Although an Arduino can be a great way to provide computing power for a mobile robot platform, you’ll need a variety of other electronics and mechanical components to get it going. In his write-up, computer science student Niels Post outlines how he constructed a robot that travels via two stepper motors, along with casters to keep it upright. The round chassis is 3D-printed and runs on three rechargeable 18650 batteries.
The platform is based on an Arduino Due, with stepper drivers and a custom PCB to take care of the wiring. The robot has no sensors or navigation aids onboard, but instead relies on an nRF24L01+ module to communicate with a Raspberry Pi that hosts the web interface for control and livestream viewing. This setup employs a webcam to sense and direct the robot through its environment using printed markers.
If you don’t enjoy sorting LEGO, you will be pleased to know that students at Bruface – or the Brussels Faculty of Engineering in Belgium – are working on an automated machine to do it for you!
The team’s prototype device detects brick colors on a conveyor belt and picks them up via a gantry-style gripper assembly. It then places each piece in an individual bin by color using a TCS34725 sensor, saving a step if you’d like to keep that castle wall consistent.
As of now the Arduino-powered apparatus consists of several elements — including feeding system, carrier, gripper, and control panel — that work well individually, but haven’t been fully integrated as a whole. The project will hopefully be completed this January, which should be impressive based on the current clips.
Robotic fabrication techniques such as 3D printing enable you to make a copy of a wide variety of items. Actually sculpting something out of clay, however, remains a largely human pursuit. One might also miss the individual style of a sculptor in a finished product.
RobotSculptor, developed by a team of engineers from ETH Zurich and Disney Research, attempts to address both challenges. The system generates toolpaths from a base mesh design and allows artistic input via mouse strokes during the process. A six-axis robot arm then incrementally removes clay from the model-in-progress, using a custom loop tool.
An Arduino Uno-controlled turntable acts as a seventh axis for the robot, giving it the ability to reach different areas of the model in order to create complex 3D shapes.
Continuum robots — which look like a tentacle or perhaps an elephant’s trunk — use a series of linkage sections and internal tendons to move both horizontally and vertically. While they may seem quite exotic, in the video below element14 Presents’ DJ Harrigan breaks down how he built one with an Arduino Mega and a fairly simple list of parts.
The robotic mechanism hangs down from a support structure, with universal joints allowing each section to bend, but not twist, with respect to the next one. These 10 sections are pulled in different directions using two servos and Kevlar cord, with user interface provided by two potentiometers. A third pot actuates another motor attached to the tentacle, acting as a gripper for tools, or whatever else Harrigan needs at the time!
Can robots paint? More specifically, can they create art? The second question is, of course, open for debate, but Technovation’s robotic build shows that they can indeed wield a paintbrush.
The device, shaped vaguely like a Roomba vacuum cleaner, uses a pair of NEMA 17 motors for movement and a third to rotate a sort of brush turret. A servo attached to the pivoting arm positions a brush up and down, dipping it into paint, and bringing it to the drawing surface as needed.
Control is via an Arduino Uno with a CNC shield. The project is capable of producing art randomly, or be programmed to execute pre-defined patterns.
Design Engineering student Ben Cobley has created a Raspberry Pi–powered sous-chef that automates the easier pan-cooking tasks so the head chef can focus on culinary creativity.
Ben named his invention OnionBot, as the idea came to him when looking for an automated way to perfectly soften onions in a pan while he got on with the rest of his dish. I have yet to manage to retrieve onions from the pan before they blacken so… *need*.
Ben’s affordable solution is much better suited to home cooking than the big, expensive robotic arms used in industry. Using our tiny computer also allowed Ben to create something that fits on a kitchen counter.
What can OnionBot do?
Tells you on-screen when it is time to advance to the next stage of a recipe
Autonomously controls the pan temperature using PID feedback control
Detects when the pan is close to boiling over and automatically turns down the heat
Reminds you if you haven’t stirred the pan in a while
How does it work?
A thermal sensor array suspended above the stove detects the pan temperature, and the Raspberry Pi Camera Module helps track the cooking progress. A servo motor controls the dial on the induction stove.
No machine learning expertise was required to train an image classifier, running on Raspberry Pi, for Ben’s robotic creation; you’ll see in the video that the classifier is a really simple drag-and-drop affair.
Ben has only taught his sous-chef one pasta dish so far, and we admire his dedication to carbs.
Ben built a control panel for labelling training images in real time and added labels at key recipe milestones while he cooked under the camera’s eye. This process required 500–1000 images per milestone, so Ben made a LOT of pasta while training his robotic sous-chef’s image classifier.
Ben open-sourced this project so you can collaborate to suggest improvements or teach your own robot sous-chef some more dishes. Here’s OnionBot on GitHub.