September 13, 2017 AUTHOR: Donald Bell CATEGORIES: News Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Raspberry Pi Rubik’s Robot [Maker Update #51]

This week on Maker Update, a Pi-powered Rubik’s cube-solving robot, hacking your own tabletop pinball machine, a look at Fiber Fix tape, and a new issue of Make magazine. This week’s Cool Tool is Fiber Fix repair tape.

Show Notes

Advanced Project

Fully 3D-Printed Rubik’s Cube Solving Robot by otvinta3d

Photo and project by O.T. Vinta

More Projects

John Park’s Mini iPad Pinball Table with Gemma M0

First version using Teensy

Photo and project by John Park.

Cool Tools Minute

Fiber Fix 2″ Repair Tape Wrap (Amazon)

Cool Tools Review by Gerald Zuckier


Make Tips of the Week

Resealable Bag Keeps Your Scale Clean (via Tested)

Make #59 is out!

Maker Faires

Maker Faire Hannover Hannover
Wilson County Mini Maker Faire Floresville, Texas
Portland Mini Maker Faire Portland, Oregon
Troy Mini Maker Faire Troy, New York
Seattle Mini Maker Faire Seattle, Washington
Maker Faire Bergstraße Bergstraße
Trieste Mini Maker Faire Trieste
Mayersche Mini Maker Faire Düsseldorf
Hangzhou Mini Maker Faire Hangzhou
Boston Mini Maker Faire Boston, Massachusetts

East Bay Mini Maker Faire (Oct. 22nd)


This week on Maker Update, a Pi-powered Rubik’s cube-solving robot, hacking your own tabletop pinball machine, a look at Fiber Fix tape, and a new issue of Make magazine.

It’s Wednesday, September 13th, I’m Donald Bell, and welcome to another Maker Update. I hope you’re all doing okay. And thanks for sticking with me last week — I know I threw more videos at you than usual.

The big news for me this week is that I’ve been officially accepted to give a presentation at East Bay Mini Maker Faire in Oakland. I’ll be talking about my favorite projects I’ve covered in the first year of doing this show. It’s happening on October 22nd, so come check it out if you’re around.

Now let’s get on with the show, starting with the project of the week!

Check out this Rubik’s Cube solving robot by O.T. Vinta. The design uses 3D printing for most of its frame and gearing, plus a mount for an $8 webcam on the back. That webcam is used to monitor and read the color patterns on the rubik’s cube to determine what moves to make.

The processing is handled by a Raspberry Pi, though the latest software can also be run from a Windows computer. A $30, 12-channel servo controller board from Pololu is also needed to drive the 8 different servos used in this design.

Now, the total cost of this project is around $200. And I don’t know your situation, but I suspect very few of you are so infuriated by your Rubik’s cube that you’d spend $200 to build a robot to solve it.

That said, this is such a fun project on so many levels. Really, it’s a window into robotic automation, right? You’re learning about how to build a robot that can see and manipulate a real-world object. That’s cool! And you may be out $200, but you can take that project experience so many places. Plus, you can be a hero who solves all your friend’s cubes.

You can find the 3D print files on Thingiverse, and a full project writeup and bill of materials on

Another recent project I love is this tabletop iPad adapter for playing pinball, made by John Park. John made an initial version of this a few months back using a $20 Teensy board and an off-the-shelf plastic adapter.

His new version uses the new $10 Gemma M0 board, simplified code using Circuit Python instead of Arduino, and a custom enclosure using extruded aluminum bar and brackets.

The end result looks really nice, and because everything clips together, there’s no soldering — so it’s a good project for beginners.

The cornerstone of the project is setting up the Gemma to emulate a USB keyboard. Through the code, you’re mapping the connected arcade buttons to keystrokes. It’s sorta like a Makey Makey board, except that for it to work with this particular iCade protocol that the Pinball game uses, you have to send different letters for press and release. So a press might be sent as a letter Y, but a release would be sent as a letter T.

With the included code, the Gemma has no problem pulling it off and there’s no latency issues that I can see.

It’s time for another Cool Tools review. I’m going to take a look at Fiber Fix. I picked this up on Amazon for around $8, and if you’re into it, using the link in the description helps to support my show and the Cool Tools blog.

This stuff is sold as a single use roll and pitched as a kind of super tape that can mend broken tool handles, or attach the muffler back on your car.

Using the included gloves, you soak the roll in water for a few seconds, wrap it around the thing you’re fixing, and after a 10 minute setup time it’s supposed to stick everything together and become hard as steel. Sort of an all-in-one fiberglass and resin wrap.

Sounds cool, but I really had to wrack my brain thinking of something to use it on. I’m hoping it can help me with my gokart handlebar, which is this mashup of bike parts that tends to slip out of alignment. By wrapping it up, I’m hoping it will seize together, and maybe even look cooler.

A little piece of sandpaper is included to rough up the surface, which helps it stick. Gloves are also included because apparently this resin in here is no fun if it sticks to your skin. I soak it in water for 5 seconds, and then quickly wrap what I’m trying to fix before it sets.

After it’s wrapped, it’s recommended that you wrap it again with this included vinyl strap, just to keep pressure on it while it sets up.

Here it is after 15 minutes. It’s hard like the outside of a cast and you can sand it or paint it. But unlike a cast where your arm can still slip around, the resin in here sticks hard to what you’ve wrapped it on. Supposedly it’s watertight. I can at least vouch for it being tough.

The big downside as I see it is that it’s a one-shot deal. As soon as you open the bag, moisture from the air is enough to begin the curing process. You can cut it as use as much or as little as you want, but there’s no saving the rest for later.

That said, for $8, it’s one of those tools that’s probably good to have on hand or as part of an emergency kit. So that’s Fiber Fix. You can pick some up using the Amazon link in the description. And remember, you can see thousands of reader recommended tools like this at

I have a few other quick tips to share with you this week. Through Gareth Branwyn’s Tips of the Week column on Make I found this short video from Frank Ippolito on Tested about using a disposable resealable bag around your scale to keep it from getting gummed up. Frank mixes a lot of latex and resins for prop molds, so I can see that really helping.

There’s also a good one from Kerryn Carter (aka Toolschool) on marking dovetail joints with tape before cutting them, which prevents tearout and just helps you be more precise.

Finally, volume 59 of Make Magazine is out this week. It’s a DIY home issue, and there’s a great piece I dog eared in here on making your own off-the-grid office. Someday I’d like to get at least my studio here running on solar, and this was a neat peak at how to get it done.

Maker Faires! So many Maker Faires this weekend, including Hannover Germany; Floresville, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Troy, New York; Seattle, Washington; Bergstraße Germany; Trieste (tree-es-tay) Italy; Düsseldorf Germany; Hangzhou (han joe) China; and Boston, Massachusetts. One of those has got to be near you, so go make it happen.

Also, remember that I’ll be at East Bay Maker Faire on October 22nd, so come say hello.

And that’s it for this week’s show. Be sure to subscribe, and leave me a thumbs up or a comment. Pick up some Fiber Fix if you’re so inclined, using the link down here. I’ve also got my weekly email newsletter you can sign up for at And if you missed my little 1-year bonus video, I’ll link to it at the end here. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week.

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