Jonathan Jamieson

a place for my stuff

Everyone loves The Most Pointless Machine EVER so I thought I’d make the evil cousin. With none of the charm of the original, this bad-boy has already irritated a lot of people! Yes, there is a way of turning it off without resorting to violence but I’m not telling you how here 😉

For the curious, the full page for The Most Annoying Machine has more information on what’s inside.

I really don’t update this website enough anymore. I have done lots of small projects in the last year but not got round to documenting any of them properly! What I really need is more time and a total refresh of the design. Oh well, hopefully someday soon!

Smart Balls

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Here’s a demo of something I have been working on for a few months, more info at SmartProps:


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This is the first proper video I’ve made for ages. The footage was captured on a sunny afternoon and edited a couple of weeks later. I’m not used to juggling in front of a camera, I can’t say I thrived under the perceived extra pressure! It was good fun though so I will probably make another juggling video soon.

The music is a remix by Frizzo, who is a regular at Glasgow Juggling Club. I think his stuff is great and the feedback I’ve got from people who heard the song in the video agrees with this.

Flying a remote control plane is something I’ve always fancied trying. With the advent of low cost lipo batteries and brushless motors a reasonable set-up costs maybe £100 (that’s everything: plane, charger, batteries TX/RX etc). I got a Super 3D Foam Plane from Hobbyking.

With all the good weather I’ve had plenty of time to practice so my flying skills have improved quite a lot.

I would definitely recommend practicing on a simulator for at least a few hours before flying a plane if you don’t have an experienced person with you. If you get a light, electric, foam plane that’s robust you can definitely learn on your own. Provided you have a large area to practice in with no obstacles (particularly people!) there is no reason why you can pick it up.

SIR is done

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SIR (Strathclyde Inspection Robot) was my final year group project. Designed by a team of four (3 electro-mechanical students and 1 mechanical student) it was a prototype robot capable of inspection a surface within a small space. When I say a small space, I really mean a small space. At its narrowest, the sample test piece was 32mm.

It was a good project to work on. I enjoyed working the electrical engineering department because at the time of doing the project there wasn’t much robotics being done in the mechanical department. I’ve been told by a few people that I am a closet electro-mechanical engineer!

draw and cube

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Master Chief (360x speed)

The two most entertaining aspects of the past few day were PIM and the rediscovery of the Rubik’s Cube.

I learned how to solve the cube during 6th year of school. My average solve time used to be about 2 minutes and 30 seconds (not very fast at all). So far I’ve just been using my old method of solving which is not particularly efficient. Memorising algorithms is not my forte but I’d like to be a bit faster. It does make a great distraction from uni work!

Skiwalker nearly finished

Tomorrow will be the first day of the final semester of my Mechanical Engineering degree! 5th year has been alright, but I am desperate to end the cycle of exams then lectures and start working on something that “matters”. That something has not been decided yet but something in research and development would probably suit me best.

One of the most likely possibilities is a PhD with my fourth year dissertation supervisor, Dr Biggs. I’d like a mixture of simulation and physical experiments (that’s why I enjoy robots so much!). I have a few other options so I suppose I’ll find out what I’ll be doing by the end of the academic year (at least I hope I will!).

I’ve had a few days of free time since the exams finished. The first day I went mountain unicycling at Mugdock Country Park. It was a stark reminder how little exercise I have done in recent months but it was, nonetheless, very enjoyable. “Winter wonderland” would be an apt description of the conditions. The freezing temperatures did mean there was no time for long breaks, I ate my lunch at lighting speed. 2013 is hopefully the year I venture further afield with my unicycle. I would like to discover more of Scotland on it and meet more unicyclists.

For the rest of my post-exam free time I have been fixing up some of my old projects that really need finished. At the top-right is the newly rewired Skiwalker. It still needs optimising, I’d like it to go a bit faster but it sure looks neater. Finally, I rewired  a long running project, the Procrastination Illustration Machine (PIM). I need to work on the software side (generating coordinates) and I might even look at making a mechanism to bring the pen off the page. I don’t believe it’s reached it’s full potential yet, there are many more drawings that need to be drawn!

I’ve also been jotting down some ideas for possible projects to start in 2013. Hopefully some of them will be achieved! Updating this website wouldn’t be a bad idea either…

drawing is fun

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Master Chief

I still haven’t uploaded anything about my drawing machine so I thought I had better get round to it. It is still work-in-progress and I imagine it will be for the foreseeable future. I have got it into a state where it will draw, reasonably accurately and list of (x,y) coordinates. The fun/tricky/interesting part of these machines is converting an image to coordinates that look good once they have been plotted.

The main excitement of this week was a site visit to Sygenta as part of my group project. This year I have sneaked into an EME group because I had so much fun in the electrical department over the summer. We will be designing a robot inspection vehicle that needs to fit in a small (~20cm) gap. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos I can upload to my website just now from this trip but I will try and keep a record of it here.

The current setup. Obviously the giant flower wasn't done by my machine, I am just using it as support.

back to uni

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Summer unicycling at Mugdock Country Park

Well, so much for keeping my website up-to-date over the summer! I will cram a bunch of things that I’ve done in the holidays into this post. Despite not updating this website I have had a fairly productive and enjoyable time.

The paths of the robots

I spent most of my summer working as an intern at the university (of Strathclyde). I was based in the electrical department (they’ve got robots, Mechanical department doesn’t!) doing work on swarm robotics. The Centre for Ultrasonic Engineering (CUE) has a fleet of small robots that can be fitted with NDE (non-destructive evaluation) payloads such as cameras and ulatrasonic sensors. Currently, to perform a scan each robot needs to have its path way-marked, this is time consuming and prone to collisions. At the Applied Space Concepts Laboratory (Mech. Eng, University of Strathclyde) there has been a lot of work done on artificial potential functions (APFs) to control a swarm.  I used APFs to control the robots and continued work on applying the principles to enable a scan of a structure. I produced a poster at the end of my internship that covers the basic principles of what I did.

The internship was definitely one of the best things I’ve done at university. The opportunity to properly focus on something for a reasonable length of time (~10 weeks) and have some initial support before being left to my own devices was just what I wanted. I’ve coded and worked with electronics before but not as this level. Troubleshooting is a different experience when you are working with a complicated system that you didn’t develop and are new to. I am used to building from the ground up, so I have a good idea how each part works. This expectation and luxury is something I won’t always have, sometimes it’s just not feasible to know everything about a system. You need to read the documentation to interface with an existing platform.

Whether or not a research career is right for me is not something I have decided yet. However, I know I would like to play (I mean work) with robots again!

The robots arranged in a circle

Tomorrow I will start my summer internship at Strathclyde university. I will be doing research in the area of swarm robotics, I think. I’ve been given some papers to read by my supervisor which I just about get the gist of. I am hoping that once I get into the nitty-gritty things will make more sense. Robots have always interested me and if I can spend my summer controlling an army of them, well, it will be a good summer!

Initially the work will be based around MATLAB which suits me nicely because that’s the software I used for my fourth year. I’ve been warned that eventually C# programming might be needed. That will be interesting, it’s been a long time since I’ve used a C-like language and I was never particularly good with C.

The university has made a good effort to bring together all the interns that will be working over the summer. I pretty much only know (at university) fourth year, mechanical engineers, so I should probably try to broaden my horizons! I’ve been looking forward to this placement since the application was submitted. If I had been given a list of 100 projects, I reckon I would have picked this one. In 10 weeks time, I should know a lot more about swarm robotics and if research is the right career path for me.