Their story, in their words….
What we planned to do
Our group planned to create a controllable robot with a camera mounted to the top of it that could rotate and view live video. The robot was planned to be like a tank – using tank treads with wheels powered by motors for motion of the robot. We decided early in the project that we wanted to be able to control motion and view the camera feed live through the same computer as to simplify controlling the robot.
Issues we faced along the way
While designing the robot we were relatively issue free and there were no unforeseen delays at this stage. While implementing our design (constructing the robot) however, we faced many difficulties.
The main issue we faced during construction was fitting the wheels to the robot. This was because the bearings that had come with the wheel were very small and difficult to implement into the robot in a way that would be strong enough. To solve this, we put a metal plate along the interior of the robot where the axle enters the hull to strengthen the grip on the axles. Another issue that we had involved the laser cutter we were planning to use. At the beginning of construction, the school’s more powerful laser cutter broke, so we had to use a laser cutter which was not powerful enough to cut through wood and not as accurate as we had hoped. We ended up resorting to using a saw after engraving where the cut out should be, which was very time consuming.
The programming itself, while being relatively simple, also came with a number of difficulties. For example, one of the motors didn’t turn at first. Eventually we got this working by modifying the code to change the voltage that was supplied to the motors. The programming took us longer than expected due to our inexperience with the Raspberry Pi microcomputer however in the end it taught us a lot about applying programming skills to electronics.
Testing the robot
Testing was an overall success, although a few problems did come up. While testing the robot, the ground clearance of the robot became a small problem as we over estimated it. While trying to drive the robot over a small steep mound we made from pebbles, the underside of the robot got caught resulting in a significant loss of traction from the tank treads. We also found a nut had come loose over time resulting in a wheel eventually falling off during testing. This however was a simple fix, putting the wheel back on the axle and tightening up the nut to prevented this from happening again.
What we learned from the project
Overall, we have learned a lot about what a project like this entails and requires. An example of this might be effectively managing our time which will help us in all areas of study in the future. We learnt a lot about delegating tasks effectively to the person best suited for them however everyone in the group has worked on sections that they have not had previous experience with giving them new knowledge and a wider scope of a project. On top of this, we gained valuable experience with handling relatively large amounts of money, and budgeting throughout the project. Although we over spent in this project the experience and knowledge we have gained should help us to more effectively minimise costs in the future.
Despite these problems in testing, we found the robot to be a success, it was easy to control from a laptop and we could view the camera feed live and control the rotation of the camera wirelessly. We found that it could not go over large obstacles but had the traction (due to the tank tracks) to go up moderately steep inclines. The challenges that this project presented us with has taught us many valuable skills that will greatly benefit us in the future.