You are confronted with a situation. Here are two examples:
community wants to construct a robot zoo in which the “animals”
move their heads, open their mouths and make appropriate sounds when they
sense that someone is coming towards them. Design and build a prototype
device which could satisfy this need.
A local pet shop wishes to sell a range of devices which automatically feed
small cage pets (such as rabbits, gerbils, mice etc.) when their owners
are away for the weekend. Design and build a prototype device which could
satisfy this need.
You need to determine what problem you are trying to solve before you attempt
to design and build a robot to solve a problem. Take the time to study a
number of different situations and once you have decided what the situation
is and you understand exactly what the problem is then write a design brief
in a log book (this will be your working document as you work on your robot.
This log book can be a paper notebook or an electronic document.) This is
a short statement which explains the problem that is to be solved.
specific details of the design which must be satisfied
possible and alternative design solutions
and designing a appropriate structure which includes drawings
written a brief, you are now ready to gather information which will help
you to produce a successful design. First you will need to decide what information
you require. This will be different from project to project and will also
depend on the amount of information and knowledge you already have. A useful
step will be to use the following chart. Ask the five questions, then read
the column headed Gathering Information. This will help you plan
the type of information you will need to gather.
What is the practical function of the design? (What must my robot do?)
What part does appearance (shape and form, surface texture, colour,
etc.) play in the design’s function? What does the robot look like?
Is there a reason for it to look as it does?
What materials are suitable for the design?
What construction methods are appropriate to the design?
What are the likely social and environmental effects of the design?
manufacture, use and disposal of any product will have both beneficial
and detrimental effects upon people, wildlife and the environment. The
designer therefore, has an enormous responsibility to consider very
carefully the potential effects of any new design. This will include:
health and safety factors, noise, smell, pollution, etc.
information can involve reading, listening, conducting interviews and observing.
specification is a detailed description of the problem to be solved. It
should ‘spell out’ exactly what the design must achieve.
should ideally think of at least three different ways to solve the problem
before you concentrate on any one in particular. Sketches and notes are
required at this stage. You can also create prototypes using lego for this
step. Once you have created a lego prototype, take a digital picture of
it. Print out the picture and jot your notes below the picture in your log
book. Once you have settled on one solution, go back over the list of specifications
you have made. Make sure that each specification is satisfied.
it the time to produce some working drawings. These are the drawings that
will assist you as you begin constructing the prototype of your structure.
(Here again, lego and a digital camera might be your best friend.) You may
choose to do your drawings by hand or you might want to use a draw program
on the computer to assist you.
a working schedule for yourself. Draw up a timetable showing how much time
you expect to spend on each part of the design process. Your planning should
also ensure that you have all the necessary materials and equipment that
you need to complete your project.
work can now begin. Here are some sites that help with:
it is time to program your robot. This can be achieved in many different
ways. Use can achieve rudimentary intelligence in your robot by using only
relays, potentiometers, bump switches and some discrete components. You
can increase complexity in intelligence in your robot by adding more sensors
and continuing in the same vein of using hardwired logic. By introducing
a more sophisticated control element, the microprocessor, you introduce
a significant new tool in solving the robot control problem. For our robots
we used the RCX Brick that was first developed by Fred Martin at MIT as
the Programmable Brick. See the following two programming examples:
has two levels for programming.
you have written your program and downloaded into the RCX brick using the
Infrared Sender, it is time to test your robot to see if it truly does what
you want it to do.
building and programming work progresses, and the design begins to take
shape, you will automatically carry out tests on the design. You will also
need to complete systems tests at various stages of the construction. If
any of the tests show that you have failure in a joint, or that part of
your structure is not meeting specifications, then you will have to make
modifications in your plan.
building and programming is complete, the entire project must be tested
to see if it does the job for which it was designed. An evaluation needs
to then be written. This should be a statement outlining the strengths and
weaknesses in your design. It should describe where you have succeeded and
where you have failed to achieve the aims set out in the specifications.
is a list of questions which will help you to prepare this statement.
well does the design function?
the design look good?
the product safe to use?
I plan my work adequately?
I find the construction straightforward or difficult?
the most suitable materials used?
it cost more or less than expected?
could I have improved my design?