Enable Builds a Delta Robot, Part One: A New Hope

In preparation for National Instrument’s annual week-long technology bonanza (fittingly called “NI Week”), the team here at Enable has been working on creating a showpiece to demonstrate the skills of several of our learned staff members.  Ben, our fearless leader and programming guru, called a small group into the boardroom last week.  “Gentlemen,” He proudly announced, stroking his new puppy, not unlike a Bond villain.  “We are going to build a Delta-bot for NI Week.”

Ben Plotting The Robot Revolution

The stunned silence that followed was mercifully ended when Navjot, our newest Co-op student, asked the question that no one else dared:  “That sounds great, Ben… but what is a Delta-bot?”

A Delta robot, we later learned, is a type of robot that consists of three arms connected to universal joints at the base.  They allow for the bottom connecting point of the arms to move, both quickly and dexterously, in three-dimensional space.  Delta-bots are used in manufacturing, mainly as “pickers”; grabbing items off a conveyer belt at great speed.  They can, however, be adapted for all manner of fine detail work, and our Delta-bot would not be used for simple picking.

We were set to our task: Using nothing but LEGO Mindstorms, Tetrix robotic sets, an “iCade” bluetooth arcade machine, a laptop, the internet, and our wits, we were to create an interactive arcade game that would sit proudly at the Enable Engineering booth throughout NI Week.  The Delta-bot will be affixed with an optical sensor, and placed above a spinning disk with a wavy black line drawn on it.  Players will use the iCade to manipulate the Delta-bot and try and keep the optical sensor trained on the black line.   They will be scored based on their performance, and if they reach a certain score, a separate robot will dispense an Enable TC branded plastic egg full of silly putty.  In addition, if anyone tweets “@enabletc #NIWeek #eggme”, the machine will give them an egg.  This will work to draw people to our booth, raise our online profile, and to show off the amazing things we can do with what is still essentially, a child’s educational toy.

Our Detailed Schematics

Navjot and Smit, our indefatigable Co-op students on loan from the University of Waterloo, were given the task of building the robot.  As young men with strong 21st Century skills, they started their research in the natural place: YouTube. There are several helpful tutorials available on YouTube to show the construction and function of Delta robots, and many of them use the same Mindstorms kits that we would be.  With new inspiration, the young Asimovs ventured forth to the storage room to gather up as much LEGO as they could carry, and thus begin their journey.  Little did they know that they would begin this adventure as mere Co-op Students, but that they would end it as men.

-by Andrew Baxter, Curriculum Specialist

Delta Bot 6 Projects 14

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