Working at Make: Labs is always fun, especially when you get to test kits before they’re released to the public. As part of MAKE Volume 29 we got to build and test the Tiny Wanderer kit, designed by Doug Paradis and featured in the issue. Inspired by the now-discontinued SERB Robot kit, the Tiny Wanderer uses the ATtiny85 microcontroller for its brain, has two light sensors to detect its environment, and two continuous rotation servos for mobility. Each light sensor consists of an IR (infrared) LED and an IR phototransistor. The main body of the bot is constructed of laser-cut pieces of blue acrylic which are held together with nuts and screws via t-slots. The back of the robot sports a caster wheel made by sandwiching two bearings between pieces of acrylics with bolts running through them and an o-ring acting as the tire. This kit is moderately easy to build and took a total of four hours to put together and program.
To program the Tiny, you plug an Atmel AVRISP programmer into your computer via USB and install the drivers, plug the programmer into the board of the robot, then compile and upload the code using AVR Studio 4. Detailed steps are available on the Tiny Wanderer page of Make: Projects. Doug Paradis also wrote two additional programs for the Tiny Wanderer that allow it to avoid objects and follow a black line. The kit includes brackets for angling the sensors to face forward for object avoidance and he has a bracket design that you can make yourself for line-following. The brains of the bot can be replaced by an Arduino UNO (or older versions) and there are mounting holes for that on the chassis.
We decided to tape a marker on the back of our robot to see what kind of path it would trace when running the edge detection program. After about 10 minutes, the Tiny Wanderer fell off of the table.. Gahh! Wh-where is that time machine?!
Watch the video to see the path it traced. It was quite interesting to see it retracing the same path several times. We suggest running this little bot on a surface that’s closer to the ground (about two inches) to prevent major injuries to it. After replacing the broken parts, we ran Tiny on a lower platform for two hours straight and it never fell. It must have been camera-shy in its first run.
More: See all of the high-tech hi-jinx from the Make: Lab interns