Robot Building Progress Report

Last updated: 03/25/2019

Update: 11/10/2016

I have been working on a robot "mascot" for The Science Fiction and Beer Channel.  I decided that it should have the slapdash look of the robots that were on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  The robot should be a box robot, just like so many of the robot costumes kids made in the past.  It should  be relatively small, and it should be able to speak on its own and roll around on the floor.  My basic design is as follows. 

robot mascot

Artist's conception for robot 4-Q

I had some left over parts from past projects, so I use a lot of them in the project.  Luckily enough, it's the Christmas season, ,and Dollar Tree is selling strings of 10 LED Christmas tree lights for $1.00 each.  I bought several sets.

As I said, I wanted the robot to be at least partially an actual robot.  One solution would be to make the robot body, and have it operated by me.  The robot's voice could be dubbed in, and I could make its speech lights flash with a momentary contact switch.  I could mount the robot on a set of wheels, and pull it around with a fishing line.

That was too simple, and would look cheap, I thought.  My first plan was to have a cell phone inside of the robot, which would play MP3 filers I recorded.  The files would be fed through a circuit I built, which would make LEDs flash in sync with the recording.  I knew a TIP 31 transistor could do the job-- and since I had several of them on hand, that is what I went for.  A design to work with the Dollar Tree LEDs was easy enough to come by.

I had to tear apart the battery housing for the LED lights.  You'll want to snip off the battery lead ends.  Keep the resistor intact.   That is the + part of the circuit.

voice sync lights

First circuit design for voice light sync circuit.

I attached this to a radio, and had immediate success.  I had to pull the earphone plug halfway out to both make the LEDs flash and hear the music.  The original circuit worked with a 12v battery.  A standard "heavy duty"  9v battery gets drained rather quickly, I found, so I'll need to either get a 12v battery, or get an adapter so I can use 4 AA cells.  

  The test worked fine with the radio.  I had to turn the radio almost all the way up to get the LEDs to flash.  I did a test run, attaching my cell phone to the voice circuit.  There wasn't enough power coming out of the phone to allow the circuit to work.  So I needed to order a small amplifier and some speakers.  Once I get the amplifier, I will hook it up and give a list of parts needed.

For the robot's voice, I decided to use a program called Audacity to create the basic robot voice, and then save the sound files to be played back on an MP3 player (in this case, a cell phone).  Audacity is a free program that you can download it here.

To make a robotic voice in Audacity:

Open up Audacity, and use the File menu to select "Open". Navigate to the file you just saved and then open it.

Here's where the real action is! Throughout the following steps you'll need to make sure that the whole audio file is selected by pressing CTR+A. Here we go!

1) Select the whole audio file. Use CTR+A (hold down control and press the "A" key)
2) Click on "Effect" in the menu bar, and select "Change Pitch..."
3) Change the pitch -14%, and click OK.
4) In the Effect menu, choose "Echo"
5) Change "Delay time" to .015 and "Decay Factor" to .65. Click OK.
6) Again in the Effect menu, choose "Change Tempo..."
7) Decrease the tempo by 10% (-10.000) and click OK
8) Repeat steps 4 and 5

Now play your robot voice with the green "Play" button toward the top. Isn't it amazing?

Last but not least, click on "File" and then "Export as AV..." and save it wherever you like.

Special thanks to and in particular gatecrasher, for coming up with this.  You can monkey around with the pitch, echo, delay time and tempo controls to individualize your robot voice.

What I do is then convert audio AV files from Audacity to MP3 files. will do this for small files.  Or you can download Format Factory here and do it yourself.

I also needed some random flashing lights.  All Electronics sells single flasher LEDs which are attached to 9v battery leads.  by wiring them in serial with the Dollar Tree LEDs, I could make a string of flashing LEDs.  By rigging up a second set of lights, I could place them together and the seconds set would make the lights look like they were flashing randomly.  Here is a general idea of what I did.

flashing led circuit

Flashing lights circuit design

The leads were soldered to the back of the flasher LED.  The 9v battery clip was attached to a standard Dollar Tree 9V battery. 
Below are just some parts I had on hand to decorate the robot.

some robot parts i already had

Various robot parts

The arms, claws and shoulders are made out of PVC elbows. a toy called a sound horn, and some plastic forks.  The head dome is the lid from a butterscotch pudding I bought as a pharmacy.  Next to that is a standard VU meter.  Below that are a couple of knobs.  To the lower left: a standard toggle on/off switch.  Lower right: a small flashlight from Dollar Tree, which will be used as the robot's video camera/eye.

For the most part, I want the knobs and so on to actually work, and not be just decoration.  The toggle switch will actually turn on the robot's power.  The VU meter will be wired to the speech circuit (diagram to follow later), and will flip back and forth when the robot speaks.  I have found that the voltage as it is is too much for the VU meter, so I will wire a potentiometer to the circuit, which will lower the voltage and make the VU meter move much more gently.

To make the robot move, I purchased a remote control "stunt car" from Harbor Freight.  Right away, I could see that adapting it to fit on the robot could be a problem: figuring out how to connect it to the bottom of my robot would be difficult at best.  Using the car, i found it had one speed: way too fast.  It's called a stunt car mainly because you can't just drive it normally.  It tends to "pop a wheelie" every time it's used.  Notice that it has a wheel at the top so it doesn't flip over on its back. 

harbor freight stunt car

Harbor Freight r/c car

I'm going to see if I can rig up a couple of potentiometers to the wheels, to slow the whole mechanism down a bit.  For $4.00 more, I could have bought a radio controlled tank from Toys R Us, which would have solved the problem of mounting the robot, as it has a good, flat top.  I might just pull my wallet out and get that.

My original plan was to make an actual box robot: that is, to use an actual cardboard box and mount everything in that.  While the cardboard was easy enough to work with (and free, as I already had the box), it tended to tear easily, and frankly looked like crap. 

I decided to make a box out of 1/4" plywood and 1" x 2" furring strips.  The entire assembly would be butt jointed together.  The 2" x 1" furring strips would be a sort of skeleton inside of the structure, to give it strength.  I built a set of surround sound speakers using this method.

I figured out the measurements in my head-- and guessed wrong.  The side panels fit together perfectly, but the top and bottom panels came up short.  Rather than start over or have new panels cut, I am going to rely on the wood butcher's best friend: plastic wood.  I'll fill in the gaps, and sand the thing smooth.  To paraphrase Pee Wee Herman, it will look like "I meant to do that."  Below is the robot's body, to date.  I will be drilling holes for the knobs and so on, putting the plastic wood on, sanding it and painting it this week.  It's not the best looking box in the world, but structurally, it's sound, and the best part about it is that it's lightweight.

robot box

Basic plywood box for 4-Q

Here is an image of the revised front panel.  I'll be printing that out on card stock, and rubber cementing it to the front of the robot.  The black area on the upper left is where the speech lights will go.

Fans of movie serials will recognize the speed control panel as the same one worn by Commando Cody to operate his jet pack.  I didn't care much for the Commander Cody serials, but I did like how absurd the jet pack was.  The speed control makes no more sense on a robot than it did for Commando Cody's jet pack.

front p;anel

Robot 4-Q's control panel

I have to close this by mentioning that Dollar Tree is a robot builder's best friends.  I found all sorts of doodads to put on my robot to make it look cool.  And I can't forget to mention, yet again, the string of 10 Christmas tree LEDs.  Just try buying 10 LEDs, with a resistor, for that price anywhere else!

Another great Dollar Tree product is Fix-All adhesive.  Some people confuse it with Super Glue, which is mentioned on the label.  This stuff is a great deal like a very popular (and expensive) crafter's glue: E 6000.  It acts the same way when used.  About the only difference is that Fix-All uses a different solvent than E 6000 does.  That's it.  The glues are interchangeable.  I used Fix-All to assemble my robot's arms.

