O'Reilly logo

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Robot Building for Beginners, Third Edition

Book Description

""I wrote this book because I love building robots. I want you to love building robots, too. It took me a while to learn about many of the tools and parts in amateur robotics. Perhaps by writing about my experiences, I can give you a head start.""

--David Cook

Robot Building for Beginners, Third Edition provides basic, practical knowledge on getting started in amateur robotics. There is a mix of content: from serious reference tables and descriptions to personal stories and humorous bits.

The robot described and built in this book is battery powered and about the size of a lunch box. It is autonomous; that is, it isn't remote controlled.

The book is broken up into small chapters, suitable for bedtime (or bathroom) reading.

The characteristics and purposes of each major component (resistor, transistor, wire, and motor) are described, followed by a hands-on experiment to demonstrate. Not only does this help the reader to understand a particular piece, but it also prepares them with processes to learn new parts on their own. An appendix offers an introduction to 3D printing and parts of the robot can, as an alternative, be ""printed"" using a 3D printer.

The master project of the book is a simple, entertaining, line-following robot.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedication
  5. Contents at a Glance
  6. Contents
  7. About the Author
  8. Acknowledgments
  9. Introduction
  10. Chapter 1: Welcome Robot Inventor!
    1. Four Disciplines
    2. Anatomy of a Homemade Robot
      1. Brains
      2. Electrical Power
      3. Sensors
      4. Action and Feedback
      5. Miscellaneous Components
      6. Body
    3. Building Up
      1. Taking Small Bites
      2. Making Modules
      3. Keeping It Fun and Keeping It Light
      4. Finding Camaraderie and Support
    4. Onward and Upward
  11. Chapter 2: Where to Obtain Tools and Parts
    1. Ordering Free Information
    2. Discovering Hidden Messages
      1. Considering Columns
      2. Counting Parts
      3. Comparing Prices
    3. Saving Money
  12. Chapter 3: Safety
    1. Benefiting from Age and Experience
    2. Following Instructions
      1. Reading Chemical Labels
    3. Donning Safety Glasses
      1. Hanging Glasses and Placing Them Face Up
    4. Wearing Other Safety Clothes
    5. Insuring Adequate Ventilation
    6. Storing Properly
      1. Talking About Your Activities, Materials, and Tools
    7. Washing Before Eating
    8. Avoiding Nasty Elements
      1. Lead
      2. Mercury
      3. Cadmium
      4. Purchasing Safer Parts Labeled RoHS
    9. Shocking
      1. AC vs. DC
      2. Using Rechargeable Batteries and Professional Transformers
      3. Connecting Through Circuit Breakers and GFCI Outlets
      4. Saving the Ground Prong
      5. Disconnecting Power
    10. Steering Clear of Dangerous Robots
    11. Sizing Up Motors
    12. Lighting Up
    13. Staying Rested and Level-Headed
  13. Chapter 4: Digital Multimeter
    1. Must-Have Features
      1. Digital
      2. Digits
      3. DC Voltage
      4. DC Current
      5. Resistance
      6. Probes or Leads
      7. Overload/Fuse Protection
    2. Nice-To-Have Features
      1. Capacitance
      2. Diode
      3. Continuity
      4. Frequency
      5. Duty Cycle
      6. Autoranging
      7. Auto Power Off
      8. Transistor
      9. Dual Display
      10. Maximum
      11. Minimum
      12. Stand
    3. Optional Features
      1. Inductance
      2. Data Interface
      3. Scope
      4. Backlight
      5. Stopwatch/Single Pulse Width
      6. Temperature
      7. Sound
      8. Count
      9. Bar Graph
      10. Data Hold
