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NXT AT-ST
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lso known as chicken walker, because of its shape and walking motion, the All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST) is a bipedal war craft employed by the Galactic Imperial Forces in the Star Wars saga. In this chapter, you ll build the AT-ST biped shown in Figure 4-1, guided by detailed building instructions. You ll program it to walk around, and by the end of this chapter, you ll have at your command one of the most famous battle robots in the history of cinema.
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Figure 4-1. The impressive-looking NXT AT-ST
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CHAPTER 4 NXT AT-ST
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AT-STs were seen in the Star Wars movies in the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back and the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. The AT-ST has chin-mounted double laser cannons, a concussion grenade launcher on the right side of its head, and a blaster cannon on the left. The bipedal propulsion system is the strength of the Star Wars AT-ST, allowing it to move its weaponry across uneven terrain that a wheeled unit would not be able to traverse. This craft can carry one pilot and one gunner, with a maximum speed of 90km/h. Even though it s not as imposing as its larger All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) quadruped walker cousin, the AT-ST serves as a sort of robotic cavalry to the Imperial side on the battlefields of the Star Wars films. The NXT AT-ST walker shown in Figures 4-1 and 4-2 is mainly built with NXT retail set parts, but includes a few extra parts, needed just to improve the design. These additional parts aren t structural, so don t worry if you don t have them in your LEGO spare reserves. You ll be guided in how to build the alternative retail-set-only version in the building section of this chapter.
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Figure 4-2. Another view of the NXT AT-ST
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CHAPTER 4 NXT AT-ST
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I tried hard to reproduce all the AT-ST features in a well-proportioned way, from the particular leg shape to the head profile. As you might guess, the robot you re going to build cannot move across uneven terrain; on the contrary, the surface to walk on must be smooth and plain. Also, the robot cannot carry humans and won t hurt anybody, because the weapons have been replaced by the Sound Sensor and the Ultrasonic Sensor. This model wasn t designed in a day! It was difficult to get to the final shape. In Figure 4-3, you can see the AT-ST in one of its early stages of development. The legs were not at all similar to the final ones, and the head was disproportionate. On both feet, I used a Touch Sensor to know which side the robot was leaning on; this feature proved to be useless in the final robot version due to a new, timed approach. Also, notice the tendon made with the ball joint steering link that prevents the hip from bending (as in Quasimodo in 2). Although a bit raw, this old prototype already featured all the key ideas that brought me to the final AT-ST presented here.
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Figure 4-3. An early prototype of the NXT AT-ST
CHAPTER 4 NXT AT-ST
This LEGO MINDSTORMS biped perfectly fits in the jerky COG shifting category introduced in 1. It uses only two motors to accomplish the needed movements, while other robots fitting in this category, which you might have seen on the Web, generally use three motors. Here, one motor shifts the weight (mostly concentrated in the head) by turning the neck turntable, while the other motor rotates the legs in sync, as shown in the plan back in Figure 1-4b. Because these movements are done one after another, the gait of this biped is jerky. Using only two motors allowed me to lighten the whole structure a bit, so that the legs of the AT-ST, accurately reproduced in all their slimness, could support the upper body weight. You can understand what I mean here by accurately by looking at Figure 1-5c in 1. The AT-ST I made with the RCX had squat, boxy legs, not at all similar to the real leg shape or the elegance of the legs of the actual NXT version. I tried to keep the feet as small as possible, always bearing in mind, however, that small feet yield poor stability. On the internal side of both feet, I placed two wedges that are the only touch point of the feet when the head is perfectly centered. When the head turns to the side, only one of the feet will touch the ground with the wedges and with the external rubber edge. If the feet were totally flat (entirely touching the ground), the AT-ST would have needed another mechanism to bend the ankles. With this solution, the legs can be made strong and rigid, because they have no moving joints. The robot walks straight by shifting the head weight aside and suddenly stepping forward, when the loaded foot is touching the ground with wedges and rubber elements, and the other is off the ground. Turning is a little more complicated, and the performance might vary according to the nature of the surface the robot is walking on. Carpets are the worst surface you can imagine, while flat, smooth surfaces such as tables or parquet are perfect. For example, let me explain how the robot turns right. First, it rotates the legs while they are both on the ground (the head is centered), so that the right foot is in front of the left one. Then, the weight is shifted to the right, and the left foot is suddenly brought forward to get aligned with the right foot again. Repeating this many times, the AT-ST can turn right; and, doing the opposite, it can turn left. This can sound complicated, but don t worry if you don t have a clear understanding of what is going on here. Once you see the robot walking, driven by the program you ll learn later, all the confusion will melt away. The head contains all the sensors: the side weapons are the Sound Sensor and the Ultrasonic Sensor. A Touch Sensor is used to detect if the head has reached its turning limits; this sensor is hidden (not so well, actually!) under the AT-ST face.
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