Thursday, October 4, 2012

I've Decided to Watch Movies Online for Free (Legally)

As you can tell, my blog is really about my true passion of science and engineering. However, this post, I decided to talk about something different. I wanted to talk about something I know everyone is interested in: movies. Particularly, how to watch movies online for free without legal implications.

Sure some people don't watch TV at all, but if they did, they would also love movies. Everyone loves movies. 

I'd have to say my favorite movie of all time is still Braveheart. But I know you're not here to hear about my personal crap. You are probably wondering how I can watch my favorite movies and any TV shows online for free? I thought so.

Watch Movies Online for Free Legally?

Well, there is this awesome software that I have discovered. Let me explain...

Check out more info
It's pretty neat stuff if you ask me, and I've got a lot of experience with it. I now make my living online, and so I use my computer for everything. 
I am able to stream movies, shows, sports, news, music, and anything else without ever paying any monthly fees. I also never have to worry about the FBI knocking down my door because this is 100% legal. 
I now have more channels than ever before. I've got 3,500 HD channels to be exact (a bit more now perhaps because of the automatic channel updates).
I was so impressed with this software that I decided to do a press release about it. Want to read my Satellite Direct press release?
I also have made another blog about it if you guys want to chit chat about your personal experience with Satellite Direct or if you have any questions for me.
Access my blog here and tell me what you think about it. I am personally extremely happy to say that I am now saving hundreds of dollars per month that I don't have to spend on my old cable bill, and I am getting way more content than ever before.
You can see I've hooked my PC up to my TV so I don't have to watch movies online on my little computer screen.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Aktakom Oscilloscope and the 555 timer

Schmitt Trigger as a Signal Generator The 555 timer makes for a great way to illustrate how different waveforms can be created using a Schmitt trigger. Rather than just being used for timing, the LM555 IC chip can be used like a function generator or even for creating a pulse width modulation (PWM) signal.

This is all good and well for the electronics hobbyist, but what good is it if you don't have a nifty oscilloscope to play around with? Of course you want to be able to see the different signals generated by the 555 timer when you mess around with the different threshold, trigger, and discharge pinouts. You can change the waveform, the frequency, and even the duty cycle when incorporating the 555 timer into a signal generator circuit. This is done with different resistors, capacitors, and/or diodes.

You can view your output of the circuit by making an LED blink at different rates with various RC time constants, but it would be much cooler to see it on a real oscilloscope right? I know the oscilloscopes you have seen before at school or at work are extremely expensive, and most of us cannot afford them for hobby or home use. I had this same problem throughout my entire time when studying robotics engineering at SPSU until I found the perfect solution for me. I figured that others may have the same problem, so I wanted to share my find. It is the Aktakom ADS-2022 digital storage oscilloscope, and you can check out the video on how I use a 555 timer as a signal generator and what it looks like on that oscilloscope. You will also find there that you can buy it for a really great price, and it has a very large screen for easy visibility.

The 555 Timer and a Variable RC Time Constant = Throbbing LED

Here is the video of the LM555 circuit I built to make the LED flash at different rates using capacitors, resistors, and a potentiometer. The variable resistance allows you to change the RC time constant to control the speed of the flashing.

When you hook up this circuit to the Aktakom oscilloscope, you will see the signals generated by the LM555. The output signal is a digital square wave where the frequency can be changed. This is because of the built in Schmitt trigger that causes the output to only be HIGH when the capacitor is charging. When it has reached a certain peak and the lower voltage threshold beyond the peak is reached, the Schmitt trigger throws the digital LOW signal as the capacitor discharges.

Friday, June 1, 2012

NXT Programs - Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 Robotics Development

Lego NXT

Lego Robotics (Mindstorms NXT 2.0) have been around since 08/01/2009 and were quite the improvement over the original Lego Mindstorms NXT program released in '06. Users are able to come up with some incredible creations that perform real and useful tasks. These tasks can include driving around, launching things, playing sports, solving puzzle, and a whole lot more. Because of the more powerful Intelligent Brick from Lego that has 3 motor inputs and 4 sensor inputs, a lot more capabilities were unlocked and the possibilities are infinite! Check out Lego's official website here.

Lego Mindstorms For Students and Hardcore Robotics Fanatics

Some of the robots that have been built using the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 platform have taken the entire world by storm. It's not just children playing with the building brick style toys anymore. Many adults have become actively involved and addicted to this awesome robotics program from Lego. High schools and universities the world over have adopted this creative platform to enhance technical education and stimulate young imaginations.

