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Reader Submitted: Høvel: A Complete Redesign of the Classic Pencil Sharpener

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-06-21 10:13

Brahman Design is thrilled to announce its first product the Høvel. Høvel, meaning hand plane in Norwegian, is a complete redesign of the pencil sharpener. Drawing on inspiration from traditional woodworking tools, Høvel emerged as a result of a dissatisfaction with the everyday pencil sharpener. Common pencil sharpeners easily break the lead of a pencil and are often discarded once their blade goes dull. Unlike using a craft knife or a traditional pencil sharpener, Høvel affords you the freedom and control to sharpen any pencil to any point. Høvel can be used on its own or with a base to catch the shavings.

View the full project here

The World's Oldest, Simplest Chair Design?

Core 77 - Wed, 2017-06-21 10:13

This type of chair was a build project for America's Boy Scouts since the 1930s, though they didn't design it. It's been referred to as a Camping Chair, a Bog Chair, an X-Chair, a Stargazer Chair, a Viking Chair, an African Chair—no one can agree on where the design first came from or what it ought be called.

View the full content here

The Search for the Next Super Material

Design News - Wed, 2017-06-21 05:15

If you turn over a rock and find a gold nugget, you’re going to start turning over more rocks. Back in 2004, a gold nugget known as graphene was discovered in a lab where a sheet of carbon, one atom thick was produced. Graphene, hailed as a super material, was considered important enough that its inventors, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.
Materials this thin have since come to be known as 2D materials. While it has taken awhile, as scientists learn to make and use this material, for commercial applications to hit the market, there can be little doubt that graphene is going to become big business. Consider the range of basic properties that include extreme light weight, exceptional strength and electrical conductivity at potentially low cost. Add to this, biocompatibility, optical transparency, and selective permeability and you have a material juggernaut.

No wonder the search is on for other 2D wonder materials. These two-dimensional workhorses could become so important in the future, that the primary question one might ask of any new material is, “2D or not 2D?”

Mitch Jacoby is a PhD chemist who has studied 2D materials, written about them, and come up with a classification that divides them into five different groups. None of them are as far along in their development as graphene, so it’s difficult to say which one might be the next wonder material. In fact, some of these are so early-stage that they can’t yet be separated from the substrate upon which they are produced. Many though, have achieved freestanding status and considerably more. Let’s take a look at the groups.


The structure of graphene is a flat hexagonal grid of carbon atoms. Image source: UCL Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Flickr


The first are MXenes. These were discovered by Drexel scientists while developing improved anodes for Li-ion batteries. In simplified terms, they are electrically conducting carbides and nitrides. Jacoby describes them as, “electrically conductive, strong, flexible, and durable—ideal properties for electrodes in energy storage and wearable technology.” The Drexel team has demonstrated that MXenes can also serve as lightweight, inexpensive shielding materials to protect cell phones and other devices from electromagnetic interference. Until recently, MXenes could only be produced as powders. Now they can be made into thin, flexible films.

Next are the Xenes.  These are elements other than carbon, that can potentially be made into a single layer.  These include Boron, Silicon, Phosphorus, Germanium, and Tin (B, Si, P, Ge, and Sn). In 2D form they get “-ene” appended as a suffix.  According to Jacoby, “These materials, which include borophene, silicene, phosphorene, germanene, and stanene, all share a buckled or corrugated shape—unlike graphene’s flat sheets—and sport atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice. Silicene, phosphorene, and borophene are the most studied of the family.” Silicene, unlike graphene, has a band gap and is most studied for fast electronics. Phosphorene has excellent electrical characteristics too, but it degrades in air unless protected. Several of these, including borophene have potential for energy storage.

Organic 2D materials are differentiated from graphene in that they are made from carbon compounds. These are generally derived from covalent organic frameworks, or metal-organic frameworks. This category will include tremendous diversity by virtue of the universe of incorporated polymers. Promising applications include nanoporous filters and membranes, as well as biosensors and optoelectronic devices.

The next group are transition metal dichalcogenides. Examples such as molybdenum disulfide and tungsten disulfide have been shown to be useful in producing fast transistors, and have been incorporated into complex integrated circuits. However, producing these is laborious and slow. Recently, a three-atom thick version has been produced more efficiently using chemical vapor deposition.

