Wellies again

It’s been a frantic few days, mainly getting the embedded assembly language debugged on the welly wanger.
This afternoon, we transported it down to the department, and doing some testing on a grassy area outside, then the weather broke.

I moved the car next to the machine, so that I could keep the laptop dry whilst keeping firing, which we did for a short while, and we were achieving reasonable distances – I have records of over 40 metres on some shots with plenty of power to spare. The crosswinds were quite gruesome, and we nearly lost a welly a couple of times, but Tom managed to recover them every time.

The the rain really started, and we were gratful for the tarpaulins that I’d bought last weekend, as evidenced by the photo. album361/DSC_1459.jpg

We had a couple of problems – one of the motor solenoids came loose and shorted out against the chassis, causing it to activate unexpectecly. Then, as the rain started to ease, we were doing a last couple of tests, and the motor released some “magic blue smoke” – if we don’t have a big motor, we don’t have a machine, and it looked like ours was dead – nothing electrical works after the “magic blue smoke” is released.

We took the motor back to Ians, and found the problem – probably due to us runnning it at 24V we had overheated the main supply wire inside the motor case, melted the insulation, and it had shorted to the case. We spent an hour or so rebuilding the connections, and tested the motor – it works off load – we just have to re-install it tomorrow before driving down there.

Travelling tomorrow, competing Wednesday, then holiday for a few days.

Binary liquid explosive

It’s really annoying me at the moment – I might want to fly somewhere, but I won’t be able to take a drink on the plane – why? Because the media have somehow convinced the “authorities” that I could take a bottle of something from my bathroom, and one of my fellow passengers could take on another, and if I retired to the bathroom for 5 minutes could mix them together and blow up the whole aeroplane!

Now this is sensationalist nonsense, but it appears that somewhere along the line the police, secutriy services or whatever have forgotten that (excuse my shouting) MOVIES ARE NOT REAL LIFE!

I’m not a chemist – the last real chemistry I did was in school when making sulphuric acid in my parents garage by electrolysis of copper sulphate solution, but I do think that maybe umm the Journal of the American Chemical Society might have something to say on the matter.

TATP is the most widely quoted binary liquid explosive, and in the 4th February 2005 issue published a piece Decomposition of Triacetone Triperoxide Is an Entropic Explosion on the synthesis of TATP. Dick Destiny has an article on the journal piece, and I’m not going to repeat what he said so go read it here.

Look, my favourite news source, The Register has also done a piece illustrating how difficult it would be.

And Dick Destiny has been busy on since then with more and more on the subject.

I’m glad I’m not the only one that it’s annoying – Ryan Air have something to say on the matter about the new secutiry measures, but if you’re at work you might not want to click here (NSFW).

Even if you’re not blowing up aeroplanes, you will get into trouble if you’re plaing with chemicals – the 20 year old in Manchester has shown that – but again, the media appears to have blown it all out of proportion, and completely lost any sense of reality.

Is it just me or are the power that be getting better at controlling us through fear – or are they getting more desperate and more obvious?

I’m guessing that this blog is now going to be watched on some list by the number of references to explosives and bombs and aeroplanes and aircraft and security services… maybe they’ll conclude that the welly wanger is the new Welsh weapon of mass destruction and confiscate it before Wednesday. 😉

Press coverage

The first press coverage has been published for the welly wanger, in the Daily Post, and after walking around Aberystwyth in the rain for about 20 minutes I managed to find a copy.

album359/File0001.jpg is a scan of the article for you to read for yourself.

The OCR output of a scan of the article follows:

Robot welly wanger puts boot into rivals

meet scrap

WELSH scientists are hoping for a world
first with the debut of a welly-throwing
Aberystwyth’s metal marvel makes its
debut later this month in Dorset.
Scientists at the university’s Depart-
ment of Computer Science were chal-
lenged to build a mechanised welly-
thrower using scrap metal and discarded
mechanical parts.
And the team of three – expected to
take a leading role in a forthcoming
European Space Agency mission to Mars,
– rose to the challenge.
They claim their robot is capable of
throwing a Wellington up to 80 metres.
The machine is powered by a diesel
engine from an old concrete mixer with
the gearbox of an old Citroen 2CV moun-
ted on a home-made chassis.

