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CHAPTER 6 NXT TURTLE
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Summary
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This turtle-shaped quadruped robot shows off many hidden and interesting aspects in its simplicity. The hardware features a smooth mechanism to walk in a realistic way, while the software tries to emulate autonomous behavior by using an FSM. Finally, the moving head is a nice touch.
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Exercise 6-1. Further Ideas
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Try to develop a strategy to follow lines going forward, by keeping the Light Sensor where it actually is. If that s not possible, try to place the Light Sensor in the front of the robot. Replace the Light Sensor with a Touch Sensor to let the turtle sense whether it has been lifted from the ground, and act correspondingly. You can add this event among those that are causing the turtle to get scared. Change the gearing to speed up the walking gait (suggestion: the legs frame must be shifted with respect to the motor, to attach one of the gear cams directly to the shaft). Replan the FSM to make your pet less lazy and a bit more enterprising (idea: rebuild the head so it can t retract anymore, using the motor to bite instead!).
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PART
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Back on Wheels
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After discussing the walker robots in Part 1, let me lead you back to wheels. The robots in this part are not mere wheeled robots. The first one I present (just as a warm-up) is the Mine Sweeper: a robot with a two-degrees-of-freedom grabber arm driven by just one motor. The last robot of this book is JohnNXT, a detailed replica of the famous robot from the
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Short Circuit movies. As the real Johnny Five does, its NXT counterpart moves on triangular
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treads, and features a rotating head, lifting torso, grabbing hands, and a moving laser. Also, he needs input, of course!
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CHAPTER
Mine Sweeper
he protagonist of this chapter is a compact wheeled robot equipped with a frontal double-sensor scanner and a grabbing arm. Its design will show you how a single motor can accomplish more than a single function. In Figure 7-1, you can see the Mine Sweeper with the abyss-avoidance sensor mounted. In the frontal scanner a Light Sensor is used to detect dark LEGO bricks on white ground. In addition, the Ultrasonic Sensor is mounted downwards as an abyss detector, so if the robot is going to work on upland planes (tables), it won t fall down.
Figure 7-1. The Mine Sweeper is equipped with a ravine-avoidance sensor. The mines shown here are built using two black 2 4 LEGO bricks. The robot you are going to build could have been given many other different names: garbage collector, floor sweeper, object collecting contraption, and so on. If Mine Sweeper recalls the sadness of some human invention, call the robot whatever else you want, and I won t take offense.
CHAPTER 7 MINE SWEEPER
The robot can collect only small objects with a regular shape, distinguished by their dark color on a light ground; it is not able to collect objects of any color and any shape. Because it is specialized for collecting only a precise kind of object, it came to mind to call it a mine sweeper. The real bomb-disposal robots use particular metal detectors to find mines on the ground and collect them using skilled robotic arms; our LEGO Mine Sweeper has a frontal sensor and a grabber arm, and this gave me the idea for the name.
Getting More Actions from a Single Motor
The arm mechanism is designed to grab objects, lift them, and store them into the robot s internal hold, performing all these actions with only one motor. This is particularly interesting, because usually one motor corresponds to one degree of freedom (DOF).
UNDERACTUATION
We talk about underactuation, in robotics, when dealing with mechanical devices that have a lower number of motors than degrees of freedom. The DOF of a mechanical system is defined as the number of independent parameters needed to characterize its state. In other words, if a motor can drive only a mechanism, a robot must have a motor for each action it can do. For example, in a wheeled robot a motor controls each wheel; in a steering vehicle the motor that drives the wheels cannot also steer; in the official NXT robotic arm, the motor used to grab the balls does not move the arm up and down. However, having an actuator for every DOF can become a problem! In a robotic grasping hand, using an actuator for every phalanx leads to a huge number of actuators: the device s versatility would increase, but its cost, complexity, and weight would become unmanageable. In the Mine Sweeper s case, its arm can both grab and lift objects. The grabbing is an underactuated mechanism, because there is not a specific motor to close the fingers; the actuation is done by the same motor that lifts the whole arm. This solution saves space where to fit another motor , reduces cost simply, we do not have a fourth motor, and lowers the overall weight. For these reasons, underactuated devices can be more efficient, simpler, and more reliable than their fully actuated alternatives. Of course, for a motor to perform more actions, you must devise a clever mechanism.
LEGO itself produced some official models that use an underactuated mechanism to grab an object first, and then lift it. Among many others, some examples are the yellow submarine 8250/8299 (released in 1997), the barcode truck 8479 (1997), and the alternative model of bulldozer 8275 (2007). How can a single actuator decide in which order to perform such different tasks to grab and then to lift The submarine has a pneumatic hand that grabs and then lifts a barrel. Talking informally, in the submarine detail shown in Figure 7-2, the grasping is a lighter operation than the lifting. When the pneumatic piston shortens, it runs into the mechanical opponent force of the spring (the LEGO shock absorber) and then closes the grabber. Once the grabber is fully closed, the movement is blocked so the piston can t help but raise the arm. When the piston lengthens, the arm is lowered first and then the grabber is opened. Also at this time, the spring that forces the arm down does the lowering. Something similar happens both in the barcode truck and in the bulldozer alternative model, but this time, the opposing force is gravity.
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