BlueStamp Engineering - Week 6

After four weeks of building and troubleshooting, I finally got my 3D-printed robotic hand to work. I still had two weeks until BlueStamp officially ended, so I rolled my sleeves up (again) and started working on modifications. For this project, "modifications" really means staring at the X-CTU interface for hours while wondering why I can't get my XBee modules to connect. Since the beginning, my plan was to try and get my project to work wirelessly. I wanted to stand in the corner with my glove on and get the robot to work from the other side of the room.

I spent a week researching XBees and trying to get them to work. At one point, I took a break to solder some wires onto a PCB, but other than that, I didn't get the chance to work on anything that was hands-on. I got antsy and put the XBees aside. I needed to focus on making sure my project was 100% functional for demo night. Demo night was the only chance that I had to show off my project, and the only time that I had the attention of everyone in the room. At the beginning of the project, I attached the flex sensors to the glove using duct tape. It made it a lot harder to bend my fingers, so I spent another day peeling off the duct tape and sewing the flex sensors back on. After I finished, I plugged everything in to make sure that it worked.

It didn't. But not for long. I realized that it was just a problem with my code, so I changed a few numbers, and it was working just fine. I took one more day to replace all my wires with some that were easier to look at. I went back to test the new wires, but I found that my battery was dead. I knew that other students had been going through my stuff, but abusing my poor battery to the point of death was new. I mean, it wasn't a big deal. I plugged it into a charger and worked on college applications while I waited. I took it out after a while, and put it away for next class.

The next day, I connected the battery to the rest of my circuit. It worked perfectly! For a few minutes. One by one, servos stopped working. I tried everything. I used a power supply instead of the battery, re-calibrated the code, and switched the pins on my Arduino. Nothing worked. To make matters worse, it was the day of demo night. I couldn't go out in front of the audience with a broken project. I called my favorite instructor over for help, ordered lunch, and stayed behind for an extra four hours.

In the end, I didn't need the extra hours, since my instructor was able to help me out. I stayed anyway, because I wanted to practice my demo night presentation until it was perfect. The presentation was three minutes long, but I memorized every bit of it, even after the constant changes that I made to the script. When demo night finally came, I was nervous for the first time in a long time. I knew that I would nail it, but talking in front of a crowd never gets easier, no matter how much you grow to love it.

It was great. I made new friends while waiting for my turn to present. When it actually was my turn, I only forgot one line and messed up on one word. I even managed to get the audience to laugh a few times! I'm no stranger to public speaking, but I've never been able to do that before.

I still have a few weeks left of summer vacation. I planned on spending it on college applications and studying for my SAT IIs, but I really, really wish that I could build another project. I already have one picked out, but I have to prioritize studying for now. But as soon as I get the time, I'm building another robot.