Robots are used in the auto, medical, and manufacturing industries, in all manner of exploration vehicles, and, of course, in many science fiction films.  The word ‘robot’ first appeared in a Czechoslovakian satirical play, Rossum’s Universal Robots, by Karel Capek in 1920.  Robots in this play tended to be human-like.  From this point onward, it seemed that many science fiction stories involved these robots trying to fit into society and make sense out of human emotions.  This changed when General Motors installed the first robots in its manufacturing plant in 1961.  These automated machines presented an entirely different image from the “human form” robots of science fiction. 

Building and programming a robot is a combination of mechanics, electronics, and problem-solving.  What you’re about to learn while doing the activities and projects in this text will be relevant to real-world applications that use robotic control, the only differences being the size and sophistication.  The mechanical principles, example program listings, and circuits you will use are similar to very common elements in industrial applications developed by engineers. 

The goal of this text is to get you interested in and excited about the fields of engineering, mechatronics, and software development as you construct, wire, and program an autonomous robot.  This series of hands-on activities and projects will introduce you to basic robotic concepts using the BOE Shield-Bot. Its name comes from the Board of Education® Shield for Arduino prototyping board that is mounted on its wheeled chassis.  An example of a BOE Shield-Bot with an infrared obstacle detection circuit built on the shield’s prototyping area is shown below.

Board of Education Shield for Arduino on a Boe-Bot Robot Chassis, with an infrared detection circuit built on the breadboard.

The activities and projects in this text start by giving you an introduction to your BOE Shield-Bot’s brain, the Arduino® Uno by Arduino LLC. Then, you will build, test, and calibrate the BOE Shield-Bot.  Next, you will learn to program the BOE Shield-Bot for basic maneuvers.  After that, you’ll be ready to add different kinds of sensors, and write sketches to make the BOE Shield-Bot sense its environment and respond on its own.