Finally, there is the group that Jacoby calls Nitrides. These are distinct from the nitrides that are included in the MXenes because instead of being made from transition metals, they are made from calcium, gallium, or boron. While calcium nitride’s high conductivity is being explored for battery applications, boron nitride shows promise as an insulator for transparent, high-speed, flexible electronics.

So, the search continues. While there is no clear frontrunner, a number of promising candidates are being studied. The biggest opportunity is likely to lie not in surpassing graphene, but to complement it in applications such as semi-conductors or insulators, as a number of these appear to be innately better suited due to their band gaps. All, or mostly all of these candidates, are made from abundant materials, so cost won’t necessarily be a concern.



The Benefits of Hiring from Outside Your Industry

Design News - Wed, 2017-06-21 02:05

Here is some sage advice which is just as appropriate in a tight labor market (the fortunate situation for those of us who are engineers) or in a weak labor market. The advice to those of you who are hiring managers (and HR recruiters, too, for that matter) is: Don’t be afraid to seek out and hire engineers not from your specific niche industry. 

This is not to imply that you should lower your standards for key staffing criteria, such as technical competence, depth of experience, niche technical expertise, self-motivation, and communication skills. Au contraire. The point here is to focus on hiring engineers with strong skill sets and cut back on the laser focus on finding someone who has created your exact product. Here’s why:

1.    Adjacent product design experience brings new design insights
Bringing in engineers from other industries or product categories can bring new ideas on how to solve problems in your product category. It will likely be a pleasant surprise to find out how the solution to technical problems in another product category can morph into solutions for your product designs. Bringing in outside engineers brings new perspectives.

2.    Other industry experience adds new ideas around testing and quality
Quality and testing standards for medical devices, DoD systems, commercial electronics and consumer products can have very different standards for quality and testing. Consider the value of engineers coming out of the DoD world joining a company trying to create rugged, commercial products. Such products can often benefit from the experience and know-how around the highly structured and tightly specified DoD product categories.

3.    Engineers from other industries can accelerate your process
Sometimes long-established companies with mature product lines can evolve into tight but artificial “rules bound” processes. In such industries, having engineers on the team that come from fast-paced and demanding consumer product development companies can help accelerate your processes. Such engineers, if they come with self-confidence, can challenge pre-conceived notions of what “must” be done and help break the mold of “we have always done it this way.” Of course, managers (and peers for that matter) have to be open to new ways of thinking and supportive of new possibilities.

4.    Great engineers can readily pick up your nuances
Every product category, especially those that are mature, has tribal knowledge based on past experiences. Good engineers coming from “other” industries will know how to ask the right questions. As a manager, help get the new engineer to network and connect with your internal domain experts to provide a channel for a new “outside” engineer to learn the nuances of your company’s communal past experiences. Of course, this all demands that the current workforce is willing and open to sharing experiences. Building a diverse team will be a challenge if everyone is trying to protect their knowledge and is unwilling to share.

5.    Outsiders can learn and assimilate new regulatory and industry standards
This is a common complaint. An engineer coming from “Industry A” will not know the specifications, test standards or regulatory processes of “Industry B.” While this may be true, a great engineer can quickly read and assimilate new standards. These just boil down to process definitions and design inputs. However, just because an engineer comes in knowing the regulatory processes or standards for your industry does not mean they will be a good engineer. Unless you are specifically recruiting someone to be a pure regulatory engineer, any good engineer can learn the standards of a new industry. It is not rocket science.

These are not academic arguments for building a team with “outsiders.” It is a practice I have used at multiple companies, including at IPS. These are lessons learned out of necessity. Because our local economy was heavily defense-oriented at one time, experienced engineers often came with a heavy DoD background.

Personal experience has shown that these high-performance engineers coming to our company from DoD backgrounds brought new insights into medical, consumer, and industrial products. Contrary to the perceptions of some, great engineers also readily pickup and enjoy the fast-paced and dynamic environment of the commercial product world. Past experience has also shown that staff with lots of commercial product experience can move into the DoD world, and accelerate those product development processes. Building a team with high-powered engineers from diverse industries not only opens up the potential resource pool, it also creates a more powerful team. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.


