Posts | Comments

Planet Arduino

Archive for the ‘Robotics’ Category

VR environments are meant to be immersive, but if you’ve ever thought what was missing is being actually pummeled by robotic fists, then James Bruton’s newest project could be just the thing. 

Bruton recently teamed up with students from Portsmouth University to build a robot that works in the real world, and coordinates its movements with a virtual setting displayed on the human’s headset.

The robot itself is controlled by an Arduino Mega, and features a differential (tank) drive with encoders for feedback. Shoulders can tilt from left to right, and the actual punching motion is handled by pneumatic actuators built from modified bicycle pumps. Robo-fists are covered by boxing gloves to keep humans relatively safe, and flesh-based competitors are given a small shield and sword-bat with which to fight back!

I worked on this project with final year degree students in Computer Games Technology at Portsmouth University CCI faculty. The robot hardware is controlled over a serial interface, the team built an VR game which controls the robot, so when you get hit in VR you get hit in real life! The robot is tracked back into VR with Vive trackers so it stays in sync.

If you have to do a lot of drawing on a whiteboard, you also have to clean it. Why not have a robot do this instead? That’s the idea behind Wipy, an Arduino Uno-based robot that uses magnets to stick it to the board, plus grippy wheels and motors to power it across your scribbles.

Wipy employs an array of IR sensors that enable it to act as a line follower, along with a time-of-flight (ToF) sensor to detect your hand on the board. While one might assume this sensing arrangement would prevent it from erasing your work-in-progress, it annoyingly allows it to start erasing immediately when you start drawing on the board. At least it has a cute LED face!

Did you ever get tired of cleaning the whiteboard? Have you ever wondered how much your life would improve if a robot could do this for you? You now have the chance to make this a reality with Wipy: the overly motivated whiteboard cleaner. Wipy will properly clean your embarrassingly bad drawings, and it will even do it with a cute smile. You don’t even need to activate it! It will just clean the board when you least expect it… Uhhh…*cough cough*…we, of course, mean: when you need it most!

– Our future friend will be able to stick to the board using magnets and is able to move through space using grippy wheels.

– It will be able to follow a line and erase it using a line-following sensor and a sponge.

– Wipy has the ability to measure the distance to your hand using a time-of-flight sensor.

– We will give Wipy a cute personality using a small OLED screen.

Do you like plants, but not so much the tending to and watering them? If that sounds like you, then you might be interested in your own CNC plant growing machine. The system—created by 15-year-old maker “daily3dprinting”— is controlled by an Arduino Uno, and uses a single stepper motor to pull a watering head into position based on hygrometer readings.

A relay is used to turn the grow light on at 6am and off at 8pm, and another to activate the unit’s water pump. A third relay is employed to power off the L298N stepper driver when not needed. 

The project took home second place in the math and engineering category at daily3dprinting’s high school science fair, and more info on the build is available in its write-up here.

Would you like a dog? Would you like a robot dog? If so, then this build by Michael Rigsby could be a great starting point. 

Rigbsy’s robotic pet features four servo-driven legs, with two-axis shoulder movement, as well as an articulated knee joint. As seen in the video below, it’s capable of picking itself up off the ground, and can then walk using a slow side-to-side gait.

An Arduino Uno uses the majority of its I/O pins to control the legs, and as of now, it travels forward with no directional control or sensor input. 

Instructions for the project, along code and 3D print files, are available in Rigsby’s write-up.


When we last saw this omni robot by Jeremy S. Cook, it was lurching around under Arduino Nano and Bluetooth command. After much work, he finally has it to a state where it rolls nicely on a flat surface—even carrying a little strandbeest at just after 8:30 in the demo video.

The biggest revision for the robot was new “grippier” wheels, but electronics were also enhanced, including a LiPo battery (with a voltage divider monitoring circuit), potentiometer for speed control, and LED eyes. 

Changes were facilitated by a screw terminal board attached to the Nano, which minimized solder work, while keeping the robot’s wiring secure. More details and code are available here, while the upgrade/troubleshooting process can be seen in the video below.

Normally, boiling an egg involves heating water in a saucepan, then dropping an egg inside to be properly heated. James Bruton, however, now has a bit of help in the form of his breakfast-making robot. 

The device uses two servos, along with a motor/encoder/screw assembly to rotate and lower the egg into place. It then takes it out after six minutes, and tips it out into a secondary container.

As of now, temperature is manually controlled, but it’s tracked with a DS18B20 temperature sensor to initiate the egg lowering procedure. An Arduino Uno takes care of the lifting screw assembly, while an Arduino Mega handles everything else.

