Visit to NextFab Studio!

Roy may have a bit more to talk about with respect to our visit to the NextFab Studio, and the meetup in general.  But I have a few pictures and words to share about the incredibly interesting facility!

NextFab Studio is a self described gym for inventors.  There are a number of machines at this inventor’s haven used to shape / cut / weld metal, create printed circuit boards, perform wood working, cut and create acrylic parts, and even do some 3d printing!  Non-members can pay staff to consult, design, and create their works.  Members can receive training on the equipment, and utilize it to bring their own creations to reality!

This is one of the two laser engraving and cutting machines available.  Two members of the NextFab Studio were using this machine while we were taking a tour.  The area next to these machines featured the welding, metal cutting, and shaping tools.  I forgot to get pictures of these areas! (sorry!)

An electronics lab stands in a lab area adjacent to the metal and general congregating area. There was a general bench stock of parts (resistors) and a modest number of electronic measurement tools.  Right next to this area was the 3d printers and such…

This area featured a number of 3d style printers.  This included a MakerBot, along with a suite of other styles of 3d printers.  We were fortunate enough to see some of the end products of these machines.

This was a model of the building that the NextFab Studio was a part of and the colors seen on the model represent a 3d representation of the maximum wind shear predicted through finite element analysis.  This is part of the consultation and design work that the studio employees perform.

This is a 3d scanner!  It images and scans the 3d object in front of the laser distance measuring device which creates a digital representation of the object.  The fire hat in the picture is covered with a small amount of chalk in order to decrease the ‘shiny-ness’ of the object as it interferes with the ability of the machine to project laser light.  This same model of 3d scanner was used by Jay Leno to image a part on his steam car.

Jay then used the 3d printer shown above to replicate the part, used that replication to create a mold, and cast the part in metal.  Then his steam car worked again!

This Darth Vader model is actually a replication!  Too cool!

After the tour, a general membership meeting was held in the fairly large general congregation area.  Roy will post on the details of that meeting, but a big thanks goes out to the NextFab Studio for giving us a tour of their facilities and allowing us to use them for our meeting!  :)

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Philly Robotics January 2012 Meetup Summary

Hello fellow Philly Roboticists.

We started the new year on a pretty good note. I’m glad to say we are still attracting new members while retaining our core membership.

We are planning to have a joint meetup at NextFab studio ( in March with Next Fab members, Philly Makers, Hive 76, and perhaps others. Stay tuned for details.

Some highlights from the first Meetup of 2012 (

– Projects that were discussed:
— Floating submersible concrete SeaSteading platform. Attempting to secure Kickstater funds
— Open Pilot controller based quadrotor
— Robomagellan contest
— Star Trek game / bridge simulation

I looked into Penn State Abington robot contests ( It looks like they will not be holding their Mini Grand Challenge contest this year, but it will hopefully return in the future. However, they will be having thier Trinity Firefighting Competition at 12:30pm on Saturday, April 21, 2012 ( Let me know if there is any interest in competing or even just attending this contest.

– Microprocessors / boards discussed
— Open Pilot
— Raspberry Pi
— Bahbots board

– Websites discussed

Don’t forget to check out the club website ( and let us know if you want join the forums

Also let us know if there’s anything you want to see or bring for the next meetup.

I hope to see you at the February meetup!
– Roy

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Philly Robotics November 2011 Meetup Summary

OK – this was the effectively the last real meetup of 2011. I’ll try to do a better job keeping up with the 2012 meetups.

– Quad mini frame
– Vex Arduino; differential drive robot with kinect

– small wireless sensor “motes”

– small LI-Ion cells with circuitry in a “regular” battery like can
– WII-mote position / calibration using radio shack components

–  (Ch – interpreted C/C++)

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Philly Robotics October 2011 Meetup Summary

– Large Hydraulically powered (!) Mining robot from a Canadian visitor :-)
– Sumobot group project
– motor controller “H-bridge” chip (part of sumobot)
– WII IR 3-D sensor


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Philly Robotics September 2011 Meetup Summary

– Sumo bot – the new Group Project / build session concept. Target price $50-$100 for the kit
– Kite with vex components

– Flying Open Pilot-based quadrotor
– Controlling motors via PWM and quadrature (in BASCOM)

– FIRST and FFL Robotics mentors and soon-to-be-mentors

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Philly Robotics August 2011 Meetup Summary

– We decided to explore smaller, simpler projects, instead of the complicated balancing bots and quadrotors. This will also get more people involved.