Update: 11/17/2016

Below is a "dry fit" of the robot parts.  Sanding, filling and painting will come later.  The rather crudely drawn rectangle is where the robot's speech lights will go.

science fiction and beer robot mascot

Robot4 4-Q, unpainted

The original plan was to have the access panel be in a door on the back.  Then I realized that was unnecessary work: I'll just attach the top lid with either magnets or Velcro, and access the inside through that.

I am still at an impasse as to how to have the robot move.  I bought a tank from Toys r Us, the
True Heroes Sentinel 1 Radio Control 8 Wheel Battle Tank.  It's a decent toy, but painfully slow.  I put some weight on it to see what it could do.  It stopped moving.  It could never propel my robot's body.  I'm thinking about using the Harbor Freight r/c car to propel my robot.  It certainly has the torque to do the job.   I could slow that car down by simply reducing the voltage to the motors. 

I'll probably tear the tank apart and use its parts to make my robot's arms and camera move.

toys r us battle tank

One of many r/c tanks that were destroyed for this project

I looked all over the web for something that could adequately power my TIP31 voice circuit.  I found it in a tiny stereo amplifier, a 10 Watts per channel PAM8610.  The thing is, several manufacturers are making amplifiers based on the PAM8610 chip, which means that there are several ways to wire up the speakers.  I finally found a diagram that was for the unit I bought.  If you decide to buy this amplifier, be sure to check that any wiring diagrams you see for it match the exact amplifier model you bought. 

I am waiting for a 3.5mm to 2.5mm stereo plug adapter to come in, so I can test it.  My original plan was to have the robot complete by Thanksgiving.  It will be mostly done by then, but that one part will delay things.  It's frustrating.

pam8610 specifics

PAM 3610 circuit

Special thanks to for providing this information. 

Here is the complete circuit diagram for my robot's speech center.  The thought has occurred to me that I could also call my cell phone and make the robot speak directly from my voice.  The speaker is 40mm, 4 ohms, 3 watts.  It sounds appropriately tinny.  It will be mounted on the robot's lid, behind the clear dome.

The toggle switch you see on the front of the robot will be used to turn the robot's speech system on.

There are two flashing light circuits, which are not shown.  The first set of 20 flashing lights will be on the lid of the robot.  The other set of 20 will be in a clear project box inside of the robot.  This will be a plot point in a future episode: it will be called the robot's brain.

robot speech circuit

Way too complicated robot circuit plan

I must  confess at this point that my knowledge of electronics is minimal.  I can hook up a surround sound system just fine, but when it comes to using a soldering iron, I was until recently the king of the cold solder joints.  I finally found a soldering method that worked for me.  My solder joints aren't pretty, but they do hold now.

One product I have tried is something called Wire Glue; it's also called Liquid Wire.  It's essentially water based paint mixed with graphite.  As frustrating as I found soldering, Wire Glue was ten times worse.  The stuff takes hours to dry, and even when dry it doesn't hold too well. 

Finally, I was tearing apart an old cassette deck that didn't work.  I found a relay inside, which, while I don't have a use for it at the moment, I am sure that I will find something I can use it for.  With 9V applied, the relay pulls itself down.  It's held up by a rather thin spring, so I couldn't put much weight on it.  Maybe my robot needs to have some sort of radar dish that goes up and down when it's excited.  That requires some thought, but I have plenty of time to do that.

Update: 11/29/2016

Robot 4-Q made his official debut on The Science Fiction and Beer Channel.  He was nowhere complete, but I managed to patch him together long enough to make the video.  After that, I had to gut him and rewire him completely.

Robot 4-Q sings

The song he sings, "Daisy Bell," has a long history among computer fans.

1961: The IBM 7080 computer became the first computer programmed to sing.  The song was "Daisy Bell."

1968: The Hal 9000 computer in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey sang that song.

1975: Steve Dompier programmed the first ever home computer, the Altair 8800, to play that song for a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club.  Until that time, the Altair 8800 was little more than a big, expensive, difficult to operate calculator. 

Below are a couple of photos of the insides of 4-Q as he looks today.  People with weak stomachs are advised not to look.

robot lower body

Robot: lower body. The right is the front of the robot.

robot top (head) unit

Robot, top/head unit.  The right is the front of the robot.

I am still looking into ways to motorize him, so he can move his arms and roll around.

I decided that since the robot weighed quite a bit anyway, that putting in a couple of good hi fi speakers wouldn't hurt.  That's a 6 inch woofer and a 5 inch horn piezo tweeter in there.

As a side note: That PAM 8600 amplifier is a true wonder.  It's truly what they call high fidelity.  It can compete with the best amplifiers out there.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work with the TIP31 circuit.  So now I am in search of a simple amplifier.  Ebay has a rather nice looking stereo amplifier for a car, which would work alongside with my original plan of using a cell phone as an MP3 player.  A stopgap solution would be to buy an old tape recorder and use that.

I decided to redesign the interior circuits.  Gone is the complicated circuit I described above. I decided I wanted two flashing LEDa on the robot too.   The voice sync lights are on a  separate circuit--in fact, the first design I presented.  To get the VU meter to go back and forth, I hooked it up to one of those flashing light LEDs I mentioned earlier. The potentiometer slows down the VU meter' movement.  Without it, it would slam into its right side, making a sound like a metronome. The final design is as follows:

new vu circuit

Notice how neat and precise this schematic looks, as compared to its actual execution above.

By the next update,I should have a video of 4-Q talking, with all of his lights and so on working.  If my bank account holds out, I might have him mobile as well.

I am still looking into what sort of motors to get, as well as what gears to use and so on.  I've been told that buying those r/c cars that kids can ride in is a good solution.  It's a solution all right, but not a cheap one. 

A note of advice: If you're going to take apart r/c cars to use them for a robot, please be advised that the Chinese makers of those cars use very thin, very brittle wire.  The stuff snaps off the circuit boards very easily.  I've taken to putting huge globs of hot melt glue on the boards I use, simply to keep the wires from coming off.  On the plus side, the stuff is very easy to solder.  Just touch a hot soldering iron to it and the solder forms a joint instantly.

One more thing I found is that with every r/c car I have torn apart, most of the screws come off easily.  But there are always at least two screws that seem like they were tightened by machine.  They are almost impossible to get out, unless you bear down on them when unscrewing them.  I've come close to stripping a couple of Phillips screwdrivers.

Update: 12/11/2016

In short order, I burned out three TIP31 transistors, one after the other, in my LED voice sync circuit.  As I was testing the sound system.  I noticed the lights were getting dimmer and dimmer as they flashed.  OK, the original design called for 12 volts, so I used that.  That was a big mistake, as I found out after I went through my remaining stock of TIP31s.  Doing some research, I found some information.  I've ordered some replacement TIP31s, as well as some new parts for the circuit.  Here is a diagram of what I will be building.

   revised tip31 cirxcuit

Revised voice sync lighting design

Looking back, the fuse and toggle switch should have been obvious.  I found out that you need a 1K ohm resistor attached to pin 1 (base) of the TIP31 to keep it from burning out.

I have found what I hope will be the chassis of my robot.  I bought a silver Ferrari GZ racing r c car.  I got it on Amazon for $49.95.  It's got a 12 volt motor, and from the tests I have done it can propel my robot's body with no problem. Mounting my robot to its chassis looks like it will be easy enough.  I'll be building a housing around it to both hide the chassis and to attach it to my robot.

robot chassis

It's a classy looking car, and is very well made.  It's almost a shame to have to take it apart.  Almost.

One thing I did find peculiar: after one day it stopped working.  I took it apart and examined it.  Sure enough, one of the leads came off of the car's power switch.  It was a cold solder joint, and for some reason the wire was just laid on top of the switch when it was soldered.  I always make sure that my physical joints are secure before soldering, but I guess factory workers don't have time for that.  At any event, I re-soldered the joint, and it works fine now.

