence. Not only confidence in terms of social interaction but also a sense of agency in shaping the environments in which people find themselves. In digital (or blended) environments, this means people not only being able to decode what they see, but encode it too: reading, writing and thinking computationally instead of merely elegantly consuming what others have produced.

    3. Understanding the world

    There’s a wonderful segment from a video interview with Steve Jobs in which he talks about the importance of realising that everything around you has “been made up by someone who was no smarter than you.” Realising that you can not only change and influence things, but build things that other people can use is, he says, “perhaps the most important thing.” In a world where almost everything has either a digital component or is somehow digitally mediated, being able to both read and write our environment is more important than ever.

    Read more.

    Adafruit_Learning_SystemEach Tuesday is EducationTuesday here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts about educators and all things STEM. Adafruit supports our educators and loves to spread the good word about educational STEM innovations!

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 15:00
    Adorable Pixar Lamp Costume


    Pixar Lamp costume

    The Pixar lamp is iconic. Most of us have seen the little guy hopping into place before several of their films. Instructables user darcy3529 made the lamp outfit for her granddaughter from a coverall and mat board with dowels. The build looks rather affordable and straightforward. Here’s how she completed the frame:

    The frame/cage for the costume is made from mat board that I covered with fabric. There are fabric covered dowels that go between the 2 matching side frames. The pieces were all glued together using a strong silicone glue. Then furniture slides were added to look like nuts. The frame slides over the head and rests on the shoulders.

    The base is a dollar store platter that has a hole cut in the bottom. I flipped the platter bottom side up and covered with fabric. There is a fabric collar glued ro the opening of the platter.

    Read more at Instructables.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 14:52
    George & Jonathan III – Stunning web album @georgeNjonathan


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    George & Jonathan III – WebGL visualization of all the songs. Baken helps lead our manufacturing in addition to being a very talented artist.

    We’re a band that makes electronic music and you’re listening to our new album, George & Jonathan III. We’ve developed highly advanced music videos that let you see all the notes we used in our songs. Some songs may be special.

    Listen.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 14:03
    Distributor spotlight – Chicago Electronic Distributors makes a Baby Monome! @chicagoedist and @CNSmakerfaire


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    Baby Monome! @ Chicago Electronic Distributors. Craig writes -

    We really like the Adafruit Trellis keypad, and realized that it would be a great Monome.  Then it occurred to me…my daughter loves blinking lights and music, how cool would it be to make her a Baby DJ Monome for playing her favorite songs!

    So we started with the Trellis keypad, then added an Adafruit Wave Shield.  We stacked it all on top of an Arduino Uno R3,  We won’t bore you with how to build these, just follow Adafruit’s excellent tutorials for the Wave Shield and Trellis.  Here is a quick video showing the innards:

    Next we 3D printed a case using Pumping Station One’s Makerbot.  Adafruit has provided a nice guide on how to print a case for these.  Ours did not turn out perfectly, but the result worked well for our initial prototype.  Note we made our case a little taller than the Adafruit example since we had to also fit a Wave Shield.

    Finally, we had to test our prototype on our favorite toddler.  Turns out she loves it!

    For the next iteration, we would like to incorporate a speaker and rechargeable batteries.  It will make it a little bigger, but anyone with kids knows that wires hanging off will only cause problems down the road!

    Adafruit 2951

    Next up, Craig will be showing off their products at the Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire in a few weeks, lots of Adafruit will be there!

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 14:00
    How to make a BeagleBone and an Arduino communicate #BeagleBoneBlack @TXInstruments #BeagleBoardOrg


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    How to make a Beaglebne and Arduino communicate. by chwei

    Say you’ve got this nice Ardunio project that provides serial data, but it needs a FTDI and you don’t want to tie up your BeagleBone’s (or BB) USB port or use a hub. Well, it’s not as hard as you think, and you don’t need a FTDI!

    The BB has 4 TTL serial ports available, and this how-to will show you how to use one to talk to an Arduino. I’m going to show this by using a minimal Arduino on a breadboard, but you can do this with a normal Arduino as well, just use an external power adapter and don’t plug in the USB. The “gotcha” to this is that the BB’s ports run at 3.3VDC and the Arduino runs at 5VDC. We’ll solve that using a logic level shifter.

    Things you’ll need:

    - Breadboard and some jumper wires

    - a BeagleBone (any revision including black should work the same)

    - an Ardunio

    - a Logic level shifter that supports 5v-3.3v and bi-directional on the TX line.

    See Full Tutorial


    BeagleBone Adafruit Industries Unique fun DIY electronics and kitsEach Tuesday is BeagleBone Black Day here Adafruit! What is the BeagleBone? The BeagleBones are a line of affordable single-board Linux computers (SBCs) created by Texas Instruments. New to the Bone? Grab one of our Adafruit BeagleBone Black Starter Packs and check out our extensive resources available on the Adafruit Learning System including a guide to setting up the Adafruit BeagleBone IO Python Library. We have a number of Bone accessories including add-on shields (called “capes”) and USB devices to help you do even more with your SBC. Need a nice display to go along with your Bone? Check out our fine selection of HDMI displays, we’ve tested all of them with the Beagle Bone Black!

