Sunday, December 20, 2009

Meeting #1

On Sunday Dec 20, we had a great first meeting with the Two Rock 4-H Club Primary SET members. We started off the meeting by talking about what robots are, what they do and some of the activities we will do in our project such as building our own “bug bots” and underwater “Sea Perch” ROV’s.
Next, we were unwrapping our Hexbugs and seeing what these little robots can do, how they bump into each other and how the kids could trap them in various mazes. We finished the meeting by building our very own “bug bots”, all from scrap pieces of old pager parts, wire and a pill box. The battle between the “Bug Bots” and the Hexbugs moved to the floor and we finished the day. Pictures and videos of our meeting are below.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Is BEAM?

BEAM is a design philosophy that emphasizes simple design solutions to building robots. The most common BEAM acronym stands for:

Biology | Electronics | Aesthetics | Mechanics

BEAM robots use nature as a guide in the design of your robotic creature. Why re-invent the wheel when nature has already done so?

These are the guts of what run a robot. The difference here is that most BEAM robots do not use a programmed microcontroller. For some applications simple components like a reed switch can do the job quicker and easier than a microcontroller.

Form follows function, there is a reason falcons are shaped the way they are, there is a reason pigs don’t fly. Although not always the case the general rule is that the better constructed the robot the better it will perform. The aesthetics can also be seen as the artistic side to building robots. If your going to do it it may as well look good.

No matter how good the control electronics are they can not make up for bad hardware, as it’s exceedingly difficult to walk on broken legs. This is key in determining the lifetime and performance of your robot. Don’t underestimate the value of good mechanisms.

More information on building the “Coat Hangar Walker” you see above can be found here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Robot Toothbrush – Meet Bristlebot

The bristlebot, part mechanical robot and part toothebrush dates back to 2007, when the folks at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories came up with a novel way to utilize a few items laying around. The basic materials are an old toothbrush (cut to size), a motor from an old pager (you can find these at electronics parts stores) and a battery. Tape them together and you have a tiny robot that moves about – but won’t clean your teeth.

The bristlebot is derived form other types of vibrating robots or “vibrobots”. These move about from the vibrating motion of their motors, but have no sensors or “brains” like other robots. They are fun to build though, and come in many shapes and sizes. Info on how to make this bristlebot can be found here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Loopin Textile Electronics Kit

Not every project that has great learning value needs to be a robot that walks or rolls. Sometimes, the real value is in the process of building and exploration.

The Loopin textile electronics kit looks like a plush toy that you assemble, but what’s inside is not the usual stuffing. Instead we have batteries and electronic hardware. Made of felt pieces that you fit together, the finished creature’s eyes light up when their smart soft ears are touched together, or to the ears of another Loopin. The kit can be configured in one of two ways, so that you can have two characters in one. Make a happy or a grumpy Loopin as many times as you wish while learning the circuitry. Loopin provides a fun and accessible introduction to electronics, for both boys and girls, and is also a great hands-on craft project. Comes in a variety of colors, and you can also choose your own. You can purchase the Loopin textile kite here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One of the first robots we will explore as a group is the Hexbug. Hexbugs feel their way around sensing objects in their path and move to avoid them. And they can hear! You control where they scurry through a hand clap or loud noise.We will look at how this behavior is just like our friend, the cockroach!

Our group can also fundraise with Hexbugs. The manufacturer has special pricing for non-profit groups like ours, and will sell these at wholesale. We can make up to $5 for each Hexbug that we sell. More information can be found on our fund raising page.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mini Hamster In A Ball Robot

Going with the phrase that “there’s a robot for every niche”, there’s actually a name for a family of robots that mimic hamsters on a treadmill – “miniball” robots. The name comes from a no longer available do-it-yourself kit to build such a robot.

This robot uses a solar engine . A small solar cell by itself generally doesn’t have the power to make a motor move, so you have to store this power up in a capacitor, which is a small battery-like storage device. When the circuit sees that there is enough power stored, it releases it in a burst to the motor, jerking it forward. This motion is much like a hamster in a ball, randomly making bursts of motion in one direction or another.

This silly robot got my attention so I ordered the kit and will bring our “robo-hampster” to one of our meetings. All the info you need to build this robot can be found here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Herbie The Mousebot

If you have any experience with a soldering iron, then Herbie the Mousebot is a great kit for you to build with your kids. Herbie is such an elegant, clever design using very few parts, it’s been featured in “MAKE” Magazine. Herbie the Mousebot is a 9-volt battery-powered robot that loves to chase flash light beams. If there are several Herbies in the same area, they can be configured to chase each other! These little robots are so quick, you have to run to keep up to them! Choose from Blue, White or Red colors. Expect to spend 1-2 hours working with a few small parts. The end result is a fantastic robot that can sense walls, light and sound. Buy Herbie at Solarbotics.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Binary Player Robot

Binary Player Robot is very “predictable”, two-wheeled robot. An internal program stored on a memory disk created by the user determines where the robot will go. Binary Player Robot is easily re-programmable by the controller… you.

Binary Player Robot is controlled by black and white patterns on a paper disk, which are read by an infrared sensor. Particular patterns activate either of two wheels to turn left, right, forward, or pause. These on/off commands illustrate the basic principles of binary coding, and is a great introduction to young minds about how robots are programmed. To change a movement program, the operator simply creates a new disk pattern. Set your course and explore the fascinating world of Binary Player Robot! This Robot has already won all these awards:

* “2005 Top Toy of the Year Award” – Creative Child Magazine
* “2005 100 Best Children’s Product” – Dr. Toy
* “2005 10 Best Children’s Software High Tech” – Dr. Toy

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scribbler Robot

The Scribbler robot is a great introductory robot for children that teaches them all types of behaviors and programs found in more expensive robots.This $100 robot has many features and comes with PC software for programming more complex behaviors. And the Scribbler part is the most fun for the kids – this robot will write on any hard surface using a sharpie pen. Just make sure you put something on the floor before kiddo sets this loose! Buy the Scribbler robot here.