Diamond Mine


***********Take a look at his videos. He has the challenge NAILED. ************

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . http://letsmakerobots.com/node/36605 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Dipanjan, the BONUS prize is an ADXL345 accelerometer. The pdf may be downloaded here: 




This challenge is not as hard as it first appears. Remember I said you can use your own objects to simulate the diamonds. That was an important HINT. You could use white gravel, black marbles, or whatever you want. If you use the same sort of sensor as in a line-follower, you can find the "diamonds" by sensing light versus dark.


You could use white stones with black dirt, or if the dirt in your area is light coloured, use a black marble. (After all, if the diamonds formed in a carbon deposit, they might still have a lot of black on the outside of them.) It is an easy way to find a "diamond" in your dirt.


Also, when you planted the diamonds for your robot to find, you would have loosened up the dirt, so all you have to do is scoop it up and look at it. Have the robot or just the sensor swing back and forth to search for the diamonds and then drop the scoop to grab it.


Holes in the bottom of your scoop, or in the collection bin, will let loose dirt fall on through.


So get BUSY, if you want to get in on this. 


The challenge ends midnight (Greenwich Mean Time) 31 March 2013.

* * * * * * * * * * CHALLENGE ENDED * * * * * * * * * *



UPDATE: 5 JAN 2013 (@prize)



———— The PRIZE ————



An Experimenter's Mega-Selection of misc. Parts


■ 1x ATmega2560-16AU board;

     (If two people are tied for first place, then both will receive equal prizes. The µC board is (essentially) an Arduino Mega 2560. (Why I say "essentially" is because it will actually be a Chinese Arduino 2560. It is the equivalent electronically to an original Italian Arduino Mega board, but costs a bit less.)

 [The board has the following features: 16 Analog input pins; 54 Digital I/O pins (of which 14 support PWM); 16 MHz clock; 256 KB flash memory (of which 8 KB used by bootloader); SRAM 8 KB; EEPROM 4 KB; ]

 I will throw in other parts as indicated below, so you can experiment with the board.


■ 1x USB cable (for use programming or powering the Mega2560)

■ 2x (Tiny) 5mW red laser modules suitable for accurate proximity sensing

These are only 5 milliwatts and are generally considered "safe", but you should still not stare directly into one. Always be careful around even tiny lasers.

■ 2N3904 NPN transistors  (quantity = 5)

■ 2N3906 PNP transistors  (quantity = 5)

■ green LEDs (enough to make a 3 x 3 x 3 cube = 27, so I will make it 30)

        [These were ordered as "super bright" but what arrived were "standard" LEDs - sorry]

■ tcft5000 Infrared, short-range optical sensors. (quantity = 5)

■ L293D small motor drivers (quantity = 2) with ■ a pair of 16 pin sockets thrown in.

■ 3-digit Voltage Readout. (Reads voltages from 00.0 to 99.9 volts by tenths of a volt)

■ a few 5mm Ultra-bright LEDs (5 in blue), so you have a few ultra-brights

■ miniature (~5mm) Photo-resistors (quan=5)

■ an SD Card Reader Module (quan=1)

■ 2.4 gHz transceiver modules (quan=2)

■ 5x7 cm DIY Prototype Paper PCBs (quan = 5)

■ a Mini-size (400 tie points) Universal Solderless Breadboard

■ some male/male Jumper wires (quan = 40, I think).

■ 10 each of 50 different values of Resistors (Total = 500 resistors)




(Quan = 2) 


————  The CHALLENGE  ————


After seeing this news item:


I thought of an idea for a robot and I decided to write it up as a "challenge".   In order not to put undue pressure on any bank accounts, I have extended this for the next 6 months, ending 31 March 2013.

If anyone is thinking of trying the challenge, please say so in the comments below.

The premise is that a (small) meteor hit on your property or the property of one of your friends or relatives a long, long time ago.  While digging to plant some flowers or shrubs, you unearthed what you thought was a large rough piece of glass. However, you later found out it was a diamond. You do not want the neighbours to know you found a diamond, so you decide to automate the process and let a small robot do the digging.  You try to decide what you will need.  You need a robot that can drive into the "crater", mine some diamonds and drive back out.

Things like this do happen.  Earlier this year, there was a news item that someone in the southern part of the US found a rough diamond, sticking out of the ground, which he thought was some sort of crystal.  It was later discovered to be a rather large diamond.  There was no clue where it came from, but perhaps he is sitting on a lot of them further below the surface, similar to the Russian diamond deposit.  Since people rarely investigate what is below the surface of their land, perhaps you are sitting on a diamond deposit right now.  Since there are coal, oil, and other carbon deposits all over the Earth, what if a meteor did hit there at some time in the past and conpressed that carbon into diamond?  If you do discover a diamond deposit on your land, please remember me with a few percent for a "finder's fee" (since you would not have built the diamond-hunting robot, were it not for this challenge).

