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Robot Builder: The Beginner's Guide to Building Robots

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Robot Builder: The Beginner's Guide to Building Robots


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  • This book provides step-by-step tutorials that teach a basic skill (e.g. working with motors) and uses a specific project to drive the point home. 
  • It teaches the reader many of the skills (such as soldering) needed for building robots. 
  • 4-color, step-by-step instructional guide.


  • Copyright 2015
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-7897-5149-6
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-7897-5149-2

Absolutely no experience needed! Learn robot building from the ground up, hands-on, in full color!

Love robots? Start building them. It’s way easier than you ever imagined!

John Baichtal has helped thousands of people get started with robotics. He knows what beginners need to know. He knows your questions. He knows where you might need extra help. Now, he’s brought together this practical knowledge in one incredibly easy tutorial.

Hundreds of full-color photos guide you through every step, every skill. You’ll start simple, as you build a working robot in the very first chapter. Then, you’ll grow your skills to expert-level: powering motors, configuring sensors, constructing a chassis, even programming low-cost Arduino microcontrollers.

You’ll learn hands-on, through real step-by-step projects…and go straight to the cutting-edge with in-depth sidebars. Wondering just how much you can really do? Baichtal shows you 30 incredible robots built by people just like you!

John Baichtal’s books about toys, tools, robots, and hobby electronics include Hack This: 24 Incredible Hackerspace Projects from the DIY Movement; Basic Robot Building With Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0; Arduino for Beginners; MAKE: Lego and  Arduino Projects for MAKE (as coauthor); and the forthcoming Building Your Own Drones: The Beginner’s Guide to UAVs and ROVs. A founding member of the pioneering Twin Cities Maker hackerspace, he got his start writing for Wired’s legendary GeekDad blog, and for DIYer bible MAKE Magazine.

  • Make your robots move with motors and wheels
  • Build solar-powered robots that work without batteries
  • Control robots via Wi-Fi, radio, or even across the Internet
  • Program robots to respond to sensor inputs
  • Use your standard TV remote to control your robots
  • Create robots that detect intruders and shoot them with Nerf® darts
  • Grab and carry objects using claws and grippers
  • Build water-borne robots that float, submerge, and “swim”
  • Create “artbots” that paint or draw original artworks
  • Enable your robots to send text messages when they take specific actions
  • Discover today’s new generation of hobbyist-friendly robotics kits
  • Organize your ultimate robot-builder’s toolbox
  • Master simple safety routines that protect you whatever you’re building

Sample Content

Online Sample Chapter

How to Build Solar-Powered Robots

Online Chapter

Download the online chapter from Robot Builder, (includes Chapter 13)

Sample Pages

Download the sample pages (includes Chapter 4 and Index)