Mitch is the President and Cofounder of Intelligent Product Solutions (IPS), a leading product design and development firm.  He honed his deep knowledge of product design on the strength of a 30-year career with companies that manufacture commercially successful products for the consumer, industrial, and DoD markets. Prior to launching IPS, Mitch was VP of Engineering at Symbol Technologies. Always espousing a hands-on approach to design, he holds a portfolio of numerous United States and international patents.  Mitch holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Hofstra University, a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University, and an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University.  He can be reached at mitchm@ips-yes.com.


Coleman's 4-in-1 LED Lantern

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-06-20 09:44

Camping goods manufacturer Coleman has pulled off a clever piece of design with their Quad LED Lantern. By taking the old-school form factor of an actual lantern, then turning what would be the four glass faces into LED panels, they've created an object that provides 360-degree illumination—but allows four people to each snap off their own light source as needed.

Each panel has its own controls, and can run for "up to 75 hours" (on dimmer settings, we presume).

The core itself actually serves as the recharging dock.

Lastly, the LEDs—which put out 190 lumen—remain cool to the touch even after the lamp has been on for extended periods.

Design Job: Bring Your Digital Fabrication Skills to Life as Timbur LLC's Digital Fabrication Programmer/Project Manager

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-06-20 09:44

We are looking for an experienced, highly motivated Digital Fabrication Programmer/Project Manager, able to work in a fast paced environment while keeping quality and attention to detail as the top priority. Background: Timbur LLC is a fast growing Digital Fabrication company based in Atlantic Highlands NJ. We fabricate large scale projects for General Contractors, Architects, Artists and Designers. Our production is focused in 4 key areas; Architecture, Furniture, Art and Retail/Experience.

View the full design job here

A DIY Stone Bench, Building a Side Table, Machining and Grinding Damascus Steel & More

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-06-20 09:44
DIY Stone Bench

Ben Uyeda tackles an intimidating material, stone, and shows you a relatively simple way to work it:

DIY Gazebo Build Part 2

Linn from Darbin Orvar finishes up the outdoor gazebo, fastening the roof and building in integrated seating and a table:

Side Table (From Slab to Table)

Laura Kampf shows you the amount of work that goes into making a seemingly simple side table with a drawer:

Machining Steel On A Wood Lathe

John Heisz does some don't-try-this-at-home experiments, attempting to machine steel using a wood lathe:

Putting Together the Divide Dream Desk

Straightforward problem-solving by Chris Salomone, who must help some friends modify an existing desk:

Machining & Grinding the Damascus Steel Hinges

Blacksmith Alec Steele moves out of his comfort zone, using a Bridgeport mill to machine up the hinges for his Samurai toolbox…

…which he then grinds and shapes:

How to Brand Wood Without a Branding Iron, Top Shop Projects, a DIY Wall Organizer & More

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-06-20 09:44
Shop Tip: Wood Branding without a Branding Iron

Laura Kampf shows you a handy, flexible, inexpensive way to brand wood without needing to buy a branding iron:

Half Year Update

Not a build video, but fascinating to watch: Ben Uyeda runs down what his HomeMade Modern channel has yielded, in terms of both projects and incredible experiences, over the past six months:

Top Shop Projects

John Heisz runs down the incredible amount of jigs, fixtures and storage solutions he's built for his very efficient shop:

DIY Simpler Wall Organizer

Chris Salomone updates and simplifies an earlier design for a wall organizer, then shows you how he built it:

How to Make a Bathroom Vanity Light

Bob Clagett is prepping his house for sale, and here he pretties up the bathroom a bit with a DIY vanity light:

The Forever Alone Ping Pong Table Upgrade

La Fabrique DIY gives a simple-to-install but hi-tech upgrade to their solo ping pong toy:

Last Minute Father's Day Gifts Designer Dad's Gonna Want

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-06-20 09:44

Yeah, yeah, we know we're a little late with this Father's Day gift guide. However seeing as we aren't the only procrastinators, we bet at least 60% of you haven't even gotten your gifts yet. 

That's okay because we're here to help.

Celebrate Dad, Grandpa, whoever with this list of practical Father's Day gifts you can still get by Sunday, thanks to the wonderful world of Amazon 2-day shipping:  

Rotating Pizza Oven. It's like a grill, but better.

