Sunday, December 11, 2011


A couple of years ago my daughter, who at the time was 12, attended a program to stimulate interest in math, science and engineering where she got a VEX Robot Kit.

When she got the kit we decided that it would be a good father / daughter activity to put the robot together.  Over a couple of evenings and a weekend or two we put the robot together and then put it through its paces.

We had a good time but it wasn’t something that really caught my daughter’s attention.  My daughter tends to be more a “Right Brain” person at home with the creative process and the arts.

I have always enjoyed building things.  When I was growing up one of my favorite toys was an original erector set which was a hand me down from my father.  The VEX kit reminded me of that erector set but on steroids and it didn’t take much until I was hooked.

One of the things that interests me most about robotics is that it takes computers and programming which I enjoy working with and combines that with the physical world.  This synthesis gives me an opportunity to write software that interacts with the physical world.

Soon after completing the base robot from the kit I purchased a copy of RobotC which works with the VEX and started writing programs to control the robot.  This led to my first autonomous robot.

My first robot was a VEX Squarebot.  Along with the standard components I had also picked up a set of VEX optical shaft encoders and a VEX ultrasonic sensor.  The robot’s “brain” was the VEX PIC Microcontroller programmed using RobotC.

About a year later I developed my second generation robot.  This one was a hybrid using some VEX parts and some other parts.  The “brain” this time was a breadboard Arduino using an ATmega328p and programmed using the Arduino IDE.

In mid November I decided to develop my third generation robot.  The goal this time was go lower cost and a more compact size.  This time I plan to once again use an Arduino.  After looking around I decided to try the Budget Robotics ArdBot Chassis which is both low cost $14.95 and compact.

Over the next couple of months I plan to document my progress with this project.

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