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About this book

"I wrote this book because I love building robots. I want you to love building robots, too. It took me a while to learn about many of the tools and parts in amateur robotics. Perhaps by writing about my experiences, I can give you a head start."--David Cook

Robot Building for Beginners, Third Edition provides basic, practical knowledge on getting started in amateur robotics. There is a mix of content: from serious reference tables and descriptions to personal stories and humorous bits.

The robot described and built in this book is battery powered and about the size of a lunch box. It is autonomous; that is, it isn't remote controlled.

The book is broken up into small chapters, suitable for bedtime (or bathroom) reading.

The characteristics and purposes of each major component (resistor, transistor, wire, and motor) are described, followed by a hands-on experiment to demonstrate. Not only does this help the reader to understand a particular piece, but it also prepares them with processes to learn new parts on their own. An appendix offers an introduction to 3D printing and parts of the robot can, as an alternative, be "printed" using a 3D printer.

The master project of the book is a simple, entertaining, line-following robot.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Welcome Robot Inventor!

Abstract
You’ve chosen a stimulating and rewarding hobby. It’s more expensive than insect collecting, but less expensive than stock-car racing.
David Cook

Chapter 2. Where to Obtain Tools and Parts

Abstract
Lots of different parts and lots of different tools are needed to build high-quality robots.
David Cook

Chapter 3. Safety

Abstract
Building a robot is a sign of great intelligence. Retaining your health while doing so is a sign of greater intelligence.
David Cook

Chapter 4. Digital Multimeter

Abstract
We’re still covering basic prerequisites to building a robot, such as safety and where to buy parts. In this chapter, you’re going to learn about a vital piece of measurement equipment that every robot builder has by their side, the digital multimeter. Multimeter features are broken into groups: must-have, nice-to-have, and optional. The chapter concludes with an analysis of three multimeters.
David Cook

Chapter 5. Numbers and Units

Abstract
Here is the last building block before you’re introduced to the line-following robot. This chapter describes the numbering systems and abbreviations common in robotics. It’s important to get at least a basic sense for these things, although you can always turn back to this chapter later if you run across something you don’t understand.
David Cook

Chapter 6. Robot Line-Following

Abstract
It’s a rewarding project, because you can quickly lay out different courses, obstacles, and tunnels, and your robot immediately entertains you without any reprogramming.
David Cook

Chapter 7. Nine-Volt Batteries

Abstract
Sandwich, the line-following robot, uses a 9 V battery for power. In fact, most of my robots use 9 V batteries because the batteries are so small and lightweight.
David Cook

Chapter 8. Clips and Test Leads

Abstract
The components on Sandwich’s circuit board are permanently soldered together. You’ll learn about that later. But what do you do if you want to make a quick connection for a simple experiment? No, don’t use electrical tape. It’s too loose and sticky!
David Cook

Chapter 9. Resistors

Abstract
These resistors are so vital that Sandwich could not operate without them. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to identify, purchase, and test resistors. In later chapters, you’ll put resistors into use in the same way that they’re used on Sandwich.
David Cook

Chapter 10. LEDs

Abstract
In this chapter, you’re going to learn about LEDs. You’ll see how to select them, test them, and why no self-respecting robot would reject them.
David Cook

Chapter 11. Power On!

Building and Testing a Power Indicator Circuit
Abstract
Nearly all robots need a power indicator light. It’s a very simple circuit to build.
David Cook

Chapter 12. Solderless Prototyping

Abstract
Sandwich, the line-following robot, has a fairly simple circuit. Even so, at least 30 or 40 electrical connections need to be made. Consider what you have planned for your ultimate robot and you’ll see that alligator clips are not going to be sufficient. In this chapter, you’ll learn about a popular technology for experimenting.
David Cook

Chapter 13. Solderless Breadboard Setup

Abstract
You’ll install a battery, power switch, and an LED power indicator. You can use this basic setup over and over again for trying out robot circuits and modules.
David Cook

Chapter 14. Variable Resistors

Abstract
The brightness sensors and balancing dial at the front of Sandwich are variable resistors. In this chapter, you’ll learn about variable resistors and you’ll prototype the first portion of the line-following circuit. Along the way, you’ll run across techniques for simplifying schematics.
David Cook