The car has headlights on when it goes forward, and backup lights when it goes in reverse.  I'll be using those, in the same way.  Then I thought, "Why not have a backup beeper like cars and trucks have?"  Looking up beepers, I found one at the All Electronics website.  It's called a Pietro beeper, pulse tone, CAT# SB-416, $3.30 each.  I'll wire this in with the backup light LEDs.

The robot's arm motors have been attached.  Since the arms end up a little lower than the robot's body, I'll hold off on attaching them until I get the chassis and chassis covering installed.  The arms and eye/camera are controlled by the same r c board.  Since that board has only two controls, I wired the arms together in series, so that both will move at the same time.

The sound system has been the big problem with this project.  The amplifier I bought doesn't work with the TIP31 lighting circuit.  I went through several ideas, including using a tape recorder and two walkies talkies.  And then I came up with what I think will work.  I will use my cell phone's Bluetooth feature to broadcast to a Bluetooth speaker inside of the robot.  The speaker part will be removed.  An earphone jack will lead to a Y splitter: one branch will go to the TIP31 circuit, and the other branch will go to that amplifier I bought.  The robot already has a set of speakers inside of him.

I'll have to add the earphone jack to the Bluetooth speaker myself.  I googled "Bluetooth speaker with an earphone jack," only to find several discussion forums with people asking where they can get a Bluetooth speaker with an earphone jack.  It's such an obvious feature that I am surprised that no one has gotten around to making one like that.

At this moment, I will have to use two remote controls to operate my robot: one for his arms and head, and one to propel his body.  Eventually I'll pull them both apart and mount them in a plywood box. 

I'm looking at a completion date around the middle of January 2017.  Provided, of course, that there are no more major mishaps.

Update: 12/16/2016

I attached the arms, and tested the motors.  I had wired the whole thing up in series, with both arms moving at the same time.  Things didn't work too well.  I had been using wire I salvaged from such things as patch cords and so on. Both arms moved rather lethargically.  So I went over everything.  After a few hours, I found that the main problem was that the battery I had been using (a standard 9V battery) was about out of juice. At that point I had taken everything apart several times, as well as rewiring the arms so that they were wired parallel.  With the new battery system (six AA batteries mounted in a battery holder with a 9V clip), they finally worked.  While I was at it, I shortened the arms so they could spin when he wasn't mounted to his chassis.

The arms work almost too well.  They spin around so fast that they make the robot look like a helicopter.  This will be good for comic effect, to show when the robot is excited.  Parts of the arms do fly off from time to time.  That calls for more secure gluing.

I keep thinking of new ways to run the robot's audio.  I had toyed with the idea of using a Bluetooth speaker, as I mentioned above.  A new cell phone costs about $10.  I could place that in the robot and broadcast his voice to him on my own cell phone, again via Bluetooth.  I found a mini AB amplifier, which should work with my TIP31 circuit.

The robot's eye was a rather  lucky accident on my part.  I found a flashlight at Dollar Tree that looked a lot like a TV camera.  The light wasn't tall enough to see through the dome (which was actually a lid from a butterscotch pudding I bought).  I had a small speaker from a tank r c model I bought.  Sure enough, it was the right size.  I hot glued it onto the gear that moves the eye.  The bottom of the eye was round, so I hot glued a 1/4" nut on the bottom of it.  Then I found out that the speaker's magnet will hold the eye in place perfectly.  This is a great advantage, as I'm always taking the lid off of the robot to work on it.

All along I had used a piece of printed card stock for the robot's front instrument panel.  It looks OK, but it does tend the get torn and wrinkled.  Then it hit me: I'll go to a copy shop and have a transparency made of the panel.  It will be printed in reverse, so the toner will be on the inside, where it can't get scratched.  Under the transparency I will have either metallic wrapping paper or Mylar.  The instrument panel will look like it's made of metal.  I'm still trying to decide on whether to make the metal's color silver or gold.  The paper/Mylar and transparency assembly will be attached to the robot with small screws, which will make it actually make it look a bit more authentic.

I still have a lot to do, but at least the end is in sight now.  Looking back, I could have made things simpler on myself, making 4-Q as a puppet like Tom Servo.  Something compelled me to make him a bit more like a robot.  He will be sort of a combination of a robot and a remote controlled car.  Of course, if you count the machines in the TV show "Battlebots" as robots, then 4-Q is a sho' nuff robot.

As he is right now, 4-Q has the parts from three r c cars in him, a 6" woofer, a 5" tweeter, and a whole lot of other components.  I've had a lot of false starts with him.  If you look carefully at the progress report video, you can see inside of him wires leading to nowhere: oftentimes I'd put something in him that ended up not working, so I'd tear it out, leaving the wires behind. 

One thing I have learned: hot glue is a great way of insulating wires and holding them in place.  Hot glue should only be applied when the project is finished, and not before.  It's easier to just leave the old glued in wires in there than to try to pull them out.

I've got a decent set of battle scars from putting this robot together.  I don't think you can be a proper robot maker without some soldering iron or hot glue burns.  And if you're a robot builder and suddenly find your fingers or thumbs bending over and hurting like all get out, and having to bend them back and hold them in place to stop the pain-- Smile!  You've got carpal tunnel. 

Take a look at the video below.  Let me know if you think it was worth it.

Robot 4-Q progress report

Update: 12/31/2016

I found a meter at an electronics supply catalog.  The next day, I went to Dollar Tree, and I found a gum machine that would make a passable robot's head.  Lord help me, I'm going to build another robot.I've wired up the gumball/robot head with some flasher LEDs and a TIP3 synchronization circuit.  Here is what I have done so far.

robot head and body meter

You can see the flasher bulbs and the transistor for the TIP31 circuit.

big brother robot

Evil Twin Brother Bot E-Meter design

The story line is that 4-Q hears that he has an older brother, which I took apart.  He keeps bugging me to put him back together.  He doesn't listen to me when I say the robot is evil: he wants a big bother.  Humor ensues when 4-Q discovers his brother is the boring kind of evil.

That meter I found is quite sensitive, and has a large (over 6" across) face.  I reworked some of the circuits I have in 4-Q, and tested them out on the meter.  They worked fine.  Below are four dirt simple circuits that I plan on having in the Big Brother bot.  A SP4T switch will be used to switch between the circuits.

tip31 circuit      metronome

ufo detector   

Above: various circuit concepts for the Evil Twin Brother Bot

The UFO detector is a very simple gaussmeter.  You can get 7805 transistors and hall effect devices (SIP) from several eBay dealers.  It can also detect ghosts, provided the ghosts are magnetic.

Work on 4-Q is going ahead.  I discovered the reason his arms motors stopped working: the motors were defective.  The receiver in his head section works fine.  So the old motors have been torn out, and a new pair-- a pair with reduction gearboxes-- will be installed.

4-Q's chassis should be simple enough to mount.  I think that using standard .25" x 4" carriage bolts with nuts would hold 4-Q's support platform well enough.  4-Q himself will be held to the platform with Velcro.  If the script doesn't require him to move, such as when we're discussing a movie, his main body section only will be used.

Update: 01/02/2017

I won't go into all the details, but I experimented around with several ways to get that darned TIP31 circuit to work.  I found out that if the level of the recording is loud enough, I can plug my cell phone directly into the TIP31 and have the LEDs flash.  My cell phone, an Android One Touch, can use apps.  There is a free app that changes your voice.  I tried "deep voice" and bingo!  The perfect voice for 4-Q.  This app has a text to speech option.  It gives 4-Q the proper robotic sound.

But my previous work was not wasted effort: I have a 20 watt amplifier installed, which I can use to adjust the playback volume.  Goodgoshamighty, but this is a big breakthrough.

