Category Archives: Robots

Build a simple shot-pouring robot

ShotBot pours you a drink with the push of a button.

The ShotBot, not to be confused–or used in conjunction with–the “ShopBot CNC router,” is a simple machine for dispensing, what else, shots. It’s powered by a Geekduino, an Arduino-compatible board with an ATmega328 at its core, along with two RobotGeek Pumping Stations and a few other parts.


The build itself is fairly simple, with each of the two pumping stations hooked up to a digital pin on the Geekduino, and two buttons hooked wired in for control. The input tube is inserted into a bottle of your beverage of choice, and the output is, as you might guess, placed into a shot glass.

Per the default code, the pump is activated for 2500 milliseconds (2.5 seconds) to dispense the shot. You can, of course, edit this value, depending on the amount of liquid desired. It should be noted that the pumps used are diaphragm-based, so your liquid source needs to be below the pump itself, otherwise your beverage of choice will simply drain out by itself.

You can see it demonstrated in below, and as noted later in the video, “That is a very dangerous toy.” Definitely use something like this responsibly, as our robot helpers can’t quite drive us home yet.


Watch a robot solve a Rubik’s Cube in one second

This Arduino-driven robot will unfix a Rubik’s Cube before you could even finish reading this sentence.  

Last November, 14-year-old Lucas Etter set a new world record for the fastest time to solve a Rubik’s Cube, becoming the first person to ever break the five-second barrier for unravel the iconic 3 x 3 x 3 puzzle. As impressive as that may be, nothing may compare to this duo’s latest project. That’s because software engineers Jay Flatland and Paul Rose have devised an automated mechanism that can crack it in just over a second.


With an Atmel chip at its heart, the system is comprised of stepper motors, some 3D-printed parts and four webcams all connected to a Linux-based computer. The software engineers used the Kociemba algorithm to solve the puzzle, and have modified the Rubik’s Cube by drilling four holes into the middle of each of its six sides so the robot could manipulate it. Since the robot needs the cameras in order to function, the webcams are covered with a piece of paper until the cube is properly scrambled.

The team is now in the process of applying for the Guinness World Record. Pending all goes to plan, the robot will crush the current record holder’s time of 3.253 seconds.

KATIA is a robotic arm that can scan, 3D print, laser cut and even decorate a cake

KATIA brings the functionality of an industrial robotic arm to mainstream consumers. 

Will robots replace humans? This is a question we have speculated for decades, and the World Economic Forum released a report this week predicting the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” in 2020. While the thought of robots taking over can be daunting, one San Francisco-based startup offers a positive near future where robots can work with us.


Meet KATIA — short for “Kick Ass Trainable Intelligent Arm” — the brainchild, or shall we say brain arm, of Carbon Robotics. Behind this great name is an even greater product. KATIA is a robotic arm that is modular, open source and can be manually trained for those not fluent in code, making it incredibly versatile and easy to use. Co-founders Rosanna Myers and Dan Corkum sought to create a robotics platform designed for the consumer market. Ordinary people can make use of KATIA, no programming skills or roboticist required.

KATIA is hackable, modular and customizable for each use and environment. It was built on an open platform so users can access its API via tools like Arduino and Python. Add-on attachments can be swapped on and off the robotic device, allowing KATIA to be more than a just an arm that can grab and move objects. It can be transformed into a 3D scanner, 3D printer, laser cutter, and even a cake decorator.


KATIA can be taught new movements if you simply guide the arm as it will replicate the desired motion, or you can draw a path for it to follow in the accompanying app. So if you wanted to decorate a cake, for example, KATIA can squeeze the icing in the design of your choosing.

The Carbon Robotics team recently presented at TechCrunch’s Hardware Battlefield finals back at CES 2016, where Myers said in the presentation, “The problem is that [robotic arms] are expensive. They’re difficult to use, and quite frankly not that safe. And that’s where we come in.”

KATIA can carry up to 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) and moves with sub-millimeter precision. This powerful robotic arm also ensures safety. Enclosed in its carbon fiber frame are sensors that can detect humans and things that come within close range.

Marketed as having the capabilities of an industrial robot at the price of a laptop, KATIA will be selling for $1,999 starting this March. To stay up-to-date, be sure to check out the Carbon Robotics website here.

This 3D printer on wheels wants to fix potholes

Addibots are self-driving and remote-controlled 3D printers that can smooth over roads… or skating ponds at the very least.

