R2D2 Build: Final

The is a great project! It gets a little “fiddly” at times but it is one that starts with a box of parts on day one finishes with a complete illuminated model on the second day. It’s also dear to me because the high percentage of reused materials. Note in the picture to the left that the display case is also made of reused materials. A Christmas decoration came in the clear drum. The top is a spare sink stopper hot glued to the top. During my first build day, I cleaned and painted the materials. Vinyl decorations were cut out with a razor blade on plexiglass and applied. The arms were assembled from FireBall mini bottles and automotive air fresheners. I also painted the fabric softener dome top.

On the second day, the LEDs and current limiting resistors are mounted followed by mounting the dome on the top of the can with hot glue.

It made most sense to mount the push button on/off switch and the power socket before mounting the battery holder. Unlike the TARDIS, R2D2 is NOT bigger on the inside and it gets crowded quickly.

The 3 AA battery holder is mounted on a ¾” piece of plywood cut to 2″ square and sanded on one side to fit on the inside of the soup can. A belt sander makes this particularly easy since it can remove a lot of material quickly. I placed sticky hook and loop fasteners (Velcro) to the battery pack and the mounting platform and hot glued the assembly to the front of the robot. I may want to replace the batteries in the future and having the holder mounted on Velcro will allow me to remove the holder when required.

Having a battery operated R2D2 tin can robot is neat. It allows me to put it anywhere on display independent of the need for a wall socket. However, most of my displayed tin can robots are on a shelf and powered by an external power supply. Honestly, I don’t know where this one is going to end up so I added the capability to operate on an external power supply.

I bought D.C. power sockets and plugs in the past for previous projects, so I knew that they were available—somewhere. After a short search that felt longer than it was, I came up with the socket and plug combination. I also had an Apple USB charger adaptor that someone conveniently left for me on the side of my walking path. Finally, a quick rummage through the “wire box” and I had the needed USB wire. Once again, I had the pleasure of using materials that I had on hand.

This is hard to admit but wiring this little robot toy is terribly confusing, and it shouldn’t be. There are only a couple of components and a few connections. Even though this was my fourth one, I had to get out my pencil and paper and turn down the radio so that I could concentrate. I’ll include the diagram here but it’s hard to follow. The secret appears to be that the ground connection is the one that is switched. In my experience, it is usually the positive lead that is switched. In this case, the battery positive lead, the socket positive lead, and the LED positive lead are solidly connected without an interrupting switch. The pushbutton switch on the back of R2 interrupts the ground to the LEDs. One end is connected to the LEDs and other end is connected to the socket negative lead. On my socket there was a connection without a wire, a bare connection. I checked with an Ohmmeter and found that when the plug is not in the socket this bare connection and the ground connection are shorted. Once the plug is inserted, the bare connection and the socket ground connection are disconnected, and the ground provided to the LEDs is from the external power supply.

The allows the robot to operate on batteries when the plug is not in the socket. TA DA!

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R2D2 Build: First Day

The first step in building the R2D2 tin can robot is collecting a few things. This is my fourth one so I’m familiar with what I need for materials. The one luxury that we have these days is plenty of time. I’m not in a hurry. I have no deadline to meet. I’m going to enjoy every part of the build.

Before I get started, I want to share something with you:

I am a maker. Heaven on earth is noodling around in the workshop and casually working on my latest project. Time means nothing and there are no pressing concerns. I’m not in a hurry, and I’m “in the zone.” My workshop is my world. I am my own boss. There is a clock on the wall, but I don’t look at it. The enjoyment is in the doing.

I love CampQuestAZ. It gives me the chance to share the “maker” experience with the young campers. My R2D2 was only an example. They had to come up with their own design made from the parts I brought to camp. Check out the imaginative and creative robots they built!

Unlike their effort, I have a plan and the experience of building 3 previous R2D2s. So during my build today, I skipped around a bit. After collecting all of the necessary materials and tools, I cleaned and painted the can, the dome, the tiny liquor bottles, the air fresheners, and the dental floss container. All of the parts require a multiple coats. The base coat is black.