Ask any fisherman, and they'll probably say they need new lures.

Give dad the extra helping hand of a digital caliper.

A reasonably-priced drone to instantly spice up your Father's Day get-together. 

If you're a dad, maybe just get this cheese gun for yourself.

An epic head light/magnifier that looks funny but also serves many purposes!

vehicle recovery device for dads that still think they can handle off-road car trips (but can't).

A fancy telescope. I don't know, this seems cool.

"Aw Shit" BBQ seasoning. Shit's about to go down in the BBQ pit.

The holy grail of digital thermometers to test the temp of your "Aw Shit" seasoned meat.

It's definitely too late to order a badass car tent, but you can get this tent kit instead... I guess.

Get your shopping started now—you have about 10 hours before you'll have to physically go to a store.

How to Cut Mortises Easily, Prototyping a Dust Collection Shoe, Building a Folding Bed for a Minivan & More

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-06-20 09:44
Tree Swing

Jimmy DiResta uses everything from a chainsaw to a brace-and-bit to rope splicing techniques to create this tree swing, then figures out how to hang it without having to climb up to the branch:

"My Delta Hybrid Table Saw"

As he empties out his old shop, Matthias Wandel runs down the features of his self-modified table saw with an attached DIY router lift/table:

Building a Folding Bed & Cabinet for a Mini Van

Using a minimal amount of tools, Izzy Swan outfits a minivan with a convertible sleeping/camping set-up:

CNC Dust Collection Shoe Prototyping

Shoptimization. Frank Howarth modifies plans for a CNC router dust shoe to create his own dual-hose version, encountering and solving problems along the way:

How to Make a Kids' Growth Chart Ruler

April Wilkerson breaks out her router freehanding skills to bang out this project for a growing child:

Quick & Easy Mortises

For beginners, the Wood Whisperer demonstrates a simple four-step process for creating mortises with a router:

DIY Stone Cheese Boards

Ben Uyeda shows you how you can easily cut stone to create some durable serving platters:

The Worst Designed Volume Controls, Ending Road Sign Confusion with Design and Mapping all of NYC's Building Shadows

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-06-20 09:44

The Core77 team spends time combing through the news so you don't have to. Here's a weekly roundup of our favorite finds from the World Wide Web:

How long until we stop visiting grocery stores completely? And IKEA too? Looks like Amazon is slowly taking over the world.

Trippy "Undulatus Asperatus Sunset" time lapse.

Mapping every shadow of New York City's buildings.

Learn how to code for the low.

Tim Cook says Apple is focusing on an autonomous car system.

"20 Most Bike-Friendly Cities in the World."

Animals with the wrong form factor.

The Corning Museum of Glass' "You Design it, We Make it" demos.

Nick Offerman does seem to know his stuff...

Hilarious: Redditors try to make the worst ever volume sliders.

Lane Ends, Merge Left: Redesigning the W4-2 Road Sign to End Confusion.

#designinthewild (via @fuckjerry)

Why do you reckon they beveled the edges?

Pretty much me in this damn New York heat.

Graduation Show from the School of Art and Design at the Sandberg Institute. This is what it's like to go to art school in Amsterdam….

"I used deep learning to cross a book of dinosaurs X a book of flowers."

When a fad outlives its life expectancy with force.Bye. (via @designtaxi & Caisa Nilaseca) Hot Tip: Check out more blazin' hot Internet finds on our Twitter and Instagram pages.

Design Experience That Matters: How Trust Makes Great Medical Devices

Core 77 - Tue, 2017-06-20 09:44

Great products meet the user's expectations and their circumstances. Every designer can tell you how understanding user needs requires lots of direct observations and interviews. DtM has learned that the most valuable feedback requires something more than the standard research toolkit. This short video explains why we go back to some of our favorite hospitals overseas again and again.

With bonus footage from Otter testing in Vietnam!


This "Design Experience that Matters" series is provided courtesy of Timothy Prestero and the team at Design that Matters (DtM). As a nonprofit, DtM collaborates with leading social entrepreneurs and hundreds of volunteers to design new medical technologies for the poor in developing countries. DtM's Firefly infant phototherapy device is treating thousands of newborns in 21 counties from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. In 2012, DtM was named the winner of the National Design Award.

