Return to Robotics Project Overview

Robotics, Research: Phase 1 (Preliminary)

11.20.16 Formulating the Idea

Trust George Takei to post the best links. He is great. I was immediately fascinated by these swarming robots. I read about swarming actions in some of my Interactivity Readings. While the class may not have been successful overall, it did remind me of a lot of things I am interested in. It just didn’t give me much of a framework to explore those things. These robots seemed like something that might provide that.

I knew it was a huge risk because it might be outside of my ability but I decided to take the plunge and focus on building the swarm as a studio project for Second Semester.

I wasn’t able to spend much time thinking about it after that because I had to finish current work. I planned to use the Christmas break to learn and plan.




Programmable Self-Assembly in a 1000 Robot Swarm


12.19.16 Christmas Planning Time Begins

I cleaned my house. I fixed my computer. I am ready to start studying.

I watched videos on the Swarms again and I read the instructions provided at GitHub

Github Shape Lab: Swarm

Then I started thinking that maybe the Swarms were too much to start with. I am also concerned that I can’t make them do enough to experiment with them. I decided to research Arduino. I watched some videos. Then I read some tutorials.

Thinking of Getting Started in Arduino? Start Here.


Then I moved on to programming languages. It seems “C” is the one I need to know. It is the origin of languages like C++ and Java and JavaScript. I once had an excellent understand of JavaScript and a good working knowledge of C++. If I could learn that, I can learn C. I bought the book that came most highly recommended: C Programming Language by Brian W. Kernighan, Dennis Ritchie. The book is very easy to follow and the language is not terribly difficult. I think I understand what I need to learn here. Now I am going to learn it.

It looks like I could have saved 30 dollars and used this PDF,


12.20.16 More C

I read some more of the programing in C book. I also searched my hard drive for my old scripting files to see if it would help me remember what I once knew. Then I got distracted by painting.


12.21.16  Zooids and C

Makery, About the Zooids Project

I also listened to YouTube tutorials on C Programming while I was working in the library. I only got through two.


12.22.16 How to Make Robots & Artificial Life

Reading more on How to Make Robots

Read all the lessons on the Robot Shop Page.

This helped give me some terminology.


Decided to read more in Artificial Life

Immersive Artificial Life (A-Life) Art by Edwina Bartlem

In this era of cloning, cyborgs, simulations and new biotechnologies, the term artificial life (or A-life) can refer to a range of creatures or organisms that are created and augmented through diverse medical, prosthetic and digital information technologies. Hybridity, emergence and symbiosis have become important metaphors for conceptualizing life in this ‘neo-biological’ or bio-tech era. Perhaps not surprisingly, these themes are also present in contemporary new media art, especially computer-generated and biological art.1 A-life in art is manifested in a variety of ways, including computer-based, evolutionary life-systems (virtual ecologies); animated creatures with life-like behaviors (virtual creatures); living organisms and ‘semi-living objects’.

Then I got distracted trying to correctly cite the articles.


12.23.16 Other Robot Projects, Alternative Swarms, Communication

Jasmin Robot Platform

This is a different take on swarm robotics. It isn’t as cute as the Zooids, but reading the site is helping me understand different ways that group actions can be accomplished.


Autonomous Robots Self-Assemble and Take Flight as One

This is so cool. They are tiny little flying robots. They take off and form larger robots in the air. Individually they don’t have much directional ability but when they join up they become fully mobile drones.


Drawing Robot Plan

Damnit all. Why is it all my good ideas have already been had? These guys are very cool. The plan is to make magnetic drawing robots that can work on whiteboards. They have control systems that are very simple and user friendly. They are meant to be used in schools to teach students how to code. This is a great idea! I didn’t think of using them to teach. I just wanted to install pens so the robots could make drawings to record their movement paths.


Controlling Wild Mobile Robots Using Virtual Gates and Discrete Transitions

This is not a boot camp for bad robots (which would be funny). It is research on controlling robots. The robot’s movements are random within their set of boundaries. They are trying to find ways to make them perform complex tasks like patrolling. The language is obviously meant for experts but I was able to parse out some of it. I am interested in the fact that the actual robots they used are quite simple and could be easily made.


Communication Between Robot and Base Station

This has good information on how to make the robot communicate with the base station. So far my reading suggests that I will need to do that to accomplish any of the things that interest me.


Robot Grrl

This site is awesome. This girl is awesome. I want to know her. She designs cool robots. I am going to write her a fan letter!


