Rodney Riech

This is a collection of pictures of some of the projects that I have built. All of these projects were made by me in my spare time, and paid for with money that I was able to scrounge out of my limited budget. So if for some reason you might want to copy or link to this page, please contact me first. I'm sure that it'll be alright, I just want to know who is interested in my work.

Since first making this web page I have found that alot of prospective employers also want to know of additional experience so I have made this cumulative list.

Milling, machining, welding, injection molding, metal casting, electrical wiring, finish woodworking, design, blueprints, drafting, computer drafting, negative molding, home construction, dirt excavation with advanced and experimental equipment, class 2 truck driving license, pyrotechnics, pre-medical schooling which includes anatomy and advanced chemistry, engineer schooling with advanced mathematics, photography, forgery identification, video equipment, automotive repair, detailed model building, airbrushing, creative and professional writing in the area of presentaions and some world travel.

Please don't confuse my broad experience with a lack of dedication. My wide range of talents is due to my ease of learning a skill. I simply find it easy to pick up the fundamentals of any task. Although some of these fields have little formal training, I do have experience in nearly any field that an employer might need.

Below are thumbnails of some of my projects, you can click on them for a larger picture. I hope to be adding info on how I built them but since this is literally my first attempt at making a web page please be patient.

Electronic Ear

Time: I built this project in about two hours, mainly because I had already made the microphone circuit.

Cost: The total cost was $0.00. I already had all of the components made from previous projects, but if I had to make all the parts over again they would probably cost less than $5, assuming that you've already got an earphone, a plastic sieve, and a 9 volt battery.

Description: This project is a type of electronic ear I made for my kids. When I made it I had duct tape over the holes, but I removed it for the picture. It still works without the holes covered just not as well. The electric ear is made from a microphone circuit that I had made a while back, except that I had to remove the microphone and place it some distance away from the reflective surface. The reflective surface is made from a plastic sieve, because of it's obvious shape and the convenience of a handle to store the battery and the circuit in. The placement of the microphone was simplified by using a wire coat hanger that could be bent to find the focal point of the reflective surface. I also added a jack for an earphone/headphone. I've shown a headphone in the picture but I actually used an earphone because the electronics didn't power the headphones very well.

Floppy the Robot

Let me start by saying that the concept of Floppy the Robot was not conceived by me. I got the idea and the design from Floppy the Robot. Any info that you'll probably need about building a floppy drive robot can be found at that site.

Time: I would estimate that the time it took me to build Floppy was about 6 hours. A lot of that time was spent disassembling the floppy drive and cleaning it, it was a very old drive taken out of a very dirty salvaged computer. Once this was done, it took little time to connect some "Erector" parts for securing the front drive shaft and wheels. The tether and power cables were fairly quick as well

Cost: Since I got the floppy drive and cable from salvaged parts and I already had the "Erector" stuff, all I really needed was a 7805 voltage regulator chip, a 9 volt battery, and a 9 volt battery clip. So the total cost for my "Floppy" was around $6.

Description: If you can't tell by the picture this little robot is made from a 3 1/2" floppy drive. Floppy is a tethered robot, that is controlled from a PC interface. Right now I don't have any steering hooked up to Floppy but it shouldn't be very difficult to utilize the second stepper motor for this.

A Six Legged Robot

Time: The whole project took me about 8 hours of work to complete. I took several rest periods between some of the Nitinol wire connections because they can get very involved, due to their small size and the detail that they require.

Cost: Stiquito was a kit and not my own creation. I ordered the kit through my local B. Dalton bookstore. The Stiquito kit cost about $30, it came with all the necessary parts and a detailed book that explained how to build Stiquito, as-well-as how to make modifications to make different types of Nitinol powered robots.

Description: What is Stiquito? The Stiquito robot is a small, inexpensive, six-legged Nitinol wire (muscle wire) powered robot that is intended for use as a research and educational tool. I built this little guy so that I could learn more about how Nitinol wire works. There is also a web site called Stiquito_Advanced Experiments... which is dedicated to the further study and development of Nitinol driven robots and devices.

Animatronic Head
Visible Mask                Inner Structure
Time: This project took about a 5 days, at 7-8 hours a day. There were slight modifications made to the mask, placement of the servos, construction of the eyes, and the planning of the eye movement. All of these added to the time required.