Table of Contents


    What’s in This Book? xvii

Chapter 1 You, Robot Builder 1

    What Are Robots? 2

        Myths About Robots 4

        Types of Robots 4

    Anatomy of a Robot 7

    Safety 9

    Build a Vibrobot 10

        Pizza Saver Vibrobot 11

        Computer Fan Buzzbot 15

    Summary 19

Chapter 2 Robots of the World 21

    Watercolor Bot 22

    Sparki 23

    OpenROV 24

    Astro Droids 25

    Drink-Making Unit 26

    Mars Rover Replica 27

    MindCub3r 28

    Ball-Balancing Robot 29

    LEGO Turing Machine 30

    Sir Mix-a-Bot 31

    Arc-O-Matic 32

    Soft-Boiled Eggbot 33

    Legonardo 34

    Sisyphus 35

    Orbital Rendersphere 36

    Clash of the Fractions 37

    Lava Lamp Centrifuge 38

    Quakescape 39

    InMoov 40

    DIWire Bender 41

    Plant-Watering Robot 42

    Nerf Sentry Gun 43

    Yellow Drum Machine 44

    Pancake Bot 45

    Balloon Bot 46

    Piccolo: The Tiny CNC Bot 47

    Xylophone Bot 48

    Flyer-Distributing Robot 49

    Flowerbot 50

    CoolerBot 51

    Summary 52

Chapter 3 Rolling Robots 53

    All About Motors 54

        Choosing a Motor 55

    Wheels 58

        Configuration 58

        Measurements 61

        Tires or Treads 61

    Project: DIY Wheels 65

        Parts List 66

        Step-by-Steps 67

    The Chassis 70

        Use a Pre-Made Chassis 70

        Make Your Own Chassis 71

        Use a Building Set 72

    Powering Your Robot 72

        Batteries 73

        Solar Panels 74

        House Current 75

    Project: Building a Rolling Robot 76

        Parts List 77

        Step-by-Steps 78

    Summary 81

Chapter 4 Going Solar 83

    How Do Solar Panels Work? 84

    BEAM Robotics 85

    Three Hobbyist-Friendly Solar Cells 86

        Flexible Film 86

        Glass and Silicon 87

        Plastic and Silicon 88

    Prototyping Circuits 89

        How to Breadboard 90

        How to Solder 91

    Using Solar Power to Charge Batteries 100

    Project: DIY Solar Panel 101

        Parts List 102

        Step-by-Steps 103

    Project: Making a Solar Spinner 106

        Parts List 107

        Step-by-Steps 107

    Summary 109

Chapter 5 Controlling Your Robot 111

    Autonomous 112

        Infrared 112

        Internet 113

        Radio Control 114

        Wireless 115

        Microcontroller/Microcomputer 116

    Motor Control Options 117

        Adafruit Motor Shield 117

        Schmalzhaus EasyDriver 118

        Makeblock Me Motor Driver 118

    Controlling a Robot with RC 119

        Transmitter 120

        Receiver 121

        Electronic Speed Controller 121

    Project: Use an Arduino Uno to Control a Robot 123

        Parts List 123

        Step-by-Steps 125

        Programming the Arduino 127

    Project Remix: Swapping Motor Boards 130

        Parts List 131

        Step-by-Steps 132

        Code 140

    Summary 141

Chapter 6 Introduction to Programming 143

    What Is Programming? 144

        Delay 144

        For 144

        If/Else 144

        Loops and Interrupts 145

        Switch/Case 145

        Variables 145

        While Loops 145

    The Arduino IDE 146

    The Blink Sketch 148

    Finding Code Examples 149

    Adapting Example Code 151

    Simple Debugging Using the Serial Monitor 151

    Programming and Robotics Bookshelf 152

    Project: Adding an Ultrasonic Sensor to Your Robot 154

        Parts List 154

        Step-by-Steps 155

        Code 157

    Summary 159

Chapter 7 Harnessing Infrared 161

    Uses for Infrared Signals 162

    Passive Versus Active IR 163

    IR Remote Controls 165

        Adafruit Mini Remote Control 165

        Sparkfun Infrared Remote Control 166

        Makeblock Infrared Receiver and Remote Controller 166

    Mini Project: Discover Your Remote’s IR Codes 167

        Parts List 168

        Step-by-Steps 169

        Code 169

    Project: Controlling a Robot with IR 169

        Parts List 169

        Step-by-Steps 170

        Code 171

    Project: Dart Sentry 173

        Parts List 174

        Step-by-Steps 175

        Code 187

        Operating the Dart Sentry 189

    Summary 189

Chapter 8 Building Sets 191

    Uses for Building Sets 192

        Enclosures 192

        Gantries 193

        Chassis 194

        Hardware Mounts 195

        Furniture 196

    Examples of Building Sets 197