Chapter 15. Comparators

Abstract
You’re in the midst of prototyping a line-following robot on a solderless breadboard. At this point, the breadboard has a power supply (9 V battery), a power switch, a power indicator (LED circuit), and two pairs of brightness sensors. It’s time to add some brains.
David Cook

Chapter 16. Transistor Switches

Abstract
When a chip pin provides current like the positive terminal of a battery, it is said to “source” current. When a chip pin receives current like the negative terminal of a battery, it is said to “sink” current. These terms are reminiscent of the water analogy, where water comes out of the source and then goes into the sink.
David Cook

Chapter 17. DC Motors

Abstract
Motion is one of the primary differentiators between a robot and a computer.
David Cook

Chapter 18. Adding Gearhead Motors

Abstract
In this chapter, we will select and install motors in the line-following robot circuit. You’ll also learn a little about diodes.
David Cook

Chapter 19. Wheels

Abstract
At this point, you have some wonderful motors that are only spinning themselves. In this chapter, you’ll be introduced to a variety of wheels and some criteria to aid you in selecting a pair of wheels for the line-following robot.
David Cook

Chapter 20. Coupler

Abstract
A coupler connects two things together. This chapter consists of step-by-step instructions for making a coupler that, in this case, connects the selected gearhead motor’s shaft to a LEGO cross axle. The general nature of this coupler is applicable even if you choose a different motor or a different type of wheel.
David Cook

Chapter 21. Soldering Equipment

Abstract
Soldering is the process of melting the solder onto the desired joints to connect the joint materials together both physically and electrically.
David Cook

Chapter 22. Soldering and Connecting

Abstract
This chapter covers soldering, with emphasis on soldering smaller pieces, like the motors and the line-following switch. This chapter also describes instances when it’s better to not solder certain wires together, but instead to use a connector.
David Cook

Chapter 23. The Motherboard

Abstract
Throughout the book, you’ve slowly been building and testing a line-following circuit on a solderless breadboard. That’s a good way of designing and proving a circuit, because there’s no reason to solder something together until it appears to be functional.
David Cook

Chapter 24. Body Building

Abstract
A robot’s body provides a framework to which you can attach various components and circuit boards. The body protects the robot’s innards against battering damage as well as environmental harm. The body can make a robot convenient to carry and straightforward to store. Often overlooked as a consideration, the robot’s body strikingly affects the way humans perceive the robot.
David Cook

Chapter 25. Launching the Line-Follower

Abstract
This chapter begins with last-minute checks followed by a qualifying run of your line-following robot. I provide you with simple tests for diagnosing and solving likely problems, and data to compare your robot to mine. The chapter concludes with line course ideas and potential robot enhancements.
David Cook

Chapter 26. Smoother, Smaller, Cheaper

Abstract
Sandwich uses a “preprogrammed” chip and large through-hole parts so that the circuitry is easy to learn and build. This chapter explores the benefits that can be achieved without such constraints.
David Cook

Chapter 27. Encore

Abstract
You’ve gained an understanding of the items and methods needed to get a good start at robot building. You’ve read schematics and hopefully experienced prototyping, soldering, and tweaking. Maybe you’ve even built your first robot.
David Cook

Appendix A. Appendix A

Abstract
This appendix contains notes and other items not covered in the main portion of the book. It begins with proper credit to Ohm’s law, which describes the interdependent relationship between voltage, current, and resistance. Then, I come clean about some of the mistakes I made during development, so that you can avoid them yourself. Finally, the appendix concludes with an explanation and listing of the various labels for positive and negative power.
David Cook

Appendix B. Appendix B

Abstract
This appendix covers printing Sandwich robot parts. A 3D printer is so essential to robotics that it will become as commonplace as the multimeter. The appendix begins with laying out a Lego cross-axle coupler in a CAD (computer-aided design) program. From there, several failures in creating a rubberized wheel are followed by a successful hybrid. Finally, the robot’s body connects everything together in a complete custom package.
David Cook
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