I’ve been working on Ike, my toy robot project for awhile now, and I’ve made some serious progress. What once started as a concept is starting to really show itself as a reality. The Arduino board I once imagined controlling this bot is now securely fastened to his back. All of the pins that supply output and input to drive this contraption have been mapped, and the real work of putting him back together is beginning.
The Arduino board itself is quite impressive, but it’s not a robot control solution in it’s self. The board still requires the help of some additional circuits, and additional power. The motors that drive Ike’s movements use 9 Volts, and both wires need current at different times. To solve this dilemma, I’ve added H-Bridges, that convert the Arduino’s output into 9 Volts on the required wire. This allows the motors to more forward or back as needed.
Below the H-Bridge cluster is a series of connectors and resistors which will enable some of Ike’s sensors, and under that, the row of resistors is an area dedicated to powering Ike’s new multi-colored eyes. He originally had only blue eyes, but now his eyes can range wildly from blue to red to white. The LEDs are also capable of green, but Ike’s visor filters most of this light out, and it appears a dull gray instead.
In addition to Ike’s new eyes, and control boards, I’m re-wiring every component. In place of the thin wires that didn’t last, I’m putting some seriously thick wire where needed. I found this ridiculously thick speaker wire which was meant to power those thumping stereos in the younger generation’s cars. It should definitely do the trick, and last for quite a while as well.
Here’s an exploded view of sorts, which shows how the two boards will be stacked. The Arduino board will be about an inch below the new motor control board. The second board will be integrated into Ike’s exoskeleton. I’ve had to cut a big chunk out of his backs plastic to mount this board.
I’ve been considering adding a third Raspberry PI board on top of the Motor control board…… but, I better finish this stage first. If I do add this third board, Ike won’t require a USB connection, and I should be able to add in Voice Recognition.
All in all, I’ve made a lot of progress. This robot is more then just a toy, it’s a method to force myself to learn something I’ve always wanted to know: How to wire electronics. I’ve long ago mastered the methodology of computers, but electronics has always eluded me. It was always something I was planning to do in the future.
The future is now, and I’ve learned far more then I thought I would from this project. When I finished soldering Ike’s motor control board, I realized I could use the same methods modified just a bit to build robots that build walls…. Just as a car factory uses robots to build cars.
The weather is warm enough now to trust in the safety the Greenhouse provides. I have an electric heater attached to an auto-magic temperature sensor to provide the first layer of defense, with a manual start propane heater to use in case of extreme cold.
The propane heater is a dual burner gas heater that looks a great deal like the robot named “Number 5” from the 80’s movie Short Circuit. This amazing piece of technology will heat the greenhouse up by 10 degrees F in about 10 minutes on the low setting. I was worried about the temperature dipping to 33F last night as the weather predicted, so I turned Number Five to the low setting, and lit a single burner. When I checked on the Green House this morning, the temp was at 60 F !
The shelves are fulling in about as quickly as last year, but I’m really taking it easy with the tomato seedlings. I’ve only started about 150 plants, and most of those are paste tomatoes. I figure this year I’ll be able to take better care of a few plants. I’m planting far more Peppers, and I’m expanding my line up a bit with Eggplants, Artichokes, Celery, Brussels Sprouts and even Cauliflower (Gasp !). I even found the time to plant five flavors of lettuce, and four herbs, including Chives, Basil, Parsley and Sage.
So here’s where I’m at in my growing season, with tiny seedlings reaching towards the sun. In a few short weeks, these plants will transform the greenhouse into a small tropical jungle, with many plants growing to 16 inches tall.
This spring I realized I had a problem, a rock problem, and I began the harvest before I had planted any seeds. I would pile the rocks up, and then wheel them off to the edges of the garden in a wheel barrel. Davey knew this method was simply too labor intensive, so he began planning, and collecting materials for a custom made rock rake. The main support is made from an old plow, and the tines and mounting bar are from several cultivators. Davey assembled the pieces, and had Shane weld them. This rake is made to attach to a small lawn mower sized CASE tractor, and with the hydraulic lift, it’s much simpler to collect the rocks. I takes several passes to work the soil well, but I’d rather ride around for a day then push a wheel barrel all summer !
I’ve finally settled on a heating system for the greenhouse. Basically, there is a Line Voltage thermostat that monitors the tempurature inside. When the temp drops below the desired tempurature, the thermostat passes on 120V to the recepticle below. This is where I’ve plugged in a electric heater, and a small fan. So far, It’s kept two tomatoes alive during a few frost/freeze nights.
I’ve started to gain confidance in this setup’s ability to keep my plants alive, and so I keep bringing more and more plants out of the house.
It’s sort of funny, but without the fan, the greenhouse won’t stay warm, it’s almost as if the heater only heats the space around itself. Once I added the fan, the tempurature began to rise above 34 F consistently. I’m not quite out of the woods yet. There could still be a very cold night, that could pierce through the clear plastic and wreak havoc on anything living, so I dare not place all of my “eggs” in one basket. For now, I’m playing it safe.
When planting in the past, I would ask local gardeners, and plant crops when they do. This always works well, and I have yet to plant a major crop too early or too late, but I was looking for a more rigid way of planning out my planting times; I was looking for something I could sit down with a calendar, and plot out the whole season. I could ask the local gardeners for a list of planting dates, but I’d rather not bother anyone with such a list. Luckily, I stumbled onto such a calculator on a blog I was reading: Skippy’s Vegetable Garden blog.
This wonderful tool will tell you when you should plant seedlings, based on the Last Frost Date that you enter, so it should be good for most of the Middle/Northern States, and I would imagine Europe too.
So, Now I have my rigid timeline to adhere too. I hope it helps everyone as much as it has helped me.
The other day, I posted some pictures of Sandy’s farm, where I was picking up an Incubator and a lot of Fertilized Eggs. I have set the Incubator up in my kitchen, and I’ve been carefully watching the tempurature, and adjusting it when necessary. The incubator must be set at 101.5 Degrees, measured at the top of the eggs. The instructions suggested allowing the incubator to heat up for a day or two, and allow the tempurature to stabalize. I have met those adjectives, and now I was ready to place the eggs in.
Sandy gave me 69 eggs, three shy of 6 dozen. They are all different colors, from white to brown to green, and It certainly looks like I’ve won the Easter Egg collecting contest for the year.
EDIT: Eggs should NOT be double stacked as shown above ! I’m still learning this stuff = )
Sandy also told me about the “Dot trick”. The eggs need to be rotated at least twice a day, and when rotating them, it’s easy to lose your place, and forget which eggs have been rotated. With the dot in place, it’s much easier to tell which have been rotated. I will be rotating the eggs at 6:00 AM and 6:00 PM. I’ve developed a simple rule: Dots up at night, Dots down in the morning. Today was my first morning taking care of them. I got up at 6 with the alarm clock, rotated the eggs, and hooped back in bed. No sooner then I could cover my head with the blanket before I hear Coc-a-doodle-doo. I might regret this rooster business….. But I’m started to get used to ignoring his calls.
Finally, I was left with what looked like a container ready to be launched to the International Space Station. The eggs should hatch in 21 days. I hope to post pictures of little chicks running around the kitchen…… Guess I should learn how to raise chicks before they hatch !