Self-Driving Vehicles Inch Toward Mass Production

Design News - Tue, 2017-06-20 03:01

The autonomous vehicle took a small step toward viability last week as General Motors announced that it used mass production techniques to finish a batch of 130 Chevy Bolt EVs containing self-driving technology.

The mass production technique involved the addition of cameras, Lidar and other sensors in an automated assembly plant in Orion Township, MI. It may or may not be a first for an autonomous car, but either way, industry observers expect the batch of Bolts to be followed by many more such efforts, from GM and its competitors. “This is what we’re going to be seeing during the next few years – finished vehicles coming off assembly lines with all the automated driving hardware built in already,” Sam Abuelsamid, research analyst for Navigant Research, told Design News.


GM said last week it used mass production techniques to finish construction of 130 autonomous Chevy Bolt EVs. (Source: General Motors)


The 130 new Bolts will join 50 self-driving Bolts released last year to such locales as San Francisco, metro-Detroit and Scottsdale, AZ. Industry experts also expect GM to produce as many as 1,000 more autonomous Bolts later this year or early next. Similarly, Waymo LLC (formerly known as the Google self-driving car project) said in April that it is adding 500 self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivans to its fleets.

“We’re going to be seeing the same kinds of numbers – from dozens to hundreds to thousands over the next few years,” Abuelsamid said.

The introductions are part of a grand industry plan to roll out vehicles in the next few years that can pilot themselves without the need for on-board “safety drivers.” Today, all autonomous vehicles deployed in various regions of the country still have drivers on board who monitor the vehicle’s ability to handle given situations.

Most automakers plan to enable their vehicles to reach SAE Level 4 capability in the next five years or so. SAE Level 4 calls for full automation, which means a driver could doze off or even leave the front seat, but only in limited domains. Drivers would have to be able to intervene in certain situations, such heavy snowfall or rain, as specified by the manufacturer.

Last year, Ford Motor Co. stated that it plans to remove the driver controls from some of its cars by 2021. “That means there’s going to be no steering wheel,” former Ford CEO Mark Fields said last August. There’s not going to be a brake pedal and, of course, a driver is not going to be required.”

Abuelsamid predicted this week that other manufacturers may reach the “no controls” point before Ford. “Going forward, as we get to 2019 and 2020, we’re going to see some of the first vehicles built without driver controls,” he told us. Full Level 5 automation – in which the autonomous car can operate in any situation – may not come until 2030, however.

Abuelsamid said the announcements are a reflection of the auto industry’s growing confidence in self-driving technology. But he added that the technology’s ultimate success will depend on the industry’s ability to get that confidence to spread. “They also need consumers and regulators have confidence in those vehicles,” he said. “Studies have shown that there are a lot of people who still don’t trust the technology.”

Senior technical editor Chuck Murray has been writing about technology for 33 years. He joined Design News in 1987, and has covered electronics, automation, fluid power, and auto.

Could the Future of Metal 3D Printing Be Print Farms?

Design News - Tue, 2017-06-20 02:07

Discussions of additive manufacturing invariably turn to prototyping for a good reason: economics. While it may make sense from a cost perspective to 3D print functional new parts with plastic or metal during the design process, additive manufacturing (AM) techniques cease where mass production begins.

Few manufacturers are discussing replacing traditional production methods for parts with AM techniques, as it would simply be too expensive. For plastics 3D printing will probably never beat the speed and volume capacity of injection molding. (However, using AM to create the molds will lead to more rapid product innovation with plastics by eliminating the single biggest bottleneck in the injection molding process.)

There are companies today working to change the economic equation and bring down the costs of additive manufacturing so AM techniques could be feasibly pushed out to more applications and higher volumes, and this is particularly exciting for metal parts manufacturing. The rise of lower-cost metal printers offers manufacturers excellent part quality that minimizes expensive post-processing to keep a check on costs.

