Bringing Battle Bots Into The Modern Classroom

With the wide array of digital entertainment that’s available to young students, it can be difficult for educators to capture their imagination. In decades past, a “volcano” made with baking soda and vinegar would’ve been enough to put a class of 5th graders on the edge of their seats, but those projects don’t pack quite the same punch on students who may have prefaced their school day with a battle royale match. Today’s educators are tasked with inspiring kids who already have the world at their fingertips.

Hoping to rise to that challenge with her entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, [Misty Lackie] is putting together a kit which would allow elementary and middle school students to build their very own fighting robots. Thanks to the use of modular components, younger students don’t have to get bogged down with soldering or the intricacies of how all the hardware actually works. On the other hand, older kids will be able to extend the basic platform without having to start from scratch.

The electronics for the bot consist primarily of an Arduino Uno with Sensor Shield, a dual H-bridge motor controller, and a wireless receiver for a PS2 controller. This allows the students to control the bot’s dual drive motors with an input scheme that’s likely very familiar to them already. By mapping the controller’s face buttons to digital pins on the Arduino, additional functions such as the spinner seen in the bot after the break, easily be activated.

[Misty] has already done some test runs with an early version of the kit, and so far its been a huge success. Students were free to design their own bodies and add-ons for the remote controlled platform, and it’s fascinating to see how unique the final results turned out to be. We’ve seen in the past how excited students can be when tasked with customizing their own robots, so any entry into that field is a positive development in our book.

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My DIY BB-8: Problems, Solutions, Lessons Learned

Imagine trying to make a ball-shaped robot that rolls in any direction but with a head that stays on. When I saw the BB-8 droid doing just that in the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, it was an interesting engineering challenge that I couldn’t resist. All the details for how I made it would fill a book, so here are the highlights: the problems I ran into, how I solved them and what I learned.

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A H-Bridge Motor Controller Tutorial Makes It Simple To Understand

hbridge tutorial

[Afroninja] is back with another great tutorial on basic electronics. This time around he’s explaining H-Bridge motor controllers and how they work!

Even if you don’t have much (or any) experience with basic electrical circuits, [Afroninja] explains the concept of an H-Bridge motor controller in a clear, concise and easy way to understand. So what’s an H-Bridge anyway? For any project using DC motors, if you want to be able to spin up the motor in either direction, you’re going to need a method to power the motor in two different configurations, i.e. you’re going to have to swap the polarity some how.

The easiest way of doing this is with an H-Bridge. It’s called an H-Bridge… because it’s shaped like an H, with the motor in the very middle. It allows both polarities to control the motor — however if you do it with just plain old switches or relays, you could short the circuit if you try going in both directions at once! To solve this, [Afroninja] explains how to poka-yoke (Japanese term for Idiot-Proof) the circuit, by using transistors which will sink the voltage if you try to abuse the circuit.

It’s a 5 minute video and well worth the watch — stick around after the break to learn more!

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