Let's Make Robots!

Still looking for ideas for an environmentally friendly robot

This is an old post, ignore the request for ideas. I just added videos for any who were curious to see it in action.

I have been asked to build a robot for display that fits the theme "Save the environment". Basically the robot must perform a function that helps the environment. This robot must be something I can build in a few weeks from available (DAGU) parts although I can order some parts like sensors that DAGU don't make.

I have a few ideas but I would like to know, what sort of job do you think a robot can do to help improve the environment?

Please be realistic, I do not have unlimited time, skills or money. For those who dabble in time travel, It must be something powered from LiPo batteries, "Mr. Fusion" won't be invented for a few more decades yet.

Please remember the robot must be practicle. This is a display for the public and needs to demonstrate a solution to a real world problem.

So far I have an "all purpose" body built and am currently adding an ultrasonic sensor array so the robot can pinpoint the location of objects in front of it and pick them up with it's grippers.

The ideas I have so far are:

  • Monitor soil moisture content in drought conditions so crops can be watered more efficiently.
  • Collect soil samples near factories to look for contamination due to improper waste disposal.
  • Plant seeds / saplings to help remove carbon from the atmosphere and create oxygen.

Several people suggested picking up trash but the robot has limited carrying capacity and in some cases there are already purpose made machines for this job such as street sweepers. In the case of cigarette buts it would be too dificult at this point for the robot to identify them without a hi-res camera and powerful onboard processor.

The first video is at Makers Faire, ShengZhen.
The second video was testing the robots ability to follow a person
The third video was just testing the arms
The fourth video was testing Ultrasonic eye tracking

I only had a few weeks to build and program the robot so the program was not as good as I would have liked. The robot ended up with 3 Arduino compatible boards connected via I2C.

  • Main Brain: Spider controller - controlled the arms and head.
  • Motion: Wild Thumper controller - monitored battery and drove motors based on commands from Brain.
  • RC Communications: Arduino Nano - measured pulses from RC receiver and passed commands to Brain.

The robot was autonomous but would automatically switch to RC control if RC signals were detected. When you turned off the transmitter the robot would return to autonomous mode.

Unfortunately I do not have video of the robot autonomously playing with / chasing children about in Xingjiang. I did not have time in the morning to take videos and in the afternoon the robot had flat batteries and a broken elbow.



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Do you have videos for this robot? If so, put the link in the comment. Really interested to see it function.

I forgot to update this post. I was very busy that week.

One seed a day will keep some future CO2 away.


Wander around. Constantly check the ground. Detect humus (top soil). Dig a little hole. Drop the seed. Close the hole. Take a GPS snapshot. Wander around.

Yes, planting is one of the reasons I decided on adding two arms. The arms can reach back and grab seeds, tools or saplings being carried on the back.

Well, that is quite a difficult task. 

As my friend is doing aquaponic systems my idea would be to have a robot which checks the water quality, feed the fish and cut out plants when they grow to big. Also the idea with the solar charging is not that bad.

Why not let the robot drag it's own power plant in a trailer. Once arrived in his action area he could deploy the trailer, unfold big solar panels, erect a pole with a wind generator to make use of different energy sources. That power plant will charge a big lead acid/Li Po battery and when the robot runs out of powerr he will go to the charging station and either plug himself into the power supply or even more cool physically replace his battery while running on external power.

Although swapping it's own battery would be cool, in this case it would not be practical. The battery would need to be on the back instead of underneath. I want to keep the back clear for a payload. Also the high current connections could be a problem. Putting a solar power plant on a trailer is much easier. K. I. S. S.

Why not making it collect ground samples to be examined to map the healthiness of a zone?

the robot collects and logs the GPS data. And an hypothetical lab analyzes samples and processes the map.

So could make a thing like "this zone of the park is not so good for children" map


I like this idea!!

It works well with my other idea of testing soil moisture levels during a drought so that a farmer knows where and when to water his crops.

I had already planned to install a second hand Android phone as a cheap GPS / Compass / WiFi / Accelerometer / Camera. There is plenty of room on the back of the robot for samples to be stored.

Remind me on Robonaut 1 :)

I was thinking more of this fellow from Hellboy II