The first public appearance of Bootstrap in its final form was at the Makercon event outside of Tampa, Florida on April 18. Makercon is hosted by the Gulf Coast Makers and featured a variety of robotics exhibits and demonstrations, as well as other maker fair.
The event produced some useful feedback on the design of Bootstrap and a number of prospective builders identified themselves and received a small starter kit. I hope to feature some of their builds in future blog entries. In addition, the first prototype of Bootstrap ran around inside a small box from 9 am to 6 pm (using several sets of batteries in the process) without incident. So the event was a good test of the durability of the ‘bot. Under continuous motion the battery life with 3 AA batteries seems to be about 70 minutes.
The next public event for Bootstrap will probably be Orlando Makerfaire, scheduled for September 12 & 13, 2015. Partial kits will again be available for interested builders.
Although most of the examples on this site show the Bootstrap robot with 3D printed components, access to a 3D printer is not required to build Bootstrap. By using a few extra purchased components and a little fabrication from scrap materials a fully functioning Bootstrap can be built without one. In fact the robot was designed around these widely available parts and materials and then 3D components were designed to mimic what could be purchased or hand cut.
Details of how to build Bootstrap without using 3D printed parts are provided on the Variations and Upgrades page. That page also includes downloadable templates for hand cutting the chassis or using a CNC machine or laser cutter to produce it. The extra components required are specified at the bottom of the Materials page. The example shown above (a mock-up with incomplete wiring) uses 6mm plywood for the chassis and aluminum flashing for the bumper. It also has the power switch mounted on the left side, rather than the right, compared to the 3D printed version.
In addition to the Bootstrap robot being a learning platform in its basic form, it is also intended to be easily extendable with additional inexpensive sensors and modules. The first example of this is a Bluetooth adapter, which allows two-way communication with another Bluetooth enabled device such as a smart phone.
The HC-06 (and similar modules) is a <$10 Bluetooth module that is widely used with Arduinos. It provides a simple serial interface to the Ardiuno, using two pins for serial as well as power and ground pins. Here are a couple of pictures of a Bootstrap with a HC-06 mounted. The module is permanently soldered in, as are the power and ground pins. The serial (RX and TX) pins are connected by jumpers to allow the use of different pins in the future. The HC-06 does not need to be soldered on–it could be attached with tape and use jumpers for all 4 pins so that it could be removed later.
In the included video a simple demonstration of Bluetooth control of the robot is provided. A rough app was put together using MIT App Inventor that allows the phone to connect to Bootstrap and to control basic drive functions and the buzzer. App Inventor creates Android only apps, but many other tools could be used to create an app to connect to the HC-06.
The HC-06 has been tested at 30+ meters (100 feet) indoors, line of sight, with the phone app and was receiving a strong signal at that distance.
A more detailed presentation of setting up Bootstrap for Bluetooth control, including sample programs for two-way communication, will be provided on a Variations and Upgrades page in coming weeks.