The BallBot1 Robot Project ...




Introduction: The BallBot1 Robot Project ...

About: Educator - Home Hobby Robot, Educational Toys, 3D model Designer, Songwriter, Ikarus AeroFly RC7, Commercial/Instrument Pilot


I was teaching over 100 small children about robotics for National Robotics Week last year at the Oceanside Boys & Girls Club;

Then from watching the children really learning I realized that I could build them a little robot to play with;

Step 1: The BallBot1 Robot Is Born ...

After I saw that the children loved my little CanBot1 robot and they wanted to take one home ... but I couldn't sell them because it was a bunch of loose parts so I began exploring how to make the CanBot1 into a product using SolidWorks for 3D Modeling & Designing;

The BallBot1 was born;

Step 2: Exploring Other Body Designs ...

Then as I wanted to build some pre-production prototypes I made a few more changes;

Step 3: Accessible Mods ...

Now I can fit the Serial HomeWork Board into the robot along with a few LEDs, a laser, a photo sensor and two piezo speakers.  The real secret to the product is the super smart program that creates a small 15-word language for users to communicate back 'n forth with the robot.

Step 4: Begin Printing ...

Now it's time to start printing robot parts!  So I got a 3D Touch printer from BitsFromBytes;

Step 5: Print Quality Less Than Desired ...

The printer has two heads ...  one for PLA raft & support material and another head for ABS printing plastic for my robot body parts;

Step 6: Another Printer ...

I'm not liking the quality of these parts ... they're good enough for prototyping and finding better ways to design the product, but not quite good enough for me to build and sell a consumer product ... my BallBot1P robot.  So now I've begun exploring other 3D Plastic printers starting with the Z-Corp. Z250 color printer;

Step 7: Prettier Results ...

Now I'm getting very pretty results!

And I'm seeing my designs from a new angle;

Step 8: ABS Plastic Is Maybe Better for Consumer Products ... Where's the Colors?

I like the idea of making products with ABS plastic ... it's strong and safe for small children ... but I want to print in a few colors ... White, Blue and Orange ... those are my primary BallBot1 robot colors ... but I also want to print in other colors too ... like purple, yellow and green for my HelmutHead1 robot;

Step 9: Hand Painting Is for Naught!

... maybe add up to 5-colors on one robot like my BlockHead1 robot;

and as you can see I'm not very good at hand-painting in the features;

Step 10: How to Create a 3D Model Using SolidWorks ...

Okay, by now you must be frustrated and want to ask; "How do I get started designing or 3D Modeling with SolidWorks?"  SolidWorks is extremely easy to use ... all you have to do is learn the tools by playing with them after maybe a 10-minute lesson on how to get started. 

Here's a quicky lesson;
File - New - Part
Sketch Tab - Sketch - Select any Plane
Select a basic tool like the circle ... then select the red triad origin in the middle of the screen
1-Click the mouse changes - move the mouse away from the center and see your circle grow ... click to stop growing.
Now hit the ESC key to exit the tool.
Now select the Smart Dimension tool next to Sketch ... click on the outer edge of the circle and move the mouse around and pick a style size label and click again.
Type in the diameter of the circle you want and hit ENTER
Now select the solid straight line tool ... moving your mouse near the bottom of the circle you will see the mid-point highlight ... click on that then drag your mouse to the top mid-point of the circle and click again ... then hit ESC to exit the tool.
Now click on the Trim Entities tool ... using the left mouse button held down drag it over the left half of the circle but DO NOT cross the vertical middle line ... then let go of the mouse.  You have now made a half-circle.  Hit ESC to exit the Trim Tool.
Click on Exit Sketch in the upper left corner. 
Click on the Features TAB
Click on the second tool "Revolved Boss/Base"
Now click on the vertical bar in your half-circle sketch and see it turn into a ball.
Click on the GREEN check mark either in the upper left or the upper right of the screen to exit the tool and see your 3D Solid Model of a Ball.
Click on Front in the left column ... then the little arrow pointing Up and see you are now looking at the front of the ball. 
Okay, now you know how to make solids ... next task is to cut using sketches and tools ... that's all there is to learning SolidWorks for 3D Modeling. 
The hardest part is coming up with things to sketch for practice ... What I did to learn is take a walk outside ... whenever I see a little plastic or metal thing on the ground I pick it up, take it home, measure and sketch the object in SolidWorks until I've essentially become a SolidWorksMagi. 

Just think of it as clay ... you add and subtract clay until you get the shape you want.

Step 11: Back to the Contest ...

Now back to the contest!  I want to win because I know the more 3D Plastic printers I have to experiment with the more I can also share my knowledge and skills with other people ... hence my BallBot1 robot project!  It's not to build and sell kits, but to build and sell robots that help people learn.  As their learning progresses then they can "reverse kit" the robot ... with a few minor and very easy disassembles the user can take out one screw, remove a wheel and gain access to the computer I/O connection (Serial or USB) (perfect for programming lab classes) ... press on a small latch to release and turn the side of the robot to remove about 1/4 of the BallBot1P body to gain access to the Parallax HomeWork Board breadboard for adding or subtracting electronics in the robot (perfect for electronics lab classes) ... by removing the other wheel the user can use the basic robot body and motors to control other mechanical designs they decide to plug onto the robot for experimentation (mechanical engineering lab classes) ... such as adding levers to either amplify or dampen the rotational motion of the BallBot1P robot wheels.

Step 12: WrapUp ...

Yes, the robot is intended to be given to a 2-year old ... it's intended for the parents to work with their young one teaching them the simple 15-word language ... then just let them go play, show off to their friends etc.  Then when they start to get bored the parents can give them challenges to master with their BallBot1 robot ... eye/hand coordination challenges ... numbers, counting and arithmetic challenges or even musical challenges. 

By the time the child is in high school they have a strong S.T.E.M. foundation and can move forward in programming classes, digital electronics classes ... by college they're well ahead of the kids that never got to play with a BallBot1 robot.

I just want to get it into production now so I can prototype more and more of the different robot designs I've been working on ...

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