John Blankenship

John's Articles

Hobby Robotics — It’s Really About Sensors and Programming

November 2016, Page 50

Hobbyists new to robotics don’t always understand the need for sensors, and why programming skills are essential for obtaining and utilizing sensor data.

Imitation Al

October 2016, Page 32

The goal of most robot hobbyists is to create a robot capable of doing something that demonstrates some degree of intelligence. Sometimes though, a robot just needs to look intelligent.

Sensing Orientation

July 2016, Page 43

Understand how sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes work when building balancing robots.

A Neural Network Controlled Robot Without Backpropagation

April 2016, Page 48

Explore ways of letting a robot learn by applying techniques used by animals.

Spain’s Robot Museum

December 2015, Page 36

If you ever find yourself in Madrid, Spain, you’ll want to be sure this attraction is on your bucket list

Perimeter Sensing Options

November 2015, Page 60

Understanding the limitations and advantages of various choices of perimeter sensing can help improve the functionality of your robot.

The Robot You’ve Always Wanted - Part 4
April 2015, Page 38

In this final installment, see how Arlo’s arms and turret can be controlled through a second instance of RobotBASIC running in the background to truly make this the robot of your dreams.

The Robot You’ve Always Wanted

March 2015, Page 32

Part 3 explains how to program navigation behaviors, so your robot can make it from Point A to Point B without crashing.

The Robot You’ve Always Wanted

February 2015, Page 24

Part 2 discusses the electronics required to control the motors and communicate with sensors.

The Robot You’ve Always Wanted

January 2015, Page 44

Would you prefer a robot with some human-like features and capabilities? Well, this new series will show you how to build the robot you’ve always wanted at a price you can afford. We’ll begin with the physical construction.

Mechanical Modularity

December 2014, Page 38

Modular assemblies are making it easier than ever to construct robots.

Teaching a Robot to Play Catch With Minimal Mathematics

August 2014, Page 38

Discover an alternate method for teaching a robot to predict the flight path of a ball.

Windows 8 Tablets: The Ultimate Robot Controller — Part 4
March 2014, Page 48

In this final installment, bestow some personality to your tablet-controlled robot by giving it a voice.

Windows 8 Tablets: The Ultimate Robot Controller — Part 3
February 2014, Page 58

This time, explore programming a robot to navigate to a general destination using GPS and compass readings, and then once there, use images from the tablet’s camera to find an object of a specific color.

Windows 8 Tablets: The Ultimate Robot Controller — Part 2

January 2014, Page 68

Learn how to integrate the tablet’s sensors by first using it as a steering wheel, then taking advantage of the tablet’s compass to maintain a robot’s heading.

Windows 8 Tablets: The Ultimate Robot Controller — Part 1
December 2013, Page 58

Most hobby robots are powered by small microcontrollers with limited capabilities. Could using a tablet instead with all its available features be the best way to rock your robot’s world?

Experimenting With Machine Intelligence

October 2013, Page 42

Explore some unconventional ways of creating robots that can learn to solve problems on their own.

Robotic Sensors - Part 2
April 2013, Page 46

Part 2: Their Use With Robotic Arms. Using the principles of identification discussed last month, we’ll have our mobile robot find and retrieve objects with an arm and gripper.

Robotic Sensors

March 2013, Page 58

By giving your robot just a rudimentary ability to identify objects, you can increase its ability to cope with more complex situations.

Power Beyond the Shield

December 2012, Page 38

If you are willing to accept a few limitations, there are expansion options that can provide both convenience and power beyond what standard Arduino shields offer.

A Robot Operating System On a Chip

September 2012, Page 60

Building a robot from scratch can be a daunting task for both beginning and advanced hobbyists. The newly available RobotBASIC ROS on a Chip makes the whole process easier and faster by providing a physical interface from simulations to the real deal.

Virtual Sensors — Part 2
August 2012, Page 67

Last time, we looked at how virtual sensor techniques work. This time, we do the same for virtual motor interfaces.