      11. Data Auto
      12. High/Low/Logic
      13. Memory
      14. Relative
      15. Offset
      16. Limit Testing/Compare
      17. Holster or Rubber Boot
    4. AC Features
      1. AC Voltage
      2. True RMS
      3. AC Current
    5. Obtaining Hook Probe Adaptors
    6. Comparing Actual Multimeters
      1. Understanding the Features of a Low-End Multimeter
      2. Understanding the Features of a Mid-Range Multimeter
      3. Understanding the Features of a Higher-End Multimeter
      4. Comparing Prices with Features
      5. Examining Other Meters
    7. Do Not Proceed Without a Meter
  14. Chapter 5: Numbers and Units
    1. Choosing the Metric System
    2. Reducing Powers of a Thousand
      1. M & m
      2. Alternative for Greek Micro
    3. Abbreviating Units
    4. Too Little
      1. Guessing Missing Units
      2. Expanding from Three Digits
      3. Converting Colors to Numbers
      4. Determining Component Values with a Multimeter
    5. Base Subjects Covered
  15. Chapter 6: Robot Line-Following
    1. Defining the Course Conditions
      1. Surface Materials
      2. Course Lighting
      3. Defining the Line
      4. Curving and Crossing Lines
      5. Summarizing Course Conditions
    2. Picking the Robot’s Size
    3. Seeing Sandwich
      1. Examining Sandwich
      2. Sandwich Body
    4. Obtaining a Kit
    5. Building Up
  16. Chapter 7: Nine-Volt Batteries
    1. Testing Battery Voltage
      1. Setting Up a Multimeter for Voltage Testing
      2. Interpreting Test Results
    2. 9 V Battery Characteristics
    3. 9 V Battery Recommendations
      1. Recommended
      2. Not Recommended
    4. Battery Brand Names
    5. Using 9 V Batteries in Robots
      1. Mounting Batteries
    6. Powering Forward
  17. Chapter 8: Clips and Test Leads
    1. The Gators Are Hungry Tonight
    2. Obtaining Hook Clips
    3. Testing Jumpers
      1. Setting Up a Multimeter for Continuity Testing
      2. Testing an Open Connection
      3. Testing a Shorted Connection
      4. Testing an Alligator Connection (Shorted)
    4. Discovering Unintended Connections
    5. Plumbing with Jumpers
  18. Chapter 9: Resistors
    1. Limiting Power with Resistors
    2. Obtaining a Resistor Variety Pack
    3. Understanding Size and Tolerance
    4. Cut It Out
      1. Obtaining a Wire Cutter Tool
    5. Resistance and Ohms
    6. Measuring Resistance
      1. Interpreting the Resistance Displayed on the Meter
      2. Experiencing Resistance Ranges
    7. Looking Up Resistor Values Online
    8. Labeling and Storing
      1. Obtaining Storage Cases
    9. Resisting the Temptation to Skip Ahead
  19. Chapter 10: LEDs
    1. Learning About LED Attributes
      1. LED Sizes
      2. LED Shapes
      3. LED Lens Clarities
      4. LED Viewing Angles
      5. LED Colors
      6. LED Brightness
      7. LED Efficiency
    2. Extreme Close Up of an LED
    3. Identifying Multicolor LEDs
      1. Bicolor
      2. Tricolor or Tri-state
      3. Full Color
    4. Testing an LED
      1. Setting Up a Multimeter for Diode Testing
      2. Interpreting LED Test Results
    5. Variety Pack
    6. Brightening Your Way
  20. Chapter 11: Power On!
    1. Introducing the Parts List
      1. Testing the Parts Before Assembly
    2. Reading a Schematic
    3. Building the Power Indicator Circuit
      1. Do You See The Light?
      2. Experimenting with the Power Indicator Circuit
    4. Understanding the Roles of Each Component
    5. Measuring the Power Indicator Circuit
      1. Measuring In-Circuit Voltage
      2. Measuring Current Flow
      3. Calculating Battery Life
      4. Don’t Measure Voltage with Probe in Current Terminal
    6. Circuit Summary
  21. Chapter 12: Solderless Prototyping