Next, I painted the can and the dome metallic silver. Finally, I masked a couple of small areas on the can and painted the can and the “arms” an off-white (ivory). The masked areas become the vents on the front of R2. The blue highlights are made of vinyl tape applied to a piece of plexiglass and cut out using an Exacto blade.

R2 is starting to take shape! All that remains is to add the wiring and electronics. They are amazingly simple. The model uses only 3 LED bulbs, 3 AA batteries, and a switch. Since the LEDs are different colors, each one will require its own current limiting resistor. The blue LED has a forward voltage drop of 2.8 V; the red LED drops 2.0V, and the “Rainbow” LED drops 2.5V. I calculated the resistance values needed to provide 20 mA through each of the LED (assuming a nominal power supply voltage of 4.5 V). The values only have to be in “the neighborhood. I chose an 85 Ohm resistor for the blue LED, a 100 Ohm resistor for the “Rainbow” LED, and a 125 Ohm resistor for the red LED. If you’re interested in how these calculations are done, leave me a comment.

Tomorrow, I’ll mount the three LEDs, install the battery holder and switch, and add a jack so that R2 can run from a USB converter instead of batteries.


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I’m Itching to Build

You may recognize this picture. Especially, if you are a long-time reader of this blog. It is a model of the Star Wars robot R2D2. It has LEDs that light up; it is crude. Most importantly, it is something made almost entirely out of recycled materials. The main body is a Healthy Choice soup can. The dome is from the top of a fabric softener bottle. The arms are made of small liquor bottles. The front foot came from my dentist. It had a small amount of dental floss in it originally, and the main feet are automobile deodorizers that I found on the side of the road. There are parts that I had to purchase, however. I used hot glue, two hex head bolts with matching nuts, multiple colors of spray paint, some vinyl tape, light emitting diodes, a few resistors, a battery holder, 3 AA batteries, and a switch.

This is the first one that I built to use as an example for a Camp Quest AZ activity called “Tin Can Robots.” In all I built 5 examples: A Dr. Who Dalek, this R2D2, Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons cartoon show, Rocket Man, and Robby the Robot from the movie Forbidden Planet.

I’ve built 2 other R2D2 models: One I donated to a charity auction and the other I gave to the Bay Area R2D2 Builders when I went there for a Maker Faire. I can say that this one, the original, is the worst of the lot. It was my first one and I had to figure things out while it was under construction.

I decided to build a fourth one. As you can see, I’ve collected all the necessary parts. I intend to build it and report on the build here on my blog. It will keep me busy for a couple of day, and if you want to follow along, it can keep you busy for a couple of days too. You can ask me questions about the build in the comments. I’ll do my best to be as descriptive as possible, but I may miss a few details that need clarification.

This should be fun. We’ll start tomorrow with cleaning up the parts…

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45 Days After Lockdown and Feeling a Bit Guilty

Yes, it’s another unboxing blog. I’m feeling guilty because perhaps I shouldn’t be having so much fun while on lockdown when others aren’t so lucky.

Every day starts out with a 5 mile walk on the portion of “The Loop” that is close to my house. It’s starting to get warmer now. Eighty-four degrees this morning when I started. I’m sure it was a bit warmer when I got home. I don’t think I could do it without my headphones and a healthy backlog of podcasts. Most people out on the loop are there to get exercise same as me. I usually wave with my palm open and my 2nd and 3rd fingers spread a bit like Mr. Spock in Star Trek. I say, “good morning” and most respond back. A couple of days back I decided to mix it up a bit and said, “Nanu nanu.” The responses were varied. Some knew the reference and smiled a bit broader. Some just waved. Some looked puzzled. Just like most days, there were the few dedicated, serious peddlers that rode past with that scowl that says, “Don’t bother me I’m doing something really important here!” I get that I guess. People are different. I personally enjoy a “howdy do” during these times of isolation but I understand how others may not. What I don’t understand are the bikers that come from behind and pass at break-neck speed as close possible. There have been times when I step off the trail to let large groups go by. I’m a bit reluctant to do that now because we have some non-human company sharing the path these days.

