If you like electronics and/or DIY stuff and if you have kids sooner or later the topic of building a robot will surface. And if this happens … run as fast as you can. I’m that kind of a dad that takes the simple ideas of his kid and turns them into way too complex projects. Soon the kid will lose their interest and leave and I will still be optimizing, changing, and usually restarting the project all over again .. and again … and again. The idea of building a robot from paper by gluing some cut out parts together will turn after many iterations in a full fledged Arduino-Electric Imp project redesigning a fully autonomous robot (that cost about 10000 more than the original paper work, not even including the time I spend on this).
But I’m not there yet (and I probably never will).
My Story so far
It all started out very innocent. My oldest daughter saw some robot on YouTube. The 70th kind of blocky and walking robot – Bender in square look if you like. So she asked me: “Daddy can we build one of these please?” Using “the look” to make it impossible for me to say “No!”.
So I outlines a robot on paper. She painted it. We cut it out and started gluing it together. Then I thought, why not use an old servo and an Arduino hidden in the body to make the head turn.
Simple project I thought. So I quickly put together Arduino, Server and a Potentiometer and the Robot could turn his head.
Well, sadly paper is not the optimal material to use for a case, so it broke and happiness stopped.
OK if paper is not right, let get something better. After some research on the internet I bought a two wheeled robot case – no soldering required. That would be quickly to assemble. As I new I also had to purchase a motor-shield for the Arduino (remember, I did not want to solder to keep the project simple and not too time consuming).
After everything was assembled and a simple timed code to move the robot, both of my kids were pretty much underwhelmed. “This thing is stupid! It can’t do anything!” And they were absolutely right.
But a dad can not stop here, he has to prove that creating intelligent robots is as simple as taking out the trash for him. I really should have stopped here – but I just could not.
So I bought an ultrasonic sensor and a servo to create some kind of obstacle warning system, 2 IR sensors to detect walls and edges, light sensors so the robot can turn to the light (why – I have no idea), some solar cells to power the robot (never got it to work), batteries, more batteries, rechargeable batteries, LiPo batteries, a charger for LiPos, an electric imp (everything needs internet today), 2 more servos for a tilt and pan construct and a webcam.
After many hours of soldering, assembling, coding (better coping and adjusting) I came up with an obstacle avoiding robot (no solar, no tilt and pan, no webcam, no follow the light), and life was good.
The limited functionality was enough to impress my kids, and the really like to jump in front of the robot to make him turn or get him totally confused.
It could have ended here … but…
… my wife asked me, why so much trash (she refers to all of the electronics related parts as trash) is there and if I’m NOT ABLE to assemble it, she could throw it away. NOT ABLE to assemble it … NOT ABLE… No, now I cannot turn back. I went so far and now I have to push through!
So I reactivated the old robot and started adding parts. Setting up tilt and pan – done, adding an electric imp – tested and done, adding the camera – not the slightest bit working .
Worst is the coding. I started making some minor changes resulting in a complete rewrite. Which is still work in progress.
I will probably start a new series here to document my progress and the many failures I will face.
If you are into robotics and have the same experience, leave me a comment .
Now back to robot building … must not sleep, must not sleep.