        Vex Robotics Design System (Vexrobotics.com) 197

        LEGO Mindstorms and Technic Sets (Mindstorms.com) 198

        Actobotics Building System (Servocity.com) 199

        Makeblock (Makeblock.cc) 200

        MicroRax (Microrax.com) 200

        MakerBeam (Makerbeam.eu) 202

        Tamiya (Tamiyausa.com) 203

    Choosing a Building Set 203

        Material 204

        Beams 205

        Motor Mounts 206

        Connector Plates 207

        Electronics 208

        Gears 208

        Wheels and Tank Treads 209

    Customizing Building Sets 210

        Combining Building Sets 210

        Creating New Parts 214

    Chassis Designs 216

        LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Chassis 216

        Step-by-Steps 217

        Makeblock Chassis 226

        Parts List 227

        Step-by-Steps 228

        Actobotics Chassis 234

        Parts List 234

        Step-by-Steps 236

    Summary 245

Chapter 9 Robot-Builder’s Toolbox 247

    Choose Your Toolbox 248

    Size 248

    Construction 249

        Metal 249

        Plastic 249

        Cloth 250

    Subdividers 251

        Trays 251

        Compartments 252

    Belly 252

    Handle 253

    Four Toolboxes 254

        Pelican 1460 Mobile Tool Chest 254

        Stack-On 39-Bin Drawer Cabinet 255

        Husky 41-inch 13-Drawer Tool Cabinet 256

        Craftsman 21-inch Toolbox 257

    Tools 257

        Drivers and Wrenches 257

        Electronics 259

        Soldering 262

        Measurements 263

        Writing and Drawing Tools 264

        CNC Tools 265

        Woodworking Tools 266

        Attaching 267

        Cutting 269

        Cables 269

    Introduction to CNC Tools 270

        Laser Cutter 101 270

        Anatomy 271

        Using the Laser Cutter 274

    CNC Router 101 276

        Anatomy 277

        Using the CNC Router 279

    3D Printer 101 280

        Anatomy 280

        Using the 3D Printer 282

    Summary 282

Chapter 10 Manipulators 283

    Types of Manipulators 284

        Universal Gripper 284

        Scoop 285

        Tentacle 286

        Pneumatic 287

        Pincer 288

        Humanoid Hand 288

        Electromagnet 289

        Claw 290

        Winch 291

        Pen 291

    Commercial Manipulator Options 292

        Makeblock Strong Robot Gripper 292

        VEX Claw 293

        uFactory uArm 294

        Dagu Robotic Claw, MK II 294

    Project: LEGO Pincer 296

        Parts List 296

        Step-by-Steps 298

    Project: Laser-Cut Pincers 307

        Parts List 307

        Step-by-Steps 309

    Project: Coffee Grounds Gripper 314

        Parts List 315

        Step-By-Steps 317

    Summary 328

Chapter 11 Water Robots 329

    Anatomy of a Water Robot 330

        Flotation 330

        Power 330

        Steering 331

        Propulsion 331

        Control 332

        Stabilization 332

    Submersibles 332

    Moisture 333

        Waterproof Enclosures 333

    Project: Floating Fanbot 334

        Parts List 335

        Step-by-Steps 337

        Code 348

    Summary 350

Chapter 12 Art Bots 351

    Types of Art Bots 352

        V-plotter 352

        Vibration 352

        Plotter 353

        Eggbot 354

        Sand Plotter 355

        Car-Based 355

        Paint Pendulum 356

        Dot Matrix 357

    Converting an Image to G-Code 358

        Converting a Line Drawing into G-Code 361

    Project: Rolling ‘Riter 362

        Parts List 363

        Step-by-Steps 365

        Code 380

    Summary 383

Glossary 385

Index 391


CHAPTER 13 Web-Interacting Robots 1

    Types of Web-Interacting Robots 2

        Sniffers 2

        Autotweeters 2

        Telepresence 2

        Interactive Robots 2

        Home Automation 3

        Sensor Nets 3

    Hardware 4

        Arduino Ethernet Shield 4

        Adafruit CC3000 Breakout 4

        Arduino Wi-Fi Shield 5

        Roving Networks WiFly 6

Microcomputers: Non-Arduino Solutions 7

        BeagleBone Black (beaglebone.org) 7

        Raspberry Pi (raspberrypi.org) 7

        pcDuino (pcduino.com) 7

        Arduino Yún (arduino.cc/en/main/ArduinoBoardYun) 7

    Dart Texter 8

        Parts List 9

        Step-by-Steps 9

        Code 12

    Summary 13

TOC, 9780789751492, 10/08/2014


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