Scott, Geraldine and Vanessa Begin Testing Electro-Flora

posted Apr 17, 2010, 5:07 PM by Karl Wendt

Electro-Flora Motor Controllers

Electro-Flora Servos

Electro-Flora LEDs

Our final design of the “Light Robots” is somewhat basic, while appealing to aesthetics. In order for our robots to move, we have decided on a three-wheel system for every robot. Two rear wheels each be connected to a servo, or small motor. In the front of each robot, there will be a sphere suspended by a lose axel. The front sphere, acting as a wheel, will receive no electrical current, and is designed to increase each robot’s turning radius.

Motors and wheels will be connected to metal frame. Our frames will have to be custom built and designed, because they connect our electronics to the actual mechanics. We need to be able to design our metal frames so that wires can easily be run through. The frames will carry a lot of weight, and need to be built out of a sturdy material, most likely some sort of metal. On top of each frame will be our Arduinos, or motor controllers.  This will include a breadboard that can house all of our wires, and be able to house several different types of sensors.

The front of each robot will have multiple sensors. Bump sensors will be installed to signal contact made with foreign object. We will be able to program each robot to either reverse its course upon making contact, or move around the roadblock with the help of proximity sensors. The same proximity sensors will be able to detect other robots in the same vicinity, allowing robots to be aware of one another. Photosensors will also be installed on the front of each robot enabling “conversation.” Conversations will take place when robots sense one another, and relay a message through the use of light. Either LEDs or small lasers will send the light signal. Each photosensor will be placed so that when the robots are facing one another, the lights they use to “speak” and the sensors the use to “listen” will emulate human social interactions.

Each sensor will be wired to the breadboard that rests on the frame. On top of the breadboard will be another panel of the frame. On top of the top panel of the frame will be the majority of our aesthetics. Each robot will have a light design-structure that resembles a flower. Each “flower” will be composed of 3 petals. “Flowers” will be able to shift between a “bud” mode and a “bloom” mode. In the Bud mode, petals will be closed, displaying only exterior LEDs mounted along the outsides of each petal. We plan to use a transparent material for each flower structure, so an audience can see both the lights and the mechanics that make them function. When in Bloom mode, the every petal of each flower will open, exposing one central bulb.

The mechanics of how each flower will open and close is a current obstacle. Our group has devised a mechanism that uses simple principles of engineering to retract sections of the petals. We have run a wire up through petal, and cut each petal into horizontal panels. The petals can then bend like hinge joints when the wire is pulled. Our group is interested in using an actual electrical wire to be run up each petal. This would consolidate two problems: running a current to power the lights, and connecting each panel together. This will allow each petal to bend, so that when they close, each flower seals away the light from the bulb inside.

The complexity of our project lies in functions rather than structure. Each microcontroller of our robots will have a set of behaviors preprogrammed. When robots come into contact with one another, the behavior they execute will determine a set of responses from other robots within certain proximities. The variance of responses from the robots could be determined based on factors such as light-intensity, distance from, previous actions, etc. Once we begin programming, there will be numerous possibilities to extend “conversational” levels between robots.

Actual responses and behaviors of the Light Bots will be for aesthetics. It is assumed that we will operate our robots in the dark, so that light signals and radiance is amplified. During an interaction, robots will move in a synchronized pattern, such as a spiral or line. A bi-product of our work in robot social networking will be a home-made light show.-Scott Linquist

For more information please see Electro-Flora's website