    1. Needing A Better Way
    2. Solderless Breadboards
      1. Connecting with Holes
      2. Binding Posts
      3. Hungry for Breadboards
    3. Solderless Breadboard Wire
      1. Choosing Jumper Wire
    4. Making Your Own Jumper Wire
      1. Stripping the Insulation Off of the End of the Wire
      2. Cutting the Wire to Length
      3. Bending the End of the Wire
    5. Making The Connection
  22. Chapter 13: Solderless Breadboard Setup
    1. Considering Power Sources
      1. Obtaining 9 V Battery Snap Connectors
      2. Connecting Power to Binding Posts
    2. Choosing a Power Switch
      1. Understanding SPDT
      2. Adding a Power Switch to the Breadboard
    3. Connecting Power Buses
      1. Adapting Multimeter Probes Using Jumper Wire
      2. Connecting the Lower Bus
      3. Split Down the Middle
    4. Installing a Power Indicator LED
      1. Checking Voltages at Certain Points
      2. Trimming Leads
    5. Demystifying the Robot’s Power Switch
    6. Ready for More
  23. Chapter 14: Variable Resistors
    1. Potentiometers
      1. Trimpot
      2. Turning the Dial
      3. Obtaining Assorted Trimpots
      4. Testing Potentiometers
    2. Variable Brightness LED Circuit
      1. Building the Variable Brightness LED Circuit
    3. Brightness Balancing Circuit
      1. Building the Brightness Balanced LEDs Circuit
    4. Cadmium-Sulfide Photoresistors
      1. Obtaining Assorted Photoresistors
      2. Experiencing the Variable Resistance of a Photoresistor
    5. Light-Controlled Circuit
    6. Balanced Brightness-Sensing Circuit
      1. Part List for Balanced Brightness-Sensing Circuit
      2. Brightness-Sensing Pairs
      3. Matching Photoresistors
      4. Resistance-Balancing Potentiometer
      5. Current-Limiting Resistor
      6. Test Points
      7. Converting Resistance to Voltage with a Voltage Divider
      8. Building the Balanced Brightness-Sensing Circuit
      9. Inability to Balance the Brightness-Sensing Circuit
  24. Chapter 15: Comparators
    1. Voltage Comparator
      1. Examining the LM393
      2. Obtaining Comparators
    2. Brightness Comparator Circuit
      1. Comparing a Schematic with a Wiring Diagram
      2. Labeling Parts
      3. Drawing Connected and Unconnected Wire
      4. Understanding the Brightness Comparator Circuit
      5. Parts List for the Brightness Comparator Circuit
      6. Building the Brightness Comparator Circuit
    3. Adding Headlights
      1. Understanding the Headlight Circuit’s Two LEDs
      2. Building the Headlight Circuit
      3. Repeating the Multiple LED Trick
    4. Appreciating a Simple Mind
  25. Chapter 16: Transistor Switches
    1. Defining Negative Power
      1. Focusing on the 2907A Transistor
    2. Testing Bipolar Transistors with a Multimeter
      1. Testing with a Multimeter that Has a Transistor Socket
      2. Testing with a Multimeter that Has a Diode Test
    3. Bipolar Transistor Test Circuits
      1. Examining the Schematic for the PNP Transistor Test Circuit
      2. Building the PNP Transistor Test Circuit
      3. Examining the Schematic for the NPN Transistor Test Circuit
      4. Building the NPN Transistor Test Circuit
    4. Brightness Comparator Circuit with Transistors
      1. Calculating Current-Limiting Transistors
      2. Building the Brightness Comparator Circuit with Transistors
    5. Summarizing PNP and NPN Transistors
  26. Chapter 17: DC Motors
    1. How DC Motors Work
      1. Looking Inside an Iron-Core Permanent-Magnet DC Brush Motor
      2. Looking Inside an Iron-Core Permanent-Magnet DC Brushless Motor
      3. Looking Inside a Coreless Permanent-Magnet DC Brush Motor
    2. Simple DC Motor Circuit
      1. Selecting a Motor for the Simple DC Motor Circuit