If you’ve ever been to an escape room, you’ve undoubtedly had to deal with a wide variety of puzzles that you have to solve in order to get out of the “prison” that you’ve willingly thrown yourself into. Beyond the puzzle that you’re trying to decode, the mechanisms used can be extremely clever, and coming up with a new device to use in these scenarios was a perfect challenge for this team of Belgian college students.

Based on the project requirements, they created a Roomba-like circular robot controlled by an Arduino Uno and motor shield that drives a pair of DC motors. The idea, while not fully implemented due to time constraints, is that it can be remotely operated only after solving a riddle and within a certain time period, then drive itself back to a designated spot once the game is over. 

Here is a summary of what happens in the robot:

– The non-autonomous part: a remote controller is linked to Arduino through a receiver. Players control the remote and therefore control the Arduino which controls the motors. The Arduino is turned on before the game starts, but it enters the main function when players solve a riddle on the remote controller. An IR wireless camera is already turned on (turned on at the same time as the “whole” (controlled by the Arduino) when switch on/off turned on). Players guide the car with remote controller: they control the speed and the direction. When the timer that starts when the main function is entered is equal to 30 minutes, the control from the controller is disabled.

– The autonomous part: the control is then managed by the Arduino. After 30 minutes, the IR line tracker sensor starts following a line on the ground to finish the parcours.

For inspiration on building your own, check out the team’s write-up (including code) and a clip of the prototype below.

If you’d like an easy way to accomplish repetitive biological experiments, the OpenLH presents a great option for automating these tasks. 

The heart of the system is the Arduino Mega-controlled uArm Swift Pro robot, which is equipped with a custom end effector and syringe pump. This enables it to dispense liquids with an average error of just .15 microliters.

A Python/Blockly interface allows the OpenLH to be set up for creative exploration, and because of the arm’s versatility, it could later be modified for 3D printing, laser cutting, or any number of other robotic duties. 

Liquid handling robots are robots that can move liquids with high accuracy allowing to conduct high throughput experiments such as large scale screenings, bioprinting and execution of different protocols in molecular microbiology without a human hand, most liquid handling platforms are limited to standard protocols.

The OpenLH is based on an open source robotic arm (uArm Swift Pro) and allows creative exploration. With the decrease in cost of accurate robotic arms we wanted to create a liquid handling robot that will be easy to assemble, made by available components, will be as accurate as gold standard and will cost less than $1,000. In addition the OpenLH is extendable, meaning more features can be added such as a camera for image analysis and real time decision making or setting the arm on a linear actuator for a wider range. In order to control the arm we made a simple Blockly interface and a picture to print interface block for bioprinting images.

We wanted to build a tool that would be used by students, bioartists, biohackers and community biology labs around the world.

The OpenLH can be seen in the video below, bioprinting with pigment-expressing E. coli bacteria.

Omni wheels are devices that look like wheels with extra rollers positioned along their circumference. This allows robots to move forwards and backwards, as well as slide and spin depending on how the wheels are powered. Maker Jeremy S. Cook decided to create his own version, and after some consideration and careful design work, constructed a cylindrical frame out of MDF and PLA.

The Roomba-like unit features an Arduino Nano, which controls four NEMA 17 stepper motors via Easy Driver boards, while a Bluetooth module enables smartphone operation. Once a few intermittent motion issues are worked out, the stepper motors should provide precise positioning for further robotics experimentation.

Code for the build can be found here.

While you may not give soda bottles much thought beyond their intended use, researchers in Germany and the U.S. have been working on a way to turn empty bottles into kinetic art. 

The result of this work is a program called “TrussFormer,” which enables one to design a structure made out of soda bottles acting as structural beams. The structure can then be animated using an Arduino Nano to control a series of pneumatic actuators.

TrussFormer not only allows for animation design, but analyzes stresses on the moving assembly, and even generates 3D-printable files to form the proper joints.

TrussFormer is an integrated end-to-end system that allows users to 3D print large-scale kinetic structures, i.e., structures that involve motion and deal with dynamic forces.

TrussFormer builds on TrussFab, from which it inherits the ability to create large-scale static truss structures from 3D printed hubs and PET bottles. TrussFormer adds movement to these structures by placing linear actuators and hinges into them.

TrussFormer incorporates linear actuators into rigid truss structures in a way that they move “organically”, i.e., hinge around multiple points at the same time. These structures are also known as variable geometry trusses. This is illustrated on the on the example of a static tetrahedron that is converted into a moving structure by swapping one edge with a linear actuator. The only required change is to introduce connections at the nodes that enable rotation, i.e. hinges.

As for what you can build with it, be sure to check out the bottle-dinosaur in the video below! 



  • Newsletter

    Sign up for the PlanetArduino Newsletter, which delivers the most popular articles via e-mail to your inbox every week. Just fill in the information below and submit.

  • Like Us on Facebook