Consider that a meteor hit the spot millions of years ago, where your land is today, so the ground has settled and there is no evidence on the surface (no visible crater).

Let us assume for this challenge, (And so everyone has the same or similar challenge) that through wind and rain, much of the previous crater has settled back to normal "back country" terrain, somewhat rocky, so the robot still needs to be able to navigate somewhat rough terrain.  Since an actual "mining robot" would be much larger, the robot for this challenge can be considered a smaller "scale model" for the larger one you would build later (if you wanted to do actual mining).



 108 carat Rough Diamond in Tablespoon

 700 carat Rough Diamond with Golf Ball 




1. Must travel from a start point at least 3 meters (10 feet) to reach the "Diamonds".

     [I reason that if it can travel that far, it could easily travel farther (as far as it needs to), as long as its power holds out.  It may travel with any mode of transport (wheels, tracks, legs, "whegs" or fly with a helicopter rotor) at your choice.]

     It will cross rough terrain.  Since this is a scale model, ploughed/(plowed) garden dirt (or if you must do it indoors maybe a thick shaggy carpet with objects like books or odd pieces of laundry to simulate hills or rough terrain) may be used in your final test.  Your goal where the diamonds are to be found must either be outside in the lawn or garden, or if inside, will need to be in a container filled with dirt, where the diamonds are to be retrieved.


2. Must be able to dig in the dirt to get down to the diamonds.  It is up to you if you will use a scoop, shovel, claw, plow and/or conveyer belt.  [The ground is usually frozen in that part of Russia, but since we are thinking of this as a scale model, it will not have to drill or blast its way into frozen ground.  It will suffice to have it dig or plow through dirt in your own garden (or that of a friend or relative).  ]


3. Must be able to pick up odd-shaped chunks of diamond.  For the sake of the challenge how about up to 5 cm in the longest dimension or down to 1 cm minimum.  (Small white rocks, glass chunks or quartz rock may be substituted for the diamonds for testing and proof that your design works.)


4. It must recognise and sort diamond-like rock from the other dirt and rock, so it returns with diamonds and not just a worthless load of rock or dirt.

     (This is a problem to think about. You might try to have it recognise the colour difference between the darker dirt and the lighter diamond, or try to determine the density or you might want to pass it between a light and photo detector so it picks things that let through some light and rejects things that do not.)  How you sort the diamonds is up to you, as long as it can sort and retrieve the diamonds and not come back with just a load of dirt and rock.  :-)


5. Deposit them into a holding container for transport.  (This may be part of the digger or sorter or may be a separate unit.  —up to you.)


6. Lastly, the diamonds must be transported back to the start point (Whether by driving, walking or flying.)


In other words, you need a robot to mine your diamonds.  If the digger or sorter stages are separate units, they must still be transported to the dig site and back to the start point at the end.


Here is another short article about the Russian Diamond Crater http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2204566/Russia-diamonds-Source-Siberian-asteroid-crater-supply-world-markets-3-000-years.html





A Note on


1. To be judged, you need to post your entry on LMR like you would for any robot project (text about the construction plus a video of it doing or attempting the challenge), and then put a link to your page in the comments on this page to have it looked over.

  Note that your movie should not stop and restart between tasks or it must be assumed that it did not complete the challenge all in one run. [ So, if your camera batteries go dead in the middle of the run, then after changing the batteries, you should start the run over again from the beginning.]


2. Unless no robot completes the challenge, the winner will be picked from those that do finish all 6 parts of the challenge. If only one actually completes all 6 parts of the challenge, then it will win regardless of other considerations.

*2a. If there be no entries posted in time, then the challenge is null and void and I automatically get to KEEP all this fine loot fer meself. — har har.


3. Of those that do complete the challenge, the relative complexity of the project will be looked at as well. [A robot with a micro controller will normally be more complex than one that is only a remotely controlled rover, simply due to the need for programming. It would be very hard, but not impossible, for a remote to win over a self-controlled robot. For example, a robot with a video camera would get extra points over one without.]


4. If there are two (or more) robots that seem similar in complexity and each has completed all parts of the challenge, I may look at how experienced the builder is. The younger, less-experienced builder should win, for having conquered a greater level of complexity for his or her relative experience.

That will be a judgment on my part. Since I do not necessarily know how much experience everyone has, if you are new to robots or electronics, I would like you to state this on your submission page at LMR, if you are still new to it all. You can score extra points for trying something that took a lot of extra studying and experimenting on your part to complete it.


5. I will act as the judge in this competition. The best way to win is impress me with results in completing the challenge; with your innovation; and with your robot building efforts.


Good luck.


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I have added a "grand prize". I would call it an experimenter's package:

The winning robot(s) will win an Arduino Mega 2560, (the Chinese equivalent, but they are just the same in function. This is nicknamed a "Chinduino". I have one here and it works fine. I have now purchased another new one for a prize.)