There are people that have taken this to the extreme. Serious robotics developers have taken the Lego Mindstorms platform to a whole new level and integrated it with professional style electronics instead of using NXT programs. Rather than using the novice-style intelligent Brick from Lego for NXT programming, they have integrated better, faster, and more complex microcontroller chips into the mix. The ATMEL AVR chip is a more complex microcontroller that can be used in a myriad of applications. They are used in everyday electronics and products that are sold around the globe. Some microwaves, keyboards, vacuum cleaners, televisions, and other consumer products utilize this powerful chip. In the video below, you will see that it has even been used to create a full autonomous Lego robot. The robot represents the the Dreadnought from Dawn of War.

This is just one example of the many impressive Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 builds users have already created. Although most use the Intelligent Brick, it is possible to use more advanced control methods to make your robots complete more complex tasks. The vast array of Lego sensors, actuators, and easy-assembly building blocks that come in the Mindstorms NXT 2.0 kit can be integrated with more than just the Intelligent Brick.

Creating NXT Programs

For those who are not so advanced as to create things like that seen in the video above, utilizing the Lego Mindstorms Intelligent Brick is absolutely a viable option to engineer some amazing and imaginative bots. Kits start at a little over $300, but they include everything needed for a beginner. Right out of the box, users can begin to build beautiful mechanical designs and then hook them up to their computer to program them. Programming the NXT Intelligent Brick can be done a variety of different ways. There are tons of different programming languages one can use, but for novices, it is recommended they use the basic, graphical programming language. All of the software for the graphical programming IDE (Integrated Development Environment) are provided in the kit, and it is literally a drag-and-drop method to create NXT programs. It is called the NXT-G programming language and is a great way to learn how to program (even for absolute beginners)!

For more information on NXT programs and the different APIs (Application Programming Interface) available to make NXT robots autonomous, there are many sites on the web that have tutorials on each of the programming languages that are compatible with the Lego Intelligent Brick. Again, NXT programming can be done various ways with the Intelligent Brick, but it can also be done with other electronics and microntrollers, such as the AVR, 8051, Arduino (AVR-based chip), and others, to make them even more powerful. What NXT programs will you create?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Engineering Students Can Now Express Their Creativity With Lego Mindstorms NXT Robotics

Engineering Students Can Now Express Their Creativity With Lego Mindstorms NXT Robotics Lego has been an important part of children's lives from all over the world really since the mid 1900's when the toys were changed from wood to the plastic variety. These attachable plastic bricks have predominantly been the most popular building toys for children (amongst a few others). They provide great fun to our children, but more importantly, it is a fact that many experts agree they help children's intellectual development extensively. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are utilized to generate an end-result existing only in the child's own imagination. In the not-too-distant past, children began to turn away from these physically interactive and mentally demanding toys, because of the lack of mystery from an inanimate object, and focused the majority of their childhood on video and computer games. Games such as these can effectively be an important part of a child's intellectual growth, but it is more-so believed they promote laziness and absence of mental stimulation. Some argue they promote violence and obscene behavior not expected from children, but no evidence exists to prove this. Lego came up with the brilliant plan to marry the unparalleled entertainment of video games and computers with the original style building bricks our children of generation X and generation Y had been so familiar with. Lego Minstorms NXT Robots was thus born, and this ingenious new product undeniably exceeded expectations by many. Lego had really upped the ante with their Mindstorms robotics toys for teens and pre-teens when they released this all-encompassing critical thinking platform. Lego seems to have adapted their marketing strategy originally aimed at young children who restlessly required arranging blocks into a myriad of different projects. NXT Robots are thus a welcoming change. Lego Mindstorms NXT Robots revolutionized the toy industry as it was now geared towards entertaining kids as well as serving eager engineering and technical minds in terms of education. Schools all over the world have incorporated the Lego Mindstorms NXT Robots platforms into educating students on mechanical engineering, computer science, and control systems with sensory feedback. Children who are mechanically inclined can now freely express themselves and advance their imaginative creativity, and engineering students around the globe have a fun and simple way to delve into entry-level robotics systems. Click here to visit the NXT Robots website. The release date of the new Lego Mindstorms 3.0 has not been officially announced yet by Lego, but NXT Robots 3.0 should be coming out, and I would definitely keep checking out for the official release date. Another more advanced robotics development platform is the Italian Arduino Microcontroller that is available for people who want to build some really cool and custom projects. This microcontroller is a bit more advanced and requires knowledge of C programming and electrical engineering.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Arc Welding Intro: Flux Core Welding Projects Explained

Hey guys,

This arc welding projects video may seem a bit random, but I just made a tutorial for people who want to learn how to weld. This tutorial is designed to show how one can learn to take up flux core welding for hobbies without needing any experience or expensive equipment! If you're really keen on learning welding from the basics to the advanced methods, learn how to weld with this in-depth guide.