Cost: The cost of the entire animatronic head was only $40. The low cost was mainly because I already owned the servos, transmitter, and receiver. All I needed to buy was the mask ($15), the eyes ($2) which were made from party favor toys, the styrofoam head ($3), the black cloth ($10) and the box ($10).

Description: This is definitely one of my most favorite projects. This idea came about because I wanted to create a believable animatronic head, and I thought that having it in a box lined with black cloth would help hide any flaws or mistakes that I might make. The head is manipulated with radio controlled servos that are linked to the eyes, mouth, and left ear. A more in-depth description of each of these parts can be seen below.
EYES: The eyes were the most difficult part of the head, because it involved constructing the eyes, mounting them in the mask, and devising a method for controlling them. The servos for the eyes have large plates attached to them, with a vertical slot cut in each plate to hold a 1 inch pin that is secured to the back of each eye. When the servo turns the plate, the pin is held in the slot which translates the rotational movement to a horizontal one.

MOUTH: The mouth was not as difficult as the eyes but it did have some obstacles that I had to overcome. I first cut the inside of the mouth out to leave just the lips and toungue. The latex that I cut out was replaced by black cloth. Having linkages attached to each side of the servo hub and the lips, allowed the servo to move the lips up and down when the hub rotated.

EAR: The ear was by far the most simplistic. To make the ear appear to move, I connected a servo linkage to the crown of the ear from the inside. When the servo is activated the linkage moves the ear up and down causing the ear to wiggle. I must say that it was a pretty good final touch.

Puppet Doll

Time: This doll, turned puppet, took 3 days or about 20 hours of work. Most of that time was put into the making the eyes open and close smoothly and running the small cable wires.

Cost: The cost was $8 for the doll, $3 for the cables and music wire, $1 for the tubing that the cables and wire ran through, $0.30 for the dowel that controls the head movement, and another dollar for a couple of small magnets that were used to open and close the eyes.

Description: I was sort of disappointed in the pictures of the puppet. Being 2 1/2 feet long and wanting to get the whole thing in the picture, made it very difficult to get much detail in the picture. So I also enclosed a picture of the back of the puppet, but I'm afraid that I left the head sewn up, which didn't allow any viewing of the internal operations of the eyes.
Eyes: The eyes were the type that open when the doll is picked up by a child. My problem was that I needed the eyes to open and close when the doll is standing. Since the eyes would open on their own, I just needed to make them close when I needed. I did this by securing a small magnet on a wire below each eye. When this wire is pushed up the magnets pull a small piece of metal that is embedded in the eye, causing the eye to open or close.

Arms: The arms were made moveable by fastening two control wires to the inner shoulder, one at the front and one at the rear. This way when the front wire is pulled down the arm would go toward the back, and when the rear wire is pulled down the arm would go forward. It sort of pivots in the dolls arm socket.

Head: The head is pretty basic, all I did was secure a short piece of square dowel to the end of a long round dowel. This "T" was then glued to the inside of the dolls head. When the long dowel is turned the head turns with it. It sounds pretty simplistic, but it did the trick and it looked amazingly eerie.

To make sure that the wires, cables and dowels didn't get caught up on each other, I put each body parts control wire/cable/dowel in its own plastic tube.

Robot Puppet Hand

Time: The time for this project is a little hard to estimate. I started this brainchild about a year ago but didn't truely dedicate any time to it. If I had to put a number on it I would say that it took me about 40 hours, but to be honest I haven't completed it yet. I still need to finish making the rest of the springs for the knuckles, and reattach the cables to the fingers and wrist.

Cost: The cost for this was almost zero, the finger segments were salvage parts as was the main knuckle joint, all I had to buy was a 1/4 inch bolt, a few pieces of fine music wire, some jewelers wire (the kind used in necklaces) and a couple dozen small round head bolts and nuts. The total cost was less than $5.