      2. Selecting a Battery for the Simple DC Motor Circuit
      3. Building the Simple DC Motor Circuit
    3. Primary Characteristics of DC Motors
      1. Rotational Speed Characteristic of DC Motors
      2. Torque Characteristic of DC Motors
      3. Voltage Characteristic of DC Motors
      4. Current Characteristic of DC Motors
      5. Efficiency Characteristic of DC Motors
      6. Audible Noise Characteristic of DC Motors
      7. Electrical Noise Characteristic of DC Motors
      8. Mass Characteristic of DC Motors
      9. Dimension Characteristic of DC Motors
      10. Summarizing the Characteristics of DC Motors
    4. DC Gearhead Motors
      1. Looking Inside a Spur Gearhead Motor
      2. Describing Gear Ratios
      3. Imperfect Speed to Torque Conversion
      4. Disadvantages of Gearheads
      5. Comparing Planetary Versus Spur Gearhead Motors
      6. Choosing a Gearhead Motor
    5. Moving Forward
  27. Chapter 18: Adding Gearhead Motors
    1. Selecting Gearhead Motors
      1. Obtaining the Gearhead Motors
      2. Inspecting the Gearhead Motor
    2. Adding Motors to the Brightness Comparator Circuit
      1. Introducing the Diode
      2. Building the Motors onto the Brightness Comparator Circuit
    3. Completing the Electronics
  28. Chapter 19: Wheels
    1. Anatomy of a Wheel
    2. Characteristics of Robot Wheels
      1. Creamy Air Filling
      2. Tire Shapes
      3. Tire Width
      4. Tread Designs
      5. Tire Diameter
      6. Selecting Robot Wheels
    3. Wheel Choice for Sandwich
      1. Determining Minimum and Maximum Diameter
      2. Determining the Maximum Diameter Based on Speed
      3. My Choice of Wheels for Sandwich
      4. Alternative Choices of Wheels for Sandwich
    4. Cleaning Tires
    5. Rolling Along
  29. Chapter 20: Coupler
    1. Alternatives
      1. Making Couplers If You Have Metal-Working Equipment
      2. Printing Couplers
    2. Tubing
      1. Choosing Between Brass and Aluminum Tubing
      2. Specifying and Obtaining Tubing Sizes
    3. Measuring and Cutting the Tubing
      1. Determining and Marking Tube Lengths
      2. Cutting Tubing
      3. Finishing the Cut by Sanding
      4. Testing the Cut Pieces
    4. LEGO Cross Axles
      1. Selecting a LEGO Cross Axle Length
      2. Obtaining LEGO Cross Axles
    5. Gluing the Coupler Together
      1. Coming Unglued
      2. Using Epoxy
    6. Adding a Setscrew to the Coupler
      1. Marking a Hole for the Setscrew
      2. Drill Press
      3. Drill-Press Vise
      4. Drilling the Hole for the Setscrew
      5. Tapping the Hole for the Setscrew
      6. Inserting the Setscrew
    7. Admiring the Coupler
  30. Chapter 21: Soldering Equipment
    1. Solder Wire
    2. Flux
    3. Soldering Iron
    4. Soldering Stand
    5. Soldering Sponge
    6. Helping-Hand Tool
    7. Desoldering Vacuum Tools
    8. Steps of a Typical Soldering Session
    9. Get Ready to Solder
  31. Chapter 22: Soldering and Connecting
    1. Putting Together the Motors and Switches
      1. Putting Together the Motors
      2. Putting Together the Line-Following Switch
      3. Putting Together the Tube LED Circuit
      4. Finishing Up
    2. Soldering Experience
  32. Chapter 23: The Motherboard
    1. The Line-Following Circuit
      1. Tweaking For Better Performance
      2. Point-to-Point Soldering Versus a Printed Circuit Board
      3. Point-to-Point Soldering the Line-Following Circuit
    2. Testing the Robot’s Electronics
      1. The Dangers of a Low-Resistance Circuit
      2. Checking for Unsoldered Leads
      3. Checking All Leads that Connect Directly to Positive Voltage
      4. Measuring the Resistance of the Entire Circuit
      5. Measuring the Voltage Drop
