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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I haven't given up on this one yet-just hit some snags. My parts are all here, I just haven't gotten them pulled together yet. The best laid plans... The big one right now is telemetry. If I could just be sure my NRF24L01s were functional I could move forward. Damn.

This reference will be usefull to whoever wins the challenge as it shows some of the information you need to operate the 2.4 GHz transceiver modules.


Here is the software (separate receive and transmit routines) for an Arduino hook-up for your NRF24L01s:



and here is the PINOUT list in case you do not have it:

Notice that pin #1 is lower right, while pin #8 is upper left.

Also Vcc (pin #2) should be between +2.7 and +3.3 volts. (3.3 volt pin on Arduino board should be fine for powering it.)

 CE=0;     // chip enable
 CSN=1;   // Spi disable 
 SCK=0;   // Spi clock line init high


I was just looking up the NRF24L01s to see if that was the same thing that I have in the prize envelope and saw a wide range of prices. As the young people would say, –O.M.G. !!!! 

I see one for $0.99 US (and $1.99 shipping) http://www.ebay.com/itm/NRF24L01-2-4GHz-Wireless-Transceiver-Module-Arduino-Microcontrolle-r-NEW-/280895790120

And another for $52.29 US (and $1.98 shipping http://www.ebay.com/itm/Perfect-High-Quality-New-NRF24L01-2-4GHz-Wireless-Transceiver-Module-Arduino-/111004487922

What the heck ?  Why on earth would the second one be over fifty dollars more?


Ok, anyway, here is the ones being given as prizes: http://www.ebay.com/itm/SainSmart-New-Arduino-NRF24L01-Wireless-Transceiver-Module-2-4GHz-100m-range-/280951822118

The looks of the onboard antenna is different, but it says it is the same part number, except for the little plus (+) sign on the prize version.

Well why are you unsure of the functional status of your nRF24L01 radio modules? Have you tried them yet? Did they gave you grief already? Are my Bajdi inherited/distilled RF24 know-how required? :P

I will give this one a crack. Got some ideas but after i have done a design i will be able to gauge whether or not i think I can complete the challange.

What occurs to me is that perhaps a solution like iRobot's Packbot or Warrior lines woud be the most efficient solution (this is what they used at Fukishima after the tsunami) but would that not be copacetic with condition #4: it must recognize and sort... It would be quite easy to build a remote controlled ATV with an arm and camera on it that you could use to pick up diamonds and put them in a hopper, but does that count as the robot recognizing and sorting it? Comparatively, teaching a robot to see and differentiate carbon-either as diamonds or as poo-against a background of other carbon (grass and mineral) is probably a more expensive engineering challenge than would be feasible (remember the story of the $9 million astronaut pen and the cosmonaut pencil.). Few people would say the Packbot, the Warrior and for that matter the Curiosity Rover aren't robots simply because they're remotely controlled. To what extent does this challenge require autonomy?

Hmmm, a very good question I had not considered directly. Mostly because I think in terms of a true robot having its own brain chip. A robot that is a human controlled remote can still be quite complicated, so I will not rule out a robot that is more like the warrior, packbot, urbie line.


There is also something to be said for simplicity. The robot only has to be as complicated as is needed to get the job done. Whether a self-reliant robot or a remotely controlled one does not matter so much, but rather whether the mission is completed and how it stacks up against other entries in the challenge. Innovation in design will also play a part in the judging.


As you mentioned a remotely controlled device is not actually a full robot in my way of looking at things, but a remote can win the challenge. I do not anticipate a large number of entires in this challenge and feel there will probably be a clear winner. 


Let me explain what I will be looking for in a prize-winning entry. I will edit the above Challenge and put my thoughts on judging up there.

Ok quick question.  I have the kids working on this.  Makes them use their brains.  


My son wanted to know if we could use a separator station in a box.  His idea was to build a robot to collect from the crater and size material keeping only things of set size or larger.  He would then drive back to the original deployment area and place all the collected material into a separator box located there.  His thought was that the rover has to get to the asteroid.  Why not have the fine separation done in the capsule that brought the rover and will bring the rover back instead of  trying to do much on the actual rover. 


It sounded like a good idea to me but wanted to make sure it falls into the Challenge parameters.





Absolutely. The challenge is to create something to mine the diamonds. HOW to do so is totally open to the imagination.

What method you use is totally up to you.

As I indicated, the miner can be on tracks, wheels, legs or even fly in as a helicopter, as long as it can travel a certain distance to get to the diamonds.  (I figured if it can travel at least 3 to 4 meters, it could travel further as long as its power holds out.)

The construction is not limited to one unit. There could be a transport unit that does the movement, a second one that is deployed to do the digging, and even a third to separate the rock and loose dirt from the diamonds.

I make NO stipulation as to HOW you accomplish the feat. Your robot, whether one unit or many, will travel at least 3 meters (or 10 feet) to where it will dig, dig down for the diamonds (whether with a scoop, or claw, or drill, or plow does not matter), sort the diamonds from plain rocks that could be there, store them onboard and return to the start point (at least 3 meters away)

That's it.

 Note that I updated the wording of the challenge in hopes it will be more clear.  The challenge is to get the diamonds.

 — How you wish to retrieve your diamonds is entirely your decision.

is there a prize