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Learning to Control Robots with Your Raspberry Pi

Physical computing / robotics has become a fun and potent force in the world of technology.   There’s something magical about writing software that moves stuff in the real world.   I love that my brother in another city can chase my kids remotely using our Raspberry Pi robot I built.

In the past week, I got my hands on a new Raspberry Pi 2.  This inexpensive Linux computer gives you the ability to interface with electronics, python tools and stuff to learn to code.   Over the weekend, I decided to upgrade my CoderBot design to the Raspberry Pi 2.   In moving the robot control program over to the Raspberry Pi 2, I found out that I needed to re-write some python code to control my robot.  This process wasn’t trivial and I needed a good coach.

PIRobot

Fortunately, I found a great set of Raspberry PI video tutorials by Paul Mcwhorter.   Make sure to check out his blog at http://TopTechBoy.com .   Paul recorded these video tutorials on Raspberry PI to serve the high school students he teaches.   He covers everything from setting up your Raspberry Pi for the first time, learning Linux to using the GPIO python API.  For my project, I needed to learn how to control servos using the Raspberry Pi.

Make sure to check out http://TopTechBoy.com to review Paul’s complete list of Raspberry Pi lessons.   He also offers content on Arduino and other micro-controllers.   So far, I have found his coaching complete and informative.   As he’s teaching you to use the GPIO API to interface with electronics, I really appreciate how he connected an oscilloscope to help you visualize the patterns of voltage levels.   Check out Paul’s links below.

I hope you find these resources helpful.

What kind of stuff are you building with your Raspberry Pi?  Leave a comment below!

http://www.toptechboy.com/raspberry-pi-with-linux-lessons/

 

 
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10 Tools You’ll Love at SparkMacon Makerspace

Spark Macon

SparkMacon is a community space equipped with the tools and grass-roots education required to convert your idea into a reality. We blend the best of art & technology. In this post, I wanted to give you a taste of the types of tools our makerspace can offer to makers of all ages.

Our Community: We’re very proud of our community. Many of our members go out of their way to coach, mentor, and teach the tools and their skills. Why? Because they love what they do and want to share that joy with others.

3D printing: Got an idea for a product? With our 3D printing equipment, you can create a prototype!

3D Modeling Software: With the high interest in 3D printing, it becomes important to know how to create 3D models. Our community will be offering additional workshops to train you in 3D modeling software that works for you. TinkerCAD is one of my favorite tools for beginners.

Laser Cutter: Laser cutting and engraving is such a fun technology. In the following video, you can how to use the laser cutter to create 3D structures. Great tool for artists and robot builders!!

Wood working space
Wood working space

Adobe Creative Cloud: Thanks to the generous support of Adobe, our space offers our members full access to the Adobe Creative Cloud. These are amazing tools for digital artists and creatives.

Robot building: We’re currently building out workshops to help you create your own DIY robot for tinkering and learning.

Electronics: The Arduino has become a popular open source electronics tool for prototyping products. If you’re interested in trying out Raspberry Pi’s, wearables, and other electronics tools, you have to visit our electronics lab.

Korg Kross: For our music creatives, we offer software and equipment for basic music recording and audio recording. When we first opened SparkMacon, it was REALLY fun learing our Korg Kross. We really need to have a SparkMacon Jam session soon!

HP Sprout

Make sure to visit SparkMacon.com to learn about our training workshops. There’s a maker and artist in all of us! We hope to support you in your creativity! Learn more at SparkMacon.com

I want to thank all of our members and partner communities. We’re very thankful for you, your support, and helping to grow our community by sharing your craft. We would be nothing without our community.

Hope you have a great week!

 
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Minecraft Coding with ComputerCraftEdu #code #makered #edtech

ComputerCraftEdu

Hi. As I was researching new ways to improve our Minecraft coding workshop coming soon, a friend of mine asked me to check out the ComputerCraftEdu MOD.   ComputerCraftEdu empowers young coders to control small turtle robots in your Minecraft world.   These little programmable robots can do many of the jobs a normal player can execute like digging, gathering inventory, building structure using blocks.   Trying to get younger middle school students to type well can be quite a challenge.   I appreciated that ComputerCraftEdu mod provides a drag and drop interface for laying out movement commands and action commands.    If you’re interested in getting students into real code, the environment enables players to script out actions using the Lua programming language.  Students will get exposure to the ideas of sequencing actions, planning, repeating, and variables.  I’m looking forward to trying this mod out with our young makers in our makerspace.

