Category Archives: Tinkering

The Cerebral Dad Show: The Genesis of Cerebral Dad – Episode 1

Thank you for listening The Cerebral Dad Show! I hope you enjoyed my first episode. I talked about what makes me “Cerebral Dad.” A couple of projects in the pipeline, like “The Robot,” the Dragonfly and possibly a beer project.

My apologies for the background noise – new and improved equipment is coming soon.


The Robot:
Building a Robot Gathering and Planning
Assembling a Wish List

The Dragonfly

Flite Test:
Aerial Tour Flite Fest 2016

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Thank you all for all the support. I was able to meet my “propane goal” last month on Patreon! I was able to refill both propane tanks, and fire up the grill once more, Thank you. I’ve reset the goal, and added some new and interesting things. I know a “propane goal” isn’t very interesting, so if you want to see more interesting and interactive content:

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Patreon is like an online tip jar. It lets me know that you’re enjoying the content on Cerebral Dad.

This month, in the spirit of “Teaching”, I’m going to be teaching myself how to weld, feature some guest bloggers, start building “The Robot“, continue the Teaching kids series and working on a new drone.

I also have plans on making a CNC machine in the process of teaching myself how to weld – turns out everything is very affordable – its going to be fun putting together a few “How to” post on my process.

If any of this appeals to you, please make a pledge on Patreon, today!

Building a Robot – Assembling a Wish List

After sourcing the motors from eBay, I started to think about the basic features “The Robot” will have, and quickly started to make up a wish list of parts.cerebraldad_stickfigures-Recovered

The featured image above is only inspiration for my own design, alluded to in my swag design

I want “The Robot” to be social and robust. Not only can it do heavy duty work outdoors, but I’ll build in the capabilities to interact with social media via live streaming and post updates. This means it will need an internet connection, and I have plans for cellular integration.

If I want “The Robot” to be autonomous, it will need to know where it is, and GPS is the obvious solution (in combination with proximity sensors). By plotting a perimeter via GPS coordinates, “The Robot” will have its own invisible fence! Simply introducing the GPS feature leads to a need for a GUI (Graphical User Interface) or Web interface. “The Robot” will host its on web server and LAMP Stack development suite via Raspberry Pi 3 with 200GB of Hard Drive space and a Dynamic DNS service – implemented only at run time. Developing a simple REST/Cloud service will allow mobile integration and realtime telemetry.

So, basically “The Robot” will send awesome information to my phone while its running, along with a First Person Video feed (via a UDP/Python connection and 5.8GHz transmission) and other awesome stuff.

This is a rough list of parts:

I’m going to be designing and welding the frame from my CAD drawings (TBD)- “The Robot’s” chassis will completely be made from scratch.
That’s the dream anyway, until I can fund it.
If you’d like to help with the funding of this project, please consider buying something from my “Swag Shop.”
Share your thoughts below.

BMW supporting 2016 US Olympic Swim Team with Technology Upgrade

BMW sensors and software developed for automotive functions are now helping the US Olympic Swim Team by analyzing their startup and turning underwater, a critical aspect of the competition measured in hundredths of a second.

Back in 2012 – BMW, as the Official Mobility Partner of the United States Olympic Committee, just announced the delivery of the second vehicle-to-athlete technology transfer project, a unique motion tracking system that can help refine a swimmer’s form and technique. The system, provided by BMW to USA Swimming (USAS), utilizes underwater cameras along with BMW automotive technology to provide data to coaches to help swimmers improve starts and turns.

The technology was researched and developed at the BMW Group Technology Office in Mountain View, CA to analyze a swimmer’s dolphin kick allowed within the 15 meters of the pools edge and provide exacting performance data to participants and their mentors. Similar to the body capture technique used in film but more precisely focused, the software follows six body points of swimmers – wrists, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and toes – allowing coaches to analyze the coordinated actions of different parts of the body, and thus modify the way they work together to increase speed and efficiency.

For the 2016 Olympics, BMW announced USAS 2.0 which utilizes LED technology to further increase the accuracy of the data being read at an already incredible rate!


BMW sensors and software developed for automotive functions are now helping the US Olympic Swim Team by analyzing their startup and turning underwater, a critical aspect of the competition measured in hundredths of a second.

Source: BMW supporting US Olympic Swim Team with technology – Torque News


8 Pool Noodle Life Hacks & Diy’s

I got another gem off the web. I always thought of pool noodles as getting in the way, but check this out!

Pool noodles are one of those things I always have lying around. (I hate when you can’t get them in the winter – at least not easily) I think they should be sold all year round as they are very useful. Here we’ll have a look at 8 things you can do with pool noodles.

Source: 8 Pool Noodle Life Hacks & Diys

Tinkering – The Micro Tricopter

About a year ago I was looking to get a micro tricopter to fly in the yard. I dont have much space to fly so I needed something small and agile. Tricopters are known for agility, but Micro tricopters weren’t yet offered by the major brands, so my immediate thought was to draw something up in CAD – enter the Micro Tricopter!


When I was designing this, Madelyn was on the way – play time was getting scarce – and something smaller would be easier to fly out in the back yard or even in the living room if I wanted – to satisfy my RC cravings.

