Design Tips Programming For A Self-Driving Snow Blower Prototype

Since the advent of vacuum robots, designing programs for machines to conduct household chores has been an extremely popular challenge among home enthusiasts. Thanks to companies like iRobot, the average Joe can buy devices to automatically vacuum floors, mop floors, and more recently even mow the lawn. But there are still countless household tasks that can be automated in similar ways. With winter around the corner why not team up with a hardware buddy, bust out your programming chops, and take a stab at a self-driving snow blower prototype? To get your creative juices flowing, we’ve put together some tips for getting started with tackling this project.

Forget The Brains – It’s All About Logic

With the availability of sensors and hardware for huge amounts of data collection and processing, it’s all to easy to fall into the temptation of designing a nearly intelligent algorithm to tackle anything that the weather throws at your prototype. Here’s some advice – learn from those who have come before you and leave it down to simple logic.

Tinkerers have been making robots that travel all over enclosed areas with basic switches, relays, and capacitors for years. Don’t overthink it. Sure, a human could clean up the snow more quickly than a robot programmed with basic logic, but that’s not the point. What you are trying to do is negate the need for human interaction in snow removal, rather than removing the snow as efficiently as possible. Keep this part simple and straight forward, your brain power is going to be needed for the more complex programming tasks that will follow.

Adapting To Different Types Of Snow

One of the biggest challenges you will face is programming the prototype to adapt to different types of snow. Snow can be wet, fluffy, a dusting, or a dumping. If you’ve ever used a snow blower in the past, then you know it can be quite easy to remove the snow from one storm and quite a headache to clean up after another. Your best bet is to start off on the right foot and choose a base model that is designed to handle the winter weather that is common to your region. After that, it’s going to come down to load and level sensors.

Load sensors might be best set up to measure the torque on the wheels, or the torque on the impeller – you’re creative design will come in useful here. The idea however is that you’ll want to throttle the speed of both the wheels and the impeller when the snow height and density changes. This will ensure that the robot is not only clearing the snow effectively, but also that it won’t get jammed up when it comes into heavy snow.

Additional Considerations – The Real Challenge

Designing a snow removal robot to clear snow from an enclosed, walled-off plot of land is one thing. What you’ll really need to think about (and what could really make for a great product!) is how the robot could work in the real world. How will the robot know when it’s reached the edge of the pavement, or the end of the driveway? How will it know when the snow is cleared so that it can return to the charging dock to prepare for the next storm? And perhaps most importantly, how is it going to know which direction is best to throw snow?

There are many factors that influence these design decisions, and they are probably the main roadblocks holding back the big companies from making snow-clearing robots today. If you can figure this out you’ll not only be a true prototyping champion, but you could stand to make some seriously big bucks and get into the game full time.

Put Your Technical Skills To The Test With These Home Automation Tasks

Are you searching for more ways to turn your house into a true smart home? There are a great many hacks that you can implement in order to accomplish this goal. Here is a handy list of some of the most popular improvements that you can make. When you’re done, you’ll be the proud owner of a fully automated smart home.

Control the Lights in Your Home with a Raspberry Pi

One of the most common complaints that people have is regarding the lights in their home. If you can’t be there to turn them on and off yourself, you risk using up a great deal of energy. This lack of energy conservation soon translates into a hefty figure on your next utility bill.

Of course, if you are at home, you now have the privilege of going around to every light in your house in order to turn it off by hand. Is there an easier way that doesn’t involve a half mile hike every night?

It will take a bit of doing and some solid soldering skills to combine your Pi with a remote control device that can control your lighting system from the web. But once you are done, you will be able to turn all of your lights on and off from a laptop, PC, or phone.

Open Up Your Curtains with a Remote Controlled Timer

One of the most interesting things you can do with the new smart tech is to open and close your curtains on a remote controlled timer. First you’ll have to attach a few pulleys and a counterweight to the curtains. Once the hardware is in place, there are a number of kits that you can buy in order to send the signal to open and close from your smartphone, laptop, or PC. It’s an open and shut case with smart tech!

Control Your AC Unit from Your Phone

Did you know that you can control your AC unit from your phone? You can buy any number of new intelligent devices, such as a Sensibo, to attach to the unit. From there, you simply coordinate the add-on device with your smartphone. This will enable you to turn your AC on and off, even if you aren’t actually in the home itself.

Using a smart remote device will also control when the unit is set to heat or cool the home as well as how long each session lasts. As noted above, you can buy a ready made remote unit to do the job. You can also purchase several DIY kits that will enable you to achieve the same purpose. This is an excellent way to regulate your energy usage and cut down on your monthly utility bills.

Open Your Garage Door Using Your Smartphone

One of the best things you can do with the new technology is to use your smartphone as a garage door opener. Don’t wedge the phone literally under your door! You can instead use your smartphone as a remote control to open the garage door safely from your car. This is one of the finest uses you can make of this amazing smart tech and it won’t cost you a massive amount to implement it. You can buy several ready made apps right off the web that will let you perform this feat.

If you prefer to make your own mod, you can do so very easily. All you have to do is go to your local electronic parts outlet and buy a simple transistor. This shouldn’t cost you more than a dollar. If you already own a Bluetooth, you’re in business. From there, all you need to do is wire the transistor into your Bluetooth using the soldering iron.

The ultimate idea is to send a signal from the audio amplifier in your Bluetooth headset to your garage door opener. It’s a quick and simple process that will save you a great deal of time and trouble in the long run. Meanwhile, there are plenty more of these simple automating hacks that can be found on the web. It’s up to you to find and make use of them in order to make your life even more easy and convenient.