Let's Make Robots!

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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Is the deadline still March 16? Are you considering extending to the end of March? If you're taking votes, then I vote for the extension.

Today is the first time I've read this challenge. Until recently, I haven't been keeping up on what's been going on at LMR. I used to only check in here once in a while. I recently posted my first robot on LMR (I now have two). I think one of my robots may be able to be converted to a diamond mining machine.

I've toyed a little with machine vision and if I'm allowed to have the "diamonds" a different color than the dirt and rocks, then I might have a chance of coming up with a robot to "see" the diamonds.

This challenge overlaps a lot of the stuff I'm trying to do anyway so this challenge would be a fun motivator.

Now I need to decide which robot to use. 

...and as I mentioned below, the "diamonds" can be a different colour from the dirt and rock.

Deadline WAS EXTENDED to March 31st and set to end midnight GMT.

[ If you are east of Greenwich, your deadline could be one or more hours into April first, If you are west of Greenwich, UK, your deadline will be earlier in the day on March 31. For instance I am in eastern time zone of the US, so deadline here is 7 PM on March 31.]

Thanks for the extending of the competition deadline.

How many people have entered so far?

Don't know for sure. :-)

Several people have mentioned working on something for the challenge, but none so far have posted anything.


I think the reason no one has completed this challenge is it is too hard. Have you made this robot yourself?

While traveling over rough terrain is not a big deal, locating and sorting the diamonds from other rocks is.

I had envisioned this as using three machines-digging/loading, transport and a "washplant" sorting operation. Not practical to do as a continuous video shoot either. Too many things to watch ,keep in frame,battery life etc. So I just let it go. I actually have various machines that could have done this pretty well. Soil is all sand here, and all very flat. Would have been fairly easy on that front.

Since you have three machines, each could be separate videos. That sounds fine. As long as we can see what is happening.

The challenge is not meant to be strictly interpreted. The overall results are important. The reason for asking for one video in the case of a single unit is so we can see that the robot is actually doing the whole challenge.

Anyway, good luck on your other projects.


As to sorting the diamonds, that is why I gave them a couple 'hints' (or 'loopholes')  –i.e. That they might use clear or white-coloured rocks to represent diamonds, and that they might scan either for pieces that let light pass through, or separate them by the colour. [ i.e. by white (rock) versus dark (dirt).]

Prior robots they could look at there could be mogul's M&M sorter(s) that sorted by colour, but really it need not even be that complex. Using the same routines that a line follower uses to tell light from dark would suffice.

A more complex system that actually identifies a diamond (only) is not required, since they are supplying their own mock diamonds, and can adjust the system to the light-dark difference between their "diamonds" and the rest.

Basically, an arm, scoop and dozer blade would move a sample of the target soil in front of a sensor. (They could have it move past on a conveyor belt or more simply dump it and have the sensor sweep back and forth looking for a light coloured spot. If found, pick it up, if none found, try another scoop-full and scan again.)

While I might after the challenge is over (as well as my current 3D printer project) —I have not yet built a robot for the challenge, as I want to see what others come up with. (A reason I tried to make the prize package as nice as I could)


By way of example, I picture such a robot could complete the challenge with wheels and a driving routine to move it, a scoop arm, and a light-dark sensor (probably mounted on a servo to turn back and forth.  It would also need a controller chip and a body to which the various parts are attached.

In another example, the servo might not be needed. The sensor could be secured to the front of the robot and the wheels turn the robot. This way if it sees a "white spot" the arm would come down, pick up what is there and drop it into a bin. The scoop could also have holes or strainer in it, so loose dirt would fall through. (I did set a minimum size for the "diamonds" at roughly a centimeter, so the holes could be 5 mm (or so).  The diamonds would not fall through but the loose dirt would. (and the dirt would be loose, since it had been dug up previously to plant the diamonds the robot was to find.) Another way might be the have the storage bin have a screen in the bottom and the dirt would tend to dump on through.

I'll stop there, but there are thousands of ways the robot could be done.