Normally, these guys don’t bother me much, but “The Loop” is rather busy, and they appear to be rather nervous and noisy. They’re easy to spot on the paved path, but their camouflage is very well matched to the desert on each side. They disappear. On the positive side, I think I get more out of my exercise when I hear the rattle. I’m sure my heart rate goes up a bit. Lately, I’ve seeing two or three every day.

I like to take a few of those plastic grocery bags with me when I walk. They don’t weigh much and don’t take up much space, but they’re handy for collecting the trash along the way. I prefer the path to be clean and it doesn’t hurt to take a few minutes to pick up things along the way that shouldn’t be there. There are three trash barrels along the section that I use. Sometimes, I find things that I want to take home. Some items find their way into reuse projects. Pictured is a shelf completely covered with reuse projects. I have to say that this shelf is not universally appreciated but I still get away with it. Just today I picked up the little green bottle sitting between Rosie and R2D2. It came in handy when I needed a small light weight object to move with my new robotic arm.

By the way, I should end this here. I’ve reached 500 words and came full circle. The box of parts in the beginning is now a working robotic arm capable of holding something that I found on my walk. Nanu nanu!

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38 Days of Quarantine: Another Robot Unboxed

I bought a few robot kits late last year and early this year. I also bought some robot associated kits. For example, I bought a robotic arm driven by hydraulics. I buy these things for evaluation and get ideas for a robotics program at Camp Quest Arizona. Camp Quest Arizona was scheduled for the end of June, but it is cancelled for this year.

This is my second kit from RoboBloq. It’s called Qoopers. .” This high-quality kit costs about $150 (from Amazon). In the kit, there are parts for 6 different configurations. The one pictured and the one I built is called “Captain Alloy I also had the option of building a two wheeled “Scorpoid” version, an obstacle avoiding “The Voyager” version, the “Li’l Guardian” version, “The Dozer”, and “The Cavalier” version. An unboxing video can be found here.

It took me about an hour to assemble and since I previously downloaded the RoboBloq application on my iPhone, it took me no time to start driving it around my living room. Previously, I built the Q-Scout from the same company (RoboBloq) which costs half as much. The Q-Scout and the Qoopers are remarkably similar. The Q-Scout was a bit easier to assemble probably due to the fact there was only one option whereas the Qoopers can make six different robots. There are many more fasteners required on the Qoopers and most of them need back up nuts. The Q-Scout had fewer fasteners and almost no nuts because the threads were cut into the metallic parts. The Q-Scout has two powered wheels while the Qoopers has a pair of tank treads. The motors on the Qoopers are also more powerful.

The parts and fasteners reminded me of my Erector Sets that I had when I was a boy except these were high quality. My Erector Sets also did not have a brain module either. I enjoyed building these two robots and it was great to have the opportunity to play with them a bit. So far, I’ve been using my iPhone to control and program them, but Nancy is giving me her old iPad which should make the programming a bit easier. I don’t think I can build a Camp Quest Arizona program around them. While at camp we discourage the use of iPhones and iPads. In order to operate the robots, you’ll need one or the other. However, I might have a short “free-for-all” robotic activity where these guys will be participants and the campers will be able to interact with them for fun and the experience of interacting with robotic devices.

Stay tuned! I’ve got quite a few robotic items in storage and there seems to be no better time than now to break them out.

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20 Days In (XX)

Last May, Nancy and I brought home a beautiful new truck—a 2019 Super Cab Ranger 4×4 with the top-of-line trim and all the goodies. A couple of days ago, my “connected” vehicle sent me a message:

“Your Vehicle is in Deep Sleep mode and connectivity is temporarily unavailable. Manually turn on your vehicle to deactivate this mode.”

In other words, the truck is feeling ignored.