Computer Craft Edu - code view

To help you get started with ComputerCraftEdu yourself, check out the following video and links:

http://computercraftedu.com/

http://www.computercraft.info/

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8 Podcasts to Help You Level Up in Code

Podcasts

  • .NET Rocks:  “NET Rocks! is a weekly Internet audio talk show for .NET Developers.”  I have been following Carl and Richard for years.   They have great taste in selecting guests.   I tend to use this podcast to watch for trends in web development, Javascript, and all things .NET.
  • Hanselminutes:  “Hanselminutes Podcast is ‘Fresh Air’ for developers. Scott interviews movers and shakers in technology in this commute-time show.”   I love learning from Scott Hanselman about a broad range of topics including DIY/makers movement, community management, open source, and .NET tech.
  • Floss Weekly:   Early in my career, I focused exclusively on the Microsoft ecosystem.   I had a great team leader who coached me to pay attention to ways open source technology can add value to a business.   This idea changed my career for the better.   FLOSS weekly is a fun show to watch trends in open source tech.
  • http://www.se-radio.net: Podcast for Professional Software Developers.   This collection of talks can really help your team learn from the experiences of other software engineers.   It’s worth checking out!
  • Google tech talks – Awesome collection of video talks at Google given by top experts.  There’s a broad range of topics that you’ll enjoy.
  • Agile Toolkit Podcast - Conversations about Agile Development and Delivery.   In our shop, we tend to focus on Scrum and agile engineering practices.   This has been a helpful podcast to learn about other flavors of agile and ways that agile integrates with the business.
  • The Changelog: Open Source moves fast. Keep up.
  • This Developer’s Life:  A podcast about developers and their lives.

 

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Photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/29205886@N08/

 
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Using Android, JavaScript, and Arduino to control your robot. #makered #javascript #android

DroidScript

Let’s say you want to tinker with making a robot controller on your Android device, but you don’t have a lot of time to learn Java.  Perhaps you just love JavaScript and want to write Android Apps.   In our maker education programs, we enjoy introducing students to JavaScript since the language helps students go from idea to prototype quickly.

Consider checking DroidScript on the Google Play Store.  DroidScript enables you to quickly build simple Android apps using JavaScript.

I greatly appreciate DroidScript enabling you to edit programs directly from a Wifi connected desktop computer.  All you need is a desktop web browser.   You don’t need to install Eclipse, Java, simulators, Netbeans or anything.   You press a button in DroidScript and the app fires up a web server on your Android device.   From your web browser, you can start making new apps, exploring and running sample programs, and checking out the documentation.

What features of Android can you access using DroidScript?

  • You can use the GPS, Compass, Camera, and Accelerometer.
  • DroidScript can do basic graphics functions.
  • According to the documentation, you can send and receive emails and SMS.
  • You can control Arduino and Lego NXT.
  • On a personal project, I used DroidScript to send commands to an Arduino through serial communication.
  • You can also fire up a custom web server so that your phone can respond to HTTP requests.

I think users will appreciate the effective samples and documentation.

Docs screen

For the young programmer, hobby programmer or someone who needs some quick code duck tape on Android, DroidScript is worth checking out.  If you need help, they have an active forum community at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/androidscript

Let’s Build a Robot Control program

In our previous blog post, we showed you how to build your own DIY servo robot using Arduino.   Let’s assume that the Arduino code follows the following protocol when it receives bytes on the serial port:

  • When w is received, the robot moves forward.
  • When  s is received, the robot moves backward.
  • When a is received, the robot moves left.
  • When d is received, the robot moves right.
  • When the space character is received, the robot stops all motion.

Here’s your test robot using an Arduino Nano.

Android Bot

For this robot design, I want to use my Android device and a blue tooth keyboard to remotely control the Android device.   The blue tooth keyboard helps me control the robot at a distance.  You will also need to obtain a USB to micro-USB adapter like this one to connect your Android device to Arduino.  Here’s the code needed to control the robot.