Welding For Beginners: Video Guide To Flux Core Wire Welding

If you have welded before (and don't want to see the boring intro), fast-forward to 9 min and 58 sec to see the actual welding. The trick to reducing your spatter is covered starting at 9 min and 15 seconds (or so).

Flux Core Welding Tutorial: Easy, Inexpensive Arc Welder Projects

I hope to help those whom have never welded before and do not have the money to spend on expensive equipment but want to learn how to weld for hobbies or fixing things around the house. Flux core welding is great for hobbies, diy automotive repair, and fixing things around the house. In my opinion, everyone should know the basics of welding so they are prepared to fix anything and don't have to rely on expensive professionals who provide the same practical results. These downloadable manuals are another great way to teach yourself how to weld for those who prefer reading. I really hope this video tutorial helps, and I would love to hear your comments here!

Welding Equipment For Hobbies: Affordability and Simplicity

If you're on the fence about wanting to start welding your own projects like in this video, but you think you need expensive equipment, you may want to check out these items:

You'll see that you can get started with flux core welding for less than $100 dollars. If you want to weld like I did in the video above, it's about $250 because of the auto-darkening welding helmet (which I realized isn't necessary at all - flipping up the visor manually is not that difficult haha). If you're welding for an extended period of time, and you're welding different spots on you're work piece consecutively, you may want to invest in a $50 auto-darkening mask for convenience.

Arc Welding Safety Precautions and Equipment

Remember: safety first! I know everyone, especially those who are just starting out, wants to save money, but never cut corners on safety when it comes to welding (or machining). The arc from an arc welder can reach temperatures of over 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit (some even hotter). Your work piece will not cool down fast at all, and you cannot tell whether it has cooled down by the way it looks. Just because it isn't red hot anymore does not mean it won't give you third degree burns. Never weld without a proper visor to protect you from the ultraviolet radiation which comes from the arc (you can't see it). It is not the brightness of the arc welding that damages your corneas but the harmful UV radiation invisible to the naked eye. The UV radiation in arc welding can also harm exposed skin, thus you want to make sure you are always covered from head to toe. Leather is best because it is naturally heat resistant, but cotton or denim works well too (any natural materials).

Thanks for watching/reading! :-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Arduino Code for Ball Bot - FREE, FULLY WORKING BALLBOT CODE Hey guys!
Sorry it took me so long to find the Ball-Bot Arduino code and upload it. Finally, I have placed the zip file and the individual .pde files on Please refer to the earlier blog for account access below. You do not have to install DropBox. You can just go to You will also find our final research documentation there. The research paper (PDF) is full of figures & diagrams, theoretical/mathematical proofs, trade studies & verification of approaches, and everything related to the final product that is the Ball-Bot.

You will find the latest version of our Arduino code that runs on the Arduino MEGA 2560. You can run this code on any Arduino, but you may have to change some of the pin configurations in the code. This code includes the PID controller and noise filtering algorithm. The code is of course designed for our unique Ball-Bot. However, this code was written as a non-linear, advanced, control system, and it should work for any Ball-Bot project of any size with very minor modifications.

The Arduino is a great way to build a custom ball-bot (or any hobby robot), but for something more simple and quicker, check out Lego Mindstorms NXT Robots.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ball Bot Video Guide

Here is the finished Ball-Bot. This video was shot during our senior design project final presentation at Southern Polytechnic State University. I would like to thank Dr. Chan Ham for being our mentor and guiding us every step of the way. Ball-bots are also frequently made with Mindstorms NXT Robots from Lego. It is the easiest way to build your own Ball-bot without spending too much time doing your own custom fabrication and calculations. The research for the Lego ball-bots is publicly available allowing anyone to replicate the Lego ball-bot. All the kinematics are derived, and it is modeled as an inverted, spherical pendulum.

You can find more details in the blogs at the bottom of this page.

Here is the wheel base assembly. We're testing the response of the motors to the motion of the inertial measurement unit (IMU).

The IMU is comprised of the ADXL345 accelerometer and the IDG500 gyroscope, and they are connected to the Arduino Mega 2560. Therefore, the Ball-Bot is able to measure angular velocity, from its tilt angle, as well as acceleration in the X, Y, and Z directions. The Z direction shooting up from the center of the basketball out through the top of the vertical aluminum structure.

Here is a video that shows how the ADXL345 accelerometer is used with the Arduino Mega 2560.