The motors on 4-Q's arms never did work right.  One day they just gave up the ghost.  So I went to  eBay and typed in "6v motor reduction gearbox," and found a motor that would work.  I got two of them.  The robot's arms will still be moving at the same time, but they will be moving at 8 RPM, which is quite a bit safer than with the old motors.

Update: 01/06/2017

...And I spoke too soon.  The circuit stopped working with my phone.  So I went the rounds, testing everything.  I found that by pulling out the earphone plug partially that it would work.  I have an android phone.  I Googled "android phone earphone jack defective," and found that just about all android phones have that problem.

In other words, the system would work fine with a phone that had a working earphone jack.

And so I experimented around.  I could have just bought another cell phone, or a Bluetooth speaker, and gone forward.  I worked with what I had, and came up with a workable solution.  It's going to sound strange, but it works, and it didn't cost me anything.

I had tried the PAM 8610 amplifier with my cell phone and the LEDs stayed on, as long as the amplifier was connected.  By messing around with connections, I knew that putting a mono plug adapter in the cell phone would make it work with the TIP31 circuit, until the earphone jack decided it didn't want to play nice.

The first thing I did was put in the mono jack adapter.  I connected a second TIP31 circuit I had to one of the speakers inside of the robot.  Aha!  The lights flash perfectly in time with the sound, flashing brighter as I turned up the volume.

I tried connecting the second TIP31 circuit directly to the amplifier.  That didn't work.  For some reason, it only works when the circuit is attached to one of the interior speakers.  OK, I can live with that.

After a half hour of redoing wires and soldering bits and pieces together, again, success.  Mind you the lights are still on all the time when the amp is on, but they also flash in time with the sound.

I realize that a different cell phone would also solve the problem.  And that is something I will pursue.  But for now, I'm happy that he can speak.

I have been working with the arms and head circuit.  It works fine, but for some reason the antenna doesn't work any more.  I have to get right next to it with the transmitter to get the head to move, or to get data to the arms circuit.  How do I tell the arms circuit is sending data?  I put the data cord into my mouth.  I can feel the pulse of electricity when I hit the right switch.

The bottom line is that I will probably have to get another cheap r/c car so I can yank the receiver circuit out of that.  Or, better still, I can get a cheap r/c tank.  R/C tanks usually have at least three controls: one for the turret, and one for each tread.  With a r/c tank receiver, I can wire the arms to move independently.

Robot 4-Q

Update: 1/11/2017

I got another cell phone, a simpler one than I had before.  I ran that voice changing app on my old cell phone, and sent it via Bluetooth to my new phone.  OK, it works.  Great, sort of.  It is certainly a usable system.  And then I saw yet another solution: a Bluetooth receiver.  I could plug that into the robot's amplifier, and send files to that via my old phone.  I found a small USB powered Bluetooth receiver on eBay, and ordered it.

Of course, I need a 5 volt power supply with a USB female jack.  That was not a problem-- I have had so many false starts and dead ends on this project that I already had the equipment to throw something together.

Here's the parts list, and a photo of the final result:

9v battery clip (available from eBay or any electronics catalog)
female to female jumper wires (available from eBay)
USB female jack (I got a USB extender cord and cut it in half, exposing the wires)
5v linear step down voltage regulator (available from eBay)
solder, electrical tape

I wired the red (+) and black (-) wires on the USB jack to red and blue jumper wires, which were then attached to the V OUT connections on the step down voltage regulator.

The red and black wires of the 9v battery clip were wired to red and black jumper wires, which were attached to the V IN on the step down voltage regulator.

The inset in the below picture is of my multimeter, doing a voltage reading, with a 9v battery providing voltage.  Right on the money!  I'll be running 6v to the regulator in operation, through a 4AA battery holder with a 9v snap.

5v adapter

The rigged up USB 5v power supply, and a measure of the voltage it puts out.

No doubt someone will tell me that I could get something that did the same thing without all of that work.  To that I say: it essentially cost me nothing, because I already had the parts.  So there!

I should add that I have used 9v battery snaps with AA battery holders to power my robot.  I like how quickly and certainly 9v snaps work.  9v batteries don't last long for my applications.  6 AA batteries in holders, even the cheap heavy duty ones, last much longer.

I never have covered the subject of multimeters.  All I can say is: get one.  Don't ask any questions: just do it.  It has proved invaluable to me, if for no other reason than getting my pluses and minuses correct on voltage.  They're darned good battery testers too.  I have also used mine to test resistors and transistors as well.

What's nice about multimeters is that I've found that the cheap ones work as well as the more expensive ones.  The only difference I have found is the sturdiness in the clip wires.  I settled on a $20 digital multimeter from eBay, and a $10 analog one from Walmart.

I, personally, have two kinds of multimeters: an analog and a digital one.  If you want immediate readouts, an analog meter is great for that.  A digital meter will take its good old time giving you a reading, but it will be more precise.  Both have a place in my toolbox.

So here I am at this point, waiting for a bunch of orders from eBay.  By the end of the month the robot should be up and running.

Until then, I guess I could work on the chassis, as well as the robot's front panel. 

As to the chassis: I'm going to try something simple, and see if it works.  The car chassis I am using has several supported holes that would work fine with 1/4" x 4" carrier bolts.  I could secure a piece of 1/4" thick plywood with them, using nuts to firm up the connection.  Then the robot could be fitted on top with Velcro.  The chassis would be fully visible.  To attach the front and back lights  I'll just use small brackets, gluing the LEDs to them.

Concerning the front panel, I'll be going to FedEx and have them Xerox the panel, using silver colored paper.  I'll have that laminated to keep the ink from smearing.  Attaching it to the robot should be simple enough: I should imagine that rubber cement would do the trick.

I look over my past entries, and it's really amazing how many dead ends I encountered.  And I apologize for all the blanket statements I made that were not true.  Stating that the PAM8610 amplifier would not work with the TIP31 circuit is particularly embarrassing.  If you have a cell phone with a fully working earphone jack, it works fine.  That little error caused me to go off on a wide tangent, looking for different amplifiers and so on that I didn't need to get.

Update: 1/26/17

                                    bluetooth speaker

BloX Bluetooth speaker

A couple of weeks later, and a lot has changed.

I got the Bluetooth receiver.  The sound quality is terrible.  It's completely unusable.  So all my work with that 9v USB converter was so much wasted effort.

I went to Walmart and got the cheapest Bluetooth speaker I could find, a Blackweb Soundplay Bluetooth  (BloX) speaker. which was slightly under $15.00.

I paired it with my Android phone, and the sound quality was excellent.  And then I thought, "Maybe I can modify it a bit."  The bottom of the speaker has a rubber cushion on the bottom.  I assumed this would be hiding some screws.  I was right.  The little beauty can be taken apart with just a small Phillips screwdriver.

The inside is simple: a circuit board, a battery, and a 4w 4 ohm speaker.  I cut the wires on the speaker, and wired them to a 2.5mm earphone jack.  Using a 3.5mm Y splitter, I connected the Bluetooth device to my TIP31 light circuit and my robot's speaker.  Success.  The lights light up, and the sound quality is quite good.

Look over all of my past entries, and the various convoluted schemes I came up with to get the robot to talk.  This is so much simpler than any of them.

...And I spoke too soon.  It turns out that the Bluetooth receiver is fine.  The problem was the 5v power supply I made.  I plugged the receiver into my computer, and the sound that came out was great.  I'm not as clever as I thought I was.

I'm still better off: with this configuration: I don't need an extra amplifier.  My Android phone  works with the Bluetooth speaker, but not with the receiver.

This all started because my PAM 8610 amplifier stopped working.  I pulled it out of the robot, and while I was at it, I decided to rewire everything.  I had a bunch of wires going to the head section; basically they came down to a power cable from the battery to the top, a cable for the lights on the top, so they could be turned on from the front, and two more cables, one for each arm.  I recycled a set of 4 RCA jacks from an old tape player, and soldered on RCA plugs to each of the cables.  If I want to work on the robot, I can now take its head off completely without having to leave it hanging while I'm working.