In 2014, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Markforged shook up the additive manufacturing industry with the introduction of the world’s first carbon-fiber composite 3D printer. Earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), company CEO and MIT aerospace engineer Greg Mark unveiled the company’s Metal X desktop printer, which, once it becomes available in September, will print in a variety of metals including 17-4 stainless steel, 303 stainless steel, 6061 aluminum, 7075 aluminum, A-2 tool steel, D-2 tool steel, IN alloy (Inconel) 625 and titanium Ti-6Al-4V. The printer speeds up production with rapid sintering using a microwave furnace, a process that becomes highly reliable when the printer is following consistent instructions. Designs are printed in metal powder surrounded by plastic, the plastic is dissolved and the metal is sintered, leaving behind a strong metal part.

The driving technology behind the Metal X printer is a process Markforged calls “Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing (ADAM).” ADAM, according to VP of Marketing Cynthia Gumbert, is at the intersection of 3D printing and metal injection molding and blends high part quality with complex available geometries and high density.
“ADAM is in fact very similar to the chopped carbon fiber (Onyx) printing process Markforged introduced, with bound powdered metal rather than bound tiny pieces of carbon,” Gumbert told Design News. “We call the Metal X our fourth-generation printer because so much is already used in our carbon fiber printers.  The focus on excellent surface finish and dimensional accuracy has carried over from our plastics printers to make this unique in the metal additive industry.”


Image of a 3D-printed brake lever. Photo credit: Markforged. 


The company predicts that its ADAM print technology will evolve over the next months and years into a product lineup of even more affordable and scalable printers, with the “blade server” concept for volume manufacturing where printers on a rack will scale up or down to meet customers’ needs, as they do in current server farms.

The company’s printers operate on its proprietary Eiger printer software, and Gumbert noted that the company invites regular feedback and input from its installed user base and adds capabilities to meet their needs, particularly at the design level.

“We’ve most recently added part weight, materials usage, time to print as well as cost of materials so users will get all those parameters before printing and with the ability still to make changes to the design,” she said.

Interestingly, the Eiger printer software is designed to manage printer fleets, which it already does with the company’s composites printers.  Earlier this year, CEO Greg Mark told the audience at CES that the future of metal 3D printing is in print farms. The Metal X printer was created as an affordable ($99,500 is the current price tag) standalone shop printer, but the company sees a vision of fleets of these printers operating in tandem.

“Our Metal X printer is the first step in this direction,” Gumbert told Design News. “It’s not in the same category of the large-format metal printers that form a high-end, expensive niche that only larger manufacturers can afford. Parallelization is the key to scaling volume, rather than a different, faster type of print process.  We’ve always been about getting a near-final or finished piece right off the printer that can be sintered with very little post-processing, and ADAM is generating extremely high-quality parts.”

To serve the needs of smaller manufacturers, the company envisions “print farms” as small as just a handful of printers, or a single Metal X. Distributed companies or service shops could have a version of a “print farm” with no two printers at the same location but the ability to access distributed machines through the Eiger software to create a coordinated global array of printer instances.
Going forward, further automation of print farms is likely to involve robotics. There are already companies using robotics in AM either to control the print heads that deposit materials or even as a way to facilitate an automated end-to-end additive manufacturing solution.

“Scaling anything for production goes hand in hand with automating as much as possible to bring speed and efficiency,” said Gumbert. “Right now, parts are removed by hand from our printers, but don’t expect that to be the case forever.”

Mobile Robotics Kit Teaches Coding and Electronics Skills

Design News - Mon, 2017-06-19 15:39

Robotics is making a major impact on how we work, play, and learn. Al, automation, and robots are hot trending topics discussed in trade publications and online news feeds. According to IDC (International Data Corporation) the robotics industry and associated partners will reach $135.4 billion by 2019. IDC’s research also showed international robotics spending was $71 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow at rate of 17%.

The global educational robotics industry is forecasted to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 21% by 2020, according to Technavio’s market research. Educators are incorporating robotics into their STEM and CTE (Career-Technical Education) curriculum to train the new skilled workforce of engineers and technicians. This skilled workforce will be responsible for designing and maintaining advanced robotic systems. Key vendors in the educational robotics market are exploring mobile technologies to enable classrooms to experience a rich learning environment. Some of these key vendors include but not limited to are:

  • Fischertechnik
  • Lego
  • Modular Robotics
  • Roboshop
  • Tetrix Robotics

Another educational robotics vendor that provides a low cost kit for K-12 classrooms, colleges, and universities, and individuals is Parallax Inc. Parallax provides a mobile-based robotics platform called the BOE (Board of Education) bot that allows a variety of coding and electronics technology skills to be acquire with this kit. The BOE bot shield provides the electrical interface between the mobile base servo motors, breadboard sensors, and electronics to an Arduino microcontroller development platform.


