When looking for electronics projects to use in educational settings, there is no shortage of simple, lightweight, and easily-accessible systems to choose from. From robotic arms, drones, walking robots, and wheeled robots, there is a vast array of options. But as technology marches on, the robotics platforms need to keep up as well. This turtle-style wheeled robot called the Trundlebot uses the latest in affordable microcontrollers on a relatively simple, expandable platform for the most up-to-date educational experience.
The robot is built around a Raspberry Pi Pico, with two low-cost stepper motors to drive the wheeled platform. The chassis can be built out of any material that can be cut in a laser cutter, but for anyone without this sort of tool it is also fairly easy to cut the shapes out by hand. The robot’s functionality can be controlled through Python code, and it is compatible with the WizFi360-EVB-Pico which allows it to be remote controlled through a web application. The web interface allows easy programming of commands for the Trundlebot, including a drag-and-drop feature for controlling the robot.
With all of these features, wireless connectivity, and a modern microcontroller at the core, it is an excellent platform for educational robotics. From here it wouldn’t be too hard to develop line-follower robots, obstacle-avoiding robots, or maze-solving robots. Other components can easily be installed to facilitate these designs as well. If you’re looking for a different style robot, although not expressly for educational purposes this robotic arm can be produced for under $60.
Having a 3D printer or a CNC machine available for projects is almost like magic. Designing parts in software and having them appear on the workbench is definitely a luxury. But for a lot of us, these tools aren’t easily available and projects that use them can be out-of-reach. That’s why one of the major design goals of this robotics platform was to use as many off-the-shelf components as possible.
The robot is called the OpenScout and, as its name implies, intends to be a fully open-source robotics platform for a wide range of use cases. It uses readily-available aluminum extrusion as a frame, which bolts together without any other specialized tools like welders. The body of the robot is articulating, helping it navigate uneven terrain outdoors. The specifications also call for using an Arduino to drive the robot, although there is plenty of space in the robot body to house any robotics platform you happen to have on hand.
For anyone looking to get right into the useful work of what robots can do, rather than spending time building up a platform from scratch, this is an excellent project. It’s straightforward and easy to build without many specialized tools. The unique articulating body design should make it effective in plenty of environments. If you do have a 3D printer, though, that opens up a lot of options for robotics platforms.
The Arduino is a powerful platform for interfacing with the real world, but it isn’t without limits. One of those hard limits, even for the Arduino MEGA, is a finite number of pins that the microcontroller can use to interface with the real world. If you’re looking to extend the platform’s reach in one of your own projects, though, there are a couple of options available. This project from [Bill] shows us one of those options by using the ATtiny85 to offload some of an Arduino’s tasks using I2C.
I2C has been around since the early 80s as a way for microcontrollers to communicate with each other using a minimum of hardware. All that is needed is to connect the I2C pins of the microcontrollers and provide each with power. This project uses an Arduino as the controller and an arbitrary number of smaller ATtiny85 microcontrollers as targets. Communicating with the smaller device allows the Arduino to focus on more processor-intensive tasks while giving the simpler tasks to the ATtiny. It also greatly simplifies wiring for projects that may be distributed across a distance. [Bill] also standardizes the build with a custom development board for the ATtiny that can also double as a shield for the Arduino, allowing him to easily expand and modify his projects without too much extra soldering.
Using I2C might not be the most novel of innovations, but making it easy to use is certainly a valuable tool to add to the toolbox when limited on GPIO or by other physical constraints. To that end, [Bill] also includes code for an example project that simplifies the setup of one of these devices on the software end as well. If you’re looking for some examples for what to do with I2C, take a look at this thermometer that communicates with I2C or this project which uses multiple sensors daisy-chained together.
Continue reading “I2C To The Max With ATtiny”
There are a lot of cliches about the perils of boat ownership. “The best two days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy their boat, and the day they sell it” immediately springs to mind, for example, but there is a loophole to an otherwise bottomless pit of boat ownership: building a small robotic speedboat instead of owning the full-size version. Not only will you save loads of money and frustration, but you can also use your 3D-printed boat as a base for educational and research projects.
