The open hardware community converged on the campus of MIT to share some of the amazing things that can be done by massive collaboration at the Open Hardware Summit. The summit was made up of talks and exhibits on topics such as the democratization of science and the challenges / rewards of running an open hardware business. The creative energy of the summit was made immediately clear to any participant upon receiving his or her name tag: the Wyolum BADGEr.
MathWorks was at the event to demonstrate how Simulink can be used to combine the visual processing capability of the Raspberry Pi and the real time motor control capability of the Arduino Mega 2560 to make a robot that can recognize and approach faces. Since this bot is always on the lookout for a friend, it was dubbed ‘LonelyBot’. The photo below shows LonelyBot staring longingly at its creator, Daren Lee, an application support engineer at MathWorks. We know LonelyBot recognizes Daren because it’s drawn a green box around his face on the monitor.
Down the hall from the MathWorks booth was Sparkfun, exhibiting several of their latest products, including the Redbot Kit. The Redbot is designed to get aspiring roboticists up and rolling with their first autonomous robot. Sparkfun made their own Arduino Uno derivative and a library to easily interface with their sensors and motors. In the video below, Redbot’s developer, Mike Hold, throws down the gauntlet: can you program your Redbot to track a line better than he can? Mike’s algorithm is included as an example along with the Redbot’s Arduino library.
There were several exhibitors and speakers who addressed engaging the public with science by putting tools right in their hands. Jeffrey Warren, of Public Lab, gave a lofty talk on the intricate design choices involved in fostering collaborative communities through kits, such as his Balloon Mapping Kit, shown below. I’ve judged a couple of state-wide science fairs in Massachusetts, which MathWorks sponsors, and I can’t wait until I see the first science fair project built on top of one of Jeffrey’s kits.
Another educational kit I came across was the Hapkit: a low cost single degree of freedom haptic feedback device. Haptic feedback devices simulate various mechanical sensations. The Hapkit has a lever that you can rotate about an axis and an Arduino derivative that drives a motor to resist your motion in some interesting ways. It can make it feel as though you are pushing against a spring, stirring the lever through maple syrup, or even running the lever over a washboard like this guy. Standford’s CHARM lab is gearing up to use their Hapkit in an engineering lab class. Consider me jealous.
The last project I’ll leave you off with is the Dropbot. This incredible device gives you control over the position of fluid droplets. Point and click, and a droplet with move from one cell to another. You can even write a routine to prescribe a path for droplets to take. You have to see it to believe it. Have a look at the video below