Description: Making a robotic hand first occurred to me when I was taking apart an old hard drive and I saw the tracking arms, they looked just like the fingers of a "Terminator" type robot. All the fingers except the index and the thumb were made by simply drilling the appropriate holes and lightly bolting them together, so they can move freely. The index finger and the thumb are double layered with the distal segment sandwiched between them. This way when the index finger and the thumb are contracted toward each other the ends actually touch just as human fingers would. A pretty impressive feat of engineering if I do say so myself. Once all the fingers were put together, I used the hard drives hub that the tracking arms were originally held on, to secure the fingers together, just like the main knuckle in a hand. This way each finger could be moved from a central point. Well the fingers were done, except that the they still needed some way for them to move. It occurred to me that if I could move them in one direction, some sort of spring could move them back to their original position. I used a small diameter music wire to make return springs for each small knuckle. Now that the most dexterous parts of the hand were assembled together, I needed to make a housing for the cables that would eventually be used to pull the fingers closed. I ran a small jewelers wire down each finger to the last segment. This wire is run to what would be the palm of the hand, where a larger cable is connected to it and routed up what would be the forearm. Here each of the finger cables are connected to a metallic ring. The rings are placed on your fingers so that when you move that finger the corresponding finger on the robotic hand moves.

Hand Carved Sculptures

Time: The approximate time for these wooden sculptures is about a week each, but that's only a couple of hours a day.

Cost: The cost for the Santas was $1.50 each, I used the soft pine blocks that you can buy at a hobby store. There was no cost for the carousel horse, I used a piece of oak I had in my garage.

Description: I originally started carving these sculptures because I wanted to make some Christmas decorations for my wife. So, every year just before Christmas (about a week) I'd start a new one. The first one I made was the carousel horse, and by the way, the last one that I carved out of "oak". Oak is way too hard of a wood to be much fun. I wish that I could have had better resolution of the horse so that you could see the stirrups, saddle, reigns and the other details. The second one I mad was the tall Santa carrying a bag and a staff. I put alot of care in this one, you can't see it well enough but there is alot of detail. The hat has the folds of an old cloth hat, his beard has many long curls, and his shoulder bag even has a patch with stitching. The third statue wasn't finished, but he has bifocal glasses, a balding head, suspenders, fuzzy slippers, and he's holding an unfinished toy.

Electronic Rat

Time: Surprisingly, motorizing the toy rat was fairly simple. I was able to finish the entire project in one day. Most of the time was spent on modifying the tiny gearbox and mounting the motor to it. I also had to spend some time cutting the rats body to accommodate the motor. It was quite simple to make the electronic circuit (batteries, LED).

Cost: The whole thing cost $4. The rat was $1, the motor was $1, the batteries were $1, the LED and extra wire was about $1.

Description: While looking through the surplus stock at a local store I found one of those little toy rats that you pull backwards and let go. I thought it might make a cool little project. I had some extra pager motors and the motors shaft fit perfectly into the main gear of the rats gear box. It was just a matter of modifying the gear box, because it has a tiny gear in it that slides up and down depending on which way the rat is rolling. This gear needed to be removed, because when the motor drives the gears forward the tiny gear is push up and jams the gearbox. Once the gears and motor were done I needed to mount the batteries (pretty simple). All that done, it just didn't seem good enough yet. So I ended up cutting out the eyes and soldering in an LED into the circuit. When powered up, the LED lights up and gives the eyes a bright red glow. When complete it has a devilish look to it. To switch the power on and off I ran two long pieces of fine wire out the "rear" of the rat, when they are hooked together, the circuit is powered up. I want to add either a timer circuit or a light detection circuit, so that it will turn off and on by itself.

Three Wheeled Robot
Radio Controlled                  Autonomous
Time: This one took me about two days to complete. The most time consuming part of my rolling robot was the making of the coaster wheel assembly.

Cost: The cost to build the radio controlled wheeled robot was $36.50, but since I already had the servos the total cost to me was a mere $6.50. The parts that I got from the hardware store cost $4.50 and the few things that I got from the hobby store cost $2. For the cost of the autonomous wheeled robot you would need to add about another $100 for the BASIC Stamp II board and chip.

Description: I wanted to make a simple little robot that my kids and I could play with around the house. I tried to make it out of things that I could find at my local hardware store. The body is made from a 4" PVC pipe endcap, with a hole cut out on each side for the servos. The wheels are made from 3 1/2" PVC pipe end plugs, with 1/16" tubing wrapped around its outer rim. The rear coaster assembly is made from a piece of hanger bent in an "L" shape. Grommets are used to hold the upper shaft in place so it will pivot, grommets are also used to hold the coaster wheel in place. This done, all I needed to do was secure the receiver to the top of the body. Done. Then I started thinking that I wanted it to be more of a thinking robot. I ended up adding my BASIC Stamp II board to control the robot. I bought the board and chip from Parallax Inc., through their "Stamps in Class" offer. With some help from Ken Gracey at Parallax, and some others from the "Stamps in Class" news group, I learned how to program the BASIC chip so that it could use bumper switches and photo cells to control the servos. Now it can sense light with the photo cells I added, while it walks around my house. It's programed to go toward the light and go around objects that it bumps into. I plan on adding an infrared sensor from Radio Shack, and hacking its internal hardware to give my little walker eyes. Night vision eyes no less.

