Week 2 – Electronics & Robotics

By 10th April 2019 April 11th, 2019 SirLucian's School of Solutions

Summer of Stem 2018

Without some understanding of electronics, one cannot hope to be competent in the field of robotics. So this module started with an introduction to what electricity is, how electronics is a means of controlling the flow of electrons, and how this all enables us to create some fantastic inventions. Of course my kids weren’t here for a lecture, so I kept this brief and we quickly moved onto the cool stuff. We had much to do and not all that much time.

Glossing over the various electronic components and their functions, most of which we would not be using anyway, I then took apart a little motor and showed them how it all works. Our first practical circuit was simply to apply current to the motor. It spins! This would become the primary ingredient in our first little “robot”.

1 battery case, 1 motor and an unbalanced something to make the motor spin. This was the start of our vibro bots. The end results were just too bloody cute.

And extremely noisy

In time we will were experimenting with microcontrollers (Arduinos in this instance) as the brain behind our robot creations. Taking in information through sensors, processing the information and reacting accordingly. Much like ourselves or animals.

Servos running – the drive chain for our bots

Throughout the week we will applied knowledge learned to gradually create our grand finale robot.

Finally we had packaged our bots into their final product

Our bots in action
And I made a more age appropriate way to program the bots in mBlock

As I thought we wouldn’t have time to complete our bots, and rushed through the process on our final day we built a hydraulic arm from a purchased kit. While not electronics, still somewhat robotics.

 The proprosed itinerary:

  • Discussion on electricity, electronics
  • Discussion on robotics – What defines a robot?
  • Meet and greet the components that make up electronic systems
  • Multimeter use
  • Building a simple circuit, then creating a switch
  • ROBOT TIME! Our first bot, a simple vibrobot (take home cost R50)
  • Creating a resistor, then making it a variable resistor
  • Then making it a voltage divider (and how this is significant)
  • ROBOT TIME! Start work on our grand finale robot project…
  • Capacitors – a cursory look into their use
  • Electro-magnetic induction – from the birth of radios to current day wireless charging – a little theory, then some practical
  • Solenoids, speakers and microphones. Demonstrations and dissections of such things. Spoiler alert, they are all the fundamentally the same
  • Motors – Primary means of robotic motion
  • ROBOT TIME! 1 motor, various applications. We’ll create rotary, linear, reciprocating (linear motion, back and forth), and oscillating (back and forth motion along an arc)
  • Gears and pulleys – a discussion on torque and speed and how we can make decisions accordingly depending on our needs
  • ROBOT TIME! 1 motor, two settings. Create a simple gear system that has high speed (revolutions per minute), and a high torque gear system (one able to pick up a larger mass)
  • ROBOT TIME! Servos – The high tech motor for when you need precise control. The motor of choice for our final bot.
  • Diodes – The one way street of electron flow, and utilising this to protect components from reverse current.
  • LEDs. Everyone’s favourite diode.
  • ROBOT TIME! Lets just have some fun with LEDs
  • Transistors – Once just for amplification, now also for use as a switch AND OR logic gate
  • ROBOT TIME! Input -> Output | Writing pseudocode (the logic in plain English behind a program – the first step in translating ideas into computer code) | Creating a robot of your own imagination, both the circuit and the code (with my assistance of course where necessary), that takes an input and reacts accordingly
  • THE GRAND ROBOT TIME FINALE! We can finally: add input modules to our robot and code it to  inputs. Thus we have all we need to finalise our creation!

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