SPARKY: The name Sparky is based on an acronym for Self Portrait Artifact / Roving Chassis - an art project started in the early 90's using trash, found objects and discarded technology. Sparky Jr. can also be made with a wide range of found or scrounged hardware and components, but this one was created with a mix of new and existing materials
All together, this assemblage of hardware becomes a unique machine - Sparky Jr. - a wireless rover capable of face-to-face video chat over the Internet.
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Step 1: Here Is a List of the Basic Hardware Used to Build Sparky Jr.
Mac Mini computer
Lilliput 7 VGA car-puter monitor
iRobot Create robot chassis
Keyspan serial to USB adapter
Logitech USB desktop microphone
Creative Labs Ultra webcam VF0060
USB powered speakers
12 v. 7Ah hobby battery
12 v battery charger
100 watt inverter
Cigarette lighter female socket
Small hardware corner braces
Assorted small 10/32 nuts and bolts
Assorted Erector set parts
Thin plastic sheet
For the control computer:
Any web-enabled computer with Webcam
Logitech USB Game pad
Hot glue and gun
Drill/driver and bits
2nd monitor (for setup)
Table saw/drill press
1/8 and 1/4 Acrylic plastic
small acrylic cubes
Acrylic solvent and applicator
Step 2: Part 1a: Computer Hardware Set-up
Step 3: Part 1b: Control Computer Set-up
Step 4: Part 1c: Test Skype
Step 5: Part 1d: Battery Test
Step 6: Part 2a: Joystick Controller Set-up
If the text on your Sparky monitor is too difficult to read because you are using a small TV instead of a VGA monitor, you may want to use a second monitor for the software set-up. Once it is complete, you can switch back to Sparky's permanent monitor.
Step 7: Part 2b: Install the Keyspan Driver
Step 8: Part 2c: Install the Joystick Control Plugins
Download the Sparky Jr. iRobot Server installer . Put this one on the Mac Mini onboard Sparky.
These installers will place several files on your system as well as an icon on your desktop. I recommend putting the Skype and controller icons in the dock next to system preferences for easy access on both computers.
Step 9: Part 2d: Test the Control Software
1) Place the iRobot Create on a block, so the wheels can spin freely
2) Make sure all the hardware is connected on Sparky and control computer
3) Switch on the iRobot Create ON button
4) Turn on both computers
5) Start Skype on both computers and sign in. (each computer needs an account)
6) Start the Sparky controller on each computer and hit the connect button.
7) Make sure the messages in the Sparky controller window indicate a connection.
8) Be sure to click and highlight the Skype text chat window on Sparky.
9) Move the joystick forward once or twice.
The wheels should spin immediately, but it might take about a minutes lag for the first command to respond. Once it begins, there should be no lag between commands and response.
Step 10: Part 3: Structure and Outer Shell Intro
The other structural part required by Sparky Jr. is a small internal shelf to hold the Mac and other components in place. It can be made of many different materials, including wood, plastic, and metal - even Lego or Erector set parts will work. But I recommend building it using acrylic or Plexiglas. The results will be strong, lightweight and clean.
Both patterns are available for download at SparkyJr.com.
Step 11: Part 3a: Inner Shelf (part 1)
If you are using wood or metal, construct the shelf your own way. If using acrylic, carefully trace the pattern onto the material and cut the pieces using a table saw with fine wood blade and drill press with plastic or fine wood bit.
1/4" thick material is ideal for the legs, but the top and feet are 1/8". If you had to choose a single thickness, go with the 1/4".
Step 12: Part 3a: Inner Shelf (part 2)
Place each foot piece on the iRobot Create using the four small screw holes. Align the pieces so the wider edges are facing inward and forward. Keep the bolts loose so the foot pieces can be adjusted.
Place the table on the feet with the angled edge of the legs facing forward. Make adjustments to the feet so their edges line up flush with the legs. Carefully run a bead of solvent down each of these joints and let set.
*Optional. Remove the table from the iRobot Create and lay it face down again on a flat surface so the underside is exposed. Use solvent to carefully attach the small cubes to each leg/top joint to act as additional structural support.
Step 13: Part 3a: Inner Shelf (part 3)
Step 14: Part 3b: Outer Shell (part 1)
Follow these steps to insure that the pattern prints at exactly 1:1 scale.
1) Download and install SketchUp for your computer.
2) Download and open the file called Sparky_outer_shell_01 from SparkyJr.com.
3) Open the file and switch to paraline mode by turning perspective mode off. To turn perspective mode off, open the "Camera" menu and click "Perspective" (so that a check mark is not displayed next to it).
4) Select a standard scalable view: Top. To select a standard view, open the "Camera" menu, point to "Standard," and then click one of the views.
5 Resize the SketchUp window so the right and left edges of the drawing touch both side edges of the canvas exactly.
6) Open the "File" menu, and then click "Document Setup."
7) In the "Print Size" section of the "Print" dialog box, clear the "Fit to page" option.
8) If you are in paraline mode (step 1) and have selected a standard view (step 2), the scale options in the "Print Scale" section are enabled when you clear the "Fit to page" option. Set the scale to 1 to 1.
9) Click "OK" to save your document settings, and then print your model by opening the "File" menu, and then clicking "Print."
10) Assemble the pattern using clear tape, taking care to maintain proper alignment.
Step 15: Part 3b: Outer Shell (part 2)
Layout and tape together the printout of the pattern. Trace it to the material (or cut the paper pattern out and draw around it if you can't trace it) and cut the pattern out, including the holes for the monitor and speakers and webcam. Drill all the boltholes with a 10/32 drill bit or slightly larger.
Allow your cat to help as needed.
Step 16: Part 3b: Outer Shell Monitor Mount
Step 17: Part 3b: Outer Shell Speaker Mount
Step 18: Part 3b: Outer Shell Assembly 1
Step 19: Part 3b: Outer Shell Front Bumper Alignment
*Notice how the front bumper of the iRobot Create still has full range of motion even with the outer shell attached. In fact, the shell is acting like a bumper spring, keeping it in the out position and helping it spring back when bumped. If yours is not working, check the alignment of the attachment points and make adjustments as needed.
Step 20: Part 3b: Outer Shell Final Bracket Alignment
Step 21: Conclusion
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