I also made the decision to take out the old remote control receiver from the head.  I plan on buying a radio controlled tank, because there will be three controls on the receiver (left tread, right tread, and turret).  These I can use for the arms and head/eye.

Right now the RCA cables are just  sitting, waiting to be connected.  The RCA jacks will have to be labeled, once I get the new receiver.

I also replaced the old motors (which had burned out anyway) with some motors with reduction gears in them.  The motors looked like they were barely moving at all when I tested them.  I had to mark the shaft of each of the motors with a marking pen to be able to see if they moved at all.  I attached them to the robot, and added the arms.  When power was supplied, they moved around at exactly the right speed.  I had to extend the robot's arms a bit to accommodate the new shafts, and overall they look pretty good.

Why not just cut the shafts?  I'm thinking to the future.  I might be working on some other project that needs motors, so I figured I'd keep my options open and leave the shafts intact.

You might remember the UFO detector schematic I had up here earlier.  I decided to build one.  Lo and behold it works-- that is, it detects a magnet's field.  Whether it can detect UFOs remains to be seen.  The little device works so well I bought the parts and some boxes to make ten of them.  I'll be selling them at science fiction conventions.  The detector also detects Body Thetans, Space Cooties, and ghosts, provided that all of these are also magnetic.  Since no one has ever got any of these and measured their magnetic qualities, I have to say, well, they certainly could be magnetic.  Can you prove they aren't?  Well, they must be magnetic then.  Oh, the detector also works in detecting any electromagnetic pulses that occur during a global thermonuclear war.  Mind you, the resulting flash, strong winds, radioactive fallout, air raid sirens and Emergency Broadcast System would also be good indicators.  But having this cool little device will increase your certainty.

As a side note, when I built the circuit it didn't work, even though I had followed the diagram I had downloaded.  Fiddling around, I found that a couple of the connections in the diagram were wrong.  You might remember that the original TIP31 diagram I followed didn't have a 1K ohm resistor attached to the base of the TIP31 transistor, which practically guaranteed burned out transistors.

So, lesson learned: like everything else on the internet, circuit diagrams can be wrong.

Update: 2/6/2017


Rockin' RC Battle Tanks

So, lesson learned: like everything else on the internet, circuit diagrams can be wrong.I bought a couple of Rock'n RC Battle Tanks from Walmart.  I gutted one and inserted the receiver into robot 4-Q.  After the usual rewiring, I can say that all systems in his main body are working now.  4-Q can move each arm independently, as well as rotate his head.  Now it's on to the chassis, and making him mobile.

Update: 2/7/2017

It was a simple matter of buying some 4" x 1/4" x 20 TPI carriage bolts and nuts to finish 4-Q's chassis.  The RC car's chassis had some 1/4" holes in it, and by tightening the bolts in with some nuts, I was able to make a very secure platform of 1/4" plywood to put 4-Q on. 

Here is yet another video of 4-Q.  His working parts and circuits are complete.  Now all I have to do is some cosmetic work, and he'll be ready.

Robot 4-Q in a shocking film debut.

And now it's on to finishing 4-Q's Evil Twin Brother.

Update: 03/23/2017

It's been way too long since my last post.  The Android phone I was using was nothing but trouble.  It was like that old nursery rhyme:

There once was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very, very good.
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

I was using a Voice Changer Android app,along with that Box speaker.  It worked beautifully,up to the point that my Android phone started acting up.  So I rethought everything.

Yes,the Android app was fin and simple, and it was loud enough to get the robot's lights blinking.  I got myself an Acer laptop with Bluetooth.  The BloX speaker worked, so I kept that.

I downloaded a program called Balabolka,and used the standard Microsoft David Desktop voice.  Balabolka
  does text to speech, among other things.  I lowered the voice's pitch by -10,and saved it as an audio (WAV) file.  I opened up Audacity (mentioned earlier in this page), and under effects, amplified the voice by 16dB.  I then went to pitch and changed it by minus 6%.  It doesn't sound exactly like the old 4-Q voice, but it comes close.  Additionally, I can do things like import text and amplify the voice further, which I couldn't do with the Android.

Update: 06/04/2017

Yes, I haven't updated this in a long time.  The Evil Twin Brother bot is done, and updates will follow.  Here is a photo of he two now complete bots.


The Two Bots

Update: 07/08/2017  

This is some footage of the Evil Twin Bot.  I'll be making a third bot soon, and will try to post a step by step guide.

    Update: 8/20/2017

OK, so the Bipolar bot is done.  In assembling that robot, i made several finds that would make any robot builder's work  easier.

robot control

Bipolar bot's arms control circuit

E Bay has a 2.7 GHz remote control and receiver for tank toys.  For a robot's innards, it would be ideal.  It has things it can control (treads and turret).  I use it to make my new robot's arms move, as well as his "camera."  It works really well, and is a lot cheaper than buying a tank toy and tearing it apart.   It's listed as "2017-New-6CH-2-4Ghz-30-meter-remote-control-with-receiver-board-for-tank-car."  It costs $9.90 postpaid.

abrams treads

Bipolar Bot's tank chassis

I went to Amazon and bought a 16" MiA2 Abrams tank, to use as a drive for my new robot.  It was better than I expected: four screws hold the fancy gewgaws on it.  Unscrew them, and clip the wires to the top part of the tank, and you have an excellent platform for a robot.  All I need to do is put some E6000 on the bottom of my robot's torso, and hold it in place until it dries.  No modification is needed.

bluetooth speaker             speaker panel

Polaroid Bluetooth speaker

I found a Bluetooth speaker at Big Lots that works perfectly for my robots.  Gone is that worthless Blox speaker!  It is a Polaroid Bluetooth speaker, with a tinkerer friendly feature: the electronics are all on a plate screwed on the back.  Remove the plate, snip the wires, and you have a robot ready speech module.  It uses two speakers.  You can attach two of the leads to a robot flashing light sync circuit, and the other to a speaker.

bipolar bot

And here he is, the robot of the hour, Bipolar Bot.  Yes, he still needs some painting and sanding.  And yes, that is a saw blade.


utz cheese balls jar4

A great robot body.

I've been using large Utz cheese ball containers (available at Walmart) for the bodies of my last 2 bots. The label can be taken off of the jar by pulling off as much as you can, and then applying baby oil.  Wait a few minutes, and scratch the rest of the paper off with your thumbnail.

At Inconjunction, I mentioned in a panel that robot builders should never throw anything away, and that they should keep a junk drawer of parts and such.  A fellow panelist (one who likes to build robots with vacuum tube parts instead of transistors) said that he has been making robots for years, and has several barns full of junk, waiting to be turned into robots.  Now he is a role model for all of us!

Update: 9/1/2017

I uploaded a page that might be of interest to robot makers.

How To Vacuum Form Plastic on a Low Budget

Update: 11/09/2017

My apologies for the lack of updates.  I have been greatly distracted from my robot work lately (her name is Copal). 


I suppose it's fairly easy to see why I have been so distracted.  Unfortunately, the distraction is gone now.

4-Q's drive system had been causing me troubles again.  The batteries (rechargeable Ni Cads) could not hold an adequate charge, and the rubber on the tires was falling apart.  So I bought some AA NIMH batteries, which I am told hold a charge better, and are a lot easier to charge, than Ni Cads.  I needed 10 AA Ni Cads to get 12 volts (they're 1.2 volts each, instead of the standard AA 1.5V).   I rigged up a couple of battery holders, and placed the batteries in the robot's carrying cart.  I also put a switch on the top of the chassis, to make it easier to turn on.  Success!  The drive worked.

battery pack

battery pack



As for the tires, I ordered the cheapest RC car tires I could find.  A Chinese dealer on eBay had some.  I waited the several weeks fore them to get there.  Meanwhile, I took off the tires that were on the chassis.  I bought a Dollar Tree multi use screwdriver, complete with a hex lug wrench.  Three tires came off without a hitch.  The fourth would not move.

