Wow, somehow it’s been months since I first mentioned my entry in the Great Robot Showdown, and it’s been another (or a few more) since I promised a write-up on said robot… so here it is.


For the Flying Car Milwaukee 2013 event there were a number of competitions held, one of which was the “Great Robot Showdown” which tasks people to “create an energetic, entertaining robot that actually does what it’s designed to do.” And noted that the robots would be “unleashed at the Flying Car Gala to delight and entertain the crowd.”

How could I resist? I had already shown things like the Friday Night Drawbot and the Arc-O-Matic at previous events in Milwaukee, so I figured I needed something new, something specifically for this event.


I wrote up a proposal describing what I planned to build, included a quick sketch, and some links to previous projects, and mailed it in. About a week later Dana and I were putting a bid on a house, and I got a call. I checked my voicemail later and found out I was selected, which was awesome, but it also meant I had about 30 days to build the robot, move everything I own, and also take part in a gallery night I had committed to. Fun!


It was time to get to work! My plan was to cut all the pieces of the robot from 3mm Baltic Birch plywood. That stuff is great to work with if you’ve got a laser cutter handy, and we happen to have one at Milwaukee Makerspace! There was a lot of cutting to do. Basically the robot consists of 8 “boxes” of various sizes to comprise the body, head, legs, feet, and arms. After cutting and assembling everything (with glue and strategically placed magnets) the pieces were painted with grey primer, and then with metallic silver paint. All sprayed in my home-built spray booth.


I ended up spending the majority of my time doing the physical build, all the time thinking the programming would be the easy part. I was (mostly) right. Since I was using a Raspberry Pi I was in my comfort zone. A bit of sudo apt-get for the right packages, some Perl, a text file, and we had a talking robot. I ended up abandoning the idea of a screen or LCD display of any kind due to time constraints, but it’s an idea for the future.


There is a hole in the center of Miltalkee’s chest where a speaker goes. It’s a powered speaker, using 3 AAA batteries, which works well in a semi-quiet room, but in a large room filled with people and music, it’s not exactly loud. (I should thank Dori Zori for turning down the music a bit!) If I ever want Miltalkee to be extra loud, I can always run the output to an external amp I guess.

One of the neat things about Miltalkee is the construction. The faceplate and chestplate are interchangeable, and if I get ambitious in the future, I can swap them out for new ones. This should make upgrading to a screen fairly easily.

There’s a bunch of technical stuff I’ve not included in this post, mainly because I’ve already rambled too much. In future posts I’ll talk about the Raspberry Pi, the code, and a few other construction secrets.



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