Next month I am going to be one of the instructors in an MSP430 Launchpad workshop at school and so I am testing out this “quick installer” for Mac OS X. In the installer readme, the author wrote this:

This package does not provide an easy way to uninstall. If you wish to remove the toolchain, google for “lsbom uninstall” and follow the procedure while optionally shrieking curses upon Apple’s immature packaging system.

Hopefully I won’t have to uninstall.


At the end of last year, Microsoft launched the Kinect, a motion tracking add-on for the Xbox 360 gaming platform. Adafruit Industries, an open source hobbyist hardware company, announced that they would be offering a bounty to whomever first released an open source driver for the Kinect. The bounty started at $1000, but each time Microsoft complained about it, they raised the bounty. After only a week, the bounty had increased to $3000 and was awarded to a man in Spain. Within a few weeks of that, and having seen all of the interesting things that people were doing with the Kinect (and the large volume of sales they were receiving because of it), Microsoft changed their story, saying that they had originally left the Kinect open for such 3rd party projects.

I followed the story pretty much from the beginning and it was pretty interesting to see how things progressed. However, a few days ago Johnny Lee, a former developer of the Kinect and author of the Procrastineering blog, announced that he had been pushing for Microsoft to release Kinect drivers, but that they were unwilling. As a result, he had sponsored Adafruit to organize the Open Kinect challenge. While it probably would have been in Microsoft’s best interests to release the driver themselves, keeping Kinect development largely done on their platform, the Open Kinect challenge made a cross platform driver available which ends up benefiting everyone.





Yesterday I had the honour of attending a hackathon with Winnipeg’s new hackerspace, SkullSpace. I brought my CAN bus boards to do some soldering and also did some lock picking. You can read more about the event on their blog. They are in the process of getting permanent space together, so we met at the Red River College campus (it is a sweet set of buildings and you should check it out if you can). Once they have the legalities and funding (via donations and paid memberships) then they will start equipping a space. I’m really looking forward to it!


WEC 2011

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending the 2011 Western Engineering Competition (WEC) at the University of Sasketoon. The activities were a blast and the Senior Design competition was great. After presenting our design, we felt that we did really well. The other teams also did great jobs and I’m sure it was very tough for the judges to make their final decisions. Sadly, we did not win, but we had a great time competing and getting to know fellow students from across the country. We took some video of our robot/tractor and I have embedded them below.

WEC 2011 – It’s alive! from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

This was the first time we had our robot running in it’s final configuration at WEC 2011 Senior Design.

WEC 2011 – Hay Bail Challenge from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

In this challenge, we had to remotely control the robot to lift a “hay bail” (a marshmallow, in this case) and place it in a small cup. This was one of the easier challenges for the day.

WEC 2011 – Pasture Crossing Challenge from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

In this challenge, we had to remote control our robot tractor and drive it across the “pasture” (represented here by a steep, ~40˚ slope covered in a plastic tarp and a layer of very soft dirt). We had to avoid hurting any livestock or the environment (ie. the trees). While it looks like we did quite poorly, everyone got about the same distance on this one.

WEC 2011 – Grain Sorting Challenge from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

In this challenge, we had to separate the “wheat” (marbles) from the “chaff” (rice) using our robot. The robots built by most of the other teams used the vex panels themselves (they have lots of holes) to filter out the marbles, but this was slow and required agitation. Our robot used some rails on end that left gaps barely wide enough to catch the marbles and let the rice immediately fall to the ground.

WEC 2011 – Manure Moving Challenge from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

In this challenge, we had to remotely control our robot to move a pile of “manure” (loose dirt) from it’s initial location across a line. Our performance in this challenge was not great as it was hard to maneuver our robot in the tight space, plus our scraping mechanism did not reach as low as we would have liked.

WEC 2011 – Barrel Race Challenge from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

In this challenge we had to autonomously get our robot to navigate a figure 8 around a pair of “barrels” (pop cans) and then complete a lap of an oval track. The oval was no problem, and in our testing we could do it very quickly, but the preceding figure 8 in the soft dirt made it impossible to line up for the lap. None of the competitors were able to complete this challenge. Since it was worth 50% of our demonstration mark, that put a lot of weight on our presentation.

WEC 2011 – Barrel Race Lap Demo from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

After the competition, we wanted to demonstrate our completion of a lap of the barrel race track, just for fun. Some other teams also demoed their lap code, but ours seemed to be the fastest.

WEC 2011 – Attempted Marshmallow Destruction from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

During building, we found that our gripper arm had a lot of torque, so after competition we tried to cut a marshmallow in half. Sadly, the gears kept slipping since we had stressed out all of our mounts during competition, but we had fun anyway.

WEC 2011 – Attempted Pop Can Destruction from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

After competition we tried to crush a pop, but our gears kept slipping as the mounts had been stressed during competition.

WEC 2011 – ROV from Benjamin Bergman on Vimeo.

After playing with our robot for a bit, we decided to attach a phone to the arm. This clip was just to get a “first person” clip, but we later set up an IP webcam server from a phone to remotely control it. It was a bit laggy, but tons of fun.