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<html>
<head>
<script src='file:///android_asset/app.js'></script>
<script src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/2.1.3/jquery.min.js"></script>
</head>
<script>
    //Called after application is started.
    function OnStart()
    {
        app.ShowPopup( "Robot control active" );
        usb = app.CreateUSBSerial(9600);
    }
</script>

<script>
function forward()
{
usb.Write( "w" );
}

function back()
{
usb.Write( "s" );
}

function left()
{
usb.Write( "a" );
}

function stop()
{
usb.Write( " " );
}

function right()
{
usb.Write( "d" );
}

$(document).keypress(function(event) {
    switch(event.charCode)
    {
        case 119: //w was pressed
            forward();
            break;
        case 115: //s was pressed
            back();
            break;
        case 97: //a was pressed
            left();
            break;
        case 100: //d was pressed
            right();
            break;
        case 32: //space was pressed
            stop();
            break;
        case 49:
            var pitch = 1.0, speed = 1.0;
            app.TextToSpeech( "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.", pitch, speed );    
            break;
        default:
            var pitch = 1.0, speed = 1.0;
            app.TextToSpeech( "Unknown command.", pitch, speed );      
            break;
    }
     
});
</script>

<body onload="app.Start()">
<h1>Robot control program active</h1>    
</body>
</html>

DroidScript supports two modes of development: pure JavaScript and HTML mode. This code sample uses the HTML style of application development making it natural for web developers. Let’s tear down the code. We need to import a few script files at the top of the code.

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<html>
<head>
<script src='file:///android_asset/app.js'></script>
<script src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/2.1.3/jquery.min.js"></script>
</head>

When the application starts, we need to configure the serial port to a baud rate of 9600.

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    //Called after application is started.
    function OnStart()
    {
        app.ShowPopup( "Robot control active" );
        usb = app.CreateUSBSerial(9600);
    }

The following functions define our protocol for sending messages to the Arduino. In each case, we’re just sending the appropriate character to the serial port.

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function forward()
{
usb.Write( "w" );
}

function back()
{
usb.Write( "s" );
}

function left()
{
usb.Write( "a" );
}

function stop()
{
usb.Write( " " );
}

function right()
{
usb.Write( "d" );
}

To accept keyboard input from the user, we use the following switch statement:

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$(document).keypress(function(event) {
    switch(event.charCode)
    {
        case 119:
            forward();
            break;
        case 115:
            back();
            break;
        case 97:
            left();
            break;
        case 100:
            right();
            break;
        case 32:
            stop();
            break;

DroidScript has a really easy function for text to speech too.

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var pitch = 1.0, speed = 1.0;
app.TextToSpeech( "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.", pitch, speed );

Make sure to download DroidScript and check out the other cool features it offers. We love to hear from our readers! We would enjoy seeing your robots or your apps! Leave a comment below. All the best!

 

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Moving Your DIY Robot using Arduino and Servos

Sumobot Bot JR

Interested in building your own Arduino robot? For me, it has been a fun project to do with my kids. We built our first the robot using the PiBot robotics kit. Additional iterations utilized Legos, Sumobot Jr, cardboard, and other materials around the house. It’s fun to invent your own chassis and designs. Using some of the ideas from this blog post,
you’ll be able to build your own DIY robot. Hope you enjoy the journey.

In future blog posts, we’ll show ways to control your robot using a Wifi connection, Raspberry Pi, Droidscript and Android. This blog post will focus on controlling the wheels of the robot using continuous rotation servos and
a simple communication protocol.

Here’s a components that you’ll need to get started:

This post will focus on programming the servo’s with Arduino’s programming environment. For sample instructions on building a Sumo Bot Jr, check out the following video. In this post, we’ll assume that you have put together your robot chassis and your servos, breadboard, battery pack and Arduino have been connected to your chassis.

Servo Robot

  1. Connect the GND pin on the Arduino to the ground line of the bread board. The ground line is marked with a blue stripe.
  2. Connect the black wires of the servos to the ground line.
  3. Connect the red wires of the servos to the voltage line of the bread board. The voltage line is marked with a red stripe.
  4. Connect the white wire of the left servo to pin 9 of the Arduino. This wire will act as a signal wire between the servo and the Arduino.
  5. Connect the white wire of the right servo to pin 10 of the Arduino.
  6. Connect the black wire of the battery pack to the ground line.
  7. Connect the red wire of the battery pack to the voltage line.
  8. Install 4 AA batteries into the battery pack.