Team members Richard Shipman, who
teaches artificial intelligence, Dr Andy
Shaw, a researcher in space robotics, and
computer technician lan Izett applied
their scientific expertise in robotics and
artificial intelligence to improve its
throwing accuracy – the main criteria for

judging the competition.
Up to six Wellingtons a time are fired
from a 2m diameter computer-con-
trolled disc which rotates at up to 250
times per minute.
A second computer monitors wind
speed and direction and relays the in-

formation via a third computer and a
radio link to a laptop where team mem-
bers can monitor its progress.
Speaking as final field trials were set to
get under way, Mr Shipman said: “Other
than building the machine itself, the
main challenge for us has been getting
the computer systems to talk to each
other and then to interact with all the
“The exercise has been very useful for
our research as it’s the kind of work we
are always doing with robots and
autonomous vehicles.
“Basically this ‘welly wanger’ is a robot
– probably the first of its kind in the
“All that remains to be done now is to
teach the robot itself what its capabilities
“It has been built with a certain
amount of artificial intelligence and dur-
ing the final week of field trials it will
learn in the same way as a small child
learns as it grows up”, he added.
The Re-booters, as the team is known,
will line up against 15 other mechanical
“welly wangers” at the Great Dorset
Steam Fair on Wednesday, August 30.
The competition is due to be broadcast
on Channel 4’s Scrapheap Challenge
series in the spring of 2007.

The mechanical welly throwing team the Rebooters, experts in robotics and
artificial intelligence, from left: lan Izett, Andy Shaw and Richard Shipman

Welly Wanger – new photos

Look in the album that houses the following photo for new pictures of the machine out in the big wide world…


I’m almost starting to believe it now.

There’s a piece in The Daily Post today about it as well – I’ll try to get a copy and scan it for the gallery.

What’s in that meat you eat?

The US Food and Drug Administration have approved the use of Viruses on food. There’s a report on The Register about this oddly worrying development, and the fact that the foods treated in this way will not be identified to the consumer makes me even happier that I don’t eat meat.

More welly wanging

This is getting to be a bit of an obsession, but we’ve now been filmed for the interviews for the Scrapheap Challenge Roadshow, and have also been interviewed by the University press officer.

The machine is coming along nicely, but there’s all the little bits need doing, like interfacing all the electronics with the mechanics and making sure that all the calibration is done correctly.

Did I also not mention that the Artificial Intelligence is taking a little while to develop, but we will have the worlds first artificial intelligent robotic welly wanger in a weeks time.

Now clearing has started, I’m having to man the phones, so I’m not getting much spare time to do any building and testing for the next week.

Mentos and Coke

eepybird have been doing some really fun stuff with Mentos and Diet Coke, and it has just been featured on Mythbusters as well.

Some people have too much ime on their hands – says the man who is writing software to computer control a welly chucking machine 😀

If you’re a Kari Byron fan, she’s just done a spread in FHM

More Wanging of Wellies

Well, I don’t really want to give too much away about the design, but our welly wanger for the Scrapheap Challenge Roadshow is now coming along – Ian has been really busy with building a motorised chassis to move the whole contraption around on, and has even built the rotor arms, however the hub was mounted a little too low, so the wellies kept hitting the chassis, so I set about it with the angle grinder and welder and raised the height of the hub buy about 8 inches, providing more than enough clearance.

Our decision to use paired wellies to balance each other looks to be a good one, as when we ran the rotor with only one welly on it, there was a certain amount of bouncing induced into the whole machine.

We also ran the machine with 2 wellies which was a lot more stable, and succeeded in chucking one (unintentionally) a reasonable distance, even though it was released near vertical.