Virtual Sensors — Part 1

July 2012, Page 54

In order for your robot to perform properly, it needs as much sensory data as possible. Unfortunately, physically increasing the number of sensors on your bot has potential problems. So, go virtual before completing your design.

Experimenting With Unconventional Wheels

December 2011, Page 41

Put a new spin on your robot base with omni or mecanum style wheels.

Adding Vision: Interfacing With RoboRealm

July 2011, Page 56

For many hobbyists, giving their robot the gift of sight is one of their ultimate goals. RoboRealm is an application that can make adding vision painless by providing easy-to-use modules.

Programming the LEGO NXT: An Alternative Approach Suitable For Developing Tomorrow’s Engineers

June 2011, Page 60

LEGO makes building robots easier, and now programming a LEGO NXT can be just as easy. Learn about the open-source LegoLibrary.bas.

Intelligent Vacuum leaner Systems

February 2011, Page 37

Explore advanced behaviors in robotic commercial products through simulation.

A New Paradigm in Hobby Robotics

January 2011, Page 44

Many industries successfully use the “simulate then deploy” principle. Apply it to your next robot build and you’ll soon see the advantages to this technique.

Propelled by the Propeller Chip

December 2010, Page 70

This article is an excellent demonstration for how the parallel processing abilities of the Propeller chip from Parallax can be utilized in conjunction with RobotBASIC to achieve robotics projects that involve diverse and multifaceted elements that require simultaneous use of numerous microcontrollers along with a PC.

Show Your Robot How To Walk This Way
November 2009, Page 38

This realistic simulator lets you experiment with walking algorithms without destroying your bot in the process.

A Virtual Laboratory

June 2009, Page 47

Simulate mechanical systems to streamline the designing process.

A More Versatile Robotic Controller Using RobotBASIC

March 2008, Page 58

Today’s hobbyists can purchase robotic platforms with a wide variety of electronic sensors, mechanical actuators, and programmable microcontrollers. This means that constructing a powerful robot is within the capacity of almost everyone, even those with a minimal background in electronics. This availability of hardware is progressively forcing robot enthusiasts to change their focus from building robots to programming robots. As this emphasis on software grows, the number of people interested...

A Robotic Puppet

November 2008, Page 36

My interest in robotics has always been very diversified and I too have always been fascinated with the idea of creating the illusion of life. Perhaps that was a motivating factor that pushed me towards another of my hobbies — ventriloquism. It occurred to me that the techniques used in puppet construction might be of interest to many hobbyists interested in animatronics. A typical ventriloquist puppet is carved from wood or molded from some form of composite material such as plastic wood...

Prototyping Autonomous Robots

January 2009, Page 38

Building an autonomous robot is a goal of many robot enthusiasts. If you look up autonomous in the dictionary, you will see terms like “self directed” and “self sufficient.” If you apply the first term to a robot, it simply means that the robot is capable of accomplishing a task without human intervention. The second term suggests a deeper commitment. A self sufficient robot might be one that is capable of repairing itself, or at the very least, capable of recharging its own battery so that...

A Practical Quadrature Encoder
February 2009, Page 59

Building projects involving electronics and robotics is much easier today than in the past because many of the commonly needed subsystems are available as ready-to-use modules (we will call them HMs [helper modules]). For example, there are HMs for controlling nearly any type of motor (DC, stepper, servo) and HMs to collect environmental data (humidity, temperature, distance to objects). You can find switching power supplies, battery chargers, Bluetooth modems, and dozens more just by looking...

Robot Vision for Everyone
April 2009, Page 42

If you have ever tried to add vision to one of your robotic projects, you probably appreciate why you seldom see articles exploring the subject at the hobbyist level. The ability to experiment with vision — especially in the past — has generally only been accessible to university researchers or the rare hobbyists with advanced tools and capabilities...

Robotic Arm Fundamentals

May 2009, Page 40

Programming a robotic arm is very different from programming a mobile robot. This article will examine some fundamental requirements and principles associated with this unique task. Furthermore, it will provide a 3D robot arm simulation that can be programmed just like a real world arm so that you can experiment with the concepts discussed here without the time and expense of a physical arm...