For us, it has been 20 days since we started practicing “social distancing.” We made the decision to go into self-imposed isolation on March 12th right after Nancy’s birthday party on the 11th. Not much changed for us, however. Mainly, we stopped going to the weekly Sabino Canyon 7 O’clock evening stroll and I stopped going to “drinking godlessly” every other week and hosting the monthly Tucson Atheists Meetup at Denny’s. I’m beginning to realize how important those small breaks and socialization events are.

We went to the Safeway today. The Safeway store is right at ½ mile from our front door, so the trip added 1 mile to our step count. Nancy and I needed the steps, so we didn’t drive. I needed vegetables for my “miracle soup.” I make a couple of weeks’ worth at a time and have a cup every morning. This morning I ran out. Nancy sat down and sewed some surgical type masks out of two layers of dense pillowcase material. We put them on when entering the store and made note of all the changes that are designed to keep people 6 feet apart. The masks seemed to work even though they were a little hot to wear. No one seemed to mind. I paid the bill with a credit card to avoid using money and the only thing I touched that was recently touched by another human was the register receipt and 3 Monopoly game pieces. When we got home, we washed our hands with soap.

It looks like this is going to be our new “normal.” I have been walking 4 to 5 miles on the “Tucson Loop” every day and picking up trash when I see it. I probably need to drive the vehicles around the block from time to time. It would be easy for me to spend the day snacking on junk and watching television, but I’m determined not to do that. I have many unfinished projects, and nothing is more satisfying to me than getting in the “zone” while working on a new robot or model airplane. I have a couple of motorcycles that haven’t been started in years. Maybe it is time to get them tuned and prepped for sale to someone that will appreciate them.

I hope your self-imposed isolation is going as well and thank you for reading this. Check in from time to time and if you’d have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave a comment.

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Out Like a Lion

When I sat down to do this blog, I was planning on relating on my activity during the lockdown, but I thought it would be OK to comment on the governor’s most recent proclamation.

Here in Arizona, the governor finally decided to announce a stay at home order. Governor Doug Ducey is just another example of a person who should not be in the office he is holding. When are we going to realize that the best person in administering a government is not a businessman? I’m happy that he can sell ice cream, but I’m not impressed with his performance as a governor.

A businessman is responsible to his stockholders and making a profit is a moral imperative. A governor should be above all else a statesman. Someone that is skilled, experienced, and respected political leader. James Freeman Clarke said “A politician thinks of the next election, a statesman of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman for that of his country. The statesman wishes to steer, while the politician is satisfied to drift.”

Not all the people serving the public are paid and profit is not the end all of motivations. For example, in business it is a great idea to cut activities that do not produce profit. President Trump made the right decision in a business sense to terminate the White House Pandemic Office. When he closed it, there was no active pandemic. He dissolved the office because there was no immediate need for it. Now he claims he’s a “war time president” and doing a great job while simultaneously claiming “I don’t take responsibility at all.” This is funny to me. If anything, good happens, he always takes full responsibility. In many cases, he takes responsibility for things he had nothing to do with.

Okay, using Trump’s metaphor as a war time president, let’s say that we’re not currently at war and our standing Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines exceed out current security demands. Using his business sense, he would cancel all preparedness exercises and eliminate those combat units not currently engaged. Of course, that’s a bad idea but the true businessman wouldn’t have any problem with it. I served in the Air Force for 27 years. Much of the work I did was in preparation for future conflicts.

President Trump and Governor Doug Ducey might be great businessmen, but they are lacking as political leaders and suck at their jobs. The sooner we rid our government of these people the better we’ll be as a state and as a country.

If life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is important to you, you’ll vote Blue!

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Secular Day at the Arizona Capitol 2020

What a great day we had at the Capitol! Tory Roberg, our Secular Coalition for Arizona lobbyist put on the best secular day ever. The Secular Coalition for Arizona was created in 2010 so this celebration represented 10 years of effort. We have a small budget but energetic volunteers and have been able to “slow the roll” of the religious groups such as the Center for Arizona Policy and the Alliance Defending Freedom as they try and eliminate the separation of church and state. In fact, we got to march around the capitol saying “Separate: Church and State!” while carrying signs. I don’t know if we changed any minds, but I felt good doing it.

