"Live Blogging" Daddy Robot Camp

Welcome robots! I'm leading my daughters and a friend through some summer fun building simple robots.

This is live prototyping at its finest (by all of us). I'm tweaking the hardware and software by night, and running "camp" at the kitchen table by day.

The main learning concept I'm aiming for: "If A is detected then B happens," like IFTTT does so well. It seems to be a good, base robot function. Also: Making robots is fun.

My hope is that the kids get to express hands-on creativity, and that I can get Arduino to help me bring their creations alive. As Liza Stark advised me, make sure they have their hands on the project more than I do. Let's see if that happens.

I'll keep posting here as we work through the week. The fun begins today!

The Plans

Given a set of "if" sensors (light, temperature, movement, distance, buttons) and a set of "then" actions (LEDs light, servos rotate), the girls each came up with a plan for a robot:

"Oce-bot" -- an ocelot that responds with head shakes and eye colors when you approach fast.

"Wand" -- a wand that responds to its environment.

"Snitchbot" -- a Harry Potter ball with wings that respond to light.

Next, it's off to the art-supply store for some extra building materials.


Hit a great craft store in town and secured a foam sphere, a foam cube, a wand-like structure, feathers, paint and more. Tomorrow, we build.

Robot Action Board

While the girls slept, I finished soldering custom boards that, I hope, will make it easy for them to connect light sensors, motors and such to their Arduinos. 

The green blocks are spring-loaded connectors. On the right, blocks for the sensors -- light, temperature, shake/tilt, button and distance/movement. On the left, blocks for two standard LEDs and one for a string of rainbow LEDs (actually chained Neopixels). At the back, pins for two servos.

Painting Exteriors

In the morning, the paints came out and the bot parts started to take shape. 

We also looked at how the servos (precision motors) and LEDs might be placed, and where wires could run. 

Building Brains

In the evening, I finished building the "brains" for each bot -- making it easy for them to connect their components to their Arduino.

At the top is a complete board, with connectors for each kind of "if" sensor and "then" function. We'll use this one for the "oce-bot." The others are complete only to the extent the other girls need them (to save time). I learned a lot making each one, and refined the main drawing, which is here:

Next up: Assemble the bots and wire up the components. 

Thwarted by Nice Weather

So it was really pretty outside, and we ended up swimming a lot instead of making robots for our last day. But we have all the parts and are ready to go. We're aiming to build this weekend!

To be continued ...