How to Make a Robot
Making a drone, a rocket and a robot are some of the things I have had in my bucket list since I was a child. The excitement I felt when I see humans flying in space, planes defeating the laws of gravity, or Artificial intelligence robots beating the best human beings in strategy games is overwhelming.
To check my bucket list, I have been able to make a simple rocket that went up 4m high (I will write a how-to on that soon enough), and I have also been able to make a remote-controlled walking robot. The lessons I learnt while working on these projects were more than one can ever get from a physics class. Some of the developed countries have these science competitions like the Mousetrap car, the pinewood derby, and the Egg drop competition just to name a few. These help the learners understand scientific concepts and how they work for or against what they would like to achieve.
Lessons from Nature
Let’s go back to the robot since that’s our main topic. Why did I decide to go for legs and not wheels if you may ask? First, it is more challenging, second, I get my inspiration from nature and I believe the best solutions for complex problems are found in nature. Some of the exciting representations of nature I have been looking into are the bat robot flight which is a robot that flies like a bat and the NewBees which are autonomous robotic bees that can work in swarms to pollinate a field of land just like real bees do. The way these solutions have found inspiration in nature is just amazing. The bat is one of the masters in flight through thin dark spaces and replication of the same in technology would give people access to some areas where drones could not reach, less power consumption, and less noise during flight. For the NewBees, once bees started becoming less in number, the best solution, apart from stoping the extinction, was to make something similar to bees to do the same work. In my case, I could have gone for wheels on the robot but I decided to use legs because One reason is it will look more natural and also, I like new challenges and the lessons that come along with it.
For my build, I had to look for several things. The items I needed were generally as follows:
- Legs to move the robot’s body
- Motors to move the legs
- Batteries to power the robot
- A circuit board to connect all the devices together.
- A body to hold the devices together.
- A remote to control the robot
- A receiver to receive commands from the remote
- A device to coordinate the movement of the legs
Now that I had a rough idea of the parts I wanted in mind, it was time to look for the specific parts. For the legs, I settled for normal hanger wires since they are strong and light at the same time. Servo motors were the best option to move the legs. From my collection of electronics, there was a rechargeable power bank which I used as my power source. I bought a plain through-hole circuit board to wire my circuit on. For the body of the robot, I rolled a piece of paper and taped it together. There were several remote controls in the house I could use so I only needed to look for an infrared receiver that can detect the signals from the remotes and a microcontroller that I could program to coordinate all the devices. After a long search, I was able to collect all the required items.
Building through trial and error
Most of the build was through trial and error. You will be amazed at how many things you learn during the build. After, soldering and connecting and programming, it was time to test the first steps. After several random tests, I was able to get the perfect coordination of the parts that was able to move the robot to the front. During the testing, I realized that the robot was sometimes turning when I wanted it to go forward and I saved that configuration now knowing that with that I can make it turn. This was an added feature that came up from the errors. Another thing I learnt was that the power bank was too heavy for the robot to carry around so I replaced it with smaller rechargeable batteries from an old speaker I had. This improved the performance and the robot could walk without much trouble but there was something more that was needed. The bare wires I had used as feet were sliding on the ground and could not give the robot enough friction for traction. I had to look for some shoes for the robot to wear. This not only increased the traction of the robot but it also reduced the amount of noise the robot made while walking.
Here is a video of the robot in action