The autonomous speedboats have a modular hull design to make them easy to 3D print, and they use a waterjet for propulsion which improves their reliability in shallow waters and reduces the likelihood that they will get tangled on anything or injure an animal or human. The platform is specifically designed to be able to house any of a wide array of sensors to enable people to easily perform automated tasks in bodies of water such as monitoring for pollution, search-and-rescue, and various inspections. A monohull version with a single jet was prototyped first, but eventually a twin-hulled catamaran with two jets was produced which improved the stability and reliability of the platform.
All of the files needed to get started with your own autonomous (or remote-controlled) speedboat are available on the project’s page. The creators are hopeful that this platform suits a wide variety of needs and that a community is created of technology enthusiasts, engineers, and researchers working on autonomous marine robotic platforms. If you’d prefer to ditch the motor, though, we have seen a few autonomous sailboats used for research purposes as well.
Continue reading “Waterjet-Powered Speedboat For Fun And Research”
[T-Kuhn]’s Octo-Bouncer platform has learned some new tricks since we saw it last. If you haven’t seen it before, this device uses computer vision from a camera mounted underneath its thick, clear acrylic platform to track a ball in 3D space, and make the necessary (and minute) adjustments needed to control the ball’s movements with a robotic platform in real time.
We loved the Octo-Bouncer’s mesmerizing action when we saw it last, and it’s only gotten better. Not only is there a whole new custom ball detection algorithm that [T-Kuhn] explains in detail, there are also now visualizations of both the ball’s position as well as the plate movements. There’s still one small mystery, however. Every now and again, [T-Kuhn] says that the ball will bounce in an unexpected direction. It doesn’t seem to be a bug related to the platform itself, but [T-Kuhn] has a suspicion. Since contact between the ball and platform is where all the control comes from, and the ball and platform touch only very little during a bounce, it’s possible that bits of dust (or perhaps even tiny imperfections on the ball’s surface itself) might be to blame. Regardless, it doesn’t detract from the device’s mesmerizing performance.
Design files and source code are available on the project’s GitHub repository for those who’d like a closer look. It’s pretty trippy watching the demonstration video because there is so much going on at once; you can check it out just below the page break.
Continue reading “Robotic Ball-Bouncing Platform Learns New Tricks”
As time marches on and a good percentage of us are still isolating from society at large, the progress of technology isn’t kept as stagnant. Earlier this year we featured a project about a much-needed small telepresence robot with an exceptionally low barrier for entry, and with the progress of time it has received several upgrades and some crowdfunding, all while preserving its original intent of a simple and easily-operated way of keeping in contact with others.
The new robot is still based on the cardboard design that holds a smartphone and drives it around using a microcontroller platform, but thanks to its small size and low power requirement this seems to suit it nicely. Improvements over the original design include a more robust one-size-fits-all phone mount and a more refined cardboard body. Also, since the small size is a little bit of a downside when navigating anywhere that isn’t a desk or counter, the new version makes it easier to make modifications such as adding a pedestal which can elevate the phone and improve the experience of the remote driver. A number of other optional modifications are possible as well, including a grabbing arm.
While telepresence robots unfortunately are needed now more than ever, we are happy to see people like [Ross] take on projects like this which will hopefully help improve our shared situation by allowing us to have a more involved level of contact with people we would otherwise prefer to see in person. If you’d like to build your own without waiting on the crowdfunding, be sure to check out the original project we featured back in April.
When interacting with reality at a distance is the best course of action, we turn to robots. Whether that’s exploring the surface of Venus, the depths of the ocean, or (for the time being) society at large, it’s often better to put a robot out there than an actual human being. We can’t all send robots to other planets, but we can easily get them in various other places with telepresence robots.
This tiny telepresence robot comes to us from [Ross] at [Crafty Robot] who is using their small Smartibot platform as a basis for this tiny robot. The smartibot drives an easily-created cardboard platform, complete with wheels, and trucks around a smartphone of some sort which handles the video and network capabilities. The robot can be viewed and controlled from any other computer using a suite of web applications that can be found on the project page.
The Smartibot platform is an inexpensive platform that we’ve seen do other things like drive an airship, and the creators are hoping that as many people as possible can get some use out of this quick-and-easy telepresence robot if they really need something like this right now. The kit seems like it would be useful for a lot of other fun projects as well.
Continue reading “Get Back Out There, Robotically”