Building the Robot
The hardware for the MIT SEG has been redesigned from the ground up to simplify fabrication and assembly, improve reliability, and lower costs.
Electrical design: The electronics subsystem is now designed around the Arduino platform. It therefore comes with an extensive and well developed community backing, promoting extracurricular exploration and interaction. It uses cheap and easily obtainable standardized hobbyist components.
Mechanical design: The kit contains all the components necessary for the complete robot. No tools are required to assemble the cut-and-fold origami inspired design, which has been redesigned to be simpler and more intuitive.
Electromechanical integration: The electrical components of the robot press-fit into the mechanical structure in a manner similar to breadboard prototyping. This creates a robust robotic system without the need for adhesives or solder.
Extensibility: The electrical and mechanical subsystems are co-designed using a component-based hardware compiler. This platform enables extensive customizability, allowing additional sensors and actuators up through components and mechanisms. The Arduino-based ecosystem includes add-ons such as Bluetooth communication, which allows for featureful interfaces to personal computing devices such as phones and laptop computers.
A kit can contain all the necessary components to make 4 fully functioning SEG robots for just over $20 per robot. Optional accessories such as additional sensors, actuators, and communications modules can be added for additional cost. A lower cost solution is also possible by omitting the breakout board entirely in favor of wire-wrap connected headers, saving ~$2.50 per robot.
The image at the left shows the complete kit of parts. The design files for the Arduino breakout board can be found in the attachments below, along with the drawings to generate the cut-and-fold robot body from an A3 sheet of plastic.
Assembly of the custom breakout board and servo modifications can be carried out by the kit supplier, thereby eliminating the need for any construction tools at all on the part of the students. Robots can then be entirely assembled by hand using tab-in-slot attachments for the mechanical connections and pin-in-socket attachments for the electrical connections.
At a classroom level, a programmer ($15) and battery charger ($3.20) are also necessary to program and operate a robot. These can be shared between an entire classroom.
The MIT SEG can be assembled entirely by hand, with the following steps:
- Fold the chassis. The main body of the robot consists primarily of three beams containing the two servos and the Arduino core. The plastic film is folded around the electromechanical components and fastened with tabs and slots.
- Fold the wheels. Two identical wheels are folded from the cut plastic in a similar fashion to the chassis, and sealed with tabs and slots.
- Attach the wheels. Servo horns are threaded into slots in the wheels and then press-fitted onto the servo output shafts
- Connect the electronics. With the battery, servos, and sensors plugged into the breakout board, the breakout board can be connected to the exposed pins of the Arduino, completing the electromechanical fabrication.
- Learn, program, and run!