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Astronomer's Assistant Answered

My next submission for the Create Scholarship is an outdoor one. And a night. I'm an astronomy student by education and I have had the opportunity to teach both students and the general public. One of the most frustrating aspects of showing folks where particular objects or constellations are located. Just pointing at it doesn't cut it. Unless you get real intimate in their personal space, they have no idea what you are pointing at. Informing them that, "Betelgeuse is the reddish-orange star right there" quickly results in, "they have colors?" I've used a green laser at star parties in the past with much satisfaction however, a shivering hand or a need for both hands for demonstration quickly makes it a hinderance. I would like to build a robot that continuously points at a selected object in the sky and follows it through the sky. The software would convert right ascension and declination and factor in date and time to provide the robot with the proper azimuth (compass direction) and altitude (angle above horizon) to aim with. The Roomba is great at rotating, so I would refine it and add a stepper motor with encoders for the laser arm. It would also have a tilt sensor to compensate for uneven ground. A red-lcd (for happy dilated pupils) display of all the pertinent information as well as object name would also be displayed. The hardware requirements are minimal as the database for popular objects would fit on most any memory stick. A remote control (wireless PDA or the like) for easy navigation and manual override would be also be included. I think most any amateur astronomer or educator would find such a robotic assistant indispensable. I for one can't wait to build it!

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SolamenteDoug
SolamenteDoug

13 years ago

I've been having an awful time trying to post recently, has anyone else? A followup on my robot design. I'm quite certain that I can program my robot to pinpoint things other than "fixed" objects, like stars and galaxies. The robot ought to track all 7 planets, dwarf planets, asteroids, and comets. With some serious work, I could probably get it to follow certain satellites through the sky in real time. That would hinge on how fast the hardware is and I can get ahold of. Break a leg everyone!

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SacTownSue
SacTownSue

Reply 13 years ago

No problems posting today. yet...
I had problems... Thurs ~4p-ishPST J said the server(s) was down. I hate when that happens! That kind of stuff used to be my problem. STRESSFUL!
Nacho has great idears don't she? She knows her stuff.
I believe I read somewhere J said that in the end the Scholarships are awarded to the person not the project. You have two great projects so I would be surprised if you did not get one of them. Then you decide which one you think you can get done by the end of Aug and which one is going to win you the $5000. If you can do both in that time then I don't stand a chance.
I'll be thrilled with just a Create but I sure could use some money or a Roomba. Preferably one good with dust buns made out of real bun fur.
Check the iRobot website. The User Manuals and such are available in pdf. You might find your answers there. The Parallax Boe-Bot accuracy was dependent on the indiviual wheels, the battery charge, surface it was traveling on, etc... In other words it changed every time I put it down to run it.
I posted on one of J's general challenge topics some really good websites of people already working with the Create and the eng's probably monitor the iRobot forum.

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SolamenteDoug
SolamenteDoug

Reply 13 years ago

Thanks for the great input and heads-up. Have you already begun design/construction? I've been toiling and scheming and pricing out parts but nothing too solid yet. I keep coming up with more ideas for this project but I may just save some as a surprise...

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SacTownSue
SacTownSue

Reply 13 years ago

I had lotsa problems with this system last night. I couldn't seem to download anything. Today it's just slow.
No I haven't done much more than read/research. My ability to participate is dependent on the scholarship. I hope I get one cause this stuff is sooo much fun. I keep thinking of lots of other possibilities as well. Enhancements. New projects. I'm mostly doing some other stuff. I'm trying to finish an entry for the Etsy/Instructables contest. And I have paperwork for about four entities that I was going to mail today. So I need to work on that. This is way more funner tho.

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SolamenteDoug
SolamenteDoug

13 years ago

That brings up a good question, does anyone know with what precision a Roomba can turn? Within a few degrees? Fractions of a degree? That would determine much of the design. If it isn't all that accurate, I may have the Roomba find north with an electronic compass and use more precise mechanisms for aiming. GPS would be nice because it would provide exact latittude and longitude as well as universal time. I just have to write a program of the formula and data to convert coordinate systems. Nacho, I like that idea more than an LCD. If I could get my hands on some fast lasershow equipment, I could paint whole constellation lines in the sky. Or perhaps a second red laser to do that on a small projector screen mounted on the Create... Of each of my submissions this one would be the most fun to build and use, I really hope I get to construct this one! I'm chomping at the bit!

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NachoMahma
NachoMahma

13 years ago

. This one sounds like it would really be useful and reasonably "easy" to design and build. Should be able to modify existing telescope tracking equipment to work with the Create. . Instead of the LCD, how about a laser/mirror to paint the info on a nearby wall or easel? Too bright?