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Dorchester Science Festival 2023

A team from Sidmouth Science Festival went to Dorchester to help them out on Sunday 12th March.
The penalty shootout was very popular, with dads as well as kids

Dad helping son with penalty shootout

This is actually two systems. The shooter is a robot car with a servo to operate the footballer. This is controlled by a radio remote control transmitter but it is a real robot because it does some autonomous things (such as not driving off the table no matter what the operator does) The goalie is just a servo to move the footballer back and forth. Is this a robot? The knob controlling the movement is interpreted by the Raspberry Pico so that you can't overstress the servo or go outside programmed limits, but it doesn't really think enough to be classed as a robot

The penalty shootout robot pair


The latest LegoBot is TOW TRUCK. This is another Pico-based robot using the Kitronik motor and servo board. It has 4 wheel drive and a quite powerful arm servo. Distance measurement is done with the trusty old HC-SR04. Power is from 4 rechargeable AA batteries. The superstructure is mostly standard Lego but the servo bracket is a 3D printed Lego-compatible. The robot first scans taking distance measurements. It then works out the angle of the nearest object (hopefully its trailer) then spins to that angle, goes the measured distance, picks up the trailer and tows it a short distance.


This LegoBot is DOZER. This is a Pico-based robot using the Kitronik motor and servo board. It has 4 wheel drive and a quite powerful arm servo. Distance measurement is done with the trusty old HC-SR04. Power is from 4 rechargeable AA batteries. The superstructure is mostly standard Lego but the servo brackets are 3D printed Lego-compatibles.

Robot Workshop 2022

A Great Success!

Nearly 200 visitors enjoyed a huge range of robot-related activities and demonstrations.
Robot Workshop 2022. Ian Woodbridge
Robot Workshop 2022. John Flanagan
Robot Workshop 2022. Richard Thurlow
Robot Workshop 2022. TONKER
Robot Workshop 2022. Simon Tytherleigh


The new TONKER beer delivery robot is beginning to take shape. Now with posh lighting.

3D Strength

So how strong are 3D prints anyway? I am making a few Ukraine Solidarity Belts with 3D printed buckles (made in PETG)

Robot Workshop 2021

Kennaway House, Cellar Bar, Sidmouth,
Saturday 16th October 2021

The workshop was a great success. Over a hundred people came through the door. Some of them came for 5 minutes and stayed for 2 hours! Robot Workshop 2021
The Mercy Dash, run by Team PiDrogen attracted a lot of attention, and competition.

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Latest video of the Mercy Dash container lifter


This is what the controllers screen looks like during a run. Apart from putting the name in it is all automatic

but there will also be some old favourites like PANDA and AMANDA


How much can a robot arm reliably lift?


This robot is now upgraded with AX12A serial servos:


This robot has been through a few incarnations, including the infamous balloon-controlled version of 2017, but has now been re-implemented on the same chassis, but in 3D printed modules instead of Lego. It is now much more robust, as befits an outdoor robot.
It still does the same job, however, which is to wander around Sidmouth Science Festival or other events enticing people to Come And See The Robots. It now has better quotes and a tilt sensor as well as the usual ultrasonics and IRs. This makes it less likely to destroy itself and less likely to cause damage.

The Strong Arm

Some of my robots have arms, e.g. Panda and Connect4, but being Lego, or glued acrylic, they can be a bit wobbly, so I am working on a 3D printed arm which, when the design settles, I can print in carbon fibre for maximum rigidity.
The arm uses the wonderful Lewansoul servos, which have an idler opposite the driven shaft, for an even drive. It uses a proper bearing for rotation, and, unlike most arms, has the rotating servo alongside the base rather than underneath. This means that I could change the gear ratio without too much trouble, or substitute a stepper motor if I wanted a huge swing.
The whole thing is powered off a Tamiya-style nominal 7.4 volt battery via two power supplies: one at 5.1 volts for the Pi and the IR sensors, and one at 6.1 volts for the servos. The 6.1 volt supply is on a relay, so you can switch it on without it going berserk, even if you have yet to set up the servos.
It has my standard control panel with a couple of buttons, a few switches, and a couple of LEDs. This controls a couple of canned demos.
Eventually, when rigid enough to have predictable movements, it will be the basis for a new version of PABLOBOT, the drawing robot.


The PPE project is over, as supply seems to have caught up with demand, so it's time to get back to robotics, and maybe do a bit of maintenance on those tired printers!


Most robots travel on wheels, but you can use legs. MILLIE is a prototype millipede (one segment anyway). It is built out of Lego, which is still the fastest prototyping system around

Sidmouth Science Festival 2019

Sidmouth Science Festival 2019
The Connect 4 robot attracted a lot of attention and even won one of its games! This hard-working machine is really three robots. One plays the game; one provides the player with counters on an elevator; one sorts out the red and yellow counters. They all communicate via a database and GPIO. It is a bit temperamental but fascinating to watch.

Connect 4

PANDA is an old favourite. This year's model now has a camera to help it to find the bomb. This uses the Canny edge-detect algorithm to find the bomb's checkerboard pattern.


Connect 4

At last the mark I of the connect 4 playing robot is complete. There is lots more to do, but you can get the general idea now.


Not really part of the Connect 4 project,a little side venture into rotating arms. Is it Art?

Sidmouth Science Festival 2018

There is always a lot of interest in robots at the Science Festival. This year it ran from Thursday 27 September to Sunday 14 October 2018 inclusive. Check it out HERE (opens in a new window)

Sidmouth Science Festival 2018
PANDA is a favourite. He picks up a toy bomb and drops it into a bucket of water

BERTIE runs round a maze

As you can see, you can make some pretty amazing robots with Lego, a Raspberry Pi, and a bit of imagination

Robots In Action ...


is a camera crab. He can make time-lapse films by moving a little bit sideways between shots


solves a maze (with help from the cat)


cleans up that desktop


MEERBOT looks before it leaps


AMANDA. The Advanced Measuring And Novelty Dancing Automaton


BROOMBA. The Cinderella of Robots


PANDA. The Pyrotechnics And Nasties Disposal Automaton

Helipad Dozer

Helipad Dozer

Sense. Think. Act.

What is a ROBOT?

Is this a robot?

NO. It senses the door opening, and acts on that by turning on a light, but it doesn't think.

Sense. Think. Act.

Is this a robot?

NO. It can certainly think, but it doesn't really sense or act.

Sense. Think. Act.

Is this a robot?

Toy Robot
NO. It looks like a robot, and it certainly acts, but it doesn't sense or think

Sense. Think. Act.

Is this a robot?

Helipad Dozer
YES. It's just a LEGO model, but it senses the world around it through the bumpers at front and rear; it thinks about what to do inside its Mindstorms brick, and it acts by moving around and bulldozing things out of the way. It is a robot. You can see it in action here:


The word 'robot' was first used in its modern sense in a 1921 play R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) by the Czech writer, Karel Capek.
Not a lot of people know that.

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