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What we did this summer: Part Three – Making Robots With Arduino

We already told you about rapid prototyping – using different materials, design, manufacturing and printing techniques to create our own products – and about music – combining hardware, electronics, cool software and pure creativity to create new songs and even new instruments! In part three of this series we’ll tell you about the Arduino robots we built.

We had gotten in touch with Arduino to see about someone coming to speak about their physical computing platform at Fire Tech Camp. Arduinos are microprocessing boards that allow you to prototype all kinds of gadgets by hooking up sensors and telling the board how to behave and choosing what outputs to activate when certain inputs are found. (We wrote a whole post about Arduino already if you want more detail!) When we talked to the people from Arduino, we got so excited about some of their work in robotics that we decided to do a full day workshop with them.

We were already familiar with CoffeeBots* from the article that Judy Castro had written in Make magazine. Having them come to camp to lead this workshop personally – all the way from San Francisco – meant we had Maker stardom in our midst! We had ordered a thousand ice lolly sticks, collected “found items” like coffee cans and cat food tubes (?!) and bought half a dozen glue guns. We were ready to MAKE!

Coffeebots under construction

Our Arduino campers may have been sceptical for the first minute or two, but in no time at all they were deep in the spirit – creating robots of their own design that would look for light and follow it. This worked by using photo resistors that sensed light, causing the motors and attached wheels to turn towards it and so the robots followed the light. It was so much fun to see ordinary items transformed into colourful and rather adorable robots. Check out this video to see the Arduino robots (and their amazing creators) in action!

Robots (and campers) in action

 *They are called Coffeebots NOT because they make coffee, but because the original design used coffee cans as the bodies of the robots! We had to get inventive though as coffee doesn’t usually come in cans in this country. We created bodies made out of any kind of tube or box we could find – or make!