A $9.99 Robot

 

Robotics have also found widespread acceptance in education, and they are used to teach kids anything from computer science to engineering to physics. They have the advantage of being able to demonstrate complex logical concepts in a tangible and exciting manner. Since the commercial robots are too expensive, we gave ourselves a challenge: to build a robot that would cost less than US $10. This was inspired by the $100 laptop from the “One Child Per Laptop” program, and we felt that it would be a good challenge for our students: how to design and build appropriate technology products “for the other 99%”.This project involves elements of electronic engineering, computing, product design and usability. The resulting robot makes heavy use of open-source platforms and frameworks. It includes a small and fixed set of sensors that allows the robots to perform tasks such as line detection, light seeking (or avoiding), and obstacle avoidance tasks, which (from experience) constituted almost 90% of the tasks used in teaching innovative technology.

To allow the children some degree of creativity, we left slots to accommodate additions to the robot, either of cardboard cut-outs, or additional PCB boards. Programming the robot is done via the opensource IDE for Arduino, on top of which we developed additional modules customized for robot control.

With a lot of help from all our students, the $9.99 robot was completed in time for the Cambodia Service Learning project and used to teach innovative technology and problem solving to the orphans at the House.

Figure 1. Students soldered the robotic car components together.

Figure 1. Students soldered the robotic car components together.

Figure 2. We taught the Cambodian teenagers how to program the robots.

Figure 2. We taught the Cambodian teenagers how to program the robots.

Figure 3. We conducted a 4-day robotic workshop in Happyland Orphanage.

Figure 3. We conducted a 4-day robotic workshop in Happyland Orphanage.

Figure 4. These beautiful robotic cars were designed and decorated by a group of creative Cambodian students.

Figure 4. These beautiful robotic cars were designed and decorated by a group of creative Cambodian students.

Figure 5. All students participated actively in the robotic car competition at the end of the course.

Figure 5. All students participated actively in the robotic car competition at the end of the course.