The Parallax BOE bot kit allows coding and electronics technology skills to be acquired in an education-friendly environment. (Source: Parallax Inc.)


The Parallax BOE bot Architecture

Developing mobile robotic applications using the Parallax BOE bot is based on the Arduino shield design. A small pcb (printed circuit board), dual inline header connectors, a 5V DC regulator, and mini solderless breadboard allows a variety of electronic circuits and sensors to be attached to the Arduino shield. There are two additional connectors for attaching continuous rotation servo motors on the pcb, as well. The flexibility of the shield allows for exploring robotics concepts such as navigation using tactile switches or “whiskers” or alarm status indication with a piezo-buzzer for alerting completion of a robot task. IR (infrared) detectors allow ordinary TV remotes to operate the BOE bot. This IR control feature can be accomplish using the prototyping shield, as well. With Arduino platforms as the YUN and 101, WiFi and BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) applications can easily be prototyped using this flexible interfacing architecture design.


The Parallax BOE Bot’s architecture is based on a robotics prototyping shield that allows a variety of sensors, digital switches, and IR handheld remotes to interface with the Arduino. (Source: Don Wilcher)


The Parallax BOE Bot robotics shield is placed on top of an Arduino. Sensors, digital switches, and specialized circuits can be developed using the mini solderless breadboard. (Source: Parallax Inc.)


Building the BOE Bot

Parallax has provided a low-cost development kit consisting of an aluminum chassis, wheels, a rear caster, robotics shield, servo motors, battery pack holder, and electronic parts for the BOE Bot. A detail assembly guide is available on their website to assist in building the bot. To assure the servo motors work properly, there is a calibration step and code provided on their website, as well. The instructions are user friendly and the Arduino code is explained thoroughly using commented statements.


Parallax provides a complete kit of parts to build the BOE bot. (Source: Parallax Inc.)


Detail steps allow calibrating the BOE Bot servo motors. (Source: Parallax Inc.)

I was able to build my BOE bot within an hour using Parallax’s assembly instructions. With my servo motors calibrated, I performed a basic navigation test on my bot.

BOE Bot Navigation Test

With my BOE bot built, I was able to test the servo motors, the robotics shield electrical interface, and the Arduino as one system. In the Robotics BOE Shield Bot manual, I used the basic navigation test code to validate the mobile robot’s servo motor control circuit. The Arduino code allows the right servo motor to turn clockwise for three seconds, stop one second, and rotate three seconds counterclockwise. To test the left servo motor, the code is easily modified by changing the servoRight object instruction to servoLeft.

The Parallax BOE bot assembled and ready for testing. (Source: Don Wilcher)


The Arduino code for testing the right servo motor. The left servo motor can be tested by using the servoLeft object instruction. (Source: Don Wilcher)


Beside testing servo motors, the shield bot manual has projects for light detection using phototransistors and robot control with distance measurements. Additional resources on code downloads, shield bot manuals, and pricing may be obtained from the Parallax website.


Don Wilcher is a passionate teacher of electronics technology and an electrical engineer with 26 years of industrial experience. He’s worked on industrial robotics systems, automotive electronic modules/systems, and embedded wireless controls for small consumer appliances. He’s also a book author, writing DIY project books on electronics and robotics technologies. Besides being an Electrical Engineer, he’s a Certified Electronics Technician with ETA International and Alabama State Certified Electronics Instructor.

Office Seating That Challenges the Reign of the Aeron Chair

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-06-19 09:23

Very rarely do people buy office chairs simply for the look of them—this type of seating belongs more to the office supplies department than it does furniture design. "Office chairs look like machines. They always look slightly aggressive. It's a bit like car design these days... [the chairs are] overtly saying, 'this is what I do, this is what I can deliver, these functions,'" says Edward Barber, partner of Jay Osgerby who together make up the design studio Barber & Osgerby. 

