Figure 0 - This is a look back at some of my good, bad, and ugly robot projects!
This is a look back at some of my good, bad, and ugly robot projects!

I call this entry the "Robot Scrapyard" is it is just a random selection of many past robotic experiments, some were good, some were bad, but all of them were great learning experiences. Pleas not that when I took these photos some 10 to 20 years ago, a digital camera with 1 megapixel was considered high end, so the resolution of the photos is bad at times. These robots are all ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), designed to be linked to either a human controlled base station or a computer controlled system with machine vision. These ROVs are designed to traverse the urban terrain, so they range in size from about 200 pounds to well over 600 pounds, and all have more than enough power to pull a parked car!

Most of these past robotic vehicles were built with scrap junk I found at the local dump, so I just worked with the parts I had available to me, often rusty junk and old car parts. Some of these bots worked out quite well considering their makeup, and one even made it to the local TV news and had several appearances at trade shows and local events, interacting with people. Others did not work out so well, and ended up being chopped for parts and built into other contraptions. It is unfortunate that I did not snap photos of all of my past robotic experiments, but the photos I did manage to dig up will be presented here with the humorous and sometimes scary accounts of their creation.

Figure 1 - This is "Tippy", an unstable robotic avatar and impromptu electric car!
Figure 1 - This is "Tippy", an unstable robotic avatar and impromptu electric car!

One of my earliest attempts at a robotic avatar was "Tippy", the robot who would randomly face plant due to having way too much power coupled to a wonky motor speed controller! I call these ROVs robotic avatars as the goal is to remotely control the robot through an audio video link, allowing me to interact with people around the neighborhood through the robot; giving the illusion the robot has its own personality. This concept was recently made famous by the movie "Avatar", and I can say that this type of interaction is much more fun than any video game, as you are able to move through a real world using a joystick and extract some very interesting reactions from those who encounter the robot.

Tippy was technically a successful prototype, but had many severe mechanical and electrical issues that made "safe" interactions impossible. Tippy was over 200 pounds, about 6 feet tall, and could move faster than a person could run, so he became half robot and half weapon! Tippy was so fast and powerful that I often sat on the frame and drove the robot around like a small electric car when I needed to go to the store down the street or get more java. This was extremely fun, partially because it was exceeding dangerous to be hurtling down the street at 20 miles per hour on an unstable 200 pound robotic hackjob! There were so many things wrong with the design that I just hacked it all apart to make a better version, but I did learn a lot about gear ratios, motor control electronics, safety systems, and weight distribution. Photos 1 to 14 will detail how I hacked Tippy together and what went wrong.

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