Saturday, May 14, 2016

BattleBots Season 2 "Buzz" Fire Drone for Team Caustic Creations, with Team Interviews & fire-shooting Videos


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By Gabriel Staples 
Written: 14 May 2016
Last Updated: 15 May 2016

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Read below for some crazy-cool fire-shooting drone previews, build drama, and team & bot interviews from our sponsor,

Build drama: why's fire gotta be so complicated!?

So, from ~17 Feb. 2016 to 14 April 2016, I worked frantically to get my fire drone, "Buzz," built from scratch and working in time for the BattleBots Season 2 competition, which was filmed in Los Angeles, CA from 15-25 April. It was very very frantic indeed. It was a very difficult project it turned out, and took me approx. 300 hrs before going to the event, in addition to another 100 hrs or so spent working on the vehicle, writing more code, and competing at the event. It also just so happened to be my first ever multi-rotor I put together from scratch (but don't worry, I've been using them for years and I have a lot of background research experience with them). Zach Goff, our team captain, worked with me to size the vehicle too. Putting our experience and skills together for that part was very helpful, as was this motor and prop sizing calculator here.

I meticulously wrote a couple thousand lines of C++ code (some of which I started years ago, before I had the skills to complete it) running on the vehicle in order to give me greater control over it, for future additions and work which I hope to implement later in order to add more autonomy, hopefully for Season 3 next year. While at the event, in my frantic last-minute coding, I was even able to get a serial BlueTooth device working on the vehicle, and I implemented a custom command-line interface, from scratch, to configure parameters on-board the vehicle using my Android smart phone. I was pretty excited about that! :).

So, without further adieu, here's the result of my hard work. This is a GIF I created from a teaser trailer that ABC made for their show. This was pulled from their teaser trailer here, at approximately 1:40. The teaser is pretty awesome; you should watch it!

As you can see, the vehicle is shooting fire. turns out, was pretty stinking hard. Of my 300 hrs spent on the vehicle prior to the event (I actually logged 288.5 hrs in my project spreadsheet, but who's counting), probably *half* of that was spent just on the flamethrower. I ran into *many* problems, and each was hard to overcome. It turns out making things burn isn't as easy as one might think...especially when you need it all to be remote-controlled (RC). I had to build custom circuits, write lots of code, do some fancy programming in my Tx running OpenTx, and play with lots of hardware. Needless to say, however, I learned a *lot*...and also ruined, burned up, and destroyed some parts along the way.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Building for BattleBots - with Team Caustic Creations


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By Gabriel Staples
Written: 18 March 2016
Last Updated: 24 March 2016 - added BattleBots 2015 Championship sample video

A Few Other Articles:
Our ground robot & drone (multicopter) builds for BATTLEBOTS: follow us on social media via the links below!

(What is BattleBots? - here is a sample video below of the championships from last year)

So, aside from my IR remote-controlled car horn/siren project, about which I posted a couple sample videos previously, I have undertaken a new project recently: building an air vehicle for the hit robot fighting TV series, BattleBots, which will be hosted by ABC this year. You can see a sample episode above, which is the final championship fight from BattleBots 2015. I was not a part of that event. For BattleBots 2016, however, I will be participating by building a secondary, fighting drone/air vehicle which will fly and shoot fire.
(see some of my preliminary flamethrowing trials below)

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Monday, January 18, 2016



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By Gabriel Staples
Written: 16 Jan 2016
Last Updated: 18 Jan 2016

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-Are you benefitting? Consider giving back.
-Is my website, code, information, etc, valuable? Consider contributing.

Hi, occasionally I get emails from people asking how they can contribute. Tools, equipment, & time cost money. Your contributions help me pay for more projects, buy better tools, get more equipment, have a higher quality of life, better provide for my family, and ultimately produce better content, to benefit you, more often. So, today I am setting up some mechanisms.

Before I continue, though, I thank you for your support!


I do my best to give you useful information, knowledge, understanding, and help on a variety of Radio Control, Arduino, and electronics topics. I strive to write outstanding articles, at a high quality, that are thorough, clear and accurate.

By supporting me, you improve the quantity and quality of my content, while saving yourself valuable time and learning interesting things along the way. I try to share useful information and project knowledge that might otherwise take you many hours to figure out on your own (it certainly took me many hours). I also frequently share and post code samples, and sometimes even full libraries. I save you time, while enhancing your life. Your contributions help me do this. Thank you!

