Nano Ratón en Colombia

posted Nov 9, 2015, 11:33 PM by Michael Backus   [ updated Nov 9, 2015, 11:39 PM ]

Como una iniciativa para acercarnos a la inteligencia artificial y motivados por nuestro interés y experiencia con la robótica educativa, decidimos emprender el proyecto NanoMouse. La estructura del curso desarrollado por Michael Backus es muy conveniente en razón a que aborda las temáticas desde lo básico a lo complejo, a través de actividades practicas.

Hemos realizado algunas modificaciones especialmente a la forma del robot, utilizando una base de acrílico. Esto influyó en algunos aspectos de la programación los cuales fueron solucionados gracias a la asesoría de Michael.

Esta experiencia es desarrollada en Colombia y pretende ser utilizada con fines académicos en colegios públicos de la ciudad de Bogotá, con la intención de acercar a los estudiantes al mundo de la robótica, la imaginación y la creación

Busy Summer Making Mice

posted Nov 9, 2015, 11:02 PM by Michael Backus   [ updated Nov 9, 2015, 11:31 PM ]

I spent a good chunk of the summer of 2015 building mice. First I taught two workshops at the Anchorage School District's Summer Academy. Then I offered a workshop for teachers at Twindly Bridge Charter School. Thereafter, I offered two workshops through UAA's Summer Engineering Academy. All told, around 60 mice were built. To see what participants thought take a look at the attachments below.

ASTE 2015 Workshop

posted Apr 23, 2015, 11:52 PM by Michael Backus   [ updated Apr 24, 2015, 7:56 AM ]

First Nano Mouse Kits Almost Ready to Ship

posted Jan 29, 2015, 11:01 PM by Michael Backus   [ updated Jan 29, 2015, 11:08 PM ]

Jason Chua Yap has been working hard to make these kits available to those of you who don't have access to a 3D printer and who want to take advantage of bulk rates. He has just about all the parts ready to go (just waiting on the Arduinos and breadboards). He expects everything to be here by the end of the week and the kits to be shipped by the end of next week. He ordered enough parts for a few extra kits, so if you're interested, send him an email:

Nano Mouse in Canada

posted Dec 10, 2014, 7:27 AM by Michael Backus

I recently received a message from Mohammad Sameeh letting me know that a few students at Humber College in Ontario, Canada built Nano Mice for their Hardware Production Technology course. As part of the assignment, they created a web page and made a video.

Nano Mouse 3.0

posted Nov 30, 2014, 11:19 PM by Michael Backus

After building Nano Mice with students and teachers for a year, I've taken some of the advice I've been given and the lessons I've learned and have redesigned the mouse to be less expensive, easier to build, and more educational.

The most important change is the replacement of the Solarbotics Breadboard Voltage Regulator Kit from Jameco. This change was made for the following reasons:
  • The printed circuit board for the Solarbotics Kit had about a 10% failure rate (poor quality control).
  • The Solarbotics Kit put the voltage regulator between the switch and the power supply, which caused the battery to discharge even when turned off (poor design).
  • Plugging the voltage regulator directly into the breadboard allows students to see how the regulator works (nothing is obscured by the use of a printed circuit board).
  • The Solarbotics Kit used a 5 volt regulator. A 6 volt regulator allows for the use of the motors at their full potential (they can take a range between 4 and 6 volts).
  • No more through-hole soldering, which means no more need for a high quality soldering iron. A standard run-of-the-mill soldering iron is enough to build the mouse.

Another major change was the frame.
  • The new frame has been completely redesigned using OpenSCAD. While the learning curve for OpenSCAD is steeper, it's much more powerful. Changes to the model can now be carried out quickly and easily. This allows anyone with access to 3D printers to modify the model to accommodate parts they have on hand (a different set of servos or battery for example).
  • The new frame also includes a socket for a ball bearing which replaces the castor wheel. Not only is this step much quicker and easier-you no longer need to know Japanese to read the instructions!
  • The sensor slots have been lowered so that more light is reflect back towards the detector, making them more consistent.
  • The center of gravity is a little further forward thanks to the placement of the battery (no more popping willies). This also means you no longer need to remove the battery to calibrate the motors.

Nano Mouse 3.0 is also cheaper. See the Bill of Materials for details.

Last but not least, Nano Mouse 3.0 has a much more thorough set of instructions. Along with a video I've included a slide show that walks through each aspect of the circuit.

Some of you may be wondering about version 2. It died in beta (you can thank my students for helping to eliminate that design).

