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As featured by Wired, we are proud to announce we placed 2nd in the AFRON $10 Design Challenge! Thanks to the African Robotics Network for hosting this competition. A list of the winners are available via their website.
AFRON Design Challenge winners announced at Maker Faire 2012
Baobot is a custom robot created to teach middle school through college age students about electronics, programming, and robotics. It is an official design entry into the African Robotics Network (AFRON) $10 Design Challenge.
- Modular design with add-on packs
- Tethered or autonomous modes
- Uses the popular open source Arduino programming environment
- Cheap base price
- Design can be mass manufactured
The base model offers the ability to roam via a tethered connection to a computer. The provided USB cable is attached to the robot and the student’s computer. Students can control Baobot’s movements through particular keystrokes in the Arduino serial program using one of the included programs. Baobot also has the capability to sense its environment through its “whiskers” and can avoid obstacles. Students can write custom programs in the Arduino environment and upload them to the robot.
Headers in the front and back of the robot allow for the addition of modular sensors. These sensor boards are designed to fit specifically on Baobot and can include things like infrared, reflectance, bump, ultrasonic, and gas sensors. Shown are two reflectance sensors in a line-following configuration. With the example program, the robot will follow a black line on a white piece of paper until it hits a solid ‘T’ pattern. When both sensors see a dark color, the robot begins to spin and look for another line to follow.
A battery pack can be attached to the robot chassis. Both the chassis and battery pack have magnets to allow the battery pack to simply snap in to place. The USB cable from the battery pack plugs in to the programming port to provide power. Once plugged in, the robot begins to run the Arduino code most recently uploaded. This allows the robot to be unconnected from a computer and roam around.
As a robot meant for the classroom, Baobot targets students learning about the basics of electronics, programming, and engineering. While the robot alone can be a fun toy, it is designed to be expanded and programmed to teach problem solving and analytical skills. Students are encouraged to look at the Arduino code and dissect the robot’s algorithms.
Primary school students would be expected to drive the robot in tethered mode and upload simple example programs. Secondary school students, on the other hand, could easily be expected to write programs in Arduino that could solve puzzles, run races, and compete against other robots.
One main advantage of Baobot is its ability to be mass manufactured as well as have various add-on modules. In the table, we show the cost of producing the base unit, a battery pack, and a line-following sensor module as well as how these costs scale with production.
|Cost of Parts (without assembly)||Cost/Unit(1 Unit)||Cost/Unit(100 Units)||Cost/Unit(1000 Units)|
|Line Following Sensor||$3.81||$2.79||$2.14|
There are 2 ways that Baobot can be distributed: either as a kit of parts to be assembled by the students or mass manufactured and sold as complete units.
To be assembled, classrooms would need to purchase a set of tools, which totals $67.65 as found on Sparkfun. These tools can be shared among students to construct the robot. However, please note that intermediate soldering skills would be required.
However, Baobot would probably be best suited to mass manufacturing. A site such as Seeed Studio offers the ability to mass manufacture electronics in relatively small quantities and sell them through their store. Seeed’s Propagate program lets designers upload packages and begin the manufacturing and selling process on Seeed’s site. Using Seeed to fabricate and assemble the entire robot would cost about $31.06 per robot (including parts and packaging) for 100 units and around $24.83 per robot for 1000 units.
A full breakdown of costs can be found in the Baobot BOM.
Baobot, with the battery pack, requires 3 AA batteries. Experiments show that the robot draws about 0.2 Amps nominally. While this leads to a calculation of about 5 hours of run time (assuming about 1 AmpHr as per these tests), we saw about 2 hours of continuous use from a single set of batteries.
The entire Baobot design package can be found on Google Code: Baobot. Follow this link to browse our project repository and download our design files, which include schematics, PCB layout, and Arduino code.
While the robot is intended for manufacturing, the design can be reproduced and assembled by hand.
- Download the project files from the Google Code Baobot page.
- Send Gerber files in /electrical/main to PCB fabrication facility (e.g. ITEAD Studio’s PCB prototyping service).
- Order materials found in the Baobot BOM.
- Once all materials and PCBs arrive, solder parts to board as given by the reference designators on the Baobot BOM.
- The whiskers need to be wrapped into springs using the wire wrapping tool. Solder the spring/whisker into one hole in each of P6, P7, P8, P9 and a straight pin (through the spring) into the other hole.
- Download and install the Arduino development environment.
- Follow the directions on Sparkfun’s website to install the Arduino Pro Micro (same microcontroller as on Baobot) drivers.
- Follow the directions on Arduino’s site to install the bootloader on to Baobot.
- Upload one of the example programs from Baobot’s firmware directory to test the robot
Baobot In Action
As shown in the video, Baobot is capable of 3 basic functions: line following, physical object avoidance (bump sensing), and tethered control. All three programs are meant to be starting points for further development and exploration by students.