John Blankenship

John's Articles

The Future of Hobby Robotics
April 2022
Hobby robotics is not ready to die off just yet.

Robotics: How to Get Started — Part 8: Using Behaviors to Build Applications
March 2022
See how easy it is to build applications when prebuilt behaviors are available.

Robot Control for the Blind
March 2022
Envision using remote controlled robots in a new way.

Robotics: How to Get Started — Part 7: Reusable Behaviors
February 2022
The modules discussed here can handle a variety of situations.

Robotics: How to Get Started — Part 6: Logical and Bit-Wise Operators
January 2022
Learn how to properly use logical and bit-wise operators with sensors.

Robotics: How to Get Started — Part 5: Real Robots
June 2020
Use algorithms developed with a simulator to control real robots.

Robotics: How to Get Started — Part 4: Robotic Behaviors
May 2020
Create behaviors that can allow your robot to navigate autonomously.

Is LiDAR in Your Robot’s Future — Part 3
April 2020
Transition the simulation-tested ideas discussed in the last article to real LiDAR hardware.

Robotics: How to Get Started — Part 3
April 2020
Develop a complete program that can direct a robot to achieve a specific goal.

Is LiDAR in Your Robot’s Future — Part 2
March 2020
Experiment with some unique ways of using LiDAR data for simple navigation.

Robotics: How to Get Started — Part 2
March 2020
If you want a robot that can interact appropriately with its environment, you need significant programming skills.

Is LiDAR in Your Robot’s Future?
February 2020
LiDAR is finally becoming an affordable replacement for sensors.

Robotics: How to Get Started — Part 1
February 2020
This beginner’s series on robotics will help you: understand the different options available; organize your choices; and succeed at your robotics goals.

Experimenting with Walking Robots — Walking Up and Down Hills
January 2020
Create a robot that can navigate inclines as easily as level terrain.

Robot Vision for Everyone
June 2019
HuskeyLens provides vision capabilities many hobbyists have only dreamed of having.

Experimenting with Walking Robots — Maintaining Balance
June 2019
Various ways for a two-legged robot to maintain its balance.

Introducing Children to Robotics and Programming
May 2019
Examine some ways of making robotics exciting for children.

Experimenting with Walking Robots — A Humanoid Platform
May 2019
Examine one option for the hardware and sensor requirements for a two-legged walking robot.

Experimenting with Walking Robots — Autonomous Leveling
April 2019
Developing algorithms for leveling so our walking robots can stay upright.

Experimenting with Walking Robots
March 2019
Frame-based software can be somewhat limited. See what you can do to extend what your walking robot is capable of.

Balancing a Robot on a Ball
February 2019
Building a robot that balances on top of a ball is easier than you might think.

Developing Robotic Behaviors
February 2019
Using a simulator for developing and perfecting robot behavior.

3D Printing for Robotic Projects
January 2019
With the trend for lower 3D printer prices, it makes sense for robot hobbyists to consider ways of using 3D printing in their builds.

Controlling Robots Over the Internet
September 2018
Controlling a robot from a remote location is easier than you think.

An Inexpensive Ultrasonic Based Local Positioning System
May 2018
Explore a unique approach with interesting possibilities for helping robots determine their position.

Avoiding Obstacles while Following a Line with the Scribbler 3
February 2018
It’s easy to assume that a robot known for its ability to draw might not be worthy of conventional robotic projects.

RobotBASIC Robots for Beginners — Part 2: Adding Sensors
January 2018
Combine RobotBASIC and the RobotBASIC Robot Operating System (RROS) on a chip to get a jump on complex programming for your robot chassis.

RobotBASIC Robots for Beginners — Part 1
December 2017
RobotBASIC is a fun and powerful programming language that can really reduce your robot development time.

Simulating a Swarm
October 2017
Experimenting with swarm behavior in robots without breaking the bank.

Manipulating Cards with the Magician
May 2017
Teach the Magician robot arm how to stack a deck of cards.

The Dobot Magician
March 2017
If you've ever wanted a quality robot arm or a 3D printer, you should really consider the Dobot Magician. Its accuracy and easy-to-change end effectors give it multiple personalities that can easily satisfy a variety of needs.

December 2016
Discover some concepts to help you develop an internal self-testing program for your mechatron.

Hobby Robotics — It’s Really About Sensors and Programming
November 2016
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
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
Understand how sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes work when building balancing robots.

A Neural Network Controlled Robot Without Backpropagation
April 2016
Explore ways of letting a robot learn by applying techniques used by animals.

Spain’s Robot Museum
December 2015
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
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
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
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
Part 2 discusses the electronics required to control the motors and communicate with sensors.

The Robot You’ve Always Wanted
January 2015
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
Modular assemblies are making it easier than ever to construct robots.

Teaching a Robot to Play Catch With Minimal Mathematics
August 2014
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
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
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
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
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
Explore some unconventional ways of creating robots that can learn to solve problems on their own.

Robotic Sensors - Part 2
April 2013
Part 2: Their Use with Robotic Arms.

Robotic Sensors
March 2013
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
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
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
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
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
Put a new spin on your robot base with omni or mecanum style wheels.

Adding Vision: Interfacing With RoboRealm
July 2011
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
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
Explore advanced behaviors in robotic commercial products through simulation.

A New Paradigm in Hobby Robotics
January 2011
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
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
This realistic simulator lets you experiment with walking algorithms without destroying your bot in the process.

A Virtual Laboratory
June 2009
Simulate mechanical systems to streamline the designing process.

A More Versatile Robotic Controller Using RobotBASIC
March 2008
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
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
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
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...

Robotic Arm Fundamentals
May 2009
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...