34 SERVO 02.2018
camcorder with HD and some image stabilization (nice to
have when the robot is in motion). This camcorder came
with an IR remote that would allow zoom, record, etc. I
wanted to have these functions available from my radio
I did some research on the ‘net and found the infrared
commands for the zoom function for this model. I brought
a couple of wires from one of the Teensy units to an IR LED
that I parked in the camera box, right in front of the
camcorder. I programmed one of the three-position
switches on the radio TX to tell the Teensy to generate
zoom in and zoom out IR commands to the LED. It worked.
Now comes the unpredictable part: The darn
camcorder would go into “demo mode” after 10 min of
power-on. Not acceptable! The Andros might survey
suspects for hours at the time.
Disabling Demo from the Sony menus did not work.
After power reset, it would go back to “Demo” after 10
min. What to do?
I found the IR code for the “take a picture” camcorder
function and I programmed the Teensy to tell the
camcorder to take a photo every seven minutes, or 500,000
milliseconds. It worked! It’s kind of fun, actually. As we play
with Andros, a sudden big flash happens at the most
WHAT DOES ANDROS DO?
Andros is mainly a bomb squad robot. The robotic
hand can handle a package, open a door, go in a building,
or drag a disabled person. Andros can also handle tools, cut
a door down, drill holes, dig in the ground, sweep the earth
with a mine detector, and punch holes in various materials.
Andros also has a laser guided rifle unit. The rifle can
be remotely aimed and fired.
The robot has long-range remote video and audio
capabilities, and can go into dangerous environments
(hostage situation, toxic, radioactive, etc.) and video
broadcast with sound.
WHAT DO I WANT TO DO WITH
I would like to have a small “robot for hire” business.
I studied electrical engineering in my native Romania,
and I took computer science in the US when I arrived at
the age of 23. My dad (and hero!) was a mechanical
engineer, overseeing a machine shop of 60 workers. It was
my favorite hang-out as a kid. He was also an inventor; in
1965, he redesigned suspension parts for Tatra trucks.
When his design was adopted by the factory in
Czechoslovakia, that earned him a promotion and a bonus.
Later, he designed a rock drilling installation that would
pump liquid cement inside the cracks of mountains. He
worked for a hydroelectric dam company, and stabilizing
tectonic movements was essential to the safety of the
I started my career at Xerox in the ‘90s as a field
support engineer. Having a lot of idle time between service
calls, I decided to fix and re-sell PCs. When I got laid off in
‘97, I turned that side job into a full-time business. By 2004,
we were employing 16 people, but I was getting burned
out. The business world is exciting, but is also a battlefield.
I needed a change and wanted to explore other areas of
I sold the business and devoted my time to my family
— especially to my twins.
When my son was 12, he told me how much he envied
my childhood. I said “What? There was communism,
shortages, no human rights ...” “Yes, but you’d go to your
dad’s shop and make things. In the summer, you send me
to those camps where boys only care about exchanging
His words really got to me, so we started a garage
workshop. I was eager to get my hands dirty again as well.
We made lots of WW2 1/6 scale vehicles, and even
won a couple of modeling prizes. My daughter, Emma
soon jumped in.
In the foreground, you can see the arm of the robot. It’s
been detached and installed on a rolling table. Weighing
80 lbs, it was most challenging to get the pinout correct.
There are seven motors and connections to the upper
camera. In the background, Emma is soldering terminals to
a test connector.
Mitch got attacked. (Oh no! Are the robots taking over?)
No project is complete until you have some fun.