The new tires came.  I put three of them on.  That fourth tire refused to come off.  I tried cutting the rim, off, hoping I could get a better grip.  Nope.  Finally, I bit the bullet and, using a rotary tool and a small bolt cutter, I cut the end nut off.  Using E6000, I glued the last tire in, and went to the test track, which looks remarkably like a kitchen.

The robot started rolling, and then one of the tires fell off.  "Oh no!  The glue didn't hold," I thought.  Upon examination, the glue did hold, but one of the nuts I had used on the tires fell off. (I replaced the nuts on them with standard hardware store nuts).  I reattached that nut, tightening all of them, and 4-Q passed his driving test perfectly.

I have a theory that in China, there is one company that makes everything that country exports.  It's called the One Screw Company, and its goal is to make tinkerers suffer.  When you take apart something made with the One Screw Company, everything works fine, until you get to the very last screw.  That one screw is impossible to remove (or in my case, that one nut).  I suspect that they hired Superman, whose only job is to tighten that one last screw.


At least they gave him a good welcome

I decided it would be fun to have the three bots sing in a chorus.  I tried Babolka, the text to speech program I use for them.  The result was awful.  I tried to make the sound more musical with a program called Autotune, which did not cut the mustard.  So I used a recording of "Carol of the Bells," and altered it with the Audacity program to make it sound robotic.

The difficulty was in getting the bots to sing at the same time.  I tried various methods, and none of them even came close.  And then I woke up from a night's sleep.  Hmm.  This could work.  Basically my plan consists of getting a Bluetooth receiver, and splitting its signal into three parts using a 1/8" audio out 3 way splitter.  I will use 1/8" patch cords to attach that assemble into the Polaroid Bluetooth receivers' audio in jacks. 

The splitter will come in the mail today or tomorrow.  I tried linking the Bluetooth receiver by patch cords to the individual Polaroid Bluetooth receivers.  The sound came through and the lights lit up on all of them individually.  Success!

sound in jack

sound in jack

bluetooth receiver setup

Bluetooth receiver setup

I will have photos of the complete rig in an upcoming update.  The caroling video will also appear on the channel as well.

Update: 11/12/2017

Things are never as simple as they seem in robot building land.  I had figured out a way to get all the boys singing at once.  I wired up everything, and then-- The Evil Twin Robot's voice sync circuit didn't work.  I opened him up, and looked over the snake's nest of wiring inside.  It would take weeks just to tear the old wiring out and rewire him.  I want to get that chorus video up by Thanksgiving, so that is not an option.

snake's nest

I can't figure out what the heck is going on in there.  Can you?  Didn't think so.

I built a new voice sync circuit, and moved it into the inside of his head, along with a 9V battery to power it.  Wiring up the Bluetooth speaker to that would take a lot of effort, as it is epoxied inside of the robot.  What to do?

evil twin brother bot's head, taken apart and rewired

The Evil Twin Brother Bot's head, rewired and ready to be reassembled.

I have decided to use a rig up: I'll use a BloX speaker to provide the power to run the lights.  It will sit outside of the bot, with wires leading in.  I had to take off the bot's old sync light, and I don't have another flashlight head to put the bulb in-- so the bulb will just be sitting inside of his mouth.

The whole thing won't look pretty from a builder's standpoint, but it will work.  The video will get done, and then I will have all the time I need to bring the Evil Twin Brother Bot back up to working order.

There will be other changes as well.  The bot's head was held in place by magnets, which, while making it easy to position the head, made it prone to fall off when I had to work on it.  The head is now held in with Velcro..  I'll have to fix the robot's arms as well, as they stopped responding to the radio control.  I had wired them in series, as I had only one control,  for the both of them.  I'm thinking about tearing up another r/c tank, and using the receiver to make both of his arms move independently.  This would mean having to use two remotes to make him both roll around and move his arms.

Update: 11/13/2017

The Blox speaker rig-up didn't work.  So I went inside of the robot and rewired the voice sync light to the Bluetooth speaker, and it worked.

I filmed a couple of takes of the robots singing.  It didn't look right.  So I will be doing four separate takes: one with all three bots, and a close up of each robot.  I'll edit them together (and getting the sound synced will be a real chore).  I'm considering filming them in front of a green screen.  This is getting a bit complicated.  But robots are like that.

Update: 11/17/2017

The video got put together with only a few glitches.  I did the four takes, and for some odd reason Windows Media Player kept piping in, when I was recording the robots.  It didn't matter, as I had come up with a cunning plan (as Baldrick would say).  I decided to record the robots for their voice lights only.  I would delete the sound from the video, edit together, and then put the song on a separate audio track.

I was terribly worried about syncing the sound.  I needn't have been: the song (Chorus of the Bells) essentially uses the same four notes over and over.  So, with very minor tweaking, I was able to line up the lights with the sounds.

I will put the video link here later today, as it is at this moment still uploading to my server, and it's 2AM now.

Update: 11/18/2017

The video is below.  One thing I learned is that apparently Bipolar Bot's bright LEDs caused my camcorder to go out of focus whenever I did a close-up of him.

Update: 04/16/2018

I put together another robot for a project.  I decided to do a live reaction video of me watching the new Lost in Space TV series on Netflix.  Naturally enough, I needed a robot for it, to act as a co host, and hopefully to dispel some of the boredom that naturally comes with a reaction video.

This robot should have a female voice I felt, even though I referred to it as a he in the video.  Well, why not?  Frieza on Dragonball Z is a male with a woman's voice.  Reason enough!

The other robots I've done have been black, mainly because black spray paint is $1.00 a can at Home Depot.  This robot should be silver, I felt, to make it look more like the Lost in Space robot.

I found some new parts at Walmart and Dollar Tree.  Below are the parts fitted together and not painted.

unpainted robot

I had bought a Nongshim hot ramen soup bowl from Walmart.  The ramen was awful, but the bowl had lots of ridges on it: perfect for a robot head.  The clear dome was from Dollar Tree, which sells them as small clear plastic bowls.  I replaced 4-Q's dome with one of these, as it fit better than the original clear dome I had used.

ramen bowl robot head

clear bowl domes      flashlight/camera

I decided not to animate the camera (which, as usual, was a Dollar Tree clip on flashlight), so I glued it in place.

This was a rush job, as the idea for the video came to me a few weeks before I did it.  So there was no going back to the store to get more stuff: I had to finish it with what I had.

I bought the silver spray paint (Krylon metallic silver), and applied it.  the cap was one of those stupid childproof caps:  they are also tinkerer proof.  I sprayed the head part, and put the cap back on.  I couldn't get it off.  So I hit the cap on the table I was using.  The cap went off.  So did the valve stem of the paint can.

I went inside.  I grabbed the cheese ball jar, and got the label off, using a combination of vegetable oil, my fingernail, lots of hot soapy water, and one of those scrubbers that look like they got steel springs and wadded them up together.

Having got the jar cleaned, I popped the valve stem back on and sprayed as best I could.  Silver spray went everywhere, including my hands.  The finish looked terrible, but the robot's body was covered.  My pants were ruined.  The ground and the table I was using (this was outside) were covered.  I couldn't feel my right hand, as apparently the gas used to drive the spray out was similar to Freon.  I worried about frostbite as I ran some hot water on my right hand, and eventually the feeling returned.

I bought an RC receiver from eBay.  It's for a tank, so it can control four 6v motors.  The remote is a bit rinky dinky looking, but the price was right: $11.90, shipping included.

remote control and receiver

This  came from a Chinese company, 
   They sell all sorts of parts that can be used for robots.  When I have the time and cash, I will buy one of their tank parts for this robot.