All the frames I was interested in, were either too expensive, but mostly too big… So I decided to design my own and take advantage of a local maker space’s 3d printer. But not knowing where to start, I just started measuring all the components with a Micrometer and writing down the dimensions. This is the final design of the servo mount:

The only flight controller that I had at the time was a KK 2.0 board (the mini just came out) and its huge. My goal was to Frankenstein something together with spare parts already in the shop. The “KK2” was the only thing I could come up with – so I started to measure it and knew where the mounting holes were i started to design the main frame. I then measured for the correct angle for the booms, drew and reenforced them.


I wanted to design something durable and forgiving. Flashback to when I was a kid – I had a toy glider that had break-away wings, so when you crashed the wings broke away to absorb the impact and not simply break. This was now the goal, so I didn’t have to keep printing frames when I crashed!

Flite Test uses zip ties on a lot of their designs for various features that may need to be repaired quickly – that was my answer! I designed a socket and plug boom that would be held on with zip ties.


The main feature of the micro tricopter is the break-away booms! When I experience a “hard landing,” I just simply replace the zip tie and I’m back in the air!


On tricopters, the tail boom hinges to provide yaw control, unlike a quad copter that relies on differential torque of adjacent motors. I knew this hinge  would be a weak point so I designed something “beefy.”


To come up with the length of the boom I used my finger. Using my pointer finger as a guide I tested it against the length of the prop to make sure the propellers wouldn’t collide during operation.

I ended up making two separate types of booms. A teacup design and a surface mount type for the cross motor mounts.



In the second design the motors are also held on to the frame/ boom with zip ties.


I made the battery tray to protect the battery during hard landings, but it also enabled me to mount some much needed FPV gear.

IMG_6130 IMG_2450

The battery tray is also held on with zip ties!

The ESC’s, you guessed it – held on with zip ties:


Now I have a fun little tricopter, that is ready to go when I am!




A good friend, Jason, did a great job adapting another flight controller to my design and coming up with his own improvements – like his white zip tie landing skids in place of the battery tray. (Seen in the above video)

If you’d like a list of electronics (that you can discern from the photos) or are interested in getting a frame of your own – comment below. Thanks!

As always please like, comment and share with your friends!

The sky’s the limit!

I wish…

A question was posed on Cerebral Dad’s Facebook Page, “What you would build if you had the time and money?” – to which my first thought was a long vacation, but that’s not what he was talking about. However, the short answer would be – “I’d automate my house.”

I’d probably start off slow, just being able to control a few lamps, but I’d probably get addicted and before I knew it a holographic Jarvis would be sitting next to me on the couch.

I like projects like that because it allows me to learn as I go, and since time and money are no object, I could afford to make the SEVERAL mistakes I’m sure I would make along the way.

I’ve done several projects that would lead me to being successful if I tried – like my Wifi controlled door lock/actuator (thing):

…and my Bluetooth LED controller:


There is a lot you can do with an Arduino even – the sky’s the limit (really). With all of the technology out there today, I would even be able to purchase a decent system off the shelf, but where is the fun in that?

It’s something I have been thinking about for a long time, but even a budget version would cost 1000’s of dollars that a single income household like mine couldn’t afford.

Great question! Keep them coming! (leave a comment or hit me up on social media)

The Genesis of Cerebral Dad

It was a dark and stormy night… OK, we don’t have to go that far back.

What got me in to Tinkering? Home ownership. Even the RC stuff? Yup!

Wait a minute?!?

OK, let me explain. When we bought a house, we knew there would be work that needed to be done, but when we researched actually getting it done – there was no way we could afford anything. The only thing we could afford was the cost of materials. It was depressing.

Even though I was scared I tried doing the work myself. It actually wasn’t that hard and as an added bonus; nothing blew up. That was a boost to confidence.

Then, I’ve always been interested in RC (anything). Buying models was always out of the question because of the price and all the risks involved. I then polled on my new instinct and started to think of the easiest way to build and fly my own.

The real tinkering came about when I wanted to fly my plane as a “First Person Pilot” later to be known as FPV. Here is one of my first Youtube videos:

I was already proficient at coding, but now I could “make things work!” And I was hooked.

You can see more of my videos on my Youtube channel.

IMG_1147I was so addicted to learning that I began learning so much, I soon had the knowledge to create my own circuit boards that did anything I wanted them to do. (This one connects to Bluetooth).

So in an effort to save money I started learning the things that I thought I needed to, to get what I wanted and needed done.

I have yet to learn how to make money… any help in that regard is much appreciated.

To be continued…

Building a robot – Gathering and planning

That’s right I’m building a robot; a real one. I refer to it as “the robot,” because it remains nameless as of the moment, but its going to be cool and have a cool name too. I was thinking of making a plow-bot – more on what that is in a later post.

This winter I was shoveling snow and it damn near killed me. I don’t know if it the CP catching up with my 35 year old frame or the effects of a desk job, but It was painful. And like any (not so) young entrepreneur, I thought to myself, “How can I automate this process?” and the idea for “the robot” was conceived.

IMG_1970The idea died a short time later when I saw the price of everything I would need. But, thankfully it was revived again when I got an email from a search alert I setup through Google.  There they were! Motors! Well, “through the trees” I saw the motors I needed in an old, dry-rotted, probably-sitting-in-a-puddle-for-five-years, crusty motorized wheel chair! Since I was the only one bidding on it, It was mine a short time later!IMG_1971

This is huge! These suckers can move 500lbs at a pretty good clip.

The motors obviously aren’t the only thing I need. And since the batteries in this thing were shot – I’ll need to source some of those. Ill be building the controller and chassis from scratch, but first I’ll need to learn to weld.

To be continued…