From LEGOS to Rough Terrian to Deep Space

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We really enjoy prototyping new concepts and ideas with LEGO Mindstorms. It’s fast, easy, and keeps us from investing a lot of time and effort in a lame-brained idea (yes, we do have plenty of them,  we just don’t talk about them . . .). So, it’s always great to see other robot experimenters taking the same approach – like Chris Schur’s SkidBot and GeoBot-1.


Chris and Dawn Schur hang out in Northern Arizona where they have taken some unbelievably striking astronomy photos (see links below) and built some amazing robots and robotic devices.

The latest project they’ve shared on their website is the GeoBot-1, intended to be an autonomous tracked robot capable of finding its way across really rugged terrain, collect samples, and then bring them back home.

Most robot designs do reasonably well moving around your living room or lab, but get into trouble pretty quickly when they encounter the harsh world outside. For their robot to successfully accomplish its missions, it will have to be able to move across really rocky ground, and deal with a wide range of obstacles.

Typical bumper designs do fine when the obstacles are relatively simple – a wall, or table edge for example. But what about gravel, small stones, or even large uneven boulders with rough surfaces? Or, how do you design a bumper that’s capable of dealing with more challenging obstacles like weeds or brush that might be invisible to sonar but could easily entrap your robot?

They came up with an interesting dual plunger design, prototyped it with a LEGO Mindstorms robot named ‘SkidBot’, and after they were satisfied with the testing, incorporated it into the GeoBot-1 design. They also included some interesting insights on the GeoBot and SkidBot webpages, like:

“Its best to remember that you build the bumper first - THEN instrument it with switches. This way you don't get into the mind set of the switches dictating the bumpers design, which is usually doomed to failure.”

Did it work?

You bet! Take a look at the photos on their GeoBot website, and be sure to view the video clip of GeoBot-1 trudging through the wild and having a close encounter of the robotic kind.  

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 A few of their fantastic robotic creations

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  Who knows what hostile creatures
  GeoBot-1 might encounter in the wild. . .

Related links:

SkidBot

GeoBot-1

Deep Space Astrophotography – Chris and Dawn Schur’s fantastic astronomy photos

Their "Robotics and Artificial Lifeforms" website

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