At this point, we’re ready to install some Arduino code into the Arduino. Copy the following Arduino sketch and upload into your Arduino. To learn more about uploading sketches using the Arduino IDE, check out the following video:

Here’s another tutorial on setting up your Arduino and uploading sketches:
https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Howto

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#include <Servo.h>

Servo leftServo;  
Servo rightServo;  

int LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE = 180;
int LEFT_BACK_VALUE = 0;
int STOP_VALUE = 90;
int RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE = 0;
int RIGHT_BACK_VALUE = 180;
int LEFT_SERVO_PIN = 9;
int RIGHT_SERVO_PIN = 10;
 
void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(9600);
  leftServo.attach(LEFT_SERVO_PIN);
  rightServo.attach(RIGHT_SERVO_PIN);
  stop();
}
//================================================================================
void forward()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void stop()
{
    leftServo.write(STOP_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(STOP_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void back()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_BACK_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_BACK_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void left()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_BACK_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void right()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_BACK_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void loop()
{
  if (Serial.available() > 0) {
    int inByte = Serial.read();

    switch (inByte) {
    case 'w':    forward(); break;
    case 's':    back(); break;
    case 'a':    left(); break;
    case 'd':    right(); break;
    case ' ':    stop(); break;
    }  
  }  
}

How does this code work?

We start by importing the “Servo” header and declaring the left and right
servos.

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#include <Servo.h>

Servo leftServo;  
Servo rightServo;

The continuous rotation servo has a simple protocol for controlling rotational
motion using the frequency of voltage pulses. In the Arduino framework, the following
code stops the rotation of the servo.

leftServo.write(90);

To make the servo spin forward, use the following code:

leftServo.write(180);

To make the servo spin backward, use the following code:

leftServo.write(0);

With these ideas in mind, we define the following constants for the left and right servos.

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int LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE = 180;
int LEFT_BACK_VALUE = 0;
int STOP_VALUE = 90;
int RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE = 0;
int RIGHT_BACK_VALUE = 180;

We also define the constants for the Arduino digital pins.

int LEFT_SERVO_PIN = 9;
int RIGHT_SERVO_PIN = 10;

In the following code, we setup the serial port, attach the left and right servos,
and send the stop command.

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void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(9600);
  leftServo.attach(LEFT_SERVO_PIN);
  rightServo.attach(RIGHT_SERVO_PIN);
  stop();
}

The following functions are used to move the robot forward, backward, left, and right.
There’s also a function to stop movement.

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//================================================================================
void forward()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void stop()
{
    leftServo.write(STOP_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(STOP_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void back()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_BACK_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_BACK_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void left()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_BACK_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void right()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_BACK_VALUE);
}

//================================================================================

In the loop function which is called repeatedly, the Arduino waits for a character
from the serial port. If the Arduino receives a “w”, the program sends a forward command.
If the Arduino receives a “s”, the program sends a backward command.
If the Arduino receives a space, the program sends a stop command.

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void loop()
{
  if (Serial.available() > 0) {
    int inByte = Serial.read();

    switch (inByte) {
    case 'w':    forward(); break;
    case 's':    back(); break;
    case 'a':    left(); break;
    case 'd':    right(); break;
    case ' ':    stop(); break;
    }  
  }  
}

In the Arduino IDE, press CTRL+SHIFT+M to open the serial port monitor. This window is used to send bytes to the Arduino. Try typing “w” and press enter. The robot should move forward. Try typing space and press enter. The robot should stop.

Congrads! You’ve built your first Arduino robot!

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Sumobot Jr: Fun Open Source Robot Kit using Arduino and JavaScript

Sumobot Bot JR

Looking for a fun weekend project? The Sumobot junior is a fun open source robot kit using Arduino and JavaScript. If you already own an Arduino, this kit can be an inexpensive way to tinker with robot building. (i.e. about $50)   Since the plans for the chassis are open source, you can customize the robot as you see fit.  The design can be completed using a laser cutter or a 3D printer.    You might extend the base of the robot so that you can have room for a bread board or anything else you like! You can find complete instructions for building your Sumo Bot JR at http://sumobotkit.com/.   The design uses continuous rotation servo’s which are pretty easy to program and re-use in other robot projects.  You can purchase the servo’s here: https://www.parallax.com/product/900-00008

While researching this blog post, I found another cool post detailing the process of building a NodeBot Jr.
http://www.tattdcodemonkey.com/blog/2014/7/26/nodebots

You can find the build plans and code here: https://github.com/makenai/sumobot-jr

 

 

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Civic Hacking: Why does it matter?

Hack for change picuture

Civic hacking has become a potent movement for engaging coders, designers, and technology professionals in challenges that matter to the community.   Computer hacking tends to have a negative connotation.  Some call civic hacking “hacking gone good” since it’s really about community service and place making.