Nano Ratón en Puerto Rico

posted Sep 27, 2014, 12:31 PM by Michael Backus   [ updated Sep 27, 2014, 12:51 PM ]

Eleazar Miranda is a Computer Engineering student in Puerto Rico. Last semester (Spring of 2014) his team built and programmed a Nano Mouse as the final project for the Electronics class. Although they did not complete the entire course, they were able to get the mouse to navigate a labyrinth. This coming semester (Fall 2014) they intend to continue work on the Nano Mouse, eventually remote controlling it via Bluetooth and programming it to solve a maze. They are also considering adding a camera.

Eleazar Miranda es alumno de ingeniera de computadoras en Puerto Rico. El último semestre (la primavera de 2014) su equipo construyeron un Nano Ratón como el proyecto final de su clase de electrónica. Aunque ellos no terminaron con todo el curso, pudieron programar el robot navegar un laberinto con sólo una ruta. El semestre que viene (el otoño de 2014) quieren mejorar su robot por añadir la habilidad de controlarlo por Bluetooth y programarlo resolver laberintos con más de una ruta y sin salida. También ellos quieren añadir una camera.

High School Micromouse Robotics Module at ASRA

posted Aug 2, 2014, 9:50 PM by Michael Backus   [ updated Aug 13, 2014, 10:28 PM ]

During the last few weeks of July I drove up to Fairbanks to offer another Micromouse Robotics module through the Alaska Summer Research Academy. Most of the students had some prior programming experience and a few had also had some prior experience with electronics and even Arduinos. So, it's no surprise that by the end of the module, four were able to figure out how to get their robots to navigate a maze.

What made this camp really cool though was the innovation. One student salvaged a toy tank and wired it for remote control. Another souped up his mouse with a salvaged speaker and even went so far as to design and 3D print a mount for it using Twindly Bridge's Replicator. A couple students worked together to wire and program an Arduino controlled submarine that used a pressure sensor to help control depth. Last but not least, Jasper came up with a much faster micromouse design using some DC motors and encoders. I was very impressed and would switch my curriculum over to using his design if it weren't for the increased complexity of the code.

Middle School Micromouse Robotics Module at ASRA

posted Jun 20, 2014, 7:47 PM by Michael Backus   [ updated Jun 25, 2014, 7:51 AM ]

June Micromouse Robotics Module at ASRA
During the first two weeks of June I drove up to Fairbanks to offer a Micromouse Robotics module through the Alaska Summer Research Academy. It was a lot of work and I definitely missed spending time with my family, but it was also a lot of fun and I got to work with a great group of kids. On the first day, I asked everyone whether they had taken time to work through some freely available online coding resources ( that I had suggested. Almost everyone had completed the entire curriculum!

I've been teaching robotics at ASRA for nearly a decade. In all that time, I've never had such a young group learn so much. They delved right in and learned about variables, functions, loops, classes, and more. While the Udemy course certainly helped to make this possible, the module was a success in large part because of my co-instructor Michael Hellings and student intern Jasper Holton. Mr. Hellings tended to help students with their soldering/wiring while Jasper was available to help with programming. Jasper also spent a great deal of time testing out Parallax's new high speed servos and some methods for adding encoders.

By the end of camp, everyone had fully functional sensors and had implemented proportional control. Most went further and developed obstacle avoidance and labyrinth solving algorithms. One cracked the code and came up with a robot capable of solving the maze! Needless to say I was very impressed. It just goes to show what our kids are capable of.

Professional Development at the ASDSA

posted May 31, 2014, 9:03 AM by Michael Backus   [ updated Jun 5, 2014, 7:53 PM ]

From May 27th to May 30th I offered a workshop at the Anchorage School District's Summer Academy. During the workshop, teachers built and programmed their own Nano Mice which they got to take home. Everyone hooked up all 3 sensors and wrote basic obstacle avoidance programs. A few were were even able to conquer the maze before the end of the last day. Others focused on writing an Android app to remote control their robot. Many learned to use the Makerbot Replicator 2 3D printer the Anchorage School District purchased to manufacture Nano Mouse frames (one teacher even pulled up a SketchUp model he had made and printed it after making a few modifications).

All in all, it was a fantastic group which made for a fun class. I look forward to offering it again next year. A big thanks to Kathryn Kurtz for making this happen and to Denise Buchanan for ordering the materials and running to the hardware store and the administrative office to pick up 3D printer supplies. Also a big thanks to Twindly Bridge Charter School for letting me bring soldering irons and various other tools. Last but not least, thanks to ExxonMobil for funding the purchase of the materials and the 3D printer.

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