We had speakers and we had many groups that share our desire for a secular Arizona government free of undue religious influence. I represented the American Atheists and got to say a few words about how our missions overlap in keeping religion and religious based laws from affecting all Arizona citizens.

Quite a few of the members of the Secular Coalition got a chance to meet with their representatives. In the past, I got a chance to meet with one of my lawmakers. Her name is Becky Nutt. She met us at the door holding her Bible. During our discussion, I invited her to our “Secular Studies” meetings that provided free lunch to those that attend. She said she couldn’t attend because she attended Bible study. I asked her, “When do the Bible study sessions meet?” She said, “Wednesdays at noon.” I said, “Well Becky, that’s an entirely different day. You can do both.” I also reminded her that she doesn’t have to believe the way that we do in the Secular Coalition but she should be aware that it is her job to represent ALL of her constituents, and the best way to do that is to learn about the things that we have concerns about.” While she accepted that it was a valid point, and she promised to give it some thought, she never attended a single Secular Studies sessions. Who passes up free tacos?

If you’re in Arizona Legislature District fourteen we could use a refresh. I haven’t had a chance to meet with Gail Griffin or David Gowan yet. However, I did see State Senator’s rude performance during a secular invocation last year. All three need to find other ways to spend their time and we should help them out by not voting for them during the next election.

Not everything went smoothly during our “Day at the Capitol.” The Senate president, Karen Fann, ignored a coordinated agreement to have our favorite Arizona Senator to give a Secular invocation to open the session. Instead she called upon another senator that gave a very sectarian prayer calling on Jesus Christ. He was obviously prepared which made Senator Fann’s “apology” ring hollow as if it was a coordinated action to disrespect the many citizens that travelled to the Arizona Capitol for their “Secular Day.” She apologized multiple times. So what? Instead of an apology, I have a better idea and I think my Secular friends would go for it. Why doesn’t Senator Fann recognize her error and her inability to manage the scheduling of her invocations by having and entire week with NO INVOCATIONS AT ALL.

Posted in American Atheists, Arizona Politics, Atheist Action, Bible Story, Election, Freethought Community, God, Religion, Retired--A Day in the Life, Secular Coalition for Arizona, Separation of Church and State | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Martha McSally Disappoints

A couple of days ago I sat down to write about Martha McSally and what a disappointment she is. On paper she should be a great representative for me. I live in Arizona and I retired as an officer of the U.S. Air Force. However, she’s such an embarrassment that I’d like her to move to another state and stop bragging about her military service.

Of course, her latest disappointment is voting down subpoenas for information relevant to the current impeachment trial of President Trump. She voted along with her other Republican colleagues. This was no surprise. I’ve learned not to expect much courage from her as a representative. Previously, she represented Arizona’s 2nd congressional district, my district. When her votes faced local controversy, she refused to meet with her constituents and opted for less personal (and safer for her) phone telecons or conducting “town hall” meetings in towns with small populations and limited venues. Her fighter pilot bravado was never evident. She doesn’t defend her positions and she avoids personal confrontations.

Notice how cowardly she was when she was when she called the CNN reporter a “Liberal Hack.” She is running down a hallway, pitches her (undeserved) insult over her shoulder, and ducks into an office. Now she’s selling shirts to capitalize on her “proud brave” name calling incident.

It’s true that our representatives are never perfect and not everyone will agree with every position, but I expect them to be brave enough to support their positions. Sometimes representatives are presented with a bigger picture and we by necessity must trust them to make the best decisions in our stead. That’s why I vote less on a candidate’s stated positions and more on the person’s character.

Here again, Martha disappoints—she lacks honor. Of course, I could say the same about many of the senators. However, not all of them took the oath that every Air Force Academy cadet takes when they are accepted in the into the Cadet Wing after Basic Cadet Training:

We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably (so help me God)

Fortunately, when it comes to choosing a U.S. senator for Arizona this fall, I have a better choice. Let’s all vote for Captain Mark Kelly.

