Build: micro:bit controlled robot – ChickBot

Over KickStarter I funded the ChickBot micro:bit robot kit for £18.00

http://chickbot.club/

The kit arrived and two days later I got building. I found the instructions on both the leaflet that came with the kit and the ChickBot website out of date and confusing. So here are my own instructions

Contents

IMG_0209.jpg

  • 1 x battery switch
  • 1 x battery pack
  • 4 x pieces of double sided tape
  • 1 x piece of velcro
  • 6 x cable ties
  • 2 x on-off jumpers
  • 5 x circuit mounts
  • 1 x chassis
  • 1 x motorboard
  • 2 x pieces of string (yellow)
  • 2 x motors (yellow)
  • 2 x wheels (green)
  • 1 x square of polystyrene
  • 1/2 x ping pong ball (orange)
  • 1 x balloon (purple)

Build

Attach the motors

Attach the motors to the board using the cables ties. You will need two cables ties for each motor. How you tie the motors on will affect how the bot drives so follow these instructions carefully. You’re tying it down on the side and the back.

chickbot

Image A: Chassis

  1. Place a motor in the bottom right of Image A: Chassis. The screws should point outwards and the cables should be facing inwards.
  2. Secure the back: From the underneath of the chassis, push a cable tie up through the red hole. Thread it through the hole in the back of the motor and back over the edge of the chassis. Pull tightly to secure.
  3. IMG_0223.jpg

    Image B: half right

    In Image B: half right, the left motor is placed on incorrectly and pulls to the right! The right motor is tied on correctly. The cable tie has to tie over the back of the chassis, not the side.

  4. Secure the side: From the bottom of the chassis push a cable tie through the yellow hole. Thread it through the bottom hole, thread it through the motor out to the visible screw. Tie the cable tie on the opposite side to the motors.
  5. Thread the motor wires through the two holes in the middle of the chassis. Pull them all the way through so they won’t get tangled in the wheels. See image C: motors on. Note: the left motor is on incorrectly! The wires should be facing in, not out.
IMG_0224.jpg

Image C: motors on

Attach the wheels

Note: The ChickBot websites describes putting the rubber from the balloon onto the wheels. As we’re a wooden floor house I haven’t done this as my bot runs smoothly. If you’re running on carpet you might want to follow their directions

  1. Cut the balloon into three pieces.
  2. Use two pieces for the wheels, if you wish
  3. Cut the final piece into two thin pieces
  4. Place one square over a spoke
  5. Push the wheel over the balloon and the spoke – the secures the wheel in place. Without the balloon it would wobble and fall out

Attach the third wheel

  1. Stick the ping pong ball to the polysterene square using two pieces of double sided tape.
  2. Stick the polysterene square to the top end of the chassis – on the same side as the motors. This is your third wheel.

Attach the motorboard

  1. Push the pointy ends of the circuit mounts through the motorboard. You want the flat ends underneath and the point ends pointing up with all the electronic bits.
  2. Unpeel the sticky bits and stick the motorboard in the middle of the chassis – just above the cable ties. You will need room for the battery between the wheels

Let’s start screwing!

Attach the battery clip to the motorboard

  1. Take the red wire from the battery clip and push it into the block on the motorboard labelled +
  2. Using the screwdriver screw down the + block
  3. Tug gently on the red wire to make sure it is secure
  4. Take the black wire from the battery clip and push it into the block on the motorboard labelled 0 – next to the +
  5. Using the screwdriver screw down the 0 block
  6. Tug gently on the black wire to make sure it is secure.

Attach the motors to the motorboard

  1. Using the same technique above – screw the two wires from the left motor into the blocks labelled M1
  2. Screw the two wires from the right motor into the blocks labelled M2
  3. Tug gently on each wire to check it is secure

Image D: Motorboard shows the motorboard up close with all the wires screwed in. The battery connector is at the top of the picture, red and black. The motors are screwed into the terminal in the right of the picture – green, white, yellow and blue.

One of the on-off jumpers is also plugged in – to the left of to the battery connector. The second one goes next to the buzzer – the round black item at the bottom of the picture.

mb2.png

Image D: motorboard

Power!

  1. Put AA batteries into the battery holder. Make sure they are the right way round
  2. Secure the battery holder to the back of the bot using the velcro
  3. Clip the battery clip onto the battery holder. It can only go on one way
  4. Add the on-off jumper to the motorboard – the entire bot will not work without this! ChickBot suggests tying some string to the on-off jumper so if your bot goes crazy you can pull the switch real easily. But I think half the fun is watching your bot go crazy and then running after it.
  5. You can add another on-off jumper to the buzzer. Without it your bot will make no sound (possibly a good thing!)

Computer!

You’re almost there!

  1. Go to https://www.microbit.co.uk/txrlsa and press Edit to get a sample program.
  2. Select “Compile” to download it to your computer.
  3. Plug your micro:bit into your computer using a USB cable.
  4. Drag the file from your computer to your micro:bit
  5. Unplug your micro:bit from your computer
  6. Plug your micro:bit into the motorboard. Push firmly and make sure it’s not in at an angle.

Go!

Press A and B together on the micro:bit to watch your ChickBot do a victory dance.

IMG_0231.JPG

 

Troublesho0ting (what I did wrong)

  1. Put the cable ties on just like I almost did in Image B. Putting them on incorrectly will cause your micro:bit to turn incorrectly. (I should know)
  2. Double sided sticky tape is mean! Make sure you’re putting everything in the right place before you press it down and it’s stuck there FOREVER
  3. You need the on-off jumper. When plugged in, it’s an on switch… so when it’s not plugged in, it’s off!
  4. The micro:bit needs to plugged into the motorboard straight, not wobbly, and facing up is better so you can see your LEDs
  5. Remember to put those pesky AA’s in correctly and also… do they have any power in them?
  6. If you’ve downloaded the program correctly the LEDs should say “Go!” just before your bot takes off. Putting in visual cues like this is a good idea when testing bots.

My 2 cents

Hands down: ChickBot is the cheapest micro:bit bot out there to date. It was quick and relatively easy to make with no soldering or drilling required. I made a few errors when building it, but that was down to poor instructions.  With the yellow motors, it’s a flyer. I didn’t think the ping pong ball third wheel would work but it does and it’s fab. It adds a bit of quirkiness to the project. Trying to add chopped up balloon to the wheels makes it feel cheap though.

I know the cost of circuit printing, motorboards, motors and wheels.. but your average child, parent and teacher does not and £19 won’t seem cheap to them. I just think chopping up a balloon and wrapping it around a tyre feels too much like amateur hour.

Yes, it was a KickStarter. Yes, it’s a non-profit social enterprise. BUT there are no up to date instructions. The instructions included and on the website are using old photographs with boxes over them saying “Not the correct picture” !

It’s a tricky bot to put together without visual clues as to what you’re supposed to be doing. I would never sell anything, even for no profit, without proper instructions. This just leads to frustrations, kids/teachers/parents giving up before they’ve started and a lot of wobbly bots out there. I’m all for trying to figure out how things work… just don’t give me out of date instructions. Give me no instructions instead!

I was excited to read that you could buy all the parts yourself and make your own bot… The website says “Coming soon” 😦

ChickBot will be a great cheap robot for schools and clubs to get their teeth into. Right now, it’s a half finished project.

 

 

 

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