The robot's speech circuit is covered elsewhere in this blog.  I decided to mount the robot's speaker on the bottom of the robot, and cut a hole in its side, so the sound could come out.  I put some wire screen on the inside of the hole.  It's crudely cut, and more than a bit catty cornered, because that plastic is hard to cut.  Luckily enough, it's on the back of the robot, so it can't be seen when filmed.

This robot can be controlled with one receiver.  4-Q and Bipolar bot require two receivers, one to control their arms and such, and one to cover their tank treads.  Eventually I will have to simply disable their rotating cameras, so both can use just one receiver.

Looking over the receiver, I noticed that no diagram was included.  I could tell that the wires that were red and black were for voltage, so I got some masking tape and labeled them as such.  The other leads were were simple enough to deduce.  I attached some batteries to the power leads, and put some batteries in the remote.  The wires came in pairs.  I decided to have the up and down switches be for the tank treads, and the left and right switches to be for the arms.  I put the leads in my mouth, and hit the appropriate switches.  When I got a shock, I labeled the wires with masking tape, and then moved on to the next set of wires. 

As they say on TV, "kids, don't try this at home."  What can I say: I was lazy.  I didn't feel like dragging my multimeter out.  My tongue did a serviceable job of testing for voltage.

I had attached wire to control the robot's treads.  I drilled a hole in the bottom of its body, and snaked the tread wires through, knotting them so they couldn't be pulled out.  It will be ready to wire up when I order a set of robot treads. 

The rest of the robot was simple enough.  The arms were the standard PVC pipe, which I attached to the motors using JB Weld Steel Stick and E6000.  I had some of that whirly horn flared tubing left, so I used that to cover up part of the PVC pipe.  You can also get the same sort of tube by ordering 1 1/4" sump pump discharge hose from any hardware store, or eBay.  The robot's claws were simply alligator clips, which I glued in place.

I needed to have something that looked neat and precise as to where the robot's arms attached to the robot.  I found it in a rubber washer from Home Depot: Danco 2" pop up plug washer, $1.27 each.  These were glued onto the robot with E6000.  They more or less conformed to the robot's round shape.  Good enough to look OK on camera, which is good enough for me.

danco washer

Normally I'd simply combine circuits, having more than one run off of the same battery.  I decided to do five separate circuits, each with its own switch on the front of the robot.  This was for time reasons.

Finally, the robot needed something: just one more little detail to add interest.  So I decided to make radar scanners on each side of his head.  I had some metal kebab skewers, and with the help of a couple of pairs of pliers, closed the circles.  I glued the motors in (simple gear reduction motors), and cut down the skewers so they would fit in the holes in the motor shafts.

I had also bought a 6" dolly from Home Depot, to use as temporary wheels for the robot.  I decided to have the camera so that you couldn't see the bottom half of him.  The dolly wasn't needed, but I'm keeping it anyway, because I am sure that I can use it in another project.  And it looks cool too.  So there!

6 inch dolly

The finished robot.  To me, it looks like a combination of the Lost in Space robot, Robbie the robot, and the sort of robot you'd see in an early 1960s Mexican science fiction film.  Look very closely at the photo of robot's head lights: you will see a line, along with the upside down words "WATER LINE" over it.  The golden robot rule: if it looks like it would look cool on a robot, use it!

completed screen ready robot

head lights water line

The Facebook Lost in Space Reaction Video

(Play the first two Lost in Space Netflix episodes while this video is running, or else it won't make sense)

The Lost in Space remake turned out to be horrible.  A typical scene: the Jupiter 2 is about to crash land, and the Robinson family is playing a game of Go Fish.  Geez, even if the ship was on automatic pilot, wouldn't there be something that needed to be done?  And wouldn't being in their acceleration couches be a better idea?  The whole thing just sort of dragged on and on and on.  I found myself wishing the Robinsons would end my suffering and just die already.  But, as always, if you're fans of the show, watch it and judge for yourselves.

Update: 06/18/2018

I bought the tank chassis from sinoning's eBay store.  Some simple wiring and gluing with E6000produced a serviceable robot.

Update: 01/07/2019

Time for a new robot.  This one will be called XJ-2.  It will be based on this classic film robot:

"Where on the graph do must and cannot meet?"

Yup, it's Ro-Man, otherwise known as XJ-2, from that classic film Robot Monster.

Here is a preliminary sketch, subject to whatever revisions are necessary to get the darned thing made.

"Can you not verify a fact?"

I am tempted to record all of Ro-Man's (and his boss, Great Guidance) lines, and just use those, instead of a text to speech program.

The main difficulty will be the fur.  The stuff is expensive:
I might just give up and go with chenille (though that is pricey too).  I am not sure yet how I will attach it.  Double sided tape won't work.  Glue won't work.  I might have to end up sewing together a sort of costume.  My knowledge of sewing consists of base stitching, and that's it.  Oh yeah: this is going to be interesting.  Stay  tuned...

Update: 02/28/2019

I decided it would be interesting to have a solar charged battery system permanently installed i the robot.  Here is the design I came up with.  As a fun side note, any diode you have on hand will do.  What you want to do is have the diode make the electricity go one way, from the solar cell to the battery.  If in times of low light the solar cell would draw energy from the battery, which would damage the solar cell.  The switch is an added, and perhaps unnecessary, precaution.

solar charger

Lest I forget: I wired up all my robot circuits separately, starting with robot RMF, simply to make troubleshooting that much easier.

Update: 03/12/2019

And then I thought to myself: six robots would be better than five-- and it would be a lot easier to put together (and acquire the pieces) for both robots at the same time.  Please note that I am not picturing everything, like the 22 gauge wire, diodes, TIP31 chips, and so on.  Also, the illustrations are not to scale with each other.  All are from eBay, unless otherwise noted.  Almost all are from Chinese sellers, which could mean having to wait until May to get what I ordered.  I have more time than money at this point.

rbot parts spening spree

Top row, left to right:

2.4G 8CH black remote control with receiver board DIY toy boat tank car 4-6v

Damping balance Tank Robot Chassis Platform Remote Control DIY crawler Arduino

LED Chaser Flowing Water Light Sets NE555 Module + CD4017 Circuit Driver Cycle

6V 0.6W Solar Panel Poly Module DIY Cell Charger For Light Battery Phone

1/5/10pcs Mini Momentary Toggle Switch 3Pin SPDT Off On AC 125V 6A Supply Acces

10pcs Potentiometer Rheostat Variable Transformer 0-100 Control Dial Face Plate

(below tank chassis) 1PCS DC12V 10RPM JGB32-300 4mm Shaft Plastic Gear Reducer Motor For DIY Robot

Next row, left to right: Wireless Bluetooth Audio receiver with 3Wx2 amplifier FOR Speaker Modify 3.7-5V

10cm 2.54mm 2 Terminals Female to Female F/F Jumper Wire Cable Connector 5 Pcs

Utz Snack Barrel Variety Pack, Cheeseballs & Sourdough Special Pretzels (Walmart)

10PCS B500K 500K OHM Linear Taper Rotary Potentiometers Shaft B500K 5MM 3 Pins

(under potentiometer) 5 Pcs Red Plastic Big Chicken Head Knobs Guitar Bass Amp Effect Pedal Knobs TW

Bottom row, left to right:  New DC 0-50V Analog Volt Voltage Voltmeter Panel Meter Top quality

DC 0-10V Square Shape Panel Analog Voltmeter Meter Gauge

10pcs Screw Cap Solder Terminal Panel Mount 3AG 6x30mm Fuse Holder AC 15A 125V

10 Pcs Fast Blow Type Glass Tube Fuses 6x30mm 250V 2A TS

In addition, I have some parts on hand, like an old webcam (perfect for a robot's eye), some PVC pipe parts (robot arms), spray paint and so on.