12.24.16 What do I want?

  • Create Art

This goal is somewhat separate to the remaining goals and may involve adI would like to be able to create art through the movements of the robots. I am envisioning a kind of kaleidoscope of led colored lights. This should be possible through choreographed programing but eventually by interpreting various input signals to create the patterns.

  • Interact with Each Other

I want the robots to interact with each other in a way that at least appears to form a social group.

  • Group Response to Outside Stimulus

I want the group to respond to outside stimulus.

  • Continuous Interaction through self-regulation

Eventually I would like to set the group up for continuous function and interaction by setting them up to detect power drain and plug in to recharge as they loop through programing functions.


12.24.16 More Swarms, Drawing, Artificial Life & Communications

Bristle Bot Swarm

I love Instructables. I should have started there. There are so many good projects and lots of helpful people. This is showing me some more attainable projects.


Build an Audrino Drawbot

I am interested in letting my robots make drawings of their movements. This project is a good demonstration of how to do that. I am a bit pleased with myself since they are doing pretty much what I expected I would have to do. That means I am learning something. GOOD.



Blog about evolutionary robotics and artificial life.


The Scientific and Philosophical Scope of Artificial Life

This is very interesting. It may provide some useful foundation thinking for my work in this project and beyond.


Global Sources Electronics

A source for robotics equipment


An Approach of IR-based short-range correspondence systems for swarm robot balanced requisitions and communications

Eu-FUCKIN-reka. This was actually helpful. Bless their organized, thoughtful hearts for writing something that is clear, understandable, useful and seems to answer my question. Also, they did a great job explaining the code. It all makes perfect sense. Good for them.



libIrcom is a library that can be used straightforward on the e-puck robots to achieve local range infrared communication, also known as range and bearing. libIrcom relies on the infrared sensors of the robots to transmit and receive information. However, the communication system is multiplexed with the proximity sensing system commonly used on the robots. It is therefore possible to both communicate and avoid obstacles.

It looks useful but, it is not up-to-date and many of the links are broken. I suspect it is not being maintained and therefore may not be as useful as it seems.


Long Range IR Communication

This is about turning short range IR communication into long range. I don’t think I need to know how to do that but the information could be useful later.


Message Board Discussion About using IR to communicate in Swarm Bots

This was somewhat usfeul but you have to read through all the confusing posts.


Tutorial: Arduino IR sender and receiver

I bought an IR practice kit to learn this with,.


The Braitenberg Vehicles

Very good tutorial. Might need to use this to find primary sources. Braitenburg Vehicles are interesting in and of themselves. My little brother and I used to try and build them all the time even if we didn’t know what they were called.


12.25.16 Project Plan

Written and Posted (original plan was later replaced)


12.26.16 No Work on Robots

I needed to think about something else so I painted the Space Shuttle.


12.27.16 Part Ordering Day!

Today is parts ordering day. I am finally going to start buying stuff!

I have already done a lot of research on kits vs. independent parts and where to buy and all that jazz. I didn’t document it all because I don’t think it matters to anything but my budget.

I have decided I need three things. I need a soldering kit. I need a robot that is fully functional to practice code on and I need Arduino parts to practice building with. I hate to buy a prebuilt robot when I could build one myself but I need to be able to run programs and figure out if what I am doing is a problem in construction or code.

I could buy parts separately from a kit, but I think that’s probably going to be a lot of trouble when I don’t know what I need.


Popular mechanics Work Station

Dream dream dream….



1 Ringo Robot

Then I got distracted because Cyle called to ask me to come meet him. I’ll do it tomorrow. Ill order the rest later,


12.30.16 Ringobot Lessons & Code Compilers

I was distracted by Cyle’s visit for a couple of days but I am back now. I did a bit more research on Arduino swarm robotics. Sometimes it seems very hard and sometimes it doesn’t. I am still somewhat overwhelmed. I didn’t order anything but the Ringo Bot. I am still making my home into a studio so I can’t devote all my time to the robots.

My Ringo bot arrived. I installed everything and went through its preprogrammed behaviors.

I don’t like the way it moves. It looks great but it is loud and only works on perfectly smooth surfaces.


Online Code Compiler

I like this because it is big and easy to read and it lets you communicate with others. I may use it later.


I read the Ringo Manual.

Ringo’s motor is based on the Solar Popper Robot produced by Solarbotics. Solarbotics is known for its BEAM robotics kits, which are robots with complex behaviors carried out by simple analog circuits. Mark Tilden is largely responsible for the BEAM movement.