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 13:54
    World’s Fair: Isaac Asimov’s predictions 50 years on


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    BBC News – World’s Fair: Isaac Asimov’s predictions 50 years on.

    …while some of those futuristic technologies on display never quite went mainstream – underwater housing and levitating cars, anyone? – a closer look at Asimov’s World’s Fair of 2014 reveals that his crystal ball was shockingly clear. Here’s a look at 2014, through the eyes of 1964.

    Read more.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 13:42
    Fragmented Memory



    Fragmented Memory by Phillip Stearns.

    Fragmented Memory is a triptych of large woven tapestries completed in May 2013 in Tilburg, NL at the Audax Textielmuseum’s Textiellab. The project uses digital practices and processes to blur the lines between photography, data visualization, textile design, and computer science. The result are works of visual art that serve not only to render visible the invisible processes mediating everyday experience, but also to operate as distinctly tactile and lo-fi digital storage media—the process becomes a means to capture, record, and transmit data.

    Read more.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 13:00
    3D Printed Borromean Rings #ArtTuesday


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    Bathsheba creates 3D sculptures using metal as her medium. Here she creates the shape of the Borromean Ring.

    This is one of a delightful class of objects known as Seifert surfaces. Every knot and link (in mathematics knots are closed loops, links are assemblages of knots) has a continuous surface which it is the edge of. An introduction to these surfaces, along with free software to generate them, are at the SeifertView site.

    These surfaces are often beautiful, especially for symmetrical knots and links, and here I’ve produced one of the sweeter ones. This surface has three edges, each a simple closed loop, which are locked together in an ancient form called the Borromean Rings. Named after its use in an Italian coat of arms, these three rings are locked together inextricably although no two of them are linked. Their Seifert surface twists through the loops smoothly and gracefully, and I’m very happy with the organic mesh. It’s wide enough to let light through, while responding sensitively to the curvature and giving a tactile texture.

    Read more


    Screenshot 4 2 14 11 48 AMEvery Tuesday is Art Tuesday here at Adafruit! Today we celebrate artists and makers from around the world who are designing innovative and creative works using technology, science, electronics and more. You can start your own career as an artist today with Adafruit’s conductive paints, art-related electronics kits, LEDs, wearables, 3D printers and more! Make your most imaginative designs come to life with our helpful tutorials from the Adafruit Learning System. And don’t forget to check in every Art Tuesday for more artistic inspiration here on the Adafruit Blog!

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 13:00
    Self-Learning Helicopter Uses Neural Network

    model helicopter attached to boom

    Though this project uses an RC helicopter, it’s merely a vessel to demonstrate a fascinating machine learning algorithm developed by two Cornell students – [Akshay] and [Sergio]. The learning environment is set up with the helicopter at its center, attached to a boom. The boom restricts the helicopter’s movement down to one degree of motion, so that it can only move up from the ground (not side to side or front to back).

    The goal is for the helicopter to teach itself how to get to a specific height in the quickest amount of time. A handful of IR sensors are used to tell the Atmega644 how high the helicopter is. The genius of this though, is in the firmware. [Akshay] and [Sergio] are using an evolutionary algorithm adopted from Floreano et al, a noted author on biological inspired artificial intelligences. The idea is for the helicopter to create random “runs” and then check the data. The runs that are closer to the goal get refined while the others are eliminated, thus mimicking evolutions’ natural selection.

    We’ve seen neural networks before, but nothing like this. Stay with us after the break, as we take this awesome project and narrow it down so that you too can implement this type of algorithm in your next project.

     


    chart showing different points
    Consider the image above. The goal is for the helicopter to start at Point A, go to Point C and hover. Allotted time is 10 seconds per run. It has to teach itself how to do this and do it as quickly as possible. Remember, it knows where these points are via IR sensors.  [Akshay] and [Sergio] developed an equation using a piecewise function to determine which runs were closest to Point C for the longest amount of time.

     

    fitness equation for helicopter

     

    Each of the points in the above equation is known via a voltage from the IR sensors, with Point A being 0.1 volts and Point D being 3.7 volts.  The equation is designed to give the greatest value for the longest time spent at Point C. This value is known as a Fitness Value.

    A neural network is used to determine at what level the throttle should be at to achieve the highest Fitness Value. This network is apart the Evolutionary Algorithm that runs in the firmware. Basically, it starts off with random values that generate random levels of throttle. The values that achieve the highest Fitness Value get ‘mutated’, while the others are discarded.

    The mutations in the values are done at random, and the process repeats. In the end, the firmware learns the best throttle levels to achieve the goal of being at Point C for the longest time in the allotted 10 seconds.

    Be sure to check out this linked project for full details on these mutations are carried out in the source.

    Filed under: Microcontrollers, misc hacks

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