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The two projects we included in this chapter represent two distinct families of robots: human-controlled and autonomous:
You manipulate a human-controlled robot. Itís the person, not the robot, who does all the thinking. These work a lot like a remotely controlled racecar. The control may be wired or wireless. If you build one of these robots, itís an ideal way to get your feet wet because you can start out with a simple project and work your way up to more complex designs.
Autonomous robots think all on their own. They have a small computer for a brain, and usually, one or more sensors so that they can detect their environment and respond to it. You program the robotís computer, and that controls all of the little critterís actions.
In this chapter you start out by constructing a human-controlled robot. The design is simple, consisting of a robot base that has two motors, two drive wheels, and a swivel caster that keeps it balanced. You control the robot by flipping two switches. Each switch controls one of the motors. You mount the switches on a little piece of wood or plastic, along with a few AA batteries. You connect the batteries and switches to the robot motors with long wires, so you can walk around the room while steering your robot.
Then, you will read all about how to build an autonomous robot. In this version, you do away with the switches and replace them with a BASIC Stamp 2 microcontroller to program the Ďbot. The robot also uses a switch as a kind of bumper that tells the robot when itís run smack into something. You also discover how to program the microcontroller to make the robot steer in a new direction when the switch is bumped.
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Chapter 15: Cool Robot Projects to Amaze Your Friends and Family 325
RoVer the Robot parts list
Here are the parts that you need to build your robot (we tell you more about all of these shortly):
Bottom deck, cut to size Top deck, cut to size
2 Tamiya worm gear motors (model #72004)
2 Tamiya Narrow Wheel sets (model #70145)
1/4-inch swivel caster
2 6-32 by /2-inch machine screws
2 6-32 nuts (for caster)
4 risers, constructed with standoffs or 6-32 machine screws
2 DPDT center-off toggle switches (Get toggle variety switches, with a center-off position. The switches should be spring-loaded momentary. That way, the switch handle will return to the center-off position when you release it.)
4-cell AA battery holder
Small wooden or plastic board (about 4Ēx4Ē is fine) for mounting the switches and battery.
20 to 25 feet of flexible lamp (also called zip) cord Solder
Here are some notes to help you find these materials and parts:
See the section ďGathering Your MaterialsĒ later in this chapter for some suggestions on the materials that you may want to use to build the top and bottom decks.
You can purchase the Tamiya motors and wheels from Tower Hobbies (www.towerhobbies.com), as well as many other local and online hobby retailers. See the Appendix for a more complete list of sources.
You can find the 1/4-inch caster at Loweís and many other home improvement stores.
Look for the DPDT switches, battery holder, and electrical items at RadioShack, or most electronics supply stores.
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326 Part V: A Plethora of Projects
The following sections give you more details about all of these parts and materials and how you use them to build your robot.
The bits and pieces of a 'bot
You donít have to make your robotís body elaborate to make it good. You can make a simple and sturdy body by using common tools and readily available materials. Simple design choices can save you headaches. You can build a square-shaped body more easily than a circular one because the square needs only straight cuts. Cutting robot bodies from in-stock sizes of materials saves you money, too.
You can also decide whether you want to be more or less meticulous about how you construct your robotís body. For a lot of folks, building the mechanical body of a robot is akin to getting a root canal. They donít like all the cutting and sawing and drilling. So, they pull out the duct tape and invoke the physics of stickum. Although these construction techniques have their place, a sturdy and permanent body gives you a less hassle-prone robot, and things donít come off when they shouldnít.
Introducing Rover the Robot
The Rover, which we talk about in this chapter, is a fairly simple robot that gives you a perfect intro to robot building if youíre just starting out. You can conveniently use the body of Rover for both projects in this chapter:
In the basic Rover, you use two small DC gear motors to control its movement by using a pair of wired switches. (Gear motors are like regular motors, except they also include a set of gears that make the motor more useful for propelling things like small robots.) You can drive Rover through the house by flipping the switches up and down. Itís a lot more fun than it sounds, especially if you have a cat or dog to chase around. (Donít worry ó no animals will be harmed during this project.)