Solarbotics Photopopper Photovore V5.0

This is a solar-powered,  light-seeking, obstacle avoidance robot. It is a cute bug design. It moves fast. It costs 39 dollars.


12.31.16 Uncanny Valley

I didn’t work a lot on the robots. I went thrifting with Hope. I am now trying to work on Studio Construction and it is occupying a lot of my time. However, I did have a very useful discussion with Hope and Wade while trimming the top of my new desk. I ended up staying at the IMRC for quite a while. Wade played a good devil’s advocate by forcing me to explain how this project is art,

We talked about the “Uncanny Valley,” which is important. I didn’t really think of it too much, because I am not thinking of humanoid robotics, but I think the ideas are relevant.


Why We Find Human-like Robots So Creepy

Description and explanation of the “Uncanny Valley.”


Avoiding the Uncanny Valley

This talks about how researchers try and find the line between relatable creations and “too human.”


I was thinking about the uncanny valley and it reminds me of my own aversion to monkeys. I am not scared of them or anything, but I have never been able to find them cute. They always seem just a little bit creepy. They are too human-like without retaining the aesthetics of something human. I wonder if this thinking can be overcome?

Are we capable of passing through the stage when the non-human robot is just different enough to be upsetting so that we can get to a phase when it doesn’t seem different at all (a la Westworld, which was an awesome show). Maybe the first step is with projects like mine. Make them animal-like first. Not that it matters so much, I know how far away realistic robots are…. But…. It sure is fascinating to think about.


01.01.17 Ordering Stuff, Part 2!

FINALY! I did a lot of research. I considered ordering parts separately  but I really don’t feel capable. Also, I don’t think it saved a lot of money. I ordered kits to cover most of the basic things I might want to learn.


Arduino Fan Module (Arduino Compatible), Application DIY Electronic Project.

I ordered this because I thought I might eventually want to use a fan inside the robots. I thought maybe I could use it to create a breath-like effect. This one was inexpensive so I got it to experiment with.


OSOYOO Ultimate RFID Master Starter Kit With UNO R3 Board for Arduino + USB Cable + RC522 Module

I will likely need to be able to use RFID to identify parts of the environment the robots live in. I may even be able to use it to identify specific robots. I am not sure but I thought it was worth practicing with.


microtivity IL612 5mm Diffused RGB Controllable LED, Common Anode (Pack of 12)

I wanted to order a light cube kit. I think it would be good soldering practice and good coding practice but Sean says it is very time consuming and I don’t want to get distracted unless I am sure it is useful. I thought a few good LEDs would be a nice compromise.


VKmaker T30 High-quality 45 in 1 Sensors Modules Starter Kit for Arduino, better than 37-in-1 sensor kit

This seemed like a good deal. I don’t know which sensors I want to use, but having a selection to experiment with seemed important.


Elegoo Upgraded Electronics Fun Kit w/ Power Supply Module, Jumper Wire, Precision Potentiometer, 830 tie-points Breadboard for Arduino, Raspberry Pi, STM32

I was going to buy extra wires and transistors and stuff but it turned out to be cheaper to just buy this.


Elegoo Mega 2560 Project The Most Complete Ultimate Starter Kit w/ TUTORIAL, MEGA 2560 controller board, LCD1602, Servo, Stepper Motor for Arduino Mega2560 UNO Nano

This is my primary Arduino kit. I researched a bunch of them and read all the evaluations I could find. This seemed like the most cost effective. It doesn’t have good tutorials but I plan to use books for that anyway,


AboveTEK 5.5 inch 2X Desktop & Handheld LED Magnifier – Convertible Folding Design with 10 LED Lamp – Powered by 2 AA Battery or 110V Adapter – Plus 1″ 5X Aux Lens – Best Reading Working Magnifying

I wanted a clamp on desk lamp but there are not a lot pf places to put it. I thought I would try this first and see how it goes. If it isn’t useful I’ll buy a bigger one.


Sywon 60W 110V Electric Soldering Iron Kit, Adjustable Temperature Welding Iron, Magnifier Station, 5pcs Tips, 1.0mm 50 Gram Solder Wire, Desoldering Pump, and Tips Cleaner in Carry Bag

This was a pretty complete welding kit. I need to be able to cut things anyway so I got this rather than the basic kit.


IRWIN VISE-GRIP Multi-Tool Wire Stripper/Crimper/Cutter, 2078309

I had one but the handle is all worn out so I got a new one.


