New Engineering Robotics Projects to Introduce in Your After School Program

New Engineering Robotics Projects for Your After School Program

Even after you’ve fallen in love with robots, it may be time to go the extra mile with your engineering skills. There are so many activities that will do just that: build your technical skills while also maintaining your knowledge of coding and design skills.

Here are a couple of engineering activities to get you off on the right foot.


Maze Solving Robot

Isn’t it about time to take the mouse in the maze a step farther? Why not replace the mouse with an intelligent robot capable of guiding itself through a complex maze? In fact, that idea is already a reality for many robot enthusiasts. Robot operators will advance their engineering and design skills and will expand their abilities as computer programmers as well.

Students will begin building their new robotics project with two major components in mind: the motors and the infrared sensors. Two motors will be put in place to control the robot’s movement forward, back, right and left, both at slow and fast speeds. Five infrared sensors will help the bot feel along the walls of the maze.

Of course, students will also come across challenges in the execution. The major obstacle students face in this task is how to teach their new robotics project which way to turn when it comes to an intersection. As a team, students will decide if their robot, by default, turns left or right at each three- and four-way intersection. Although the robot will not always take the correct path, it will be learning more each time about the correct direction to go. Each practice run, the robot will record dead ends and bad turns to improve its route.

Students then must devise an algorithm to teach their new robotics projects directions. The protocol is broken down into nine steps from start to finish. First, students will place their bots on the start line. The robot will enter the maze and continue straight before it comes across any intersection. Second, the robot will move left at a left-only turn (no right turn alternative). Third, the robot will repeat: moving left at a left-only turn. Fourth, the robot will turn left (despite a continue straight alternative) because of an always-left rule the team has agreed on. Fifth, the robot will reach a dead end and must execute a U-turn to return back to the original path. Sixth, the robot will turn left at the previous intersection. (Students will give the previous move a store value of LUL, meaning in the next run, the bot will continue straight (S) instead of making the same incorrect turn. Seventh, the car will continue straight, despite an intersection, since the intersection provides a right-only option. Eighth, the bot will make a right because there is no left or straight alternative. Finally, step nine, the robot will reach its target.

Besides skills gained in programming and engineering, students will also develop a sense of teamwork and perseverance that will serve them well in future projects.

Metal Detector Robotic Vehicle

In this activity, students will learn just one of many ways that robots can impact human lives in a very big way. Removing landmines worldwide is a dangerous effort that often brings about unnecessary casualties. By programming robots to detect metal buried underground, new robotics projects can do the unsafe work that humans have for so long.

Students will learn about a metal detector’s three main components: an LC Circuit, Proximity Sensor, and LED and Buzzer. The LC Circuit’s primary function is to trigger the proximity sensor if it detects metal nearby. The proximity sensor will then prompt the LED light to glow and the buzzer to sound.

The LC Circuit is considered a resonating circuit, meaning it resonates at the same frequency of the materials it comes in close contact to. The proximity sensor can pick up on objects as long as there is no physical interference.

The LC Circuit is activated when L1 and C1 have detected metal nearby. A variable resistor will match the proximity sensor’s value to equal the LC circuit. Resistor R3 will initiate voltage to transistor Q1, thus turning on the LED light and buzzer.

Students are encouraged to experiment through trial and error to connect the circuit correctly. They can also experiment with different types of metal to record how quickly the metal detector is able to pick up on each one.

Human Detection Robot

Take the previous scenario even further. What about cases where human lives are put at risk to save the lives of others out at sea during natural disasters or buried under rubble in war zones. But what if new robotics projects could do the same job, more efficiently and effectively, and without the risk of human loss?

Transmitter Circuit

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Receiver Circuit

The circuit is made up of the following components: AT89S51 microcontroller, PIR sensor, RF transmitter and receiver, L293D IC, PC, robot chassis, Max232 IC, gV battery, and motors.

While experimenting, it’s best that students break the circuit into two sections: the transmitter section and the receiver section.

In the Transmitter Section, the PC will interact directly with the circuit, via the Max232. Logic levels of the PC range from ± 3v to ± 15V and the Max232 is used to calibrate voltage. Output is sent to the RF transmitter. 

Components like the AT89c51microcontroller, L293D motor driver IC, RF receiver, motors of the robot, and PIR sensor are essential to the Receiver Section. The RF receiver connects to the port3 of the microcontroller. Data pins also connect to the microcontroller’s receiver.

The Passive Infra Red sensor, or PIR, play a vital role in detecting humans. Since it is thought that all humans emit infrared radiation (although very low), this bot is then able to detect those wavelengths. The sensor’s strength reaches a maximum of 20 feet.

Derek Capo