Capturing the spirit of the Mars exploration robots
As a kid growing up in Slovakia, computer programmer Kamil Szabo was always fascinated by the Mars Exploration Rovers. NASA calls them "robot geologists" based on their mission to search for signs of water on the Red Planet.
But let's face it -- even if those vehicles had no scientific purpose whatsoever, the fact that these "toys" are still roaming free seven years after they crash landed on Mars is absolutely amazing.
The 24-year-old Kamil's robotic dreams are much closer to home. He wants to travel to Vienna in the fall of 2012 to compete in Robotour, an international five-country competition where robot designers send their creations to deliver a payload (a five liter beer barrel) to pre-selected coordinates in a city park.
A ticking countdown clock to 2012 Robotour anchors Kamil's personal website, which chronicles the development of his Spirit Junior robot.
If NASA ever needs beer barrels delivered on Mars, perhaps the Spirit Junior could fill the void. Kamil is a Java developer in Procus by trade and has no formal mechanical engineering or CAD background. Still wanting to tinker with robotics, he got his hands on a demo version of AutoCAD.
"Even though I'm used to working with lots of kinds of programs, it took me forever to draw anything there," he recalls. "After talking to the operator of a laser cutter, he told me about DraftSight, and I redrew the blueprints from the papers -- 25 different parts -- in an hour, with no problems at all."
Kamil says he loves the "intuitiveness" of DraftSight and says the program has "superior stability" compared to other CAD options he has tested. The computer programmer exports his DraftSight drawings to DWG files to be used by his laser cutting company to make his steel components.
He shares the DraftSight drawings for each part on his MoonRabbit Robotics website. "As a regular Java developer, the products of my job are literally virtual. But with the robotics, especially in the stages of making blueprints and seeing the final parts, my work results feel much more real," Kamil says. "So after work and on weekends, I'm reinventing the wheel, and I'm enjoying every second of it!"