Let's Make Robots!

What's in a kit? - Debate

Mike says here:

"Maybe you want to be more specific about the types of robotics that LMR is about. I've made a handful of Lego nxt robots (and will make a handful more I'm sure) because they are quick, easy and fun. I get the feeling that some people see this as frivolous because I've used neither soldering iron nor glue gun to produce them. The problem will be where will you draw the line. Are kit robots allowed if they plug together, or only if they need soldering? Are ready-made robots allowed eg Spyke?"

Really good point, Mike, and thought-provoking enough to start a blog inviting comments.

I'm about to post a kit robot. As an enthusiast, I raise the bar which defines what a "kit" is. I see the whole world as one big robot making kit and all the stuff lying around as the components. Even if the definition of a "kit" were to stop at a box which was bought off the shelf containing all the required components, I would feel entirely justified because it's going to get HEAVILY augmented. (He he!)

What do other folk think about kits appearing on LMR?

Are Lego robots and kit robots OKay or shold we be seeing more scratch-built stuff?

What defines a "kit"? Does it still classify as a kit if the assembly requires soldering or programming or drilling holes?

Should "devices" like WhizzyWriter and van Rijn classify as robots at all?

Let's debate! (Oh, www.letsmakedebates.com is not registered! Cool!)

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I think that "kits" and pre-made stuff is okay as long as you contribute something yourself, like modding the kit or write some code to customise the thing and go "beyond" what you got in the box. If you are a code-wizard but can't use a screwdriver without poking your eye out, I still think you should be allowed here. I won't be impressed by someone showing a Lynxmotion hexapod with the factory code, but if you program it to do your dishes, then you've made something yourself, which is what this site is all about.

Regarding "devices", the question is more, what is a robot?  Whizzywrite I wouldn't call a robot, but it shows some techniques that can be used in robot making, so it's useful. A modified servo is not a robot either, but it can be used as part of a robot.

I don't have a problem with people using kits as long as they understand WHAT is being done and WHY. If they simply follow the instructions and download pre-fab code, then you have learned next to nothing and done something anyone can do. If you learn from it and extend its functionality then the kit has done its purpose. I will never down anyone for using lego or bought kits as long as they know what it is doing and why. Maybe they lack the funds to run out and spend $500 on parts and tools.

I'm quite clear about what a kit is. It's a box of parts that combine to create a thing. It should be a complete set of parts that requires little or no additional parts. A Tamiya model is a kit. Legoi nxt is a kit, a jigsaw is a kit. the Start Here robot isn't a kit - it's a set of instructions. Adding glue, or personal experience doesn't stop a kit from being a kit - there are kits for beginners and kits for experts. A box of spare parts isn't a kit.

I actually thing this may be a fiarly pointless conversation, other than to illustrate my original point, that trying to draw a line anywhere is both hard and self defeating. LMR shouldn't be elitist if all LMR are belong to us.


I think we shouldn't set a technical limit to what we post on LMR. No matter if we set the line at soldering, programability or mobility, there will always be someone left outside that we want to be inside. But everybody should ask themself: Will this be a contribution to the LMR-community? If you sincerely think so, then post it.

It might be tempting to post everything you make, but if it's just to show that you managed to follow some simple instructions, it might not be interesting for the rest of us.

BUT, if there are some aspect about the kit that you think can be useful/educational/entertaining for at least one other LMR-head, then you should consider it your duty to post.

Lego Mindstorms is a great and/but simple tool. When used to explore physical behavior, or prototype new ideas, it's brilliant. But the limitations in the Brick makes programming options limited. So even though I use my NXT all the time, I am no fan of the hundreds of genericLego robots that pop up on the frontpage. But then again I want to see it if somebody makes a Lego quadraped, inchworm or equally exciting design...

Maybe we need an editor that runs daily featured articles on the frontpage. In other word; remove bots from the frontpage that I find boring, but still letting them live their lives on LMR.

Well I dont have the definite answer to this, but those are some of my thoughts anyway. Cheers for bringing up the subject.


BOT: Bunch Of Techstuff. With moving parts, programming, electrical parts, optical parts etc.

KIT: Bunch of pre-made parts (couldn't think of a nice acronym)

Some concentrate on the programming others on electronics or mechanics. I can't figure out why some see kits like LEGO mindstorm as inferior. The "start here" bot uses prefab electronics. That doesn't make it less of a robot. 

As far as I'm concerned: anything that educates me on mechanics, electronics or programming goes. No need to look like a "creature". I like van Rijn (I think it refers to Rembrandt, OddBot) and I really like mr Tea even though they are only creatures by name.


How could I forget Mr Tea (I only just got the Mr T x-ref - where have I been). He's so definitely not a robot by my definition, but nonetheless, I'm glad that he and Zanth are here.


What defines a "kit"? Does it still classify as a kit if the assembly requires soldering or programming or drilling holes?

 Kits can be anything really, it's the concepts that they teach which are important. It could teach soldering techniques, it could teach building techniques, and it could teach electronics. They are also based on skill levels which makes sense since not everyone is an Einstein or Joe builder. 

For people who build kits, they can learn by doing this, then later go back and tinker, or if they feel comfortable, start tinkering right then. I usualy do the latter but stay on the course to learn whatever it is teaching.