Budget Robotics (Base on a Budget)

Sometimes building your own robot is easier said than done. It can be easy to visualize what we want but then to actually build it can be more difficult or in some cases seemingly impossible. Other times it is more a matter of not having a budget for the entire robot. Spare parts can be found in a number of places and different people have different interests in specific microcontrollers so I won’t focus on that in this article. Instead the focus here will be on getting a useable robot platform built on a minimal budget.

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Solder Pot Controller

In 2006 to be RoHS compliant Parallax Inc moved toward making all products lead-free including the BASIC Stamp Modules which they manufacture in-house. This required a new Lead-Free Solder Pot to dip the modules in. The new solder pot did not come with a temperature control. Instead I created a custom solder pot controller which keeps the temperature at a specified set point.

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Garage Parking Assistant

The Garage Parking Assistant makes it easy to pull in the garage by signaling you with a traffic light style display of when to pull in (GREEN), slow down (YELLOW) and stop (RED). If you pull too far ahead the Red LED blinks to let you know you need to back up a bit.

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M5 Stuart Tank R/C Conversion

Back in January of 2006 when the stores were clearing Christmas items, Ken Gracey of Parallax Inc picked up this tank for a mere $25.00 on clearance. Knowing that I was looking for a platform larger than a BoE-Bot to experiment on with some GPS and servo turret controls he dropped this beast on my desk.

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Binary / Digital Clock

This project is a unique timepiece combining a normal digital clock with a binary representation, allowing you to see time in both formats. This is especially useful to those who can't quite decipher the binary time. As a bonus an LCD displays the day, date and temperature.

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Parallax has an interesting kit called the M-Sorter. It really sorts M&M candies, and even Skittles. The device is incredible and ingenious in it's simplicity and design, in that the whole project runs with only 1 moving part! In fact, the only devices needed to make this project work are the TAOS TCS230 Color Sensor (Available from Parallax with the kit), and a standard hobby servo (included in the kit).

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Custom Serial LCD Backpack

When I first got into BASIC Stamps I was also introduced to the increasingly popular serial LCD since typical microcontrollers would lose too many pins controlling a parallel display. The Scott Edwards displays were the first recommendation and set me back $100.00, which was as much as I paid for the entire microcontroller kit I got to start.

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