Books

Junkbots, Bugbots, & Bots on Wheels

Posted 14 Mar 2003 at 15:22 UTC by steve Share This

We currently have a backlog of robotics and AI books sent by various publishers and, starting today, we hope to publish a new book review every week or two. Our first, presented here, is a review by Stephen Weis of Junkbots, Bugbots, & Bots on Wheels , a recent book by Dave Hrynkiw and Mark W. Tilden. It's full of great homebrew robot building info on everything from dumpster diving to H-Bridges. Read on!
Review by Stephen Weis

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Title: Junkbots, Bugbots, & Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots with BEAM Technology

Authors: Dave Hrynkiw and Mark W. Tilden

ISBN Number: 0-07-222601-3

Publisher McGraw-Hill Osborne Media

Number of pages: 374

List of chapters:
Preface by Mark Tilden
1. Welcome to the World of Simple Robotics!
2. BEAM Safety: Read This Before Building a Robot
3. Identifying Electronic Bits
4. Electronics Assembly Techniques
5. Tools and Mechanical Assembly Techniques
6. Dumpster Diving 101: How to Scavenge Robot Parts
7. Project 1: The Symet: An Introduction to Solar-Powered Robotics
8. Project 2: The Solaroller: BEAM-Style Drag Racing
9. Project 3: The Herbie Photovore
10. Project 4: The Bicore Headbot
11. Project 5: The BEAM Magbot Pendulum
12. Project 6: The BEAM Mini-Sumo Wrestling Edgebot
13. Project 7: The Basic 2-Motor Walker
14. Project 8: An Advanced BEAM Project: Building Intelligent Motor
Drivers (The ABc Bicore by Mark Tilden)
App. A. Resources for More BEAM Information
App. B. Materials and Techniques of BEAM Robotics
App. C. Technical Schematics

This is an excellent book that presents the fundamentals necessary to get started building simple, inexpensive robots. It will serve as an excellent source for beginners, those interested in teaching others, and also provides a few tricks for more experienced builders. The first six chapters provide the basic background necessary to gather the parts and equipment to get started building the robot projects described in the remaining eight chapters. The writing style is relaxed and friendly and encourages the reader to continue exploring the book and simple robotics.

The title is especially appropriate since the projects described can be built with "recycled" (junk) parts and the robots often look like small bugs. The BEAM in the subtitle is an acronym for Biology Electronics Aesthetics Mechanics. One of the reason many people are attracted to BEAM robots is their simplicity. BEAM robots typically employ simple, usually analog, electronics instead of a digital microcontroller brain.

After beginning with a brief introduction to the BEAM philosophy, the authors include a short but very important safety chapter that outlines some precautions that dumpster-diving part grubbers should heed. Appropriate pictures make chapters 3 through 5 read easily - the basics of robot parts and assembly techniques. Chapter 6 provides several examples of places to get free robot parts. This is an excellent chapter and a very important one for those on a fixed budget (like teachers).

The seven project chapters (chapters 7 - 13) are outstanding. Each of them begins with a picture of a completed bot and a parts list. The basic principles behind the operation of that particular bot are then explained. This is followed by detailed assembly instructions with excellent photos of the project at different stages of assembly. Each project chapter concludes with a section on troubleshooting.

The last chapter describes a minimalist, unpredictable H-bridge that looks like fun.

This book is an outstanding introduction to simple robots because it encourages and enables the reader to learn by doing. It also has much to offer those that choose to outfit their robot projects with microcontroller brains - many of the techniques and tricks described in the project chapters can be used to "offload" some of the mundane tasks from the microcontroller making it more efficient and a bit "smarter".

This is an excellent book that will enable beginners, BEAM enthusiasts, and traditional roboticists to learn more about simple robots and have fun doing it. It is well worth the price.


Darn Tootin'!!, posted 15 Mar 2003 at 06:56 UTC by hockeyrink » (Master)

Ummm... Ok, I'll admit I'm a little biased, but we definitely tried to pack this volume with some useful information. We've even got a support website at junkbots.solarbotics.com. There was some printing glitches, a few minor errors, and a few typos, all of which that are on the support website.

We hope you all like the book!

BEAM, posted 15 Mar 2003 at 08:51 UTC by motters » (Master)

Sounds like a good read. I'm a big fan of BEAM robots and built some of my own years ago when Dave Hokeyrink first started his site. For me BEAM robots were a good way to learn the basics of robotics in a fun and inexpensive way. I made a few solarrollers and photovores of various kinds which inhabited my bedroom window and would buzz and crawl their way around when the sun came up.

My later robots such as Boddut and Rodney are direct descendents from some of those early days of tinkering about with solarengine circuits.

It's a popular book at the DPRG, posted 16 Mar 2003 at 20:08 UTC by steve » (Master)

We received two copies of the book from the publisher along with a load of other robot-related books (reviews forthcoming). I've worked out a deal with the local Dallas Personal Robotics Group so that I donate any review copies of books we receive to their library in exchange for members writing reviews. The Junkbots book is by far the most popular of the initial group of books with three different members requesting to review it and everyone who looked at it agreeing it was the best of the bunch. Both copies have been in members hands since they got the books - I suspect this is one that won't spend much time sitting the library waiting for people to borrow it.

I'm on page 173, and should finish today!, posted 17 Mar 2003 at 15:24 UTC by jeffkoenig » (Master)

I've got one of the DPRG's books. I really enjoy it, and hope to write a comprehensive review.

It's very nicely written, and I like the humor. Normally, I skip chapters having to do with basic skills like soldering or reading a resistor's color code, but this book explains them in such a fun, refreshing manner that I've read every page. Even the section on lab safety was fun to read and informative!

The circuits are explained very well, and this would be a great book to give to an aspiring roboteer. The software-less aspect of these robots is sure to make for a quick project, and instant gratification is an extreme rarity in the hobby of robotics.

I've caught a few typos, but nothing serious. I'll be sure to look at the addendum website, now that I know it exists.

Thanks Dave, for a really well-written, informative, and complete book!

-Jeff Koenig, President, Dallas Personal Robotics Group

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