I had the good fortune to participate in the National Day of Civic hacking on June 6th at SparkMacon MakerSpace.  I want to give a shout out to the organizations that made the event possible: TAG Middle Georgia, LBA Ware, Infinity Network Solutions and Spinen.   I especially want to thank the team that organized the event for their investment of time in organizing challenge mentors, making people feel welcome, and supporting our makers.

Hack For Change

Some argue that civic hackathons have little value since it’s rare to find apps that find their way into full implementation and  achieve impact.  I, however, feel that civic hackathons offer our communities a number of benefits.

  • Building a tribe change makers: It’s great to meet like mind technologists who care about making a positive impact in their community.  Hackathons enable you to meet new people, make connections, and learn about the deeper needs of your area.  Through the experience, you learn about new tools, practices, and strategies for doing rapid prototyping.
  • Local Data, Local Impact: Democracy only works when citizens are engaged.   I appreciate that the civic hacking movement helps us to learn about local concerns and empowers us to do something about it.  Being a geek about data, it’s also fascinating to learn about the open government API’s and data sources that can support civic apps.
  • Voting with your code: It’s interesting to see what problems makers care about.   In a typical hackathon, there’s a broad range of issues, data and topics to choose.  The team tends to select projects based on skill level, their engagement in the topic, and challenge difficulty.
  • Building a community of support: During our hackathon event, it was cool to see how different teams mentored and supported each other.  Everyone has different strengths in terms of design or technology.   I can honestly say that everyone learned from each other.   In our hackathon in Macon, it was nice to see the experienced hackers mentoring the new developers and helping them feel welcome.

In our hackathon in Macon, GA, one team created an mobile app serving Peace corp team members to help them to know about safety and security alerts as they travel to various countries.   Another team of hackers helped propose and prototype applications that would help high school students with learning vocabulary for SAT/ACT .

We had some important discussions on the real impact of hackathons.   In general, how do we care, feed, market, and grow various hackathon ideas?  How do you care for the hacks from a software maintenance point of view?  How do you intentionally organize the challenge ideas and data sets?  The team from Spinen made some strong arguments for making a home for these concerns.  I’m interested in seeing how this idea can grow.

Are you interested in contributing a challenge problem for future hackathons for SparkMacon Makerspace?  Feel free to contribute your ideas here:

Submit a hackathon challenge idea to SparkMacon

To help contribute to this conversation locally for Middle Georgia, I have compiled most of the challenge problems, data, resources, and links from previous SparkMacon hackathons and HackForChange events.  At a minimum, it would be cool to create a backlog of challenge ideas that can be used in future Middle Georgia hackathons and SparkMacon Open Make events.

Middle Georgia Civic Hacking Projects and Resources

To close, here’s some links sharing the impact of civic hacking in communities.   I think it’s work that matters.   I believe it’s a cool way to innovate our communities and create engagement.   What do you think?

 

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8 Resources for Building Your DIY Robot #Arduino #RaspberryPi #JavaScript

PIRobot

  • http://www.coderbot.org/ – This project details open designs, plans, and software for building your robot with Raspberry Pi.  The computer vision features and teaching resources are impressive.
  • http://sumobotkit.com/ – This is the first open source robot design I tried.  I uses Arduino and continuous rotation servo’s.  It’s a great weekend project.
  • Johnny-Five: Using JavaScript to Code Your Robots – I have been amazed by the community of JavaScript/Node programmers creating easy to use API’s for robot building.  The Johnny Five community has great documentation and support for many hardware platforms.
  • Servo control with Raspberry PI in 5 minutes or less – Got some continuous rotation servo’s and a PI? I used this procedure to create my Raspberry PI robot.   It’s cool since you just need the servo’s and the Rasberry PI.
  • ServoBlaster – Here’s a link to ServoBlaster
  • How to stream video from Raspberry PI – I found an old web camera around the house.  I tried to implement some video streaming from my PI using this procedure.  Amazingly, it just worked!  With the video streaming feature, my brother in another city can remotely drive my robot around my house.   Lots of fun.
  • Building robots with Raspberry Pi and Python
  • Ruby Robot – Detailed e-book – While researching this blog post, I found this cool ebook.  Looks like a good read.

 

Are you interested in building Arduino or RaspberryPI robots?  Let us know what you’re building in the comments!

 

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