      6. Reheating Solder Joints
    3. Holding Your Breath
  33. Chapter 24: Body Building
    1. Approaching Robot Bodies
      1. Ethereal Drafting—Thinking About the Robot
      2. Vision Revision—Accepting Constraints Based on Available Parts
      3. Designing Custom Bodies
      4. Printing in 3D
      5. Embracing Prefabricated Platforms
    2. Transforming the Sandwich Container
      1. Creating Motor Holes
      2. Mounting the Motors
      3. Creating the Motor Tube
      4. Installing the Motors and Tube
      5. Adding the Switches and Battery Holder
      6. Adding the Circuit Board
      7. Drilling Holes for the Trimpots
      8. Carving Out a Window in the Container Lid
      9. Finishing Touches
    3. Ready to Roll
  34. Chapter 25: Launching the Line-Follower
    1. Correcting and Tweaking
      1. Preliminary Examination
      2. Trial Run: Following a Straight Line
      3. Correcting Common Problems
      4. Does This Look Straight to You?
    2. The Maiden Voyage
      1. Solving Steering Problems
    3. Potential Improvements Line-following robot:
      1. Protecting Against a Reversed Battery
      2. Eliminating Surges with Capacitors
      3. Improving Line-Following
    4. Final Bow
  35. Chapter 26: Smoother, Smaller, Cheaper
    1. Playing with Sensor Circuitry
      1. Lowering Light Sensor Resistance
      2. Driving Straight
      3. Revising or Leaping?
    2. Reducing Cost and Improving Capabilities
      1. Shrinking Packages
      2. Increasing Functionality
      3. Shrinking Costs
    3. Ever Changing
  36. Chapter 27: Encore
    1. Robot Components
      1. Logic Chips
      2. Microcontrollers
      3. Voltage Regulators
      4. Capacitors
      5. Solar Power
      6. Resistor Networks
      7. Pushbuttons
      8. DIP Switches
      9. Jumpers and Shorting Blocks
      10. Tilt Sensor
      11. Temperature Sensors
      12. Touch Sensors
      13. Object Detection and Infrared Remote Control
      14. Distance and Object Sensor
      15. Oscillators and Crystals
      16. Sound
      17. Relays
      18. Adding Gears
      19. Servos
      20. Encoders—Determining Wheel Speed
      21. Displays
      22. Wireless Data and Control
    2. Everyday Challenges
      1. Houseplant-Watering Robot
      2. Compost Cart
      3. Trash Emptier
      4. Window Washer
      5. Roof Rat
      6. Micro Snowplow
      7. Slug Squisher
      8. Automatic Street mailbox
    3. Contests
      1. Worldwide Robot Sumo
      2. Trinity College Fire-Fighting
      3. Atlanta Robot Vacuuming
      4. Seattle Robotics Society Robothon
      5. Dallas Personal Robotics Group Roborama
      6. Central Illinois Robotics Club
      7. Chicago Area Robotics Group (Chibots)
    4. The Great Wide Open
  37. Appendix A: Appendix A
    1. Magical Ohm’s Law
      1. Ohm’s Law is Helpful in Selecting a Current-Limiting Resistor
      2. Help in Determining Current from a Voltage
      3. The Key Point of Ohm’s Law
      4. The Larger Implication of Ohm’s Law
    2. Things I’ve Accidentally Destroyed While Writing This Book
      1. Which Way Does a 9 V Battery Get Installed?
      2. Melting Switches
      3. Popping Multimeter Fuses
      4. Fool Me, Twice
    3. Voltage’s Real Name
      1. Ground, Not Negative Voltage
      2. V Double Letter
  38. Appendix B: Appendix B
    1. Getting Into 3D Printing
      1. Leaping Not Very Far
      2. Rapidly Improving
    2. Printing the Motor Coupler
      1. Designing the Model
      2. Preparing to Print
      3. Printing in 3D
      4. Finishing the Coupler
    3. Printing a 3D Wheel
      1. Treading Lightly
      2. Compromising with a Hybrid Wheel
    4. Designing a Robot Body
      1. Cover
    5. Trying It Yourself
  39. Index