How to financially contribute:
  • Paypal: 
    • 1) Choose an amount from the drop-down menu, then press "Add to Cart." You may then modify the *quantity* to get variable amounts. Ex: add $10, then change quantity to 3 and click "update", to pay $30.

      • Amount
    • 2) Or, click this button, then manually type in an amount on the next page, and click "update" before checking out.
  • Gumroad:
  • Patreon
    • Become a patron. Patreon allows you to pay a fixed amount for each new, significant website article or YouTube video I produce, optionally up to a maximum, fixed amount per month that you specify! This way, you only give me something if I give you something. It allows me to get a more steady income so I can improve both the quality and quantity of the content I produce: 
  • Bitcoin payments (coming later)
  • Flattr (coming later)


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Saturday, January 16, 2016

One of my current projects: Arduino police siren w/simple, custom transistor amplifier/speaker driver circuit


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By Gabriel Staples Written: 16 Jan 2016
Last Updated: 16 Jan 2016

A Few Other Articles:
So, a few days ago I got a car horn *and* a car audio speaker to play a siren sound!

In these two videos, I do a quick desktop demo of playing a siren sound through first a "fixed frequency" car horn, and then through a standard car audio speaker, rated at 120W peak, 60W RMS, and 4 Ohms. Using an Arduino, a relatively simple, custom transistor-based amplifier circuit, and the Arduino core tone() function in my code, I drive the horn and speaker to play a siren sound by sinusoidally varying the driving frequency.  I also show the signal to the devices on an oscilloscope, and briefly discuss and hook up a Schottky diode in a "snubber diode" configuration to knock down the inductance-induced voltage spikes created each time the square wave has a falling edge.

First, watch the "fixed frequency" type car horn play a varying-frequency siren sound:

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

100+V Arduino/AVR Microcontroller Input/Output (I/O) Pin Over-Voltage Protection Using a *Single* Resistor!


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By Gabriel Staples
Written: 11 June 2015
Last Updated: 2 Sept. 2015
Update History (newest on top):
-Added "Upfront Caveat", 2 Sept. 2015
-Added lots of extra info, & the Figures, 21 July 2015

Related Articles:

Here I present a pin protection method for very high and low input voltages that I learned from Atmel themselves, in their Application Note "AVR182: Zero Cross Detector."

If you've read my article titled "Arduino Power, Current, and Voltage Limitations" you know that the pin input voltage limits are as follows:
Maximum Input Voltage: Vcc + 0.5V, or +5.5V for a 5V Arduino
Minimum Input Voltage: -0.5V

However, if you simply add a single resistor in series with any input pin, you can protect it against higher or lower input voltages, with some caveats!

Ex: simply by placing a 10k resistor in series on an input pin, you get input voltage protection up to +15.5VDC and down to -10.5VDC. With a 100k resistor you get input voltage protection up to +105.5VDC, and down to -100.5VDC. Keep reading to learn more.


Upfront Caveat:
Though this technique may work, and be good for home-projects or quick prototyping, better techniques are recommended, especially if you are producing a commercial product. Redundancy is your friend. Using external, rated clipping diodes is certainly a better option than relying on the internal, integrated and unrated ones. For better protection techniques, including using *external* clipping diodes for redundancy, and adding transient voltage suppression, read more here: Science Prog: Using current limiting resistors on AVR I/O pins. Also see the AVR182 Application Note for references to additional sources to read in order to add extra pin protection.

Background & Concept:

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Quick Tip: A Comprehensive List of Helpful Arduino Learning Links


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By Gabriel Staples Written: 9 May 2015
Last Updated: 9 May 2015

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Over the past couple years I have been compiling the Arduino learning links, reference pages, and resources, that I have found the most useful for my learning. I keep this list updated, and regularly add to it. The list is found at the bottom of my article titled "The Power of Arduino." Go there, scroll to the bottom, and you'll find the list.

It currently contains the following sections:

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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Website Migrating


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By Gabriel Staples
Written: 17 March 2015
Updated: 19 March 2015

Update: As of 19 March 2015, you should no longer be seeing the redirect page below, under any circumstances, no matter where you find a link to my site (whether in this site, on another site, or on a Google search). Old links should automatically redirect to the new domain. Please notify me via the comments below this post if you still see the redirect page as shown below. Thanks!


I am in the process of migrating this website from to a commercial domain: Please be patient as I do so. 

As you click on links, including links to my website or articles that you may find in Google searches, you may be directed to redirect pages that look like this: 

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