Sunday, September 4, 2011

Great Success!!!

So, Im a little speechless right now. Like I said before, I have been sitting on this idea for about a year so to see it get to this point is kind of a big moment. Im not going to say too much more, but here is a video of the wings in operation, both front view and back:

I have to admit, they work well, but not quite as well as I had built them up in my mind. Because of the limitations of the springs and servos, the wings are very easily overcome by gravity. That means I have to stand pretty straight up so that the wings' weight are neutral and the pushing of the spring hinges and pulling of the servos can do their job. Overall the wings weigh under 20 pounds and have a wingspan of close to 12 feet. There is still a lot of work to be done in terms of making them more robust and sturdy and also polishing them up to display status (which might have to wait till after Maker Faire). Feel free to comment and share your thoughts!


P.S. I want to thank everyone that didnt laugh and call me a ridiculous nerd (there really isnt any doubt that I am one, but its nice not to have other people call you one :P) as soon as I told them I was building a giant set of wings based on a super hero. My roommate Marcia for tolerating the insane mess and aluminum shavings and dust that now coat our apartment, and my great friends from work (too many of you to name, but you know who you are), you guys really are awesome. If anything, thanks for just being excited for me.

Above all, I want to thank my girlfriend Valery for being so supportive and not leaving my obsessive compulsive ass when I worked on them for 12 hour stints when I should have been taking her out to a fancy dinner.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shrunken Circuits and Reinforcement

Hey Everyone,

I am starting to get tired. Really tired. I'm so into this project that Im losing massive amounts of sleep slouching over a soldering iron inhaling some fine lead fumes in the middle of the night. But, I regret nothing. I've been thinking about this project for about a year now and there were times where I thought it wasn't going to happen due to cost or that it just wouldn't work. Seeing it get to a point where I can actually wear them and operate the electronics with a pair of gloves has made me more excited and determined than ever. And thats right, you heard me, they are developed enough that I can put them on and walk around! However, I'm not posting any pictures just yet. Not until they are more polished, I gotta build up a little bit of anticipation. I've been working at these for months, you guys can wait in suspense for a week :)

Last night, I spend a good amount of time reinforcing the wings, but more on that in a later post.

Most of my time, however, was spent moving the electronics from the purely-prototype stage into a more robust version that will actually go on the wings. Here's what the electronics looked like before without all the servos and gloves:

And here it is next to the gloves and servos for scale:

For those that don't know, a normal Arduino (the blue microcontroller thats doing all the thinking) and a "breadboard" (the white rectangle you put all the parts on) are a bit bulky because they are designed to be totally plug and play. Wires and pins can be pushed into slots and moved around very quickly to build a circuit and get a working prototype very quickly. However, because it's so easy to put together, it falls apart very easily and is a bit on the bulky size.

The next stage is moving all those components (like resistors, lights, switches, etc) onto a board you can hardwire them onto called a perfboard. Since theres much more flexibility regarding positioning on a perfboard, you can also make the whole circuit much smaller by routing the little connections more efficiently. Also, by using a different microcontroller, in this case the Arduino Pro Mini, thats designed to be hardwired (and not so plug and play) you can shrink it down to a fraction of the size. It took me hours, well into the wee hours of the morning, to optimize the arrangement and solder it onto the perfboard, but here is how it turned out:

With a new (and better) battery pack, servos and gloves for scale:

By itself with a sharpie (again for scale)

Considering it was my first time wiring anything onto a perfboard, I'm extremely proud of how it came out. Now its small enough to be concealed in a small space between the backplate and my back so everything but the servos will be completely hidden from view, giving the wings a very minimal tech-presence.

Thats it for now, next up will be a little bit of switch debugging and mounting everything onto the wings! Are you excited over there? Because I am kind of freaking out from the excitement over here.