Additional Items

I also bought various clamps, batteries, labels, containers and books.


01.05.17 Played with the Ringo

I had a chaotic time structuring my apartment into a studio. I was super busy. I didn’t have time to do more than read a few websites and I don’t think I was very focused on that. Thursday I finally got to practice coding with the Ringo. I practiced with its pre-loaded behaviors.


01.06-07.17 Went to Virginia’s, No Work

Virginia suggested that I talk to Gene F. about independent study.


01.08.17  Worked on Space Shuttle


01.09.17 Practice Coding

I worked on coding today. I used the Arduino book I downloaded. “Arduino, Getting Started with Arduino: The Ultimate Beginners Guide” by Steve Gold.


01.10.17 New Project Proposal

I talked to Owen about the idea of devoting a class to the robots. He said I should weigh the benefits. Will I learn more from a narrowly focused project or from Susan’s methods class that covers many skills. I am a bit torn about this. I would love to take Susan’s class, but I feel like my interest is currently very focused on this project. Everything I read gives me more ideas. I think it goes beyond just the robots. I like the idea of working with some version of artificial life. I also like the idea of art that “does something.” I want to be able to create “working” works.

Gene asked me to write a 500 word proposal so he can see what I am interested in. I have pretty much done that, but I am going to rewrite it into a single proposal he can go over more easily.

Note: Done, sent and posted as project plan.


01.11.17 Practice with Arduino Starter Kits

I already ready started practicing with the Ringo Bot. Today I start with my Arduino starter kits.

I will use the Elegoo Lesson Book. It isn’t great, but I know I have all the parts to practice with.

I worked apx 9 hours. It probably would have been longer but I kept stopping to figure out ways to sort all these parts and to figure out what I am thinking. I’d probably learn faster if I resisted the urge to do that but I really hate disorder. It makes it harder to concentrate.

Also, the transistors are aesthetically pleasing.

I worked apx 9 hours. It probably would have been longer but I kept stopping to figure out ways to sort all these parts and to figure out what I am thinking. I’d probably learn faster if I resisted the urge to do that but I really hate disorder. It makes it harder to concentrate.

Also, the transistors are aesthetically pleasing.

1am. I have a massive headache so I thought I’d make it worse by reading up on Arduino Parts. There is a very useful looking resistive touchscreen I may be able to use for my Art Book


01.12.17 Practice, Consultation & New Books

I worked on the Arduino parts this morning. I got stuck because I don’t think I understand the circuits well enough. When I was at school, Sean showed me some books. I have a beginner’s electronics book, a book on physical computing and a book on Arduino Robots. All are useful. I need to get a better grasp of basic electronics first. I can see that I need it. He also explained the wall lights he built. They work with an IR emitter. That’s good. I can use that idea with my resin painting!

New Books: Aurduino Robotics, Understanding Basic Electronics & Physical Computing


01.13.17 Practice, Confusion & Progress

I read more of the books Sean showed me. I made notes. I am treating the electronics book like a class. I am going through it, making notes and testing myself on the principles.

I also figured out a lot about the breadboard, circuits, the shift register and multiplexing. I also worked out the installation of resistors. I did the math to figure out the resistors, but that was the easiest part. I definitely seem to be going at this backwards. The research I am reading seems to think I should be struggling with the things I am finding simple but then the things I struggle with are treated as if everyone should know them. It’s somewhat frustrating. The shift register is a good example. I read lots of tutorials but not one of them thought to tell me how to know which pins went with which number. I finally looked up the part itself and downloaded the explanation sheet. It had a diagram. IT WAS NOT INTUITIVE! I don’t know how I was supposed to just know it.

The Elegoo lesson on multiplexing 8 LEDs with a shift register actually worked!


Wikipedia explanation of Ohm’s Law

I = V/R where I is the current through the conductor in units of amperes, V is the voltage measured across the conductor in units of volts, and R is the resistance of the conductor in units of ohms. More specifically, Ohm’s law states that the R in this relation is constant, independent of the current.[3]

01.15.17 Reorganizing & Practice

Today I spent 3 hours reorganizing my research. Earlier this week I found that I couldn’t find what I needed because I had too much info. I took my journal and changed it to a list of dates with keywords covering the subjects researched. Then I added anchor links to the research page to go straight to the information. I also uploaded the Arduino practice research and the Understanding Basic Electronics Research. I think the effort was worth the time. This is going to be a long term project. I need to be able to find things.


More Electronics practice!