- Lesson 1 – Getting Started
- Lesson 2 – Choosing a Robotic Platform
- Lesson 3 – Making Sense of Actuators
- Lesson 4 – Understanding Microcontrollers
- Lesson 5 – Choosing a Motor Controller
- Lesson 6 – Controlling your Robot
- Lesson 7 – Using Sensors
- Lesson 8 – Getting the Right Tools
- Lesson 9 – Assembling a Robot
- Lesson 10 – Programming a Robot
Welcome to the first installment of the Grand RobotShop Tutorial, a series of 10 lessons that will teach you how to make your own robot. This tutorial is aimed at anybody willing to get started in robotics and have a basic understanding of terms such as “voltage”, “current”, “motor”, and “sensors”. Although this might seem pretty basic, even people with previous robot building experience might find useful information regarding the general method of building a robot.
What is a robot?
There are many definitions of robot and no real consensus has been attained so far. We loosely define a robot as follows:
Robot: An electromechanical device which is capable of reacting in some way to its environment, and take autonomous decisions or actions in order to achieve a specific task.
This means that a toaster, a lamp, or a car would not be considered as robots since they have no way of perceiving their environment. On the other hand, a vacuum cleaner that can navigate around a room, or a solar panel that seeks the sun, can be considered as a robotic system.
It is also important to note that the “robots” featured in Robot Wars for instance or any solely remote controlled device would not fall under this definition and would be closer to a more complex remote controlled car.
Although this definition is quite general, it might need to evolve in the future in order to keep up with the latest advancement in the field. In order to get a sens of how robotics is rapidly growing, we suggest you take a look at the RobotShop History of Robotics.
Let’s get started
This series of tutorials is intended to guide you through the steps of building a complete mobile robot.
There are 10 lessons that will be released in the following 10 weeks. Each lesson guides you through one step of making a general-purpose mobile robot. This will enable you to build your very own mobile robot in order to perform a task of your choice. Each lesson will be illustrated with an example from RobotShop experience in producing the RobotShop Rover. The lessons are intended to be read one after the other and build upon the information gained.
The first step is to determine what your robot should do (i.e. what is its purpose in life). Robots can be used in almost any situation and are primarily intended to help humans in some way. If you are unsure of what you want your robot to do or simply want to concentrate your efforts on specific tasks, here are some ideas:
Knowledge & Learning
In order to build increasingly complex robots, most professionals and hobbyists use knowledge they have acquired when building previous robots. Instead of building one robot, you can learn how to use individual components with the objective of building your own “knowledge library” to use to undertake a larger, more complex design in the future.
Amusement & Companionship
Building a robot is in and of itself is fun and exciting. Robotics incorporates aspects of many disciplines including engineering (mechanical, electrical, computer), sciences (mathematics and physics) and arts (aesthetics) and users are free to use their imagination. Amusing others with your creations (especially if they are user-friendly and interactive) helps others to become interested in the field.
Competitions & Contests
Competitions give the project design guidelines and a due date. They also put your robot against others in the same class and test your design and construction skills. Although many competitions are specifically for students (elementary to university), there also exist open competitions where adults and professionals alike can compete.
Autonomous life form
Humans are natural creators and innovators. The next great innovation will be to develop a fully autonomous life form that rivals or surpasses ourselves in ability and perhaps creativity. This goal is still being accomplished in small steps by individuals, research organizations and professionals.
Domestic or Professional tasks
Domestic robots help liberate people from unpleasant or dangerous tasks and give them more liberty and security. Professional and Service Robots are used in a variety of applications at work, in public, in hazardous environments, in locations such as deep-sea, battlefields and space, just to name a few. In addition to the service areas such as cleaning, surveillance, inspection and maintenance, we utilize these robots where manual task execution is dangerous, impossible or unacceptable. Professional and Service Robots are more capable, rugged and often more expensive than domestic robots and are ideally suited for professional and/or commercial use.
Security and Surveillance
Most mobile robots are used to venture into areas where humans either should not or cannot go. Robots of various sizes (either remote controlled, semi-autonomous or fully autonomous) are an ideal choice for these tasks.
We anticipate that most of you following this guide have the objective of building a robot for learning and knowledge, but also for sheer fun; though many will have a specific idea or project they want to materialize.
The last major consideration is budget. It is difficult to know exactly what people have in mind when they build their first robot; one might already want to build an autonomous snow removal robot, while another simply wants to make an intelligent clock. A simple programmable mobile robot might cost about $100 while a more complex can be several thousands of dollars.
In this exercise, we have chosen to make a mobile platform in order to get an understanding of motors, sensors, microcontrollers and programming, and to include a variety of sensors. We’ll keep the budget to about $200 to $300 since we want it to be fairly complete.
For further information on learning how to make a robot, please visit the RobotShop Learning Center. Visit the RobotShop Community Forum in order to seek assistance in building robots, showcase your projects or simply hang-out with other fellow roboticists.