Do-It-Yourself Robots with Linux

Linux-based robots are tricky to create, but Michael Surran's Robotics class found out it can be done.

Robots have been a passion of mine since I was a child, so imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to add a robotics class to our high school's computer curriculum! We recently celebrated our second year of offering robotics at Greater Houlton Christian Academy (GHCA), the school where I teach. During this time, we've produced three different robots, each based on a PC running Linux. We work with a tight budget, so we have to be creative in our design, use of materials and tools. This results in robots that any do-it-yourself hobbyist can build.

The first robot to roam the halls of GHCA is K9, a robot dog based on the British sci-fi show, Doctor Who. I created K9 myself as a way to jump-start our Robotics program. K9's main purpose is to “ooh and ahh” students, hopefully encouraging an interest in the field of robotics. I used common angle iron and 1/4 nuts and bolts to assemble K9's “skeleton”, much like an Erector Set from years gone by. In fact, K9's head was built using an Erector Set from 1971! Sheet metal provides the finished look for our class mascot.

Figure 1. K9 was the first robot built at GHCA.

The second robot was designed by students Aaron Bither and Brian Thompson during our first year of offering robotics. At the beginning of each school year, we start by defining a “problem” that we'd like to overcome, and then we proceed to brainstorm how a machine can solve this problem, what features it will need and so on. Aaron and Brian decided to build a robot that could deliver messages from one classroom to another. They quickly learned that what is simple for humans is usually quite complex for robots. By the end of the school year, they had a robot that could be programmed to navigate the hallway, but much was left undone. It was a learning experience for us all.

Our third robot, and the featured robot of this article, was designed by students Jordan McGuire, Jeromy Nevers and Barrett Jewell. I am also part of the team, contributing ideas and guiding the students, teaching them through the hands-on process of design and construction. The problem this group of students wanted to tackle is security, so they decided to make a “sentry bot” that could patrol the hallways and scan for intruders. Again, easier said than done.

A functioning, autonomous robot has three major components: the mechanical systems, the electronic systems and the software. Design typically begins with the mechanics of the robot, and of particular interest is the method of locomotion. There are many ways to make a robot move, but our class adheres to the KISS principle—keep it simple, silly! For example, we don't build complex legs when wheels work just fine. In fact, all three robots use ordinary lawn-mower wheels with various drive systems.

Figure 2. The Sentry Bot

Our sentry bot uses a very simple tricycle design. To drive a robot's wheels, we use windshield-wiper motors. These motors can be purchased on-line for less than $20 US or torn out of an old car for free. They run on 12VDC and provide very high torque at a nice rotation rate. Our sentry bot uses two of these motors: one to drive the front wheel and the other to turn the steering strut.

Once the means of locomotion has been chosen, it's time to design the frame. The frame needs to be strong but not too heavy, and it must accommodate the drive system, any additional mechanical systems (such as arms and sensors), the power source (we use a 12V garden tractor battery) and the electronics. We decided on plywood for the sentry bot because it is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with. We cut out the frame using a simple jigsaw. One trick to reduce weight was to cut out sections of the interior of the plywood frame—just don't cut out too much or the frame will become weak.

Our electronics systems consist of the main computer and interface board that connects the computer to the drive system and sensors. Although I would love to equip every robot with a low-power embedded computer, our budget simply does not allow for this. However, we do have access to a number of old Pentium desktop computers. Considering the processing power of the Mars Rovers, a 200MHz Pentium is more than enough for our humble robot.

A big challenge in using old desktop computers for robotics is the power consumption. These motherboards draw a lot of current. Another problem is the voltages that the motherboard needs. For the sake of time and money, we use a power inverter with the original AT power supply. This is easy to do but not very efficient. Future robots will use components from old laptops that are donated to us, which consume less power and can run directly off the battery.

Interface boards are designed and built in class. The main purpose of this component is to take the low-current outputs of the PC's parallel port and allow those outputs to power the motors. We use transistors and relays to construct our control circuits, as well as a logic circuit to prevent motor “twitching” during bootup. Our logic circuit also ensures that the motors don't exceed any limits, such as turning the steering strut too far left or right. Inputs from sensors are routed through buffers before going to the parallel port. Simple, but it works!

Figure 3. Barrett Jewell works on the interface board.

Of course, what you really want to learn about is the software and operating system that run our robots. Yes, all three robots run Linux! In the beginning, we experimented using DOS and QBasic. However, we were quite limited in what we could do with DOS, so I started experimenting with Linux using K9 the robot dog.

When K9 was built, we used the Mandrake Linux distribution at our school. Mandrake offered a minimum installation option, which was enough for the simple demands of our robots. Since then, however, our school has switched over to Gentoo Linux, and thus our sentry bot actually runs on Gentoo. Maybe some of you are thinking that Gentoo is overkill for a simple robot. Maybe, maybe not.

I personally find that installing Gentoo is faster than installing most other distributions, maybe because I've done it so many times. A bare system (stage 3) install of Gentoo is relatively small, at least compared to the storage available on the robot's hard drive. However, Gentoo's biggest offering is the ability to add and update the software our robot needs quickly and easily, all compiled to make our old hardware run as fast as possible.

In case you are wondering how useful it is to compile software on an old Pentium system, know that our sentry bot has network access to our computer lab. Using distcc, a distributing compiler, our bot has the processing power of 20 Athlon 1500+ processors and more than 7GB of RAM at its disposal for compiling new software. Trust me, sentry bot can compile source code pretty quickly.

Gentoo Linux comes with another plus—it is very Python-centric (due to the Portage system). Our school offers a class to all 8th graders where they use Python to learn the basic concepts of programming. This provides a natural stepping stone for students who later want to take our Robotics class. Python is both simple and powerful, and although it is an interpreted language, it runs plenty fast for the simple needs of our robots. We use some C to interface Python to the parallel port, as well as to deal with time-critical operations, such as drift corrections. However, most of our code is in Python. This allows the students to make changes quickly and see immediate results in the robot's behavior. Because our computer lab is Linux-based, students easily can access the robot using SSH and KDE's fish from their workstations.

Controlling the motors using Linux and Python isn't difficult. The real challenge lies in the implementation of awareness, both of the environment and the robot's internal conditions. For example, a simple program coupled with a few electronic components can turn on the main drive motor for ten seconds, propelling the robot forward. But what's to stop the robot from drifting to the left or the right, or from running into a wall or person? Although the robot easily can track its progress based on time (driving ten seconds forward), the speed of the motor varies with battery charge and friction. To tell the robot to go forward exactly 50cm requires something a bit more complicated; it requires a feedback loop.

Most robots use motors with encoders of some sort to act as a digital “odometer”. These encoders can be built using simple IR emitter/receiver pairs and a disk with holes in it. In fact, old-style computer mice work using this very principle. This got me thinking—instead of building a fancy encoder circuit and interface to the computer, followed by the software needed to read the encoder, why not use a simple device that provides the same information in a very computer-friendly format? Hence the “invention” of the optical mouse encoder.

Figure 4. A Close-up of Our Optical Mouse Encoder

Like everything else about our robot, our optical mouse encoder is simple yet effective. We took a mouse pad, cut out a circle and glued it to the main drive wheel. We then mounted an optical mouse to the steering strut so that the mouse rests over the circular mouse pad. As the wheel turns, the mouse pad rotates beneath the mouse, which sends very precise positioning data to the computer. This movement easily can be read by opening and reading from the /dev/psaux or equivalent device file. Optical mice provide a high resolution with great accuracy, so with the proper conversions, we can track our robot's movement down to a fraction of a centimeter. Knowing how far it has traveled, the robot can know where it is on a preprogrammed map, assuming it hasn't been picked up and moved and that there is no drift or wheel slipping.

Of course, drift and wheel slipping do occur, and maps can't predict moved furniture, people or bookbags. The robot needs a way to detect its environment, and to do this we are using sonar and bump sensors. Typically, sonar is neither cheap nor simple, but it just so happens that I had recently “won” a car parking assistant at a Christmas party Yankee swap. This device uses sonar and has three lights to tell drivers how far to back up their cars as they pull into the garage. Well, you can't beat free, and although this device does not measure distance in the traditional sense, it was a working sonar that can detect objects that are close (yellow light) and really close (red light). By wiring the yellow and red LEDs to our parallel port's input lines, our robot can detect objects as it approaches them and take action, such as stop or turn. The sonar emitter is mounted on the front wheel strut, so the sonar is always “looking” in the direction the robot is heading.

Even though we've tried to keep things simple, we still have much work to do. Our students are looking forward to the coming school year when they can continue working with the physical platform they've constructed. With the majority of the hardware in place, our focus will turn to the software. One challenge we've already run into is making sure the robot is going perfectly straight and not drifting to the left or right. Although it may be possible to design the hardware to lock the front wheel pointing exactly forward, there is still the issue of drift due to friction differences at each wheel. To solve this problem, we're turning to software.

Instead of measuring the rotation rate of the single front wheel per our current design, we recently experimented by attaching two optical mice to measure the two rear wheels. Linux provides a separate device file for each mouse, allowing us to track both rear wheels independently and compare them. By measuring differences in rotation rate, we can use software to adjust the steering motor until the robot is going perfectly straight. This also will let us precisely calculate the robot's heading as it makes turns or is affected by drift and wheel slippage. Couple this with external sensors, and we will have a robot that can know exactly where it is in our building.

Figure 5. A Look at the Steering Mechanism and Interface Board

High school student Jordan McGuire has written software that allows the robot to correct its internal position based on sonar readings of known boundaries, such as walls. Similar techniques can be used to detect objects that “don't belong”, and then use other sensors, such as heat and motion, to detect a possible intruder during times when the building should be empty. With Linux, it is simple to add a Webcam that can capture and send the images of an intruder via a wireless network. A sentry bot's best weapon is its camera.

With Linux as our operating system, we can expand the capabilities of the robot well beyond the original “mission” given it. We've even discussed adding a GPS receiver and programming the robot to fetch us milkshakes from the local ice cream stand. Okay, maybe that's a little far-fetched, but it is good to dream big!

Speaking of dreams and future designs, as the Robotics program matures and students are introduced to robotics at a younger age, I plan to bring in more advanced concepts. We will still work to keep it simple, but there definitely are better ways to do some of the things we are currently doing. For example, the power requirements of a desktop PC are unrealistic for a battery-powered robot. Laptop components will be a great improvement, but if money were no object, embedded computers would be the way to go. A recent donation has purchased a TS-7260 ARM computer board for K9 that requires less than a watt of power to run. This Linux-based board has a number of I/O ports that are better suited for interfacing to the various motors, servos and sensors of a robot when compared to a PC's parallel port. The other inefficiency our simple approach introduces is the burden of a central PC managing minute yet very time-sensitive tasks, like speed control of the main drive motors. I'm currently redesigning K9's controller board to use simple microcontrollers to unload the low-level tasks from the CPU. Although our class may not be ready to tackle microcontrollers just yet, they definitely will be introduced to the concept and get to see the results.

I realize this article doesn't give step-by-step instructions on how to build a DIY robot. There are many good books and informative Web sites on that topic. My goal is to share what can be done with inexpensive, easy-to-obtain parts and our favorite operating system. Linux is loved by tinkerers and hobbyists, and an exciting and challenging extension to this line of tinkering is to add motors and sensors and autonomy. Like peanut butter and jelly, Linux and robotics are a perfect combination!

Michael Surran has been the network administrator and computer science teacher at Greater Houlton Christian Academy for the last seven years. He has published two articles advocating the use of open-source software in K–12 schools. Outside his life of computers, he enjoys the great outdoors of Maine. Comments can be sent to



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I know this is probably a

Anonymous's picture

I know this is probably a bit off-topic, but another way to have fun, and to play with robots for quick prototyping, is to
buy a commercial robot and mod it!

One such robot is the Spykee Wifi Spy robot that uses a webcam for vision and it's controlled by PC over a wifi link,
it's really affordable, you can buy them for ~100$ on ebay and they run Linux.

There is already extensive development efforts done by the community, there is a development Wiki with all the information to modify and play
with the robot :

Personally, I prefer prototyping on bulletproof hardware and when my algorithms are done, I port the result on a homebrew robotic platform.

Mouse data?

Martin Schröder's picture

Cool project!
A few people and me are planning to build a similar robot.
Did you connect the mouse via PS2 or USB, like a normal mouse? I read you use Linux, how do you actually get the mouse data? I'm stuck there...

getting mouse data basics

Valdir Franco's picture

I live in Indaiatuba/Brazil, and I am student and an entusiast on robotics and electronics
I´m building a similar project, and read the article about Sentrybot. Amazing.
As a lot of people (I think)...I am getting hard on mouse data acquisition.
Could ya share some basics tips on how read mouse data as an encoder, or something like?
I didnt see any info about conclusion on your Sentrybot, did you finish it?

Best regards

valdir franco


IWEB's picture

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NoUseForAName's picture

Outstanding work!

Your page is the #1 Google hit for "do it your self robotics", you should be proud!

I've had a fascination with robots since i was a kid which led into a home automotive hobby, but now I have no classic car to work on. But that is simply one change in my life, I used to deliver furniture back then, but now I fix computers, lol! I'm thinking that robotics mught be a great way to feel the sense of accomplishment I used to get from making a broken car work again. Fixing computers just doesn't do it for me, I think more due to desensitization since I fix dozens of computer problems a day now. LOL!

Anyway, keep up your great teaching! Your legacy will be immense I think.

More Photos of GHCA Robots on Flickr

M. Surran's picture

Howdy fans of Linux Robots (and computer labs),

I've been really getting into the photo-sharing website, Flickr, and I've got a number of old and new pictures of our robots, students, and Linux-based computer lab posted on my Flickr account at You are all invited to check those photos out after reading this article to see what we've been doing with Linux since I wrote this. Enjoy!

- Michael Surran

Great Article, Awesome Looking K9

Christopher Rose's picture

I really liked the article. I am planning to use Linux in a K9 robot of my own. I am planning to use BasicLinux or perhaps PCLinuxOS, which I use on my 1.4Ghz tower at home. I really like how you K9 turned out. I plan to opt for tracks instead of wheels. Still, I'd love to see the source code for the motor controllers so I can see if it can be used in my design.

Websites Are Up for Robots

M. Surran's picture

Hi All,

Since writing this article, I've received many requests for access to diagrams, photos, schematics, software, etc. regarding our robot. Well, this year we actually have TWO robots going, and instead of making students keep a paper journal, I'm having them record their progress online.

There are currently two websites setup for this purpose: and As of my posting this message, the students haven't had much time to perfect these websites, but the goal is for them to update their blogs each week at the end of class, as well as upload new photos, code, even mini-videos. I'm hoping this will engage them more than the previous paper journal did. Please feel free to contact the two teams with questions, suggestions, and encouragement. It will be good for my students to "rub elbows" with others interested in the field.

Thanks to all for your interest!

- M. Surran


Neil T's picture

I have been thinking about building a robot ever since i saw one and K9 was one of my favorites, he actually back on tv in the uk now in a new series !!!

I found you via google looking for " how to build a robot with a pc"

and this article is one that i could understand.

I will watch with great interest your students learning, and hopefully passing on some of there knowledge via the blogs.

Regards Neil T

Open Automation Project

Cory's picture

This is absolutely awesome. I must repeat what several people have said about wishing I had a teacher like you in school. I have been working on my own linux based robot using a mini-itx board an a 12 volt DC/DC mini power supply that functions well with batteries (will work anywhere from 11 - 14.5 volts) and they are pretty cheap, small, and 200-watt.

I would suggest checking out the Open Automation Project. They are working on x86 linux based machines and have made some pretty good progress from the looks of it. They include all their source code as well as schematics for all their original hardware.

Nicely done stuff Mr. Surran!

Great Article

Ranti Junus's picture

I work in an education institution and I'm not a programmer nor a system administrator. But I do read LJ. I almost skipped this article had I not caught the words "high school" in the first paragraph.

Mr. Surran, thank you for sharing your experience with the readers. Many thanks to LJ Editors for featuring it. I'm looking forward to read similar articles like this (linux in classroom) in the future.

Thanks! - & Questions

Doug's picture

First, thanks for the great article. I wish I'd had more teachers like you when I was in school!

I'm completely new to the whole field of home built robots, but I already have an idea for something I'd like to do with one - and I absolutely LOVE the idea of using Linux to control it! A few questions:

1. Where could I find some sample code to use as a basis for hacking up my own robot command code? It'd be a lot easier to learn it that way than starting with a blank text file in a vi session. Could/would you post some of the code that you and your students came up with?

2. Just going on pure reason and no experience whatever, I'm assuming that there are usually several basic methods of getting a robot to perform a specific function - like tracking it's location. What are some common (KISS) ways for a robot to keep track of it's location & heading while operating on an uneven surface, like loose dirt, where wheel slippage is unavoidable? (The robot I’m thinking of will be operating in an enclosed area, so I’ve been thinking of installing a few LED’s around the perimeter and having the ‘bot triangulate it’s position optically with a small web cam. I’m hoping there’s another way though, since this one sounds very complicated from a programming standpoint - and probably expensive too!)

3. Are there any online forums dedicated to designing and programming home built robots?

4. Here’s an idea for a robot:
When my house was built, the foundation contractor poured all of the concrete walls to the same depth, but then backfilled one section of the basement with dirt. (I have no idea why.) I’ve been wanting to dig that area back out to get some useable storage space but there’s not enough room to get digging equipment in there, and hand digging ~20 cubic yards of dirt with three feet of headroom doesn’t sound like a very good idea.
A small robotic digger sounds like a potential solution. …And I don’t care if it moves a teaspoon of dirt at a time and takes a year to do it either! …Just as long as it gets the job done.
I’m confident enough in my engineering skills that I can figure out methods of locomotion, digging, dumping, and keeping the circuitry clean & dry. What I don’t know is how to make it navigate and choose the right [I]place[/I] to dig to keep the surface level enough so it can move around on w/o getting stuck.

I’d appreciate any comments or suggestions on this idea - as long as they’re directly relevant to robots. :-)

Thanks again,

Excelent article, simple source for embbeded computer

Ivan Kocher's picture

Hi, your article is much more than excelent, don't have words to describe it :)

What you are doing is something I wish many more teachers do, worldwide.

Your aproach to KISS is outstanding, never thought about "the mouse encoder" that way. I already started trying to see how the mouse responds under the rotating pad. Nice hack ;)

About the source for embbeded computers... I think you have more than one around, pretty near yourself: "wireless router"! Think on the linksys, dlink, nexxt, msi, whatever. Those can be found for less than $100, their power requeriment is under 10W, come with a wireless interface already working, and have some little I/O; but come with a serial port... maybe just add a PIC to do some sort of serial protocol to parallel conversion and you can have pretty much I/O, not extremely high speed, but ok for the task. Some of these come with USB ports, MSI has some. And all this with the most important feature: linux comes already inside, and there is a big comunity that hacks them.

Keept it going! I would like to know more as time passes, experiences, etc, so plan another article for some time in the future.


wireless router hacks

Raed Sabawi's picture

Hi Ivan,

Your idea of hacking a wireless router for a robot by adding a PIC to do the I/O really got me thinking.

Can you suggest any online documentation of projects that have done something similar.



Brilliant use of the mouse

Jim Pye's picture

I was aware of the slotted wheel and light sensor for the detection of motion. I used this combination from the internals of a electronic typewriter for one of my own experiments. The use of an optical mouse is one I had not thought of. (This open exchange of ideas is a great thing!)

However I notice that the maousepad that you used has a graphic design printed on it. Does this interfere with the optical mouse's output. As these mice work on reflected light, does the contrast between the graphic and unpainted surface give erratic results?


Jim Pye
PyeNet Universal

Brilliant use of the mouse

Keith Daniels's picture

I have done some experimentation with optical mice using different mouse pads with "art work" on them just because I was curious about this problem. In general I found that a lot of older illustrated mouse pads worked but some were hardly useable, indicationg there could be a problem. The illustrated pads made specifically for optical mice never had a problem that I could detect by eye.

I wasn't testing them at the resolution levels you require but my eyeball test indicated to me that if you want maximum repeatable resolution -- you want a single color pad made specifically for optical mice. I would get one from a company that specializes in high quality pads and that tested them... :-)

All the new OSs and windowing systems are oriented towards content consumption instead of content production.

--Steve Daniels 2013


extraketchup's picture

That mousepad is "temporary", an old one laying around that we used to test the theory that using an optical mouse would work for tracking movement. Funny thing is that I didn't think about the accuracy, but the fact that it "looks funny" having writing on that part of the wheel :-)

We did some experiments at the end of the year, and found that using two mice on each back wheel instead of just one on the front provides much more accurate tracking of the vehicle. Here's why:

* The front wheel is the driven wheel, and it can slip on smooth surfaces or when starting and stopping. The back wheels are passive, so they only turn when the vehicle is moving (slippage is much less likely)

* By measuring the difference in rotation rate of the rear wheels, we can determine how much the robot is drifting left or right can correct the steering to compensate. We'll also be able to track the angle the robot is heading, giving us much more accuracy in 2D tracking.

Anyway, when we make the switch, we'll go with solid color mouse pads, if for no other reason than for the robot to look better :-)


Optical Tracking

Ernie's picture

Thank you for this page and this program, I must echo the 'wish I had a teacher like you' sentiment. I have been thinking of using one or two optical mice for dead reckoning / movement tracking on my robot. I was wondering if there was a reason not to mount the mouse so that i reads the floor directly. Would a standard tile floor be consistent enough? I often work on other peoples computers and have noticed that tracking quality varies with mice as well as mouse pads. With one or two high quality optcal mice could you track mor accuratly directly on the flore?

Great Class

Jim Cook's picture

I wish I had something like this when I was in highschool, unfortunatly Linus was still in high school when I was.

Regardless, you mentioned sending the digital picture of an "intruder" over a wireless connection. Also you mentioned positional correction issues. If you have a wireless network set up already with either multiple AP's or a single AP with a range extender somewhere why not use them for triangulation. Comparing signal strength and/or signal to noise from any known 2 points will let you map very accuratly your position. The information is fairly easy to poll using the vaious iw* commands, and then comparing the 2 results.

Just an idea for you.

Great job

IT Guy's picture

I wish when I attended school there were more engaging programs like this. Can't wait to see what else comes out of your class.

A safe choice

Anonymous's picture

Cool program; cool teacher.

One can't help noticing, however, that robotics seems a very safe choice for a "Christian Academy" that conspicuously avoids teaching biology in its high school.

Heaven forfend that its students should learn where real dogs came from!


M. Surran's picture

I'm not going to get pulled into a flame war regarding an off-topic and "cheap shot" post, but I will go on record to state that our school DOES teach Biology (both as a full course in 10th and in the various elementary / JH sciences). We even teach the evolution theory, but we're not afraid to teach the scientific evidence supporting a created universe, nor are we afraid to expose the weaknesses of evolution theory. I could go on, but this is not the place (I just had to counter the FUD). If you'd like to know more about our science curriculum, please feel free to contact our school. This article was about Robotics, not Biology :-)

Any Mantra that contains any

Anonymous's picture

Any Mantra that contains any idea of any sentient-type higher intellegence sculpting out creation is theology and can NEVER be called science in any contortion of that word. Such ideas do NOT belong in a science clasroom no matter what the personal beliefs of the instructor or the american jihadists say. Science by itself IMPLIES the rationality of thinking in sustainable terms and cannot ever contain the idea of 'god' because god cannot be proven scientifically no matter what the lawyer politicans tell us.

Science is a technique used to find answers

Anonymous's picture

I find it really interesting to see how any reference to Christian beliefs spawn tangents of this nature. No other religious belief or perspective has this impact. Perhaps some scientist can explain why that is. My thought on this is that the Christian belief is true and none of the others are. The truth often offends those desiring to live in denial, thus drawing wrath from those offended. To point out the obvious, evolutionary science is contradiction at its best. For starters, the evolutionary theory changes (evolves) constantly. If it were the truth, wouldn't it be stable? What about the big bang theory? That violates Newton's Law that states: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." The "Bang" is the "Reaction", not the "Action". As in every explosion, something caused it. What was the "Action" in the big bang? The answer is that God spoke. I may give evolution a chance if anyone can explain how atoms and/or subatomic particles can create themselves when they didn't previously exist. To discount a Creator because, as you say, it cannot be proven; and holding on to the notion that we exist out of pure chance is even less provable. By the way, “Chance

"My thought on this is that

Anonymous's picture

"My thought on this is that the Christian belief is true and none of the others are. The truth often offends those desiring to live in denial, thus drawing wrath from those offended."

My thought is that the Christian beliefe is not true, and evolutionary science is. The truth often offends those desiring to live in denial, thus drawing wrath from those offended.

Side note: the big bang theory has exactly nothing to do with evolution. Evolution does not attempt to explain the origins of the universe. It's not even incompatible with the beliefs of most of the people in the world who believe in Christ. Only the fundamental "God created the earch in 7 days" literalists.

Back on topic, please

Nicholas Petreley's picture

"My thought on this is that the Christian belief is true and none of the others are. The truth often offends those desiring to live in denial, thus drawing wrath from those offended."

"My thought is that the Christian beliefe is not true, and evolutionary science is. The truth often offends those desiring to live in denial, thus drawing wrath from those offended."

Okay, both sides have now been represented. Can we get back to Linux and robotics now, please?

Fact not Truth

Anonymous's picture

Religion has no place in a Science textbook. Science in itself is evolving, and that makes it fact, not truth. Once again if you want truth, stick to the religion department and stay away from that which can be proven. The scientific method need not apply here, as all so-called scientific theories containing religous dogma start with the ascertation that there is 'god' and seek to prove it, not starting with a set of data and attempting to draw a conclusion from within. Sceince expands from the world around us, so it does not matter that it is not known definitively what caused the big bang - an realistic and factual answer will present itself in time. The change in evolutionary theory proves that it is exactly what it claims to be, a theory adaptable to change that becomes more refined over time. Science grows forth from human comprehension development, applying religious ideology serves no realistic purpose.

as all so-called scientific

Anonymous's picture

" all so-called scientific theories containing religous dogma start with the ascertation that there is 'god' and seek to prove it..."

I trust that you are an evolutionary scientist because of your extensive knowledge on the subject. So, as you already know, every scientific experiment initially asserts an answer. This is called a hypothesis. This will always be bias towards the views of the scientist. I am not aware of any scientist, although I am certain that some exist, who seek after the truth even if it differs from what they currently believe. Evolutionary science always rejects the possibility of a Creator in the hypothesis, and seeks to prove that. So how is that different? As an evolutionary scientist, that I know you are, please explain to me why, when the theory of evolution changes, it moves farther away from Darwin's original theory of "a series of small changes over time", and towards the Creation theory of "Bam! There it is." Also, as a scientist, how come multiple "Theories" about something is ok for everything except Creation/Evolution?

Truth and Fact again

Anonymous's picture

Creation science theories pollute science. Period. They are not real theories, only a pseudo-science, akin to alchemy. Creationism by itself as a religious ideal, is a fine way to explain the philisophical question of "Who are we, and where did we come from?".From a religious standpoint this makes it perfectly fine; however, it is completely invalid scientfically. Evolution does not seek to prove the abscence of 'god' as scientifically even considering that there was 'god' to be ignored in the first place is an entirely religious idea. Don't confuse truth with fact. All scientistist know well enough the difference between truth and fact; scientists follow the evidence where it may lead and strive to not let personal beliefs interevene.You are also confusing two different theories as one. The Big Bang theory might relate to evolution, but they are not the same thing. Evolution describes the gradual evolvement of biological creatures over time from common ancestors. The Big Bang decribes how the planets and universe came into being. Also, we must consider the damage not only to science from these pseudo-scientific theories, but also to religion. Are not both corrupted by this? Shouldn't you as an evangelical christian be offended by this as well as I am? Do you want your faith subjected to the scrutiny of the scientfic method, or to be defined by similar rules? I should hope not. Faith is up to you and your own ideals.

Truth and Fact are synonomous

Anonymous's picture

I will grant that a form of evolution exists but only within species. That means small biological changes over time does occur within a species. But these changes NEVER lead to a NEW species. Scientist have yet to this theory. In fact, most evolutionary scientist have abandonded it. Where have you been?

Don't confuse truth with fact.

Per, Fact means:

something that actually exists; reality; truth

and Truth means:

an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude

At this point, the Truth and Fact of this conversation is that I am arguing with a Moron.

Truth in this sense is used

Anonymous's picture

Truth in this sense is used to describe religious truth, that which can be taken as a tenant of faith; fact is used to describe that which can be proven or disproven. If you must look it up in the dictionary, to get the difference that what does that say about your own ignorance. I ask you to think for yourself, and that is too much for you, so you result to insults. This subject does not belong here and is not science. I will leave you with this from wikipedia:
Why creationism is not science:
* Creation science is not falsifiable : Theism is not falsifiable, since the existence of God is typically asserted without sufficient conditions to allow a falsifying observation. If God is a transcendental being, beyond the realm of the observable, no claim about his existence can be supported or undermined by observation. Thus, creationism, the argument from design and other arguments for the existence of God are a posteriori arguments. (See also the section on falsifiability below.)
* Creation science violates the principle of parsimony : Creationism fails to pass Occam's razor. Many explanations offered by creation science are more complex than alternative explanations. Parsimony favours explanations that make the fewest assumptions and postulate the fewest hypothetical entities.
* Creation science is not empirically testable : Creationism posits the supernatural which by definition is beyond empirical natural testing, and thus conflicts with the practical use of methodological naturalism inherent in science.
* Creation science is not based upon controlled, repeatable experiments : That creationism is not based upon controlled, repeatable experiments stems not from the theory itself, but from the phenomena that it tries to explain.
* Creation science is not correctable, dynamic, tentative or progressive : Creationism professes to adhere to an "absolute Truth", "the word of God", instead of a provisional assessment of data which can change when new information is discovered. The idea of the progressive growth of scientific ideas is required to explain previous data and any previously unexplainable data as well as any future data. It is often given as a justification for the naturalistic basis of science. In any practical sense of the concept, creation science is not progressive: it does not explain or expand upon what went before it and is not consistent with established ancillary theories.

Prove it!

Anonymous's picture

I challenge you to cite one repeatable experiment that proves either MacroEvolution or MicroEvolution produces New and Different species.

If you can't, then how is "Science" different from "Creation Science"


Nicholas Petreley's picture

This is a classic example of why this should be discussed on a board that tackles topics like these. Let me explain. Evolutionists define speciation in such a way that they can provide an answer to your challenge, but not the answer you're looking for. For example, if a colony of mosquitoes divides in such a way that they reproduce separately, and there is enough microevolution among one or both colonies such that a mosquito from one colony can no longer produce offspring by mating with a mosquito from the original colony, that's called "speciation". The new colony is considered a new species.

This is an evolutionist's "proof" but it obviously isn't the answer you're looking for. You're looking for an example of a mosquito turning into a whole new insect. The evolutionists will argue that, given enough time, the speciation that occurred could lead to the evolution of a whole new insect. But that is speculation, not science.

In fact, the whole issue of what constitutes a "species" could fill pages upon pages of forums. The rules for what constitutes a species is different for flora than it is for fauna, for example. And then there are situations like how can cross a lion with a tiger to produce a liger (I'm not kidding), yet lions and tigers are considered different species. This violates the concept of speciation as a measurement of evolution, but things like that get ignored when people offer the mosquito example as "proof".

The only way to argue about something like this is to define terms and agree upon them (something that you may never be able to do, but it's still the first step), after which you can start discussing the issues. There's no way to do that in an LJ forum. You guys really need to take this topic to a more appropriate forum.

Didn't your school teach you vocabulary?

Anonymous's picture

I will grant that a form of evolution exists but only within species. That means small biological changes over time does occur within a species. But these changes NEVER lead to a NEW species. Scientist have yet to this theory. In fact, most evolutionary scientist have abandonded it. Where have you been?

Don't confuse truth with fact.

Per, Fact means:

something that actually exists; reality; truth

and Truth means:

an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude

At this point, the Truth and Fact of this conversation is that I am arguing with a Moron.

In order to "Evolve", you must have a starting point

Anonymous's picture

I will grant that a form of evolution exists but only within species. That means small biological changes over time does occur within a species. But these changes NEVER lead to a NEW species. Scientist have yet to this theory. In fact, most evolutionary scientist have abandonded it. Where have you been?

Don't confuse truth with fact.

Per, Fact means:

something that actually exists; reality; truth

and Truth means:

an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude

At this point, the Truth and Fact of this conversation is that I am arguing with a Moron.

I have better things to do today.

Have a good day.


Anonymous's picture

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

- Albert Einstein


Anonymous's picture

I came - though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents - to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. -Albert Einstein

Back to Topic Please


M. Surran's picture

I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.

- Albert Einstein (made after the age of 12)

Point is, if belief in God, and bringing that belief into science, "damages" science, then how did we ever survive Christian scientists such as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Kelvin, Planck, and so many others?

I'm not suggesting that we go back to the days of the inquisition and try to suppress facts. However, the roles in modern times seem to have switched, where the atheists are trying to suppress any notion that doesn't match their theories of cosmological and biological evolution. Just like the church of old (not so much the universal body of believers, but corrupt men in positions of power who did not follow the teachings of Christ) persecuted anyone who had ideas that might "damage" their order of things (including a good number of Godly people), now we have those in the scientific establishment crying out against who look at the facts and see a creative power behind them. Notice I do not include the scientific establishment as a whole, because despite what some try to portray, there are MANY scientists, engineers, and yes, teachers (many in public schools) who love science AND believe in a creative force behind our ordered universe.

Today's scientists (even the atheists) "stand on the shoulders of giants", and many of those "giants" were Christians. So whether or not you personally believe in a transcendent creative intelligence (fancy way of saying God), please don't villanize those of us who do.

I said I wasn't going to get pulled into this, yet here I am. I'm stepping back from this thread now. I apologize for being off-topic.



Anonymous's picture

entierly irreligeous (Jewish)
seems offensive to me, I can't anyhow understand, what the HELL this have to do with LinuxJournal. If it is meant to be objective journal it is best to keep religious debates out.

Back to topic please, indeed

Nicholas Petreley's picture

For the record, I was a card-carrying anti-Christian atheist until about the age of 33. I am now a Bible-believing Christian. Yes, I've come to believe the whole thing from creation to a totally sovereign God.

I like the quotes from Einstein, and I'll be the first to emphasize that most Christians do not check their brains at the door when they enter school or church. Any claims to the contrary are unfounded stereotypes.

Anyway, I just wanted to state my position, but I'd appreciate it if we could get back on topic. There are plenty of other forums for discussing Christianity and science, whether the two are compatible, etc.

Truth and Fact are synonomous

Anonymous's picture

I will grant that a form of evolution exists but only within species. That means small biological changes over time does occur within a species. But these changes NEVER lead to a NEW species. Scientist have yet to this theory. In fact, most evolutionary scientist have abandonded it. Where have you been?

Don't confuse truth with fact.

Per, Fact means:

something that actually exists; reality; truth

and Truth means:

an obvious or accepted fact; truism; platitude

At this point, the Truth and Fact of this conversation is that I am arguing with a Moron.


Anonymous's picture


Honorary Congratulations

Roy Wright's picture


...I support your advocacy for open-source software. I have invested five years and was one of the founders of Chesapeake Regional Steering Committee that brought FIRST Robotics Competition to Washington Metro area in collaboration with NASA and US Naval Academy. I am now exploring VEX robotics, independent somewhat from FIRST, for 6 to 9 year old children as a volunteer and team developer for my 8 year old grandson elementary school in Arlington County.

List me on your distribution list on future articles and published thoughts for my review and comments.

Look forward to establishing dialogue

Roy Wright
Alexandria, VA 22314
Direct: 703/740-2718
Web Curator for

Great Article

James Smallwood's picture

I just wanted to write a quick note to thank Michael Surran for the truely awesome work he is doing with his students. These students will exceed in their education thanks to Michael Surran. You are great!
This story caught my attention for a few reasons. Unfortunately a large majority of students while in school are unaware of how imporatant their education really is.
Having hands on stimulation with a robot that the students have built and continue to build has and will continue to produce nothing but positive results from all your students. Awesome idea, great learning tool, well done, keep it up! Praise to you!
I grew up in Topsham, Maine and attended Mt.Ararat for a few years and if I had a learning tool such as a robot while I was being taught computers basics in 7th grade, there's no doubt in my mind that learning would've been a lot less complicated and much more interesting.
I'm now 35 yrs old and own and operate a small I.T business in San Diego,California ( In my daily job and work routine I come across quite a bit of used but in very good condition computer equipment on a regualr basis and feel it would be perfect for you and it use for teaching, let me know if you need anything, pay for shipping and it's yours! If you can think of anything just send me an email and I'll keep an eye out for you. Thanks again for you contribution to our future!

Sincerely, James Smallwood/ A.S.A Computers