Welcome to Our 7th Dispatch!
We've got bot!
This week, we take a look at finishing up the robot build, including documenting and troubleshooting the project. We're coming down to the wire, but there is still plenty of time to get your build on!
And, as always, if you have any questions, you can ask us in the Forums or email us.
Let's Make: Robots!
Gareth and Matt
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Submit Your Project!
The CoasterBot Entry Form is ready! You have until May 7th to submit your entry, but don't wait if your bot is done. Please fill out the form ASAP. It's going to take some time for us to properly evaluate all of the submissions.
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Troubleshooting Your Bot
By Matt Mets
Having trouble with your bot? Don't give up, there is still plenty of time to get things working. Here are some tips:
Circuit not working like you expected? Check for improper or loose connections — inspect each wire visually to make sure it is connected, especially if you are using prototyping jumpers. If in doubt, use an ohmmeter to check that there is conductivity between two points. (Thanks, Becky!)
Trouble programming your Ardweeny? If you keep getting programming errors when trying to program your Ardweeny microcontroller, try holding down the reset button until "Binary sketch size: 896 bytes (of a 30720 byte maximum)" shows up in the Arduino software window. (Thanks, ameyring!)
Having difficulty controlling the motors using your microcontroller? First, test that the motor controller can be controlled manually. Connect pin 2 of the L293D (if you're using that controller) to ground, and pin 7 to +5V. The left motor should spin in one direction. Next, connect pin 2 to +5V, and pin 5 to ground. The left motor should spin the other way. Repeat using pins 10 and 15 to test the right motor. If the motors don't spin, then double-check your wiring! If they do, then it might be either your program or the connection between the motor controller and the microcontroller.
Drive motors shutting down unexpectedly? Check to see if the L293D H-Bridge is getting hot. If the motors try to draw too much current, it could cause the driver to go into thermal overload protection. (Thanks, Erica K!)
Running into a different issue, and want some extra help? Drop by the Forums and ask away!
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Documenting Your Build
Documenting your robot is not only a good idea for your own records, it's actually part of how the robots will be judged! Here are the things that we are looking for:
Materials List (required)
A list of the materials used in your bot. Simple! Approximate quantities are fine.
Technically, you are only required to submit photos of your completed robot; however, the more documentation you provide, the better. If you took photos during the construction and testing of your bot, include those! You don't need to have a blog to post your photos, either. There are plenty of websites such as Flickr, Picasa Web, and even Facebook that will allow you to upload a number of photos for free. Check out this Ask CRAFT
article for tips on how to take great photos of your bot. (And if you post photos to the MAKE Fickr pool, be sure to tag them "coasterbot.")
Design Diagrams (optional)
Any sketches or drawings you made to document the look and feel of your bot. Ed Hickcox's sketches are a good example of an artistic approach to a design diagram, and Chris Kern's detailed layouts are an example of a more engineering-centric approach. Both are great!
Source Code (optional)
The code that you wrote to make your microcontroller run. If it's a short program (and it was written in a text-based language!), you can just copy the code verbatum into a webpage. Otherwise, just upload the source files somewhere and give us the address. Don't have a blog or webserver? Don't sweat it, it's not a big deal (and we'll contact you if we have any questions).
Video of the Robot Working (optional, but strongly encouraged!)
A short video showing how your robot works (or doesn't!). For example, here's one documenting my bot's maiden voyage. Fancy video editing skills and curious pet not required.
Electronics Schematics (optional)
A quick diagram showing what electrical components you used, and how they are hooked up. Handwritten is fine. Brian Smith's writeup is an excellent example.
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Maker Profile: Erica Kane
This week we meet another of our robot builders.
My name is Erica Kane and I am a new roboticist. My professional life has been about science and computers: I earned a Ph.D. in physics and then moved into software. As a kid, I did a little soldering, and I've done some serious woodworking in the past five years. A few months ago I decided that I wanted to learn about hardware, electronics, and robotics. But it was difficult to figure out where to start. I found MAKE and decided to make a modified version of one of the projects, the Speed Vest from Volume 19. This allowed me to learn the basics and get my workshop set up. It also introduced me to the Arduino, which makes electronic tinkering much easier than it was 20 years ago.
My workshop is slowly getting more tools, and I am thinking of expanding into the garage with some larger machines. I have been spending time with local hackers at HacDC and attending events like Robot Fest, all of which has been very valuable.
I bought several books on beginning robotics, but doing a canned project didn't appeal to me very much. The CoasterBot contest came at the perfect time. There is enough help in the tutorials and kit bundle to get you started, while requiring creativity as well. This will be my first robot and it's been a lot of fun watching it progress. I have a blog of the robot build and other projects.
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