Want to Build a Robot?                   

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Lego Mindstorms is a great
way for beginners to get started.

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The Talrik series of
programmable robot kits
include a variety of sensors.

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The RugWarrior Pro kit is available from both
AK Peters and Acroname.

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Arrick Robotics sells
the Arobot robot kit.

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Acroname's Palm Pilot Robot Kit (PPRK) offers wheels that provide holonomic movement.

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Lynxmotion makes a variety
of advanced robot kits,
ranging from wheeled platforms
to arms to hexapods.

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The GrowBot is an intermediate level robot kit available from Mondo-tronics.

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BEAM robots are
solar powered bugs!

Profile: Albert
A Home-Made Home Robot

buttwhite.jpg (775 bytes) Visit the Albert Project website

In 1984 I purchased a used Hero Jr. and "Isaac" quickly became an active (though not particularly useful) member of the family.

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Heath Hero Jr.

His behaviors were very predictable so I lost interest after a couple of years, and now Isaac sits in a dusty corner of my office, unused.

Last year my wife bought me a Lego Mindstorms set for Christmas, and my passion for robots was rekindled. I searched the Internet for a worthy successor to Isaac, but came up empty handed. So, despite having a complete lack of electrical skills, I set out to build my own robot.

I started with a pre-built mobile base from Zagros Robotics.  It came with motors, hardware, and an HC11 processor.

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Max Base

Enlisting the help of a friend, I added five sonar sensors, a light sensor, two touch sensors, a digital compass, two IR decoders, and a 12 volt 12 amp/hour battery. I also purchased a pair of radio modems, a microphone, and a laptop for high level control. I named the robot Albert. (As in "Einstein.")

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Albert exposed

Albert's Skin:

I used an old Tupperware storage container for Albert's "body". I cut it in half, slid one piece inside the other, and bolted them together. Then I cut holes for the sensors, battery compartment, and to provide access to the power switches. Finally, I painted the skin and added some decals.

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Albert's new skin

I learned 'C' so I could write low level code for the HC11 processor. These routines let me interface with the onboard laptop's serial port, and allowed me to write Visual Basic programs to control the sensors and motors.

Thanks to Microsoft's free Speech SDK, I was able to give Albert high quality text-to-speech and even simple voice recognition; features that aren't normally found on hobby robots.  Click here to hear Albert speak.

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Albert with laptop hat.

I spent over six months working on Albert, and I did my best to document my progress on a website I called "The Albert Project."