– AVR Studio 5 issues
– Autonomous Audi hill climb
– IEEE Maze

– Kiel Stellaris ARM chip


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Philly Robotics July 2011 Meetup Summary

I’ve obviously got a bit behind in my summaries, but we actually did have many good meetups during the rest of the year. From here on out, I’ll just breifly post the highlights of those meetups. I’ll try to resume a more timely post schedule in 2012.

– Quadrotors, physics & control

– Open Pilot quadrotor controller board groundstation

– UAV Forge competition
– Motor encoders
– Sparkfun “ethernet on a chip” wireless communication devices

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Philly Robotics June 2011 Meetup Summary

Hello Philly Roboteers.

Our attendance is still going strong, despite the onset of Summer. Don’t forget the July meetup is this week (Thursday 7/14 @ 7:30 @ The Hive). I will post the agenda shortly.

Some highlights from the June Meetup:

– Projects that were discussed:
— Automatic speech language translator
— Electric go-kart
— Balancing / Telepresence Bot group project
— Delta Bot
– Education / Demos:
— Software Version Control systems: SVN, Hg, Git.
— Real Time Operating System demo on TI Piccolo chip (Code Composer Studio)

– Microprocessors / boards discussed
— Atmel AVR (several, including custom boards); AVR Studio 4 and 5
— TI Piccolo DSP; Code Composer Studio
— TI MPS430
— Leaf Labs Maple Mini (STM32)
— Fez Panda

Here are some sort-of local surplus & electronics shops Its near Reading, PA, They’re located in Moorestown, NJ. (northern NJ)
– And, of course, your local (or online) Radio Shack still has some components

Don’t forget to check out the club website and let us know if you want join the forums

Also let us know if there’s anything you want to see or bring for the next meetup

Here are some relevant links (note the return of quadrotor videos):
UPenn Quad Bloopers

President Commanding Robot Revolution, Announces Major Robotics Initiative

Open Robotics – a legal perspective

I hope to see you at the meetup!
– Roy

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Philly Robotics May 2011 Meetup Summary

My felllow PhRoGers.

Our attendance streak continues – the May 2011 meetup is now in sole possession of the #2 all-time attendance record. Thanks for continuing to show up and be part of our growing meetup.

Some highlights from May:

– Ahmad and Salman demoed their scratch-built CNC Router, built using Arduino, some TI chips, stepper motors, and drawer slides – very impressive for the cost!

– Pete showed some LED components for his invention/product and discussed the TI MPS430 chip

– We had a demo of an AVR powered, R/C truck based Robomagellan robot, with wireless control, GPS, LCD, ultrasonic sensor turret, and more.

– We decided to take on a new group robotics project – actually two projects in one. The first will be a two-wheeled “inverted pendulum” balancing bot. The second will be a telepresence bot that uses the balancing bot as its base. Stay tuned for more details on Balancing PhRoG.

Here are some relevant links (no quadrotor videos this time):

Ahmad’s website, with several of his inventions

Some pics from meeting (thanks Tom for taking and posting them)

Here’s the Predator video learning / face tracking s/w that we talked about:

Here’s an example of a Balancing Bot

Penn State Abington runs some robotics contests that are open to the public. Let’s see if we can’t complete in one next year:

Here’s a DARPA VTOL contest that you can enter your quadrotor in (OK, so there was something quad related after all)

See you next time


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A few of us Philly Robotics club members are working on quadrotors. I’m confident that once we have something in the air, other members will follow.

What is a quadrotor? It is a flying vehicle that is capable of hovering (similar to a helicopter, but with significant differences) whose propulsion system consists of 4 propellers (there are also 3, 6, and 8 propeller variants). Check out the videos in this link for an idea of what quads can do: (Members of the club were able to see a live demonstration of these quads at U Penn)

The good thing about quadrotors is that they are very flexible. You can build them completely from scratch from parts from Home Depot and, rolling your own software. Or you can buy one ready to fly out of the box, or somewhere in between. There are very successful quads that were designed, built, and flown by people who know next to nothing about aerodynamics and control theory. On the other hand, quads are also used quite extensively in the top research labs (as you saw in the link above). Many technical papers are still published every year on aspects of quadrotor design and control.

You can get caught up on my quad development efforts here (along with bonus posts on quadrotor physics and control theory): I hope Tom won’t mind if I link to his quad site as well: In the future, I plan to blog more here about the project, as well as post details on our Philly Robotics forum. You are always welcome to join us at our next meetup, the details of which can be found here:

– Roy

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