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How to Build Your First Robot Tutorial Motivation | Costs | Parts | Batteries | Circuits | Sensors | Chassis | Tips If you would like to see a step-by-step robot tutorial, visit my The $50 Robot Tutorial after reading this page. Motivation is key to success. Why build a robot? What are your motivations? Do they look cool? Want to join a robotics contest such as battlebots? Robotics can teach you so much. You will learn skills ranging from electronics, mechanics, controls, programming, and even as broad as understanding animal behavior and human psychology. It is best before starting this robot tutorial to ask yourself what your goals of creating a robot are, and what are your motivations - otherwise you may quit halfway not quite knowing why you started. Ok now that you know why you want to build a robot, lets talk about what you need to know . . . The first robot is always the hardest. So take the KISS approach: Keep It Simple, Stupid! This is good advice as my own first robot I aimed too high, wasted a lot of money, and it never really worked. While making your very first robot your goals should be to just learn all the basics: how to program, how to use the tools, terminology, learn basic technology, and how to get robot parts super cheap. Save that cool robot idea you have for your second robot. You can always scrap the first for parts to build the second later. Trust me.
Ok I am ready, what do I need to start? Obviously the first is MONEY. Robots can get expensive. A skilled roboticist can build a robot for next to nothing ($50, for example). He would often have collected enough stuff over the years that he would not have to go and buy most parts. He also would know how to build his parts instead of buying them pre-made, as well as have the skills to improvise. However the beginner does not have these options. You can make most of your robot out of parts in your house, but don't expect to make your first robot McGyver style with just rubber bands and toothpicks. Expect to spend good money for your first 2 or 3 robots. About $100-$200 minimum on your first robot. Ask your parents for it, tell them its educational or something. Tell them you can win money in contests to pay them back. Tell them it will help you get into your university of choice or get you that neat robotics internship. Tell them it will keep you off the streets or from doing drugs. Get a freakin job! You can also apply for grants at your school or university, and even ask companies for money. Tell them their donation gives them tax breaks or something.
equipment. find a place to build your robot. Ok I got my bling money. Join a robotics club. That is another thing. . I remember asking a half dozen people for help before even starting my first robot. So your first robot will have 2 wheels. lets just keep the algorithm binary to make your first program easy. What you want is a dumb little 2 wheeled thing that just barely doesn't commit suicide by driving off your table.I have raised $4k+ for all my robots together. and that ever priceless help and advice you will need. but I promise a good look at other robots will really help you. only bother looking at the really simple robots. It will drive under the most basic algorithm for a robot differential drive. to drive straight both wheels move forward at same speed to drive reverse both wheels move back at same speed to turn left the left wheel moves in reverse and the right wheel moves forward to turn right the right wheel moves in reverse and the left wheel moves forward You can also get interesting curved paths just by varying speeds of both wheels. Remember from geometry you need 3 points to make a plane? So what do I need to have differential drive? Just two things: 2 wheels and 2 motors. You're only asking for trouble if you want to make something like a biped with camera vision and an arm to get you a beer. I even know one guy who got a $20k donation for a single robot! Your future robots will become more affordable as you become more skilled and have more useful parts around your place. Often members will loan you parts. that can be extremely hard in itself. now lets spend it! But first you need a design. Remember. Oh and don't forget a castor (something low friction that drags). DO NOT get imaginative or creative on your first robot. What does an easy to make robot look like? May seem like a dumb question. Browse the web for robot galleries. But for now. You should also read my tutorial on how to pay for robots. but now you have a whole list of design issues. Sounds simple. tools. And for a beginner.
