Author Archives: Jeff Cicolani

Competition Reboot

In an effort to promote building, provide a goal, and establish a series of deadlines, we are rebooting the quarterly(ish) competition nights. These nights are a chance to show what you’ve been learning and provide a bit of a challenge. Competition nights have been very successful for other groups, most notably the Home Brew Robotics club out of Silicon Valley. The plan is to develop a night where we can all get together, invite in other groups from around Austin, and have a good time running our robots. The vision is to have multiple events throughout the day including tabletop challenges, floor challenges for the larger ‘bots, Magellan demonstrations, and a show off demonstration.

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BSA STEMBoree 2017

Once again, we have been asked to participate in the Boy Scout of America’s STEMBoree. Like most of our outreach, we’ll be demonstrating robotics projects from various members, this time to the Cub Scout, Boy Scouts, and their families.

Saturday, April 1 from 9 AM to 3 PM
Anderson High School, 8403 Mesa Dr., Austin TX 78759

In terms of demos, we currently have planned:

  • Nomad (of course)
  • Sand Draw
  • The Infinity Mirror
  • Animatranic Eyes
  • Sonar
  • Arduino Synthesizer (if completed)
  • BARB
  • 3D Printer (M3D and possibly my Prusa, but it doesn’t like to be moved)

We will need another 2 to 4 volunteers to help us keep an eye on everything and interact with the kids. To volunteer, go to the volunteer sign up page here:

We will generally setup a half hour before the event starts, so if you can come out a little early to assist with that, it would be appreciated.

SXSW Create Information

It has been confirmed that we have a 20×20 booth again this year. That means we will need a minimum 4 to 6 people manning the booth got all three days.
The more folks we have volunteering, the more flexible we can be with the time. We want everyone to be able to get out and explore the event. There’s always a lot of very cool exhibits, so we want you to come out, help us get some new members, and see the event (and those of us that are there all weekend appreciate being able to eat).
A day at Create generally looks like this. You’ll hang out at the booth and learn about the various projects. Once you’re comfortable with one or more spiel, you’ll jump in and help engage the guests. If you get questions you can’t answer, you’d defer those to the owner of the display. You’ll be able to wander around the event as your leisure, assuming you spend most of your time helping at the booth. Periodically, the exhibitors will want to wander, take a bio break, or stuff food in their face and you’d need to help cover for them while they’re out an about.
To volunteer, please go to our web-site at, sign in or register. Then go to events/volunteering from the main menu (top of page). There you will see the calendar and a list of the days. Click on the title for each day you are available to volunteer and select the shifts you are available. I have them broken into 2 hour shifts and you can select as many as you like.
The volunteers so far:
Myself – all day, all three days
Rick – all day, all three days
Wolf – all day, all three days
Mike – all day, all three days
Kurt – all day, Saturday
Chip – all day, Saturday and Sunday
Kevin – ??? – has volunteered, I don’t recall if he said when.
The exhibits planned so far…
  • Nomad (of course, Me)
  • Rick’s Piano
  • Sonar radar (Rick)
  • Infinity Mirror (Rick)
  • Sand Draw (TRG as a whole, mostly Rick)
  • Telemaster, RC Plane (Wolf)
  • Quadcopter (Wolf)
  • Ping Pong Printer (Wolf)
  • Animatronic Eyes (Rick)
  • Frankenlab CNC (from Jerry, but he can’t make it, so ???)
  • Vision demos (Me)
  • Rasbot-Pi (our workshop project, Me)
Filler, if needed…
  • Incomplete R2-D2 (Me)
  • BARB, robot based on Powerwheels drive train (Me)
If you want to bring something to show off, let me know… and sign up to volunteer. We can make room as needed.
I am planning on doing the next installment of the workshop series at the event. Raspberry Pi and the Arduino (of course that means I have a lot of writing to do this weekend). I’ll determine when once I’ve had a chance to peruse the schedule. That also means part of the booth will be setup for the presentation. Probably the part where I have my displays.
Let me know if you have problems registering on our site. I know a couple folks got caught in a vicious security cycle because their account was stuck in permanent pending mode. Once I activated the accounts, everything went through fine.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out.

Upcoming Shows

SXSW Create is coming up March 10th through the 12th. In the past we have set up Thursday afternoon with final touches Friday morning. I am working with their new organizer to find out how big the booth will be this year. Last year we had a 20’x20′ booth. I am expecting the same this year.
As soon as I know more I will start to call for demos and exhibits for the show. This year we will be grouping our exhibits into four topics:
  • Industrial Robotics: Think CNC and the Puma Arm
  • Robots in Education: These would be smaller robots used to teach STEM.
  • Robots in Entertainment: Rick’s Player Piano would be a prime example. But also think animatronics, animated art, and things like that.
  • Research Robots: Nomad is a prime example of a robot being built for research purposes.

So, start thinking about projects that would fit into these categories. I have a feeling we’ll need more than Nomad for research.

If you don’t have a project to bring out, we still need volunteers to help man the booth. Three days is a long time and we’ll need enough people to be able to rotate out our volunteers. I will be posting a calendar with time slots that will need to be filled. I’ll know more, again, when I find out about the booth size. Once we know the projects that will be displayed, we will need to figure out how to get people up to speed on them. Chances are we’ll have to get a couple people knowledgeable on each of the main, more complicated displays, so once we know what those will be I’ll list them out so folks can choose which ones they want to know more about so they can speak about them.
In addition, April 1st, the Boy Scouts are having their STEMboree at Anderson High School from 9AM to 3PM. I’ve reached out to them to see how they’d like us to participate. We are hoping to leverage some, if not all, the displays and volunteers from SXSW for that show. Again, more information will be sent out as I know more.

Introduction to Robotics with Raspberry Pi

At this weeks meeting I introduced the next series of workshops using the Raspberry Pi as a platform for a small robot. The workshop is intended to be challenging but will introduce a lot of the concepts and tools needed to build more advanced robots than what you’ll get from an Arduino based one. Some of the topics we’ll be covering in this series are:
  • Installing the OS on the Pi
  • Familiarization with Linux basics
  • Using Python in robotics development
  • Interfacing with sensors
  • Interfacing with external processors like Arduino
  • Key considerations in robotics development such as voltage and logic level shifting
In order to make the journey easier I am suggesting some specific hardware. If you choose to follow along you are welcome to use any hardware you like, but this is what I will be using in the workshops. Most of these items can be sourced from The Raspberry Pi 3 is listed here because it is the latest version and has built in WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.
These items are not available through, but can be found at or Fry’s.
The chassis for the robot will be of my own design (because I like to design these things). It will be designed around the parts listed here. I will make the designs, along with any source code we develop along the way, available on my GitHub site:

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