Boty Bot: Overview

I learned quite a number of things in the process of creating my arduino robot, Boty Bot. (I initially called it “Boxy Bot”, but my son changed it to “Boty Bot”.) I’ll explain various things over the next several posts, separately considering the batteries, the motors, the Apple remote, etc. (The code is at github.)

A robot seemed a fun way to start with Arduino: something that drives around, to please the kids, and an opportunity to play with different sensors. I started with the adafruit motor party pack: the adafruit motor shield plus several motors to play with. I destroyed the DC motor by tearing off one of the soldering tabs (those things are delicate!); more on that later.

It seemed the easiest way to make a robot would be with a kit; after a bit of searching I decided on the DFRobot 4WD platform: simple and relatively inexpensive. I also got the Ping sensor and mounting bracket, a sonar sensor that looks like a pair of eyes, with a servo motor so the “head” can scan back and forth.

There is quite a bit of information online about this DFRobot kit:

It went together quite easily. There were a number of snags, but in the end I’m happy with it. The wheels are a bit cheap and wobbly, but overall it is good.

The highlights of what I learned:

  • It would be a hassle to change the motor batteries, as you’d have to take the whole thing apart. Rechargeable batteries and a power jack are critical.
  • A 9V battery to run the arduino plus the Ping sensor is not enough. I needed a second rechargeable battery for the controller. A mini volt meter is nice for keeping track of the battery charge.
  • Fancy jumper cables fall out too easily; it’s better to use hand trimmed wires. Even better would be screw terminals, like on a screw shield.
  • The soldering tabs on DC motors can be quite delicate, and if you break one, you pretty much ruin the motor. The best advice I’ve seen on soldering DC motors was in the instructions for the Makey Robot; see step 15.
  • I’ve had trouble with the Ping sensor giving sporadic 0s. I haven’t figured out why, but just ignoring strict 0s seems to work.

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