Expect to spend from $1-$40 per motor/servo. No. slow robots that take forever to commit suicide (such as ramming into a wall) are boring. desired terrain. have high mAh (energy capacity). and more expensive and complicated your motor control circuitry will get. Next comes power. gearing ratios. Also. I recommend 2-3" diameter wheel for your first robot. Motors can take rough treatment and are efficient and powerful. But then again. Both are equally as complicated to implement and cost about the same. but they generally are less energy efficient. y My recommendations for your first robot motors: Voltage: 5V-8V Torque: double what you think you will need There are many websites selling DC motors. so its a design tradeoff for you to decide. Consider putting batteries in both parallel and in series to vary/control total voltage and mAh. voltage. Don't forget to consider how to attach your wheels to your motors. and are less intuitive. desired velocity and acceleration. Small wheels for slower. But remember. Also considering buying servos. So just wing it. and get motors that can do overkill. bigger the motors. and can output at least an amp at any time. . Use a battery. solar power and eating slugs wont work. Visit hobby aircraft websites or our robot parts list to find good wheels with traction. There are many types of batteries. and bigger wheels generally mean fine position control is harder too. controllability and a whole range of things too overwhelming for a beginner. Big wheels will let your robot move faster. When buying a battery make sure they are rechargeable. Each have their own advantages. power consumption.Let's start with the wheels. Just make sure you keep your robot as light as possible. have explicit voltage requirements. so lets just talk about the 3 most common. I recommend staying between $8-$20 each for your first robot. your sensors often cannot keep up with fast changes in position. Expect to spend from $5-$10 plus shipping. but forget intelligent control cause it ain't happening. Servos are much easier to control. Ok now the motors. So why not just get big? Bigger wheels means your robot has less torque to carry a heavy payload. For an optimal robot choosing motors would involve calculations of weight. shorter your battery life.
Google for microcontrollers online or go to our robot parts list. depending on expected power requirements from your motors. I recommend going AVR based. are more affordable than NiMH's. make sure you use a good robot power regulation circuit to help control power to your robot. so a ready made circuit thingy is easiest. and can be recharged within one or two hours. . However they are more expensive than the other two batteries I will talk about. are heavy. With any power source. easiest to get. and many more coming out . they have good current output. Atmel/AVR. A NiCad. and cheapest too. If you know programming basics. However they are useless. Note. and get expensive to constantly replace. As a beginner you do not want your motors interfering with or even melting your sensitive circuitry. Older cell phone batteries were often NiCad. ARM. and either NiCad or NiMH for motors.Alkaline batteries are the most common. They have the highest current output. y My recommendation is to make a small sized robot and buy 2 NiMH 6V battery packs. Trust me. have trouble supplying large amounts of current in short time periods. Just hook up both battery leads to a cute kitten until it stops moving. NiMH batteries usually take like 5-10 hours to fully recharge depending on various factors. They are usually called microcontrollers. over many charges. don't buy them. They have low power capacities. NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries are really neat. Get two so you can isolate motor power from circuitry power. can only store less and less energy after each recharge. Stamps are easier but offer less functionality. A NiMH will be fine for circuits. You can easily find batteries at RadioShack or any RC hobby website. Your choice. NiCad batteries contain toxic cadmium stuff. and BASIC Stamp based. However. Forget about designing your own. One battery for motors. so save a squirrel and recycle/dispose of it properly. you must first fully discharge it. whenever you wish to recharge your NiCad. and have the highest energy capacity. NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) batteries are good for small to medium size range robots. I would recommend them for small size robots and for powering circuits. And remember. Ever notice how some older cell phone batteries just do not last as long on a single charge as when you first bought it? This is called memory effect. I guess a motor would work too . . Ok now you need a cool circuit thingy. but there are many out there. I personally use the Cerebellum Microcontroller. recharging NiCad batteries is a black art. and one for circuits. It is best your first robot be simple. Each about $10-$15 plus shipping. You can recharge them as much as you want. Cell phone batteries are often NiMH (the industry is moving to Lithium). To prevent memory effect. the most popular being PIC.
