Let's Make Robots!

Building an Analog Line Follower

Inspire Kids about Robotics

Inspired by the community forum we had at the Campus Party in Berlin I went on and created a little robot build course for kids in the age of 12 to 16.

Since building a robot needs skills from several fields of knowledge and this knowledge might not there in this kids brains I thought it might be sufficient to build a robot that is based on simple electronics and simple mechanics only. No software, no microcontroller, no physics.

Lumi's ALF and the PCB he built in the Shanghai Hackerspace Xin Che Jian 新 车 间 seemed to be a perfect level of electronics and a fun robot to have as a topic in the lesson.

Glad Lumi hooked me up with all the necessary components and personally coached me in Berlin on the build of my first ALF. From then on I went on to find a good place to have the course.

So the goal of the course was to get inspired about robotics and learn by doing by building ALF.


Looking for the place

There are a lot of possible places to have a robot course. The Jugendhaus (youth center) was my selection since there are a lot of kids that may be inspired by what we here at LMR do. And they still have to find out what profession they want to have.

So why not inspire and involve them and build an analog line follower.

The chief of that center was on it from the very first moment. He said he never had a course like this in his youth center. Altough he thought that not that many kids may attend - but this was fine for me since the fewer we are the more personal the coaching is going to be. 


A Little Advertisement

To make shure the kids know about the robot lab I created a poster that got spread in the youth center so all
kids can take notice of the event. 



Preparing the example

Since I find it good to show what we are going to make I prepared mine and made shure it works.


Getting Tools and Material

To make shure the kids can solder I went on and gathered some solder-stations and third-hands
from the shop of the electronic apprentices of the company I work for.

But most tools came from my lab.


The Robot Lab: Everybody can build a robot.

All packed and hooked up to our small cargo cart.

Up until now I had no idea how many kids attend this robot lab. If one or two kids
attend that would be fine. So I was quite astonished to find about eight kids wanting
to make this little robot. Lucky me that Lumi gave me more ALFs that I asked
for... :-) 

After some introduction about electricity in general, LDRs, resistors and motors the kids
started to make. Great that my collegue Samuel, currently apprentice as Elektroniker
helped me to coach each kid on how to solder. 

One dad, Mani, helped too and kept his eyes on his son's making. Great to see a
father and his son work together in such a nice way. 

All others continued the making and enjoyed to see that something emerges from this
set of parts. 

Three hours later the robot lab ended. Due to a mistake with the transistors (Lumi - I forgot
about the different transistors per Darlington) only one robot was finished.

Using this robot we could play and have fun turning ALF into a Light Follower, Shadow Seeker or
Line Follower. The kids played with it and the noise level rise - they all had fun.
So did I. 

So my boy and I packed all together and went home. Next wednesday we are going
to have another session and hopefully finish all ALFs.



Further Readings

ALF Analog Line Follower


Spurt Bot - Light Follower

   School Projects Using Robot Technology


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Very cool! It's also nice that you had a good turnout!


that's great! you are making future einsteins...or mad scientists making frankenstein monsters, or maybe hal 9000/skynet creators (depending on what dimension we are in).....

Well done Nils, that's a great report.

About the mistake....don't feel bad :-) We also have some trouble when running a workshop for the first time. Take this as a leaning experience and try to get the people back at the table to do te bugsfix:-)


All transistors are desoldered now. Thanks to Samuel, he took the effort. Next wednesday the kids can just solder again and then the ALFs should be fine.

Today I got asked to have another Robot Lab with ALF at the national future day of Switzerland. Yet another maker session in the pipeline.

But I run out of parts....

Yay! It is so great to see you doing this. Keep up the great work!

...my first try to spread our word
as you and our other fellas do.
thank you
for inspiration too, Andrew

can you list an online source for those motors?  Thanks.

Besides being a great roboticist, is an artist! Share your things in a very interesting way. Great, man.

See here