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Happy New Year from Arizona

Can you believe that I used to post on my blog daily? I can’t believe it. There never seems to be enough time. Many of my friends are retired and they all complain that they are busier than they have ever been. I’ll have to second that.

A lot has happened since my last posting on October 16th. Halloween and the Night Before Halloween happened. It was one of the best! The theme was Aliens from Outer Space. As always, much of the fun was creating the props associated with the theme. What is less fun is finding a place the store them after the event is over. Anyone need a collection of pumpkin based aliens? I may have to put them on Craig’s List. Right now, they’re hanging around the storage shed and getting in the way every time we visit it.

I know next year’s theme will not be Aliens from Outer Space so letting them go to another home might be the way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Right after Halloween, Nancy and I decided to celebrate our 45 years together with a 15-day cruise to the Hawaiian Islands from San Francisco.

It was a goimg_7505-smallod long cruise and about 5 pounds too long. We got to see 4 of the Hawaiian Islands—Hawaii, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. Our last port of call was Ensenada, Mexico. The stop in Ensenada was necessary because of the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 which applies to passengers on foreign flagged cruise ships. It was a long cruise with many days at sea. Luckily, there was plenty to do on the boat. We saw a few movies and sang Karaoke. We also climbed a lot of stairs. Because we usually end up eating so much while cruising, Nancy and I always take the stairs—never the elevators. Most of the activities are on decks 14 and 15 and our cabin was on deck 7 which means we were always climbing stairs. However, we had to laugh on each trek about superstition. There is no deck 13 on the Grand Princess which means we always got to skip from 12 to 14. It was like a free space in the center of a BINGO card. By the way, we didn’t play BINGO (we’re not quite THAT old). Make no mistake there were plenty that were. Rascal Scooters and wheelchairs were everywhere.

We arrived back home in early December feeling pretty good but that didn’t last long. Our refrigerator decided to take a vacation while we were taking ours and we were welcomed home to spoiled food. No problem. I bought the extended warrantee. Long time readers of this blog might remember the “fun” I had with a Sears refrigerator a while back. Spoiler alert! I threw it in the trash. Having a warrantee isn’t a great deal of help getting the repairman to the house and having an “American” Whirlpool refrigerator is not guarantee that the repairman will care enough to order the needed part and finish the repair. However, the Home Depot monitored the situation and issued me a full refund for the cost of the refrigerator. In the end, it worked out. Aside from the lost food, the hassle of relying on a garage refrigerator during a huge party, and the wasted time, I guess I don’t have any complaints.

Did you get your flu shot? I did. They say that if you get the flu shot and still get the flu your symptoms will be less. If that is true, I think I would have died. The flu hit me so hard in early December that it hurt to think. It made me go to the doctor and I NEVER go to the doctor. Luckily after about 11 days I healed enough to prepare for our next big party.

Another big thing that I missed blogging about was the annual Winter Solstice celebration. It was another fun and personally rewarding event. It is a bit less work than the Halloween party but has a similar number of people. It was held on the 21st of December and started at sunset when we lit the fire in the pit. The party goes on into the night and finishes out a bit after midnight. It’s always a great time. Our ancestors knew that Winter Solstice is the perfect time to have a big celebration. Those in the Northern Hemisphere knew that the days would stop getting shorter and the Sun would hang around longer each day. To celebrate, many lit a celebratory fire right at sundown as we did. Winter Solstice is the end of a solar cycle—the end of the year essentially. It is in the coldest part of the year and the official start of the Winter season.

We love the Winter Solstice and really appreciate that many of our friends love it too. Some folks spend the entire time around the fire pit. Some play card games. Many sing Karaoke. The potluck is always a hit along with the Hams and other fixings that we supply. It always a great way to end a year and even better when it was a not-so-great year like 2019.

I sat down to discuss how disappointed I am with the latest news involving Martha McSally, but I’ve rambled on enough. I guess it’ll have to wait for next time. Happy New Year Everyone!

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