Wanted: Mechanical/Electrical Engineers (or something close to that) (in Off-topic)

th00p November 4 2006 10:55 PM EST

I've recently decided (tonight during my shower, while I was singing) that I want to build a robot. Not the kind you see on the game shows, but a simple one I can finish in the next year or so, while I'm still in high school and have the time and drive to actually complete it. My high school has a couple tech teachers who, despite working there for almost 30 years, know little about making these. I would like input on pretty much all aspects about the process of designing and building such a robot.

~ Functions:

a) Movement. via remote control, without wires dangling behind that much remain connected, range isn't particularly important up to 25ft or so is fine. Does not need to be fast. Would probably run on batteries because that's just easiest from what I understand.
b) Picks stuff up. Any kind of claw, hand, or any other object that could be powered easily. Doesn't have to be a crushing kind of grip, but able to grab and lift a small (5lb?) object and move with it.
c) *(insert your great idea here)*

Other than that, I don't know what else it would need. Would I need to do 3D drawings beforehand, using AutoCAD or hand-drawings? Would it be something I could tell colleges about(American colleges, sorry to be unfair to Europeans/Australians playing)? Is the project too long to complete in a year?

Obviously, this is still in it's baby steps and hasn't actually been thought out yet. Any (helpful) ideas at all would be greatly appreciated, and I know a bunch of CB nerds like us should at least know something. Thanks a bunch in advance for anything you know!

Miandrital November 4 2006 11:07 PM EST

A quick google search yielded some interesting pages, but I think this is perhaps the most useful for you.
Click Me!
As for the college thing, it is not really something that you could put on a resume, but if you are planning to study engineering (any kind) it would be a great essay subject, or a great interview topic to discuss. As you may know, the essays and interviews are just about the only way for you to express yourself to colleges, and such a topic would probably be great.

Also, I know the Legos has a great robotic division called: Mindstorms
That would probably be the easiest way to get into robotics. (My university uses lego robots as a part of the freshman electrical engineering class, and my friends tell me it is one of the best classes they take.)

PirateKing November 5 2006 5:19 AM EST

Please post the name of the person you find to help you, th00p. That way we know who to hunt down when your creation goes on a murderous rampage and destroys half the city. :D

AdminQBVerifex [Serenity In Chaos] November 5 2006 1:44 PM EST

Here is one robotics construction kit that is pretty good.

I would have to second the Lego Mindstorms thing, although this is a pretty good robot kit as well. It has more sensors then Mindstorms, and the cool part is that it uses Legos as well. Just don't let the little kids on the website fool you, Picocricket is a pretty killer robot kit.

Slashundhack [We Forge Our Own Stuff] November 5 2006 2:01 PM EST

Aaa just buy a sabian , sapien ?Probably cheaper in the long run.

bartjan November 5 2006 2:34 PM EST

If you want to get engineers' attention, you have to use metric. ;)

Ask yourself if you want a more or less autonomous robot, or a "simple" remotely operated machine. For a remotely operated machine, your focus is mostly on the mechanic side, with the electrical parts (servos, radio) available as complete parts.
If you want a more autonomous robot (more fun IMHO, but I'm an electrical engineer), this means using sensors (touch, light or even more extreme) to control the various motors. In my first year at the university, we had to build a robot that could navigate through a H-shaped maze as quickly as possible, with no outside help. Other tasks like build a robot that collects only the *red* balls and not any other color also ask for a creative approach, as there are many ways to solve this.

No matter what type of robot you want to build, for your first robot I would recommend to start with a easy to build kit for the base robot, and expand that with whatever custom things you want. For our maze robot, we all started with a 3 wheeled (2 motors driving each 1 wheel) round shaped robot with which not much could go wrong.

AdminQBnovice [Cult of the Valaraukar] November 5 2006 3:17 PM EST

step 1. Learn Assembly

step 2.

step 3. Robot!

th00p November 5 2006 6:04 PM EST

Bartjan, what you're talking about for your first year project sounds perfect. Of course, I'm not experienced at all in how to do that. Several thins about that I would need to know are the price, total time it took you to make (so I can multiply it by 2 or 3) and the amount of skill/knowledge it takes in electrical engineering. Also, you wouldn't happen to know a type of shop or online site I could think about purchasing these things from?

bartjan November 5 2006 6:36 PM EST

Well, it was 12 years ago, so forgive me for not remembering all the details ;)
I think it was a 2 week project, with groups of 4 students (groups can also slow you down ;) also because we needed to write a report). The robot kit was supplied, besides that the budget was about $25 plus all common material already available in the lab.

Building a robot kit is not that difficult (they usually come with instructions), but the actual skill required can vary depending on what kit you have. It's recommended to have someone who knows wich side of a soldering iron to hold in his hands nearby to assist you when needed.

The robot we used looks something like the "Rogue Blue" one on active-robots.com although that one is a bit more advanced (programmable). Looks like that site has lots of items for sale, but there must be dozens of similar shops on the net. If the prices of the complete kits do scare you, they do have a junior section. Make sure you get an idea what a robot does when it's completed, as some can be very complex in use...

For our task, navigating through a H-shaped maze, we could have used different approaches. Some groups decided to "count steps" (like a computer mouse does, if it's not optical), but we decided to use light sensors to detect how far away the walls are. The motor that was furthest away from the wall would slow down, causing the robot to follow a straight line, although it resembled a drunk man walking a line. The T-junctions simply meant one wall was really far away, so the robot would (almost) automatically take the right turn.
Great in theory, but on the day we needed to demonstrate it, 1 motor stopped to function, so all our little robot could do is run in circles.
This didn't matter that much, as we weren't the only team with difficulties and only 1 team managed to pass the course and still follow all the rules ;)
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