Introducing “Greg” the robot!


First thing I want to cover is the name. I started naming my projects since my first conventional Arduino robot, Frank. When I did that, I also named the light show project at that time Helga. Since there was a gap between F and H, I decided to fill it with Greg. I’ll continue the naming tradition probably with my newest light show when it gets its Christmas update. It’s not much of an importance but it brings a nice personality aspect to it. People seem to enjoy it. I thought of reusing the Frank name and declaring it Frank 2.0 but I didn’t go with it because, if I did, I would want the original cardboard smile which I threw out. Alternatively, I like calling Greg the Roving Billboard project.

As I talked about in my last post, I discovered a cheap electronics parts supplier in the province (most of my parts come from out of the province, closest was Quebec). I decided to pick up an LCD display along with the new LEDs that will be going into the light show update. With the LCD here, a short list of goals was created.

IMG_20131108_100918The goals were simple. Obviously I wanted to incorporate the LCD display somewhere on the robot. I also wanted a cleaner and more compact design compared to Frank. I’d also have to adjust to not being able to pan the ultrasonic sensor (the eyes) because the servo was recycled into the new light show. Let’s see how I did.

The original idea was to have the LCD sit on the top so that you could read what it was saying without having to bend down to his level to read off of the side. It’s still fine though because the sides would be plain and boring otherwise. This was a compromise, which leads me to the next goal.

With the jumper wires all being 20cm long, it took up a lot more room that I was expecting. I was going to seal the top with the LCD on it when I was finished wiring up but it didn’t work out. The compact design is aided by mounting the Arduino on its side. It also made sense to do this to help balance it with the LCD on the other side.

IMG_20131109_101025It was difficult working in such a small space. There is a breadboard buried at the very bottom for distributing the power and for the current-limiting resistors for the LEDs. I also had to make a clearance for the programming cable. Once the cable is removed, I can push the wall back up which doesn’t look all that bad.

IMG_20131109_101042I was struggling to get things into place so I ended up having to open up the side with the LCD. I found that a rubber band worked nicely to keep the wall up once the wiring was complete. I didn’t want to tape it in case I had to go back in.

Finally, the lack of the servo for the ultrasonic sensor was no issue. It just always turns in the same direction every time it encounters an obstacle and tries again.

This project worked out as a success in my view.

The first test was hilarious. I quickly found out that it was top heavy and unbalanced. I didn’t catch it falling over on video (because I was too busy laughing at it) but you get the idea of what the troubles were from this short clip:

IMG_20131109_101122To fix the problem, I added these paper bumpers alongside the castor wheel. Also, I found that mounting the 9v battery outside on the back using the rubber band helped the balance of it.

I want to take this project further by strapping a couple sensors on it and have it read out information on the LCD… but the wiring may prevent me from doing that. We’ll see. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the Christmas/2013 light show update!


This post was brought to you by…

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and are looking for basic electronics components, have a look at Dipmicro. It’s harder to get a hold on such cheap parts in Canada since we don’t have as many options as the States. Standard shipping is just a few bucks and the package took four business days to reach me. I already have things in my cart again. I’m glad this first try worked out well.

Aside from a couple of mini breadboards, here’s the short list of things I got. I picked up this blue LCD display for my next generation of Frank the robot. I’m still trying to work out the form because I’m trying to make it as simple and compact as possible. Of course, I’ll post some updates on that when they’re ready.IMG_20131107_151546

I picked up an organizer from the dollar store for my LEDs, especially with my incoming clear green and white LEDs from Dipmicro. I’ve been playing around with the LCD so much that I still haven’t tried them out. Along with the new robot, the light show project will be getting some new features in time for Christmas. Again, I’ll be updating this blog with the details a little later on.IMG_20131107_190400

And finally, we have these wires. I ordered two sets of 40 female to male jumper wires. These are the same things I was (and still am) waiting for from China. I’m still working on resolving that situation… I want those $2 back before I go back and purchase more from these guys!IMG_20131107_190436So yeah, I’ve got a couple of projects to cap off the year. Stay tuned!

Saying farewell to another project/friend, Frank

Everyone fell in love with Frank because of his cute smile and, well, the fact that he had a “normal” name. With my proposal for a new project (coming soon), I needed some parts on a $0 budget. As a result, both of my running Arduino projects have been taken apart to reallocate the parts to this new project. While the new project won’t be using each and every part from Frank, it will be one of the largest projects I’ve ever done if it all works out.

Here are all of the parts I used to make Frank:

frankpartsThanks for following this project. It was fun doing a conventional robot. I will eventually do one again, but right now I need a fresh project. Details on that will come when it’s ready.

Frank’s shaving

Just thought I’d quickly mention… The PLC elevator simulation has been stressing me out. I’ve had to redo portions of the code over and over and it’s just bleh right now. I’m rusty with my ladder logic so I’ve been sidetracking myself with Frank and Cities in Motion 2. Anyways…

Watching Adafruit’s Ask an Engineer streams every week (well, I only started watching them a couple weeks ago) always get me in the building mood. I figure it was a good time to give Frank a little love because I always feel awkward just sitting there watching an hour long stream.

Most of the clean up was just cutting down wires and replacing some of the tape. Some additional tape on the undercarriage components have done him well. The speaker was almost always hanging off but now it’s much more secure. I replaced a lot of the prototyping jumper wires with my own cut wire. It still looks like a mess, and probably always will given his small size, but it’s better than before.

Personal touches are what make Frank so lovable! Frank was involved in a nasty collision with a door, and it wasn’t pretty. He almost lost his original smile because of the rough shape of his head, but I kept that layer of the cardboard and reinforced it with new pieces behind it. Frank is also proud to be Canadian.


There were a few other things I wanted to clean up but would require a soldering iron, and I don’t have one that I really want to use… I have two cheap irons that don’t have power adjustment or even a proper stand so…

The next thing to do is to work on the code. There are a couple of things I want to do to make Frank a little more smarter and efficient, along with adding some extra songs to his repertoire.

Thanks for reading!

Night lights, with Frank.

What kind of light show sits in darkness waiting for showtime? I’ve got this simple ambient sequence where all of the lights are on while the RGB LEDs cycle through some colors. Here’s a video if it, with Frank standing guard. Perhaps if I ever find a song with a dramatic start (like the intro to World of Color), it could start with this and then proceed with the show. For now, try not to fall asleep.