Walking Robot
Radio Controlled                  Autonomous
Time: I was rather proud of how fast I was able to get this little walker up and running. I made the entire thing in one day. I decided in the morning that a walking robot would be a nice addition to my portfolio and by bedtime it was walking around my house.

Cost: I made the walker robot completely out of surplus parts I had, so it cost me nothing. If I had to buy all the parts, the walker would have cost me about $42, $142 if you want it to be an autonomous. The servos would have been $15 each so $30 total. The legs probably would have cost around $10 (if you could actually buy them separately). The plastic for the body sides could be purchased for $1 with lots of extra left over, and the wood struts would have cost less than $1 with lots of extra. Add about another $100 if you want the BASIC stamp and board that I have to make it autonomous.

Description: As I mentioned, since I thought that a walking robot would make a good addition to my portfolio I decided to make one. I pirated the legs from a toy robot I had around the house. Then configured them to work with my servos, instead of the little DC motors and weak gearing that they already had. Then I cut out two pieces of thin plastic for the body walls, placed the servos through holes that I had cut and secured the servos together. I measured and cut the four wooden dowels for body support and glued them in. With the body done I needed to attach the leg mechanics. There you have it a radio controlled walking robot. I also wanted to make this robot autonomous. That was easy enough seeing as I had already done it to my wheeled robot. All I needed to do was move the programed board to this robot.

Laser Effects
Lasers & Power Supply              Simple Laser Effect

Time: There really is no way for me to put a time on this project. I started working with lasers on my senior project about 3 years ago and I'm still playing with them and trying new things.

Cost: The galvos were salvaged from a laser disc player that I purchased from an electronics salvage store for $50. I have two of this type and another more expensive type that cost about $60. I got my three lasers from salvaged bar code scanners. The type you would find used with cash registers in a grocery store. Each scanner cost me $25, but I had to piece everything out myself. I also used the power supply in the scanners to power the lasers, so that was included in the $25. The circuitry was made with breadboards so that I could make frequent changes. The total cost for that was $20 and the cost for the miscellaneous electronics was around $20. That's a total of $275. Seems like a lot, but I bought most of this stuff over a long period of time.

Description: Since I wrote a description of my laser graphics project in my senior project description, I'll just tell some examples of what I like to do with my lasers. On Halloween I'll setup one or two lasers with a sine/cosine generator, and have them display spirograph like patterns on the walls or the yard. I often power a laser up and try projecting through different mediums, like glass gradients. These can often produce very unexpected results. Smoke is always fun. By making the galvo project the laser in a constant circular pattern through a cloud of smoke, you create a tunnel effect. The tunnel effect isn't easily explained, but once seen, it's difficult to forget.

Senior Project
Interactive Laser Graphics
Block Diagram              Motherboard Schematic

Time: The time I spent on my senior project was nearly 2 years. Most of this time was spent on research of the workings of lasers and the many IC chips that I would need for the circuits I planned on making. Building the actual project went rather fast once I knew how the components worked.

Cost: The cost for my senior project as estimated on my senior project write-up was $500, but that was the projected cost of a fully complete system. My system consisted of 4 lasers ($100), 2 galvonometers ($50), 2 power supplies ($25), many IC chips ($10, being a student many companies offered me free chips), and assorted electronics ($30). I was required to construct my own mother board to operate my senior project, so that was an additional $100. That's a total of $315 for my senior project.

Description: If you are really interested in reading about my senior project, the "Interactive Laser Graphics" write-up can be seen by clicking the laser icon.

Lastly, if someone might be intersted in seeing my schematics or the sample program I wrote, please write and let me know. I'll try to get them out to you, but it may take a little while, because my senior project write-up was 21 pages long.

My RC Transmitter

Description: It's a 6 channel transmitter made for helicopters, so all of its channels are reversible. This is to allows the operator to fly the helicopter upside down, without having to operate the controls in reverse. This also comes in very handy when operating special effects with multiple servos.

If you would like to see a text format version of my resume just click on the dinosaur.