Build An Obstacle-Dodging Bug Bot

In 1984, Italian neuroscientist Valentino Braitenberg published a book exploring how complex animal behaviors might arise from simple networks of nerves, sense organs, and muscles. That book, Vehicles, inspired a robotics movement now known as BEAM (Biology, Electronics, Aesthetics, Mechanics), which is dedicated to designing simple robots that do complex things. You can build your own BEAM robot with only four switches, two batteries, and two motors. Despite its simplicity, this basic, buglike robot can detect and avoid obstacles, shut down if lifted or flipped, and wake or sleep on command. Watch it in action in the video below.

https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4148te/

Stats

  • Time: 2 hours
  • Cost: $30
  • Difficulty: Medium to hard

Tools

Materials

  • 2 single-C battery boxes with leads
  • 2 6-32 T-nuts with matching screws
  • 2 small spring clips
  • 4 1⁄4 R bevel faucet washers
  • 2 4-40-by-1/8-inch machine screws with matching nuts and split washers
  • 1 snap-action roller switch with 1-inch arm
  • 1 DPDT slideswitch
  • 2 M3 × 10 mm F/F threaded standoffs with four matching screws
  • 2 snap-action lever switches with 1-inch arms
  • 2 No. 2-by-3/8-inch sheet-metal screws
  • 2 3 × AAA flashlight battery cylinders
  • 6 AAA batteries
  • 2 6-32 aluminum rivet nuts
  • 2 DC gear motors, 300 to 600 rpm
  • 2 large paper clips, straightened
  • 2 small female quick-connect lugs

Instructions

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This article was originally published in the May/June 2016 issue of Popular Science, under the title “An Obstacle-Dodging Bug Bot.”