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Omni Wheel Robot (LEGO Build)

I’ve always found omni wheel robots fascinating. I even tried to design my own omni wheel (which did not turn out great.) But over at Brown Dog Gadgets I thought we should give it a try and build an Omni Wheel Robot. (And there’s a full guide and code available.)

This is a perfect use of LEGO parts. It is completely possible to fabricate all the parts needed to build this, either using digital fabrication (laser cutter, 3D printer, etc.) or by hand, if you’re the handy kind. But honestly, the LEGO aspect made the build super-simple, and the guide links to all the parts on BrickOwl (which are all pretty cheap.)

The other magic of this build is using 4 servos instead of stepper motors. While you do lose precision, this makes things much less complex and just simplifies everything. We’ve also got an Arduino and a battery pack. That’s it. Yeah, the goal was simplicity.

This is a beginner project in many ways, but it can also serve as a platform for code exploration. We provided the basic code for movement, but there’s room to expand on that, add sensors, etc.

And since it’s LEGO, it is by definition a platform you can build upon and add to. (We’ve even got 3D printed LEGO compatible parts for you.)

Check out the guide to this Omni Wheel Robot if you want to learn more.

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(The Making of) Pizza Bagel Bot

Our old (dumb) pal Pizza Bagel Bot didn’t spring from the oven fully baked… far from it! Why, I’ll have you know I spent nearly an hour carefully crafting a block of wood and a delicious meal into a whirling cheesy disaster!

PBB Bottom

I started with a nice block of wood and drilled a few holes to mount the motors. The motors are these Pololu 120:1 Mini Plastic Gearmotors. These were the only “high-tech” thing I used. Just under $12 for two motors.

PBB w/ Motors

There were zip ties involved. And hot glue was added later. Of course. Oh, I did solder some wires onto the motor terminals. I was worried that might also be “high-tech” but whatever. I wired them up so that it would just go in circles instead of forwards (or backwards) because going out of bounds means you lose the match. (Note: The zip ties are from Harbor Freight. There should be bonus points for that.)

Control Knobs

Now, for the wheels… I actually designed laser-cut wheels that fit nicely on these motor shafts, but… high-tech! Instead I dug through the basement workshop until I found these old control knobs from Radio Shack. They have a little set screw, and I figured I could screw them tight to the D-shaft. Perfect! Almost!

Control Knobs

The outer rim part was too big, and they did not fit. A little time on the grinder took care of that… I consider the grinder decidedly low-tech. (At some point I considered just putting a wheel on the grinder and using that as my robot… maybe next time!)

Control Knob

Boom! 5 minutes later, the smell of melty plastic, and I had two “wheels” which would be all wobbly because they didn’t center correctly on the D-shaft. No matter.

PBB  Assembly

Wheels are on, and the wires are twisted together, but not soldered, in case I want to reverse the wiring or something. It’s starting to look good. If you squint real hard you might mistake this for an actual not-dumb robot!

I seem to be missing some photos, but at some point I decided the square shape was no good, so I used a coping saw (hand-powered!) to cut the corners. (Literally!) I then needed something to hold the pizza bagel in place…

PBB Bottom

Nails are good for holding things in place. They also split wood. I split the wood. No matter, because… hot glue.

Pizza Bagel Bot

I also added this “high-tech” battery holder, which was a whopping 79 cents… Oh, the alligator clips were taken from some jumper wires I melted at some point. It’s not the volts, it’s the amps, kids! The batteries are AA and I’ve had them for years.

PBB Bottom

Oh yeah, the screws! Typically a robot will have a caster wheel or two, but at $1.99 each, and needing two of them… over-budget! (I could have 3D printed one but… high-tech!) The screws are not drilled into the wood the same amount because, me. This helps it wobble more unevenly. On purpose. Obviously.

Pizza Bagel Bot

Wow, look at that beautiful robotic platform. In about an hour. And I probably got distracted for part of that hour. The only thing missing is a delicious pizza bagel.

Pizza Bagel Bot

Mission Accomplished!

Don’t forget to check out the video, which at least one critic described as “mesmerizing”. Also, if you’ve got any good pizza bagel recipes, post them in the comments!

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Pizza Bagel Bot (is Dumb!)

Pizza Bagel Bot

Our friends down at Pumping Station: One in Chicago have taken a cue from Hebocon and are holding a Dumb Robot Competition for Dummies tonight.

I am a dummy! (Or at least I can pretend to be one…)

Even though I’ve built functional robots, I tried really hard to build a dumb robot that is terrible. The result is “Pizza Bagel Bot” which you see here. (I used no digital fabrication in the building of PBB.)

I’m sure this will strike fear into the hearts of all who challenge Pizza Bagel Bot, so beware! And be aware.

I’ll provide more details about “PBB” in the coming days, but for now, enjoy this video proof of the mayhem of cheese and sauce that will be unleashed tonight!

See Also: The Making of Pizza Bagel Bot

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Art Robot (It’s a thing.)

Havey Moon's Drawing Machine 1

Harvey Moon‘s been at this longer than I have, and he’s been an influence for years. This video is excellent, and says much of what I’ve been thinking about recently.

One of things I’ve said about my own drawing robots is that the “performance” they create while functioning is a part of the art.

From Harvey:

“When I show this machine it’s a performance. It’s the machine performing and generating the work, and that to me is the art.

Are the drawings the art, or a by-product of the performance, or documentation of the performance?

I’m also focusing on the design of the robots. This is the ‘Digital Fabrication and Design’ side of things. The robots are objects. I create them by using software to designing them, and then using CNC machines to create the various pieces, and then assembling them.

There’s sort of a lot going on, I just need to organize it all.

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Robot Builder

Robot Builder

Hey, it’s a new book! Robot Builder: The Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots is now available!

Last year after I served as Technical Editor for John Baichtal’s Arduino for Beginners I was fortunate enough to be asked to again fulfill the role for Robot Builder. (Obviously I said “Yes!”)

Books take a long time, and there’s a lot of reading involved, and for my part, a lot of research and checking on technical data. It’s definitely enjoyable though, and there’s a lot to learn along the way.

(I’m not currently working on any books, but if you’re in need of Technical Editor that’s near one of my areas of expertise, I may be available.)