Time after time you see these designs created by students, whether it be through contests or on their own time, and time after time, their ingenuity amazes me. How complex is this robot to build, though? Seems like the average kid and parent combo might have a hard time pulling this off.
This reminds me of a robotic kit that my father brought home one day from his work. Being a Mechanical Engineer, he had hoped to have the bug bite me so that I would follow his path. Not quite, I am an RF guy :) . However, this was back when I was 12. The kit was simple and easy to put together following instructions, even though I had no real idea of mechanical forces.
For someone in High School and no "formal training", this article serves as a reminder that there are a lot of creative and intelligent minds out there that understand things without spending the four to eight years of academic training and can figure things out.
And you are right Beth, even with a parent-kid collaboration, creating something like this from scratch without instructions is *not* an easy task.
This reminds me of some of the really neat projects out there that encourage kids to be explore robitics and other engeering related fields. The one I can think of off of the top of my head is the Lego League. A group of Girl Scouts from Gilbert started off building a robot to score some points on a competition table and ended up creating a prosthetic hand for a little 3 year old girl and going all the way to nationals and I believe they got to go to Washington D.C.
Back in the early 1960's I remember a wiz kid who's science fair entry was an electron microscope. Now that's a device that would really be out of the range of the average child and parent to build.
A simple robot like the tree climber could be built by someone with access to a machine shop or metal working shop in school. Putting together the control electronics and programming the micro processor might be a harder challenge unless the kid's parent or teacher worked in the field or there was access to a good robotic development kit.
I recall a citywide science fair, back in the early 1960's, where I exhibited a simple traffic control system with wireless capability to turn the intersection lights red to permit emergency vehicles the right of way. The model was made of cardboard and construction paper, painted flashlight bulbs and a box of relays I crudely put together along with a 27 MHz model airplane R/C receiver. The brightest student in my school was also there with an entry, a mockup of a heart lung machine with flowing liquid, which her parents and her science teacher collaborated on. They all snubbed me until the end of the day when the prize winners were announced. My entry won the only award for our school. The girl's project with all of her adult help was one of at least three heart lung machines entered in the fair. Mine was crude, hand made by the entrant and was original. The judges were quite astute.
The girl and her parents were eventually graceful enough to congradulate me. Her science teacher was not!
The benefit in using a separat motor for each leg is the ability to grasp non-symetrical things, such as real trees. In addition it could provide a steering option if needed. The desire to remove cost and value from a product, at the expense of removing valuable functionality, is one way to assure that the product is less useable. Before removing parts to reduce cost, it is important to understand the value of the functionality that those "extra" parts provide. It is always possible to reduce the cost of a product by removing useful functionality, and by reducing the quality and quantity of materials. Unfortunately however, that product will have a shorter life and be less useful than one that may have cost a small bit more.
If this sounds like an angry rant against producing things with bare-minimum functionality and a short lifetime, that is because it is just that.
A tree climbing robot is indeed an awsome invention, and the mnethod selected seems to be quite robust indeed.
MY question now is what is the intended purpose or use of this robot?
Thanks for the comments everyone. The original sketch showed two legs connected with a gear mechanism, with one leg moved by a motor and the other moving in an equal and opposite motion via the gear. The inventor didn't use that approach due to complexity, but using a single motor for each pair of legs is certainly doable without sacrificing the ability to grip an asymmetrical object. Think about bicycle brakes which are able to grip the rip with two independent arms, using only a single pull. Hopefully the author will enter his project into an Instructables contest (or science fair) because I think it's a winner.
I agree with William for the most part. Having been the user and or technician working on the end product, I am often frustrated with the lack of forethought that sometimes goes into the engineering and design of a product.
For example, It was pointed out that the t-pins were an "unnecessary extra" and that the climbing 'points' could be designed right into the legs... this may be fine for initial usage but what happens when the tip gets blunted or dull over time? Or worse yet, somehow bends? Then you have to disassemble and rework an entire leg rather than replacing a single tip.
There have been many times when I have had to rework some aspect of a product that has failed to meet expectations once it hit a real world scenario. On the one hand, it is good business for me in correcting these flaws, however these flaws are still sad to see when things could have been done so much better.
We as designers and engineers need to remember and actively think about the environment our products will be working in and the abuses to which they may be subjected... this greatly improves the perceived value and noted reliability of our products.
If climbing or scaling objects is the intended application, then a commercialized, proven version of this robot could have helped scale the Washington Monument to check for damage this week. If you look at it in that lights, you can envision tons of use cases.
This robot could save cost & time for a tree surgeon to remove old limbs. The robot could carry a cord for a rope, even run it over a bad limb to be pulled down. It may also be good for tree-mounting personal radio antennas. I could see a local HAM club in the future buying one to lease to their members.
This is a great project and excellent implementation. Its nice to see some engineering enthusiasm in young people. We need the next generation of engineers to be engaged now. Several times I have volunteered as a Science Fair judging in past years. American innovation is alive and well in the youth of America and this tree climbing robot is another great example!
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