Projects With Ryan Slaugh: Robot Makeover Part 1

Arduino Raspberry Pi Robotics Technology
Projects With Ryan Slaugh: Robot Makeover Part 1

By Ryan Slaugh

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In the 80’s and 90’s lots of different companies were making robots for use at home. These were pretty simple machines with wireless controls, clocks, and some programming ability. The Tomy robot was just such a device. In part one of a two-part project I show the steps I follow in taking apart an old technology and work towards upgrading it with some of today’s new tools.

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Bringing new life to old technology is challenging and a lot of fun. Keeping with the theme of robotics from the latest issue of MAKE I decided to redesign an old robot toy. With the new technology going into this robot, there are a lot of options for programming and customization. If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments below. As always, if you have any questions regarding the project, you can comment those as well.

See the full series here.

16 thoughts on “Projects With Ryan Slaugh: Robot Makeover Part 1

  1. seamusthetinker says:

    What do you use for your block diagrams? Now that I am getting into some more complicated projects, the good ol’ sheet-of-paper-and-pencil solution isn’t really cutting it anymore.
    I have tried a number of free software packages, but have found their functionality and results to range anywhere from poor to abysmal. Any suggestions?

    1. Ryan Slaugh says:

      I, too, have tried a lot of different programs with little success. To be honest, one of my go-to programs is Visio. Sadly, far from free. Those in this video were actually made on Word, which is an easy one to use in a pinch.

      Another avenue to look at are the schematic capture and layout programs. They will be something you need to make your own boards anyway, and many of them have the ability to do a block diagram. Programs like expresspcb and Eagle are places to start. Also you can search for UML/SysML diagramming programs. That will give you more options of software to look at.

      Hope this helps!

  2. Austin says:

    Very interesting project. I have a similar toy robot stashed away until I have time to hack it (and a few extra bucks for the micro-controllers). Looking forward to part 2 of your video.

  3. Vergil spankerman says:

    where is part 2 of robot project ?

    1. Ryan Slaugh says:

      Part 2 will be posted next month, the first Tuesday of August.

  4. Andrew Terranova says:

    Nice project. I have an old RAD 2.0 robot I’m just waiting to hack. Maybe that will be my first Raspberry Pi project.
    I have a couple of comments/suggestions for you.
    1) Batteries: So called “9V” rechargeable batteries actually can be 9.6V, 8.4V, or 7.2V, depending on brand. So readers should be aware of this and make sure to avoid the 7.2V type. This is because the 7805 needs an input voltage at least a 2V higher than the output of 5V.
    2) Eyes: For a cooler look, consider replacing the stock LEDs or bulbs in the eyes with RGB LEDs or even programmable LED modules like the BlinkM (
    Can’t wait to see the next update!

    1. Ryan Slaugh says:

      Yes, great comments! Very true about battery voltages. This can be applied to many batteries – always measure! This actually leads to another aspect to sense on the robot – battery voltages. Have the robot tell you when recharge is needed.

      I like the LED idea – gives it more dynamics.

  5. Todd Mccartha says:

    I would love the robot use a web camera to navigate just like human do with eyes, have Speech synthesis, and voice recognition. I always wanted to make a PC robot that has similar to human smarts. But don’t know how. I just know how to use micro controllers. So it would be great if you put these abilities in the robot and show me and the world how you did it. So everybody can do it. Thanks

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Ryan Slaugh is a hardware and software engineer with over 15 years of experience designing and building different systems. While he has a few college degrees, his best training came from growing up on a farm and working with his father who was also an electrician. Ryan works regularly with woodworking, metal work, electronics, and software. Ryan also has a love of tools and collects as many as he can.

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