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How to Make a Robot – 3 Key Ingredients

Robot kits come in all different shapes and sizes; some are remote controlled, others are controlled by a computer program. But what really goes into making a robot?

In every robot, you’ll notice three consistent things. The first is the ability to move. This movement is generated most commonly by electric motors, but it could also be hydraulics (like a tractor backhoe), pneumatic (like the air gun Nascar pit crew use to pull the wheel off a car) or even muscle wires where you apply an electrical charge and the wires get shorter.

The second thing you need is sensing. This could be as simple as a switch that gets bumped to tell the robot to turn or as complex as a 3D laser scanner! More and more things in our world are becoming “robotic” in this way. For example, some cars have sensors in on the rear bumper that will stop the car if there’s something in the way, even if the driver doesn’t see it. The car is becoming more and more aware the the world around it.

NASCAR pit crews use pneumatic robotics to quickly change tires

And finally, the last part is intelligence. Doesn’t matter how many ways the robot can move or how many ways it can sense the world if it doesn’t know how to interpret that information. Usually a computer program is created to interpret the data and respond accordingly. Remote control of robots is kind of similar to this, but instead of a computer being the brain, you are! You’re eyes are the sensors and you control the way the robot moves using the remote control.

Students use C++ to program robots