Set Up your Robotics Lab

There are three main "environments" within your Robotics Laboratory.   Each of these must be kept organized - otherwise you’ll have chaos.  Chaos and robots do not go well together.

Environment #1: Hardware

Building robots usually entails working with a wide variety of tools and components.  Many problems can be avoided by simply keeping your work area clean and orderly. Among the items that you may be working with are:

  1. Mechanical components such as wheels, nuts, bolts, and battery holders.
  2. Simple electrical components like switches, batteries, and wires
  3. More complicated electrical components such as resistors and LED’s
  4. Very sophisticated and sensitive electronic components like microcontrollers
  5. A wide variety of tools such as pliers, wire cutters, soldering irons, and test equipment

Safety First!
In dealing with hardware, there is one primary safety rule: 
You never know when one little part may pop up and get you.  Don’t take the risk.  Safety glasses are cheap insurance – invest in them!

  • Gather the following items:
    • 1 Boe-Bot Robot Kit from Parallax Inc. 
    • 4 AA cell batteries, 1.5 V each
    • Masking tape
    • A pen or pencils and erasers
    • Your Engineering Notebook
    • Safety glasses


Environment 2:  Software

You’ll be installing some software into your computer which will provide a method of getting computer code (that you will be writing or editing) deep down inside the “electronic brain” known as a microcontroller. 

Think clearly about what you’re asking the code to do.  Remember, when computer code is loaded into the microcontroller, the microcontroller will do exactly what you told it to do.  And, with your microcontroller connected to hardware devices (like motors, etc), sometimes your programs may cause un-intended results — perhaps like driving your robot off the table.  Don’t let that happen!

  • Download and install the BASIC Stamp Editor Software on your Windows computer from this page.


Environment 3:  Your Mind

Keep your mind on what you’re doing at all times.  Safety cannot be overemphasized!  Something as simple as clipping component leads may result in injury.   It’s possible to wire up a circuit that looks just fine, until power is applied.  Then…poof!... you’ve let the “magic smoke” out.

Today you may be building a table-top robot.   You may write a program that causes it to roll off the table and plummet to the floor.  That’s bad enough.  However, tomorrow you may be creating a control system for an automated airplane landing system.  Failure on that scale is not an option.  Think things through.  And then think them through, again.