If you are wondering, this is not our answer to the ancient question: ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’ But when talking about the beginnings of our tinkering with open source technologies, the answer is definitely YES!
The Great Robot Egg Race project marked the beginnings of our journey of learning about Arduino, an open source hardware and software.
One day Zuzana, a member of the UCL Institute of Making, suggested we should take part in their challenge to build a small robot. My reply was something like: ‘Whaaat? We’ve never made a robot before!’ But she didn’t have to persuade me for too long.
CyberCitizens love challenges. We firmly believe that stepping into uncharted waters can be really rewarding. And we thought that even if we failed, it could be an interesting experience and a steep learning curve for us. And it definitely was.
The challenge was to build a robot which could pick up a fresh egg, travel a short distance over a variety of terrains and obstacles and deliver the unsmashed egg into a frying pan.
We decided to build our egg racer out of cardboard and plywood. We wanted to build a smart minimalist piece which wouldn’t cost us too much. We laser cut the plywood to make a sort of chassis on the bottom of which we attached two motors and wheels. Then we laser cut a cardboard cube which served to pick up and store an egg safely. All this simple machinery was operated by Arduino, a motor shield and mini servos.
After a month of building the robot finally the egg race day arrived. We must admit we overlooked one aspect of the brief so we were not able to straddle a huge cube in the middle of the racecourse and got penalised, but we still managed to come 2nd. Taking into account that just a few minutes before the race started we were still not very confident whether we could pull it off, we did really well. And it was fun.
What did we learn? We learnt that it’s exciting to take risks and try new things. We learnt that it’s good to ask questions too. The Arduino community is really huge and supportive. We also learnt that there is no need to master programming before you start tinkering with Arduino. You can definitely give it a go even if you have no technical background.
As we mentioned in our previous blog post we are interested in using new and open source technologies in our creative practice.
Our next project is much more ambitious one. We are embarking on hacking an existing animatronic toy. We are planning to add some functionalities such as a bubble machine and colour changing horn. We also want to control it with our voice. So wish us luck and we will let you know how it goes in our next blog post. Happy tinkering.