The duo have just debuted their first task chair in collaboration with Vitra, and hope its simple yet functional silhouette can help diversify world of office chairs by providing something more sleek to the design-saavy crowd. The team notes, "we were just trying to do something that looked completely different."

The final design, called the Pacific Chair (which recently won in the Core77 Design Awards Furniture & Lighting category), indeed does look more simple than your tricked-out Aeron Chair, but the ultimate wow-factors lie in the subtle detailing and complex internal machinery that makes this chair so intuitive. There's the back, which can adjust according to your height, bottom seat adjustment, and of course, basic height adjustment. Barber & Osgerby promised such elemental functions are really all you need: "All people really do is they do the height adjustment and that's it. And they sit in a different chair and go, 'Oh that's about right,' and you get on with it."

Consisting of 146 internal parts, each mechanism within the machine works so the chair operates with the body as intuitively as possible. For one, there's the chair back, which adjusts to the weight of each person who sits in it. When I leaned back in the chair myself, I noticed the reclining motion to be very smooth yet firm enough to make me feel like I won't fall back in a jarring manner. Barber added to this by saying "if you're more heavyset, the mechanism stiffens up so that when you lean back it restricts the amount of pressure...It becomes harder to push the back because it knows that your bodyweight is such that it will easily push it back."

So how long does it take to make an impeccably engineered, foolproof task chair? According to the duo, year and years. In development for four years, the Pacific Chair underwent strict lab testing for almost an entire year after prototypes were put into production. "Everything you see here is controlled by regulations," Barber emphasized.

Thanks to all the testing and time spent looking at what was available on the market, Vitra and the Barber & Osgerby were able to finally manufacture an office chair that matches the regulatory criterion of a proper task chair while offering up something different, more intuitive and certainly more sleek. "Overall, we were trying to design something that's completely calm, completely simple, [where] all that function is sort of buried within the chair," said the designers. Engineering such simplicity proves to be much harder than it looks. 

Reader Submitted: A Cycling Machine that Focuses on Both Design and Personalizing Your Workouts

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-06-19 09:23

Shard is a fresh take on exercising and ambient lighting bundled up in one visually stimulating experience. Shard is a concept that aims to create a focused workout experience by creating a non intrusive, immersive environment. With haloed lighting around the cyclist, shard transforms from a functional object to a standalone artistic light installation when needed.

To create this immersive experience, the UX moves away from the prevalence of screen and number based interface systems to biofeedback interaction designs. Shard influences behavior through ambient light that does not demand direct attention for consumption of information In both of its working modes—cycling and standby. Using ambient light to guide interactions based on input from sensors on the bike, data is also collected from the mobile app in the absence of key inputs thus ensuring a complete data driven exercise regime.

Shard Banner ImageCredit: Artifact Design StudioShard Hero ImageCredit: Artifact Design StudioShard- Pristine MaterialCredit: Artifact Design StudioShard- UX Research FindingsCredit: Artifact Design StudioShard - In the MakingCredit: Artifact Design StudioShard - Mobile InterfaceCredit: Artifact Design StudioView the full project here

Sketchnotes 101: The Basics of Visual Note-taking

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-06-19 09:23

So you say you're ready to start sketchnoting. Maybe you're not much of a sketcher but you take a lot of notes, and are interested in making them more meaningful and interesting, but you're afraid your drawings are too crude. For you, it's important to stress that sketchnotes—although they are inherently a visual medium—do not require drawing ability of any kind.

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Design Job: Flex Your Design Skills: Flexjet is Seeking a Graphic Designer

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-06-19 09:23

POSITION SUMMARY Flexjet, a luxury private jet travel provider, is currently seeking a Graphic Designer to assist with the execution of creative marketing and communication design needs within their in-house creative team, Studio One. The ideal candidate will be a motivated, innovative individual with 2-3 years of professional in-house

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How to Start a Fire Using a Plastic Bag, Water and Geometry

Core 77 - Mon, 2017-06-19 09:23

I would die quickly in a post-apocalyptic world, because these kinds of MacGyver-like survival tips would never occur to me. Grant Thompson, a/k/a the King of Random, shows you how you can start a fire without matches or a firestarter. All you need is a plastic bag and some water: