Let's Make Robots!

simple ardbot - start


I've just started on my first proper robot. I had a bunch of parts laying around that I had bought over the last several weeks, and when I was organizing them they sort of logically grouped into a basic robot:

Looks like a two wheeled differential drive robot to me!

I'm thinking now that I'll have both dist sensors mounted on the front, and angled outward, for collision avoidance. So I'll probably try to hack some kind of servo driven gripper... Lots of choices at this point since I haven't even mounted the motors yet!

 Speaking of mounting, I am trying to use Sintra for most of the parts. I got 3 sheets of 3mm from Solarbotics, which should be enough to see if it is worth messing with. So far I've tried a few techniques on it. I tried cutting it with: a coping saw, a dremel with the cutting bit, a razor knife, teeth... And I tried boiling and forming it too. It is a lot stiffer when boiled than I expected, but maybe I just didn't give it long enough to cook. I managed to only use up about 0.75X2in. (3x6cm) in testing. I've found that the coping saw cuts it very well on the forward non-cutting stroke! I get too much vibration to properly saw it, or to dremel. The Dremel shakes the flimsy material badly, and creates a lot of (small, projectile) waste. It might be cool with backing, but at that point I would probably just use wood. The razor knife is nice for shaving/small cuts, but too hard to control for delicate work.

 I said this is my first proper robot, but let me give a little background for myself. I've been vaguely interested in electronics/microcontrollers for years now, and have recently been proded by all the Arduino projects posted at places like HackADay. I've been programing in Python for about six years, with jaunts through lisp, scheme, c, java, javascript, lua, whatever. I got the Lego NXT set fairly soon after it came out, and have learned a bit from experimenting with it. I bought some additional third party sensors, and switched programming languages about five times, but there was always something dissatisfying about the NXT. My latest (final?) project with NXT was implementing some Braitenberg Vehicles using Java for NXT (up to level 4!).

A few weeks ago I found a book by Amazon suggestion called "JunkBots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels", which is all about building "simple", "brainless" robots from scratch and junk parts. It is a great book with some simple projects that incited (at least for me) a renewed interest in electronics and robot construction. So after reading it the first time I started rummaging in the large piles of electronics junk I had accumulated, hit up Amazon for a variety of tools, and bought a crap-ton of stuff from SolarBotics (you try finding octal inverting buffers or 555 timers in modern junk)! Along with kits for some JBBW bots and some misc. parts I also got their version of the ARDX Arduino starter kit and a book on basic electronics. I went through all the experiments in the ARDX kit (and played around with some scavenged bits too), read the electronics book (and watched the MIT OCW 6.002 at work), and built several of the 'bots from the JBBW book. I was hooked!

 So now I've got a big pile of parts from SB, and some coming in from SparkFun, and it's time to really make something!