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We here at MAKE are thrilled to have teamed up with the fine folks at Jameco to bring you The Make: Robot Build. Over the next eight weeks, we’ll be featuring a series of tutorials here on the site about the basics of robot building, from overall design considerations to mechanical construction, electronics, and programming. The information in these tutorials and the build contest are designed so that anyone can participate, even if you don’t know anything about electronics or robots! On March 27, we’ll officially launch The Make: Robot Build contest, and over the ensuing weeks, each week, we’ll cover a different subsystem of robot construction (drive train, controllers, sensors, etc.) and help contestants in building these subsystems on their bot. Builders will post progress images to the MAKE Flickr pool and we have a topic set up in the MAKE Forums for discussing your project.

The Goal: Build a CoasterBot!
Coaster-Bot.gifThe goal of this series and the contest is to teach you how to build a simple robot and for you to learn all of the various aspects of design and the mechanical and electronic systems used in robots. Contestants will build “CoasterBots,” mini robot development platforms, made using CD/DVD media as the main body components (“coaster” being slang for a dead/damaged CD/DVD). Your goal is to create a CoasterBot that can navigate a space on its own, avoiding obstacles, and that is designed so that additional sensor systems (proximity, heat, light, sound, etc.) can be added “on top” of this obstacle-avoidance behavior. Contestants are free to use the CD/DVD media in any way they choose. Extra points will be given for creativity and innovation in the overall design.

We will have a two-week prep phase where we’ll post overview articles here about basic robot design and construction and to allow time for readers to start planning out their design and to gather needed parts and supplies. Then, each week, we’ll cover a different build phase, from design and chassis/drive train, to microcontrollers and sensors. The final two weeks will be devoted to finishing up the bots, fleshing out your documentation, and submitting your project(s). Please see the timeline and further details on The Make: Robot Build contest page. You can enter as many bots as you like, but you can only do a single entry for each one.

The Contest and Prizes
The contest will begin at 12:01am PDT on March 27, 2010 and will end at 11:59 p.m. PDT on May 7, 2010. Winners will be announced on May 14th, 2010.

Judging Criteria
The robots entered into the contest will be judged on the following criteria:

  • 50% Overall Robot Design
  • 20% Creative Use of Materials and Innovation of Design
  • 20% Project Documentation
  • 10% Degree of Improvement (from early phases of the competition)

The Prizes

  • The Grand Prize is $500 Cash (in the form of a pre-paid credit card) and a free ticket to Maker Faire Bay Area 2010. The $500 can be used towards travel to the Faire, as the winning robot will be featured at Maker Faire. The Grand Prize winner will also receive a Jameco jacket.
  • Second Prize is a Parallax Stingray Robot and a Jameco T-shirt.
  • Third Prize is a $100 Jameco gift certificate, along with a Jameco T-shirt.

Every contestant who finishes the robot build and documents his or her finished project will receive a Maker’s Notebook from the Maker Shed.

The Robot Build Newsletter
We’ll be mailing out a newsletter each week of the contest with the latest contest details, tutorials, images from contestants’ designs, build tips, technical advice, and more. We’ll also be sending out word of the final contest submission form through the newsletter, so if you want to be a contestant, you need to subscribe. All we need is your name and email address (which we’ll keep confidential):





The Jameco Robot Build Kit Bundle
Jameco has put together a core parts bundle to make it easy to gather the necessary parts for the contest. It includes a Solarbotics Ardweeny Arduino microcontroller, a Solarbotics Breadboard Voltage Regulator, an L293D motor controller, two Hi-Tec HS-322HD servomotors, two Parallax BOE-BOT/Sumobot wheel/tire sets, two lever switches, a breadboard, battery holders, wire, hardware, all sorts of goodies for building your coasterbot. You do not have to buy this kit to participate, and it won’t be counted in the judging, but we at MAKE and the folks at Jameco put it together to make getting started in this contest as easy as possible. You can purchase your Jameco bundle and other parts here.

BTW: In the Jameco parts bundle above, the “Ardweeny kit” is the Solarbotics Ardweeny Arduino, the world’s smallest Arduino microcontroller, and the Solarbotics Breadboard Voltage Regulator is also included in the kit (parts no. 2115750 on that list).

Check out the Make: Robot Build contest page for more info, the build timeline, and full contest rules. Matt Mets and I will be heading up the project/contest. We think this is going to be a whole lot of fun and we hope you’ll join in!

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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