Of course, I can't leave out the IDG500 gyroscope.

By testing out each of the two individually, we were able to breakdown a big challenge into smaller challenges. This mindset and strategy is what helped our undergraduate group complete such an ambitious task in only one semester. One big problem is just a series of smaller, more manageable problems. When you complete small goals along the way, it also helps keep you motivated and less overwhelmed.

After we got the ADXL345 and IDG500 working individually, we made the IMU prototype board as seen here:

I will divulge more of our secrets soon. Please leave comments below with any questions or suggestions. Thanks for reading my blog, and good luck with your projects! Beginners, don't forget to check out Lego Mindstorms NXT Robots for the easiest way to get started building a ball-bot of your own.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ball-Bot Research Access (FREE)

I have found a decent way for everyone to be able to access my research. Please go to and use this to log in:

password:           bloggergoodies

I have uploaded the .pdf copy of our final research paper. I am in the process of getting all of our additional research together for you hard working engineering students (and everyone else who cares) to utilize. I hope to upload all of our Arduino source code as soon as I get it off of the Ball-Bot, and I'm trying to get a hold of our SolidWorks files.
In the 'External Contributions' folder, you (or anyone) is free to upload anything relevant to any of my blogs for others to use. I would greatly appreciate it if you share any useful information, and please be respectful to and my fellow bloggers!

If you want to read my Arduino blogs, I have started to compile some tutorials for you here:

Also, don't forget to check out my videos on YouTube! Here is the Ball-Bot final presentation video:

I also made individual videos on the accelerometer and gyro that were used in the Ball-Bot, and can be seen here (as well as at my Arduino blogs):

ADXL345 (accelerometer):
IDG500 (gyroscope):    

They are what the IMU (inertial measurement unit) is comprised of for autonomous balance control. In the Arduino code, this IMU board is also used as a PID (proportional-plus-integral-plus-derivative) controller for added stability, robustness, and smooth kinematics.
Control systems theory enthusiasts can appreciate the steady-state error correction facilitated by a PID controller. Wiki the PID controller!

I'm listed in Technology

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ball-Bot Research Paper

Hey guys!
I appreciate all of your feedback in my inbox. I messed up somehow and lost some of your emails. Those of you who requested the copy of the research paper, please email me again so I can send it to you! Those of you who got it, I appreciate you reading my blog.

I hope to be able to figure out a way for people to just download the .pdf of the research paper straight from the blog. Does anyone know if I can do this?

I hope to have some more info posted about the Ball-Bot here as well.

I'm listed in Technology

Friday, February 10, 2012

Senior Design Project Ideas

As a robotics engineering student at Southern Polytechnic State University, I know the stress and challenges presented when the time has come to do your senior design (or Capstone) project. I felt the necessity to share my senior design project with fellow engineering students across the world looking for inspiration or ideas for their project. The Ball-Bot project, which will be explained in detail, was quite an ambitious project for a group of undergraduate engineering students, but the pride and positive feedback certainly paid off.

First of all, one should click here to see a YouTube video of our Ball-Bot. This will immediately give you an idea of what it is and all the multidisciplinary engineering challenges that it presents for engineering students. As seen in the video, a Ball-Bot is a robot (fully autonomous) that balances on a ball. In our case, it was a vertical aluminum structure approximately 3' tall and balanced on a basketball. Our system used four motors independently controlling four omni-directional wheels that rolled the ball in the direction of the tilt angle. The tilt angle refers to the angle of the superstructure (aluminum frame) that sits atop the basketball. We used an Arduino MEGA 2560 and an on-board MicroITX computer for the brains of the whole system. An IDG500 gyroscope and ADXL345 accelerometer were used to take inertial measurements and determine the three-dimensional orientation of the robot in real time. An inverted spherical pendulum best describes the kinematics of the system. If you decide to build a Ball-Bot, make sure that you understand the difficulties and investments associated with a project of this scale.

To give credit where credit is due, I would like to introduce our group that completed the Ball-Bot project for our mechatronics engineering senior design project at Southern Polytechnic State University. Brian Kosoris was the group leader, Yuriy Psarev was the mechanical engineer, Bahati Gitego was the control systems engineer, and myself, Jeroen Waning, was the electrical engineer and programmer. In reality we all worked very hard together and each worked on all aspects of the build.

I will be more than happy to share the final paper and all of our research freely. I am working on getting a website online, but in the meantime I will provide it to anyone via email requests:

Thanks for reading!

Also, please check out my other YouTube videos. Thanks!Jeroen Waning - Find me on