Most will. not how to make a neat robot. and for PIC's expect to spend from free to about $600 on special compiling software. They should also come with a manual and sample programs to explain how to use them. program it. Just make sure the controller you buy has a built in motor driver. Consider power requirements too. You can also handmake the programmer really cheap. but in actuality are quite simple plug and play devices. robot? A battlebot is not really a robot in that it has no sensors and can't make it's own decisions. Ok so how do I make my robot well um . it is that simple! There are many other really cheap and simple sensor setups. If they see the same amount of light. just make sure it has them. and your sensor input/outputs. So I won't. If the sensor on the left see's more light than the one on the right. Ever hear of a photovore robot? If not do a google search. Some controllers have built in programmers. Yes. So lets learn about a basic sensor: Photoresistors are the most basic. They may look really complicated. put one on each side of your robot. Just literally plug in your battery. .your robot will avoid the shadows cast on the ground by objects in the way. tell your differential drive to turn left. and many analog input/output ports. Basically get 2 photoresistors (like 20 cents each). which is why I used the Cerebellum. Do you honestly know what all those additional features are for anyway? Your first robot should be about learning how to build a robot. Don't worry what those things are now. and run a binary algorithm. . but this is a good starter for now. tell your robot to drive straight. another ~$30 on a programmer (uploads your program from your computer to the chip). and wallah! Your circuit thingy is finished! When buying your first controller. .lately. LED's. have ease of use in mind. Aim the photoresistors on the ground and you have instant obstacle avoidance . But autonomous robots will help you get the ladies. your motors/servos. Expect to spend about $80-$120 on a controller at any robotics specialty website. you want it autonomous riiiight??? You can however skip this section and use a RC remote attached to your controller if you want a battlebot.
I can have a fully constructed robot. so design your robot to be easily modified. screws. My robots now are so well designed that the day I receive in the mail all my robot parts. visit my The $50 Robot Tutorial for step-bystep instructions! Other tips: . Do you want to spend hours building something and in the end say. Parts were intentionally designed to require the least amount of drilling and cutting effort. Through experience I have found that for every hour I spend on design is one less hour I spend on construction (and usually low quality construction at that!). I even calculate expected forces and power requirements of everything to make sure it is all up to spec.Ok now you got all this stuff. but still no robot. Now. the cheaper the robot and the less time you will need to build it. I also recommend using velcro and double sided sticky tape often as it allows you to make modifications easily.makes recharging easy. The reason why I say design first is because planning things is generally always a good idea. and sometimes even within just a few hours. and to balance the weight. Ok. But I still recommend it. now I will let you use your imagination.com are great places to get structural parts. location of all parts. Batteries should ALWAYS be attached with velcro . Now it is time to DESIGN. Basically all you need to decide is shape. A beginner may have difficulty designing just because he/she wouldn't know what does/doesn't work. and mcmaster. or cereal boxes. I spend about 90% of my robot building time in the design phase. how you will cut your parts out of sheets of aluminum. "crap it didn't work"? You can never over design. especially when you are in a competition like battlebots where things break often. When I first started building robots. or don't have enough money/time to waste on mistakes. HDPE. within just a day or two. my time spent was about 5% designing. Now that you are ready to build your own robot. Just make sure you followed everything above. a robot chassis. Why so fast? Because I use a 3D CAD program that shows placement of all parts. Remember to plan where the screws go. Scrap heaps. everything. The more you plan it out. THEN BUILD. Expect to modify a lot on your first robot. and how to connect the parts together. old toys. Use legos to prototype and catch design flaws early. a few years later as I am older and wiser.
the cost and difficulty to make it increases exponentially. the google ads on the top right of this site should also show robot parts suppliers. Most importantly. stupid! . Redesign your first robot after learning from your mistakes and enter again the next time. As the size of a robot increases linearly. They also make a great support group. Perhaps you can even find a partner to build a robot together with (and split the costs with)? Join a robot competition.' hint hint. Buying parts is a skill. They have all the equipment and advice you will need. Join a local robotics club.y y y y y y Don't reinvent the wheel! Search the web for how other people did things. but hey it is your first robot. your robot pays for itself. Just don't wait till 2 weeks before the competition to start! Also do not plan to win your first time unless you have FINISHED your robot a month before the competition. and a deadline to finish your robot. Use our robot parts list to help get you started. Keep it simple. many suppliers offer free samples of sensors and IC's to 'your company. That way you have a lot of time to tweak and improve. a design goal. don't expect to develop the theory of relativity on your first try. Make it as small and light as possible. Finding them and making sure they are up to spec and affordable can be a challenge. This will give you motivation. Finally. and copy them! It may be unoriginal. remember to KISS. Plus if you win $. Remember.
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