You may notice the sealed bag has been opened. This was only done for testing that the unit works properly. It was powered on one time to make sure the led blinked as it was supposed to, and then unplugged and returned to the static bag. I did not want to give a prize and find it did not work. Since the LED blinking program is working on power up, I warrant that it is working properly.

If more than one robot ties for first place, each will receive a mega 2560 board and extra experimenter parts as shown. 

See the revised Challenge above for the pieces parts I will send along as part of the grand prize.  [Good luck on winning.]

A box or bag full of diamonds would be their own reward...   But since this is a hard challenge, I have added a nice Mega-Experimenter's pack of prize items. 

( See above. )


ha ha

I managed to get my hands on a very interesting document (http://letsmakerobots.com/node/34374). Not sure if it's relevant to the current topic, but we can't be too dismissive either....

Thank you for the hint to Popigai crater! I would really like to develop a machine able to mine those diamonds. I'll add just a few points...

  • Ground is frozen most of the time. This means carving in ice instead of digging in the dirt.
  • There won't be large containers needed to collect and carry the diamonds. If we estimate 1 carat (equivalent to some $2,000) per day per robot  for economic operation we only need some matchbox-sized container.
  • There are lots of procedures to distinguish diamonds from other stuff found there. Color, refraction, heat conductivity, density, hardness... So far density and heat conductivity seem to be the first two that should be implemented on the collecting bot. Yes, then we will need more than a matchbox to carry, but I would consider a shopping bag okay, too.
  • One of the biggest questions is how to get it there. The closest airport is at Khatanga, which is several ten kilometers away from the interesting spot. I don't expect any roads. And Popigai river also seems to be unusable since it is frozen nine months of the year. At least the diamonds could be delivered using small, simple, cheap UAVs.

But I found a rather annoying remark in the German Wikipedia entry regarding Popigai. Probably not outdated since the last change has been performed to this page today. Translation: "The shock waves of the impact have transformed the graphite of the ground within a radius of about 13.6 kilometers partly in diamond. Although there are no exact measurements it is assumed that by this impact more diamonds were formed than by the other geological processes in the Earth. The use of diamond deposits is due to the low concentrations in the rock uneconomical.

Lessee... We are talking about 1 quadrillion dollars on 600 sqkm. That's more than 1 million dollars per sqare meter. Should be some 500 carats per square meter. How big are these diamonds? How deep will we have to dig for them? Will they be separate items or somehow connected to other ground components? Who does the wrong conclusions here?

Well, if there is a reasonable prize for the challenge besides the diamonds then I might start to think about it...

I think the fact the the Popigai river is frozen much of the year is a good thing.  drive down the river over the ice. Have a quad-rotor with camera on the robot and when it gets close, the quad-rotor can fly up to check out the surroundings, before taking the robot in too close to the guards.  Robot may need something to cut through a chainlink fence...  <grins>


Yes, but I made the challenge more simple than going to Popigai Crater. Since we do not want to espouse stealing diamonds that are not ours, we will assume that there is a diamond deposit close to your home that was previously unknown, but of similar origin to the Popigai crater deposit.

An actual trip to the Russian crater would require other things like a drill or explosives to get through the frozen ground, and perhaps heavy armour plate, since the area would surely have armed guards. That is beyond the scope of thise challenge.

We are making the assumption that another similar meteor hit your back yard/garden (or one belonging to a friend or relative if you do not have a yard or garden of your own,) It compressed a graphite desposit you had not known to be down there. This meteor hit your land millions of years ago and the land has settled back, so there is no indication that diamonds are just below the surface waiting to be dug up.

Consequently, you do not have to be concerned with frozen ground unless your guarden is frozen year around. You just need a robot that can dig down into the earth to uncover riches that may be there. For the purpose of the challenge we can intentionally bury some small pebbles or pieces of quartz rock if you can find some, to similate diamonds to be found.

It is true that we do not need a large container, but it would be nice to pick up at least a handful of diamonds so one single trip would make you sufficiently rich. The diamonds will be rough and a lot of dirt may cling to them, so a reasonably sized container, should be at least 100 milliliters in volume. After all you might find only large chucks of diamond.


When you posted this I immediately thought about my cat's litter box :)

Since the ... lumps ... are organic, they are mostly carbon so they could also be considered diamond precursors :)

If you manage to build such a robot you could be rich without the diamons. The market for pet care products is huge.

Somehow I never thought of nuggets in a cat box as proto-diamonds...

In the original challenge the diamonds would be the reward, but in this one the clean litter is the reward. (Wonder how many millions of years cat doo-doo has to lay around before it becomes valuable stones?)

I can see though that the robot would be doing similar functions. --sorting certain nuggets out of the dirt and packing them in a container for transport... except that the conatiner in this case is a dust bin. (trash can in the US)