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  1. Genetic Algorithm Pattern Generator for EggBot
  2. Hands on with NanoBeam
  3. Blinky AVR Earrings
  4. RoboGames Wrap-up
  5. STEM at the White House Easter Egg Roll
  6. More Recent Articles
  7. Search Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
  8. Prior Mailing Archive

Genetic Algorithm Pattern Generator for EggBot


David Bliss posted about using a genetic algorithm to create designs for the EggBot using Processing. He says, “Each design is a sine wave with eight different parameters.”

Each time the program is run, an initial population is created with 50 individual designs — each with random values assigned to the eight parameters. You then rate each individual design before evolving the next generation. The algorithm chooses individuals to carry on to the next generations (highly rated designs are more likely to be carried forward, but low rated designs may still be used).

Each of the eggs in the photo above was printed from the same program with waves evolved from random seeds.

He has shared his code on Github for this project, as well as earlier ones.


Hands on with NanoBeam


Last fall we wrote about NanoBeam, a new super-miniature open source aluminum T-slot profile construction set that was on Kickstarter at the time. While comparable in design to industrial profile systems like 80/20, its cross section of just 5 mm × 5 mm is comparable to a stud on a lego brick.

We recently got our tweezers hands on a ‘beam, and yes, it’s real, yes, it works, and yes, it’s that tiny. And just wait until you see the fasteners.


Nanobeam joins some excellent, slightly larger company in miniature open source extrusions.  MakerBeam, shown at center and twice as tall, is a 10 × 10 mm system that we reviewed last year. OpenBeam is larger yet at 15 × 15 mm. This is a good thing: Having a wider range of sizes available can make the difference between being able to use  one of these systems and not being able to.

nanobeam-15 nanobeam-14

Despite being so small, the side gap on NanoBeam is just over 1/16″ (1.6 mm), which allows it to fit a standard circuit board. One might start to think about making awfully small robots out of this frame. The ability to mount electronics is a plus.

[ Bonus 555 for scale. Or is that actually a large extrusion with a really big 555? ]

nanobeam-6 nanobeam-4

Our sample kit came with a single piece of NanoBeam one foot light-nanosecond in length, along with a small screwdriver, tiny mounting brackets, tinier yet nuts, and even tinier screws. Lego brick for scale on the left hand side.

For a first project, we made a business card holder. And to do so, we would have to cut the beam.

nanobeam-8 nanobeam-9

Larger extrusions are normally cut with a simple bandsaw or a hacksaw. However these tiny profiles are potentially more delicate, and might benefit from a more gentle touch. We ended up using an abrasive cutoff wheel to cut the pieces. For the future, a scroll saw or fine blade on a bandsaw would likely be cleaner and faster.

After cutting, we used the disk sander to achieve a clean, square surface on the cut ends, and to fine-tune the length as needed.


“Ah, that’s better!”

The astronaut twins are from our original collection of Lego Abominations.

For the business card holder, we need five lengths of beam: 3.8″ (one piece), 1.95″ (two pieces), 1.2″ (two pieces)

nanobeam-21 nanobeam-22

The fastening system is well designed and built with pleasing tolerances. Special oblong nuts — stamped and tapped — slide into the ends of the beam, but generally stay put thanks to friction. The corner brackets that fit the screws could use a little more polishing, but have remarkably little slop.

nanobeam-23 nanobeam-25

It is straightforward to see how all the parts fit together, but it is a little tricky to handle those tiny screws and get them into place.



And just for perspective: Tweezers are nearly essential to be able to pick up the tiny M1.2×2 screws and put them where they need to go.

nanobeam-26  nanobeam-28


And here is the completed business card holder, holding one of our business-card sized AVR target boards. The overall assembly is remarkably sturdy, especially since that we’ve only added brackets on one side.

NanoBeam is now available from All considered, this seems like a neat and plausible new platform for making tiny robots and structures. We’ll be following it with interest.


Blinky AVR Earrings

Blinky AVR Earring

Look what just arrived in the mail– Blinky AVR Earrings!

Blinky AVR Earrings

Not long ago, Rick posted on twitter about the ATtiny84 blinky earrings he had made, inspired by my voltage regulator earrings (which I now fasten on with the appropriate phillips screw).

Four blue LEDs blink in sequence, powered by a CR1220 battery. The board is traditional OSHPark purple, with an ISP header for convenient reprogramming. They’re lighter than they look and quite comfortable.

Thank you, Rick! I know what I’ll be wearing to Maker Faire!


RoboGames Wrap-up

Eggs decorated by the EggBot at RoboGames

Photo by Jim St. Leger

We had a great time at RoboGames demonstrating the EggBot over Easter weekend. Thanks to the contestants in both Combat and Bartending Art Bots categories that we were privileged to judge.


Photo by Jim St. Leger

Congratulations to our friend RobotGrrl, who took home a gold medal in the Best of Show category.

Schuyler and Roger show off the RoboGames logo as drawn by the WaterColorBot

Photo by Jim St. Leger

Congratulations also to our collaborators on the WaterColorBot project, Schuyler and Roger who won gold in Art Bots in the Painting category.


STEM at the White House Easter Egg Roll

Families gather around to learn more about how the EggBot works

From the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog post, An Egg-straordinary Day of Science and Technology:

Interacting with EggBot, an art robot that can paint very intricate and precise designs on eggs. EggBot taught students about digital design, computer numerically controlled machines and robotics. This was also a fun way to celebrate National Robotics Week!


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