One of the robots will be the Roboot Monster bot, though I am stiff debating how to do the hair--if at all.  The other will be a tribute to "The Visible Man" model kits of the 1960s: it will be The Visible Robot, with no paint on its body, so you can see its guts.

I am also doing a running comedy sketch where I am the pilot of a space ship (designed to look like the Fireball XL5, only renamed the XL 5 271 009).  The model itself will be a real model rocket, which will make the launching SFX that much easier to do.The space ship interior will be a green screen, an office chair, and a coffee table covered with a very large analog meter dial, along with whatever switches and knobs are left over from my robot projects.  As per old science fiction film protocol, none of the switches or knobs will be labeled in any way whatsoever as to what they're supposed to do.  it will look cheap, but deliberately so.  And, naturally, by my side, will be The Visible Robot, just like that clear plastic robot they had in Fireball XL5.

As to what I'll actually do on that space ship-- I mean, come on.  I'm a guy, with a space ship.  I'll be doing adventurous stuff like ordering drive through meals, watching old movies, going to Walmart, and so on.  But it will all be super exciting, because I'm in a space ship, you see.

Update: 03/14/2019

Still waiting on some stuff from China.  For an alleged global superpower, they sure are slowpokes about shipping!

Update: 03/16/2019

the visible robot's guts

The Visible Robot, or at least its parts.  Note that all parts will not be transparent.

Robert the Robot, from Fireball XL5.

I was going to make XJ-7, and then work on another robot after that.  I decided that I needed a co pilot for my space ship.  And then I remember that Robert, the robot co pilot for Fireball XL5 (after which my rocket is designed), was transparent.  So I have decided to use the Utz Pretzel barrel to make The Visible Ronot.  This will present some new challenges, as a few layers of paint can cover up a lot of poor workmanship.  Oddly enough, it will make some things easier to mount, such as the voltmeters, speech light, electronic brain and so on.

As to the robot's name: Any kid who grew up in the 1960s was familiar with The Visible Man and The Visible Woman model kits.  The models had transparent skin, and you were given guides as to what colors to paint their guts.  My sister spent hours assembling and painting her Visible Woman model.  And when I was a teenager, I greatly enjoyed tossing it out of my living room window, and watching it smash int pieces..  It was during the typical "Let's destroy stuff" phase every kid goes through, which lasts usually from age 4 to age 20 or so.  This is why kids' toys, comics and so on are som expensive: because their owners got more joy out of destroying them than they would have gotten just putting them in boxes.

Right away, I knew this might be an easy build: the Utz label peeled off readily.  And then I looked-- the barrel had seams in it, which would mean placing arms in their proper positions a snap.  It's a bit smaller than the standard Utz cheese ball barrel I've been using for my other robots,   The one minus: the lid is a screw on lid, which would mean putting stuff like speech lights an so on a problem, as the wires would eventually get twisted and tangled.  Ths solution to that was a simple one: there's nothing on the top lid buy a solar cell with an LED soldered to it.  The label "solar charger" will be added.  The speech light and so on will be moved inside of the robot.

Update 3/18/2019

toggle switch

Those 10 Chinese toggle switches I ordered are total garbage.  On everything else, I get good, solid solder joints.  On the switches, all I can do is get cold solder joints that do not hold.  No matter how long I hold the soldering iron on them, the results are the same.  Additionally they're SPDT switches.  So I went back to eBay, where I found some heavy duty SPST toggle switches at $2.50 each, (if you order more than 4) US dealer.  Ad title: Toggle Switch Heavy Duty 20A 125V SPST 2 Terminal ON/OFF Car Waterproof ATV.  Notice the screw terminals.  There's no possibility of cold solder joints there!

Lessons leaned: 1): Sometimes cheap is not the best way to go..And 2) If you make a mistake, don't stick with it, hoping you can make it work.   Swallow your pride and pony up for what you really need.

Update: 03/20/2019

four circuits

Just a quick note: Dollar Tree is a great place to get robot parts.  However, do not buy their electrical tape.  It tends to unravel over time, leaving you with un-insulated wires that you need to re-wrap. 

Robot design changes: often I change a robot's design on the fly: a robot looks different in my head than when I start putting it together.  The solar cell has been moved to the tread section, just in front of the robot's body.  For the top of the robot, I ordered a 4 LED sequential light from eBay., part name High Intensity Rotating LED Flasher/Sequencer Kit.  On top of that will go a clear dome.  Underneath the lid will be the electronics for the light sequencer, as well as the 9V battery that drives it.  It will all be self contained: no hanging cables to get tied up!           

Also, since I decided to use NIMH AA batteries in the project, allowance had to be mad for the slightly lower voltage.  (NIMH: 1.2V.  regular alkaline AAs: 1.5V).  Below is a chart delineating the amount of voltage you'd get per each common battery holder.


 The arms and treads circuit takes 6V, but I have found that 7.2 volts will work just as well.  The treads themselves work with 4V to 9V-- well within the voltage I'll be using.  The arm motors  themselves work at 12V, but with 7.2 V, they just go slightly slower.

The twin voltmeters can go up to 10V, but I have found that 7.2V will do.

 The voice circuit takes a lot of current-- originally it was designed for 12V.  So I'll be going with 9.6 volts for that one.

The twin VU meters work with 4.8 volts, so I will use that.

The electronic brain works at 8V, but I have found that 7.2V will work just as well.

The only circuit that will use a regular 9V battery is in the head, both because it's light, an because the rest of the circuits will have used up all of my NIMH batteries.

In case you're counting, that's 25 batteries for this robot.  The robot will be doing mostly speaking parts; he won't be rolling around much.

I will be using a Polaroid Bluetooth speaker box for this project, as the mini Bluetooth speaker/amplifier won't come until May.  Interestingly enough, these model Polaroid speakers have become harder and harder to find.  What few are available sell for triple the cost they did a few months ago.  I suspect that there are a lot of robot builders buying them up

As to NIMH batteries having longer lifespans, I had ordered 50 some years back.  A lot of them are in my other roots  Four of them don't have much of a charge left.  Hopefully I can get them up to snuff with my NIMH charger.  But, really, an 8% failure rate isn't all that bad.

One of the reasons I'm doing this blog (and indeed, the entire website) is do that I have an easy reference.  If I want to wire up a TIP31 circuit, all I have to do is go to this page, and there it is. 

I worked on the speech cync light.  I got a plastic ciontainer used for a .967 telescope eyepiece, and used E 6000 to glue a
glass cabochon on the lid to use as a magnifying glass.  I bought this on eBay as 10pcs 25 mm Transparent Clear Round Shape Flat back Domed Glass Cabochon.  10 1 in convex lenses for 74 cents, with free shipping.  Not bad!  I wired in a standard white LED n the inside.   The result: a very nice, bright voice light, but not overpoweringly bright.

Additionally, my original plan was to have a solar cell charger for the NIMH batteries.  I presented the idea to The B9 Robot Builders Club, and immediately realized I was in way over my head.  Well, this is just a TV prop, after all.  So I soldered a LED to a 5.5V solar cell, and will just put up a small label that says "solar charger" next to it.  Problem solved!  Incidentally, it's amazing how little light you need to get enough volts to light a LED lamp.  Plain old room light will do the trick.

On the matter of LEDs and resistors.  I use whatever is handy. I have several packs of resistors.  I just do a dry fit to test which of my resistors work with which of my LED c`ircuits.  In other words, you don't need to stick to using just a 1 ohm resistor.  10,  50, and even 100 ohm resistors, have worked for me.

Update: 03/25/2019

I have added a link to the instructions for the TIP31 kit I sell.  This has some different stuff on it than this page, so I think it will be of interest.

TIP31 Assembly Page