When it comes to 3D printing, who says you can’t think (and create) outside the box? Clearly not Robert Flitsch, a mechanical engineer and Harvard graduate who recently founded his own New York-based startup Addibots.  

CEO Robert Flitsch with Ice Resurfacing Addibot

An Addibot is a four-wheeled robot that can be either autonomous or remote-controlled, and holds an array of printheads on its undercarriage that enable it to 3D print with various materials as it drives.

Breaking free from the restraints of conventional 3D printing, Addibot can move its printing components to any desired location and produce items of any size. Unlike most machines where an object is built inside the print area and then removed for use, this platform can turn any surface into a workspace.

Text Printing Addibot

“A central limitation of current 3D printing methods is the fact that they operate inside a workspace of finite dimensions,” Flitsch explains. “For many household 3D printers, these dimensions are merely a few inches in each direction. For these printers, larger objects can only be manufactured with larger printers, making the fabrication of sizable industrial products either incredibly expensive (due to astronomical equipment costs) or downright impossible (for objects, like buildings or bridge trusses, just too large for a printer of this type).”

Flitsch’s first prototypes were equipped with inkjet cartridges, designed to show off the Addibot’s concept in 2D. And since water possesses similar fluid characteristics to ink, the engineer  — who also happens to be a lifelong hockey player — turned his attention to repurposing the bot as an ice resurfacing tool for skated-upon rinks. Like a mini Zamboni, the Addibot poured water that was cooled just above its freezing point into the slices and chips made by the blades, which would freeze on contact with the surface.

Ice Resurfacing Addibot

While the team notes that there are endless possibilities for Addibots, they are initially focusing their efforts on road repair and construction. They are working towards a new distribution array that can use asphalt materials, with hopes of fixing cracks, large potholes and eventually the resurfacing of our roadways altogether. The robot’s ability to streamline this process could potentially help public works departments and municipalities across the nation meet the massive demand for improved streets.

The robot operates much like any other 3D printer, just scaled down. Housed inside its chassis are multiple nozzles that lay down materials layer by layer, as needed. Impressively, the technology may even be able to one day “print” sensors into roads, which would be used for communication by self-driving vehicles.

“All the storage for material, all the chemical processing could be done on board the Addibot,” Flitsch told Popular Science. “Tar materials, which have to be kept at a high temperature, can be done in a tank with a constant heat source added to it. Power sources could be various kinds, depending on the size of the robot.”

Intrigued? Head over to its page to learn more, or see it in action above!

This robot will save you from shoveling this winter

When was the last time you had to shovel snow from your driveway? What if you never had to again? 

It’s January, which for many of you means winter is well underway. Whether you simply hate the freezing cold or always seem to throw your back out while shoveling, what if there was a machine that could take care the tedious task for you without ever having to step foot outside? This is exactly what Vittorio Loschiavo decided to do by devising his own open source, remote-controlled Snow Plow Robot.

This piece of equipment is based on an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and can be wirelessly maneuvered using a PlayStation 2 controller. The bot consists of an ordinary snowplow frame, which supports a motorized blade along with electric motors, wheels and caterpillar tracks.

If you absolutely hate shoveling, head over to Open Electronics’ exhaustive project page where you’ll find everything you need to get started.

This five-axis robotic arm will lend you a helping hand

One Maker decided to build his own 5-DOF robotic arm using ServoCity parts, a Pololu Mini Maestro controller and an Arduino Uno. 

If you’re wondering when you’ll get the time to work on all of your crazy projects, you might look forward to retirement. This is great if you’re close, though possibly discouraging for younger workers. Either way, 62-year-old “CyberMerin” decided to make his own robotic arm from scratch. As he puts it, “I promised myself was that when I did retire I was going to complete all those projects I had running around inside my head … That’s about 50 years or so of projects.”


He also notes that microprocessors didn’t exist years ago, and a machine shop was needed to make mechanical parts. It’s a great time to be alive for those that love to build stuff!

This particular project, a five-axis robotic arm is quite ambitious, works well and is extremely well-documented, even including pictures of 3D CAD models. Though complicated, the Arduino wiring is relatively simple since it communicates serially with a Mini Maestro USB servo controller. This allows the Maestro to do the “heavy lifting” for each servo. (Be sure to check out his article for a huge amount of background on building something like this.)


Human interface is handled by a nice graphic slider setup running in Processing 3. As shown in the video below it responds quickly to commands. (Check out around 3:00 when it stacks a green block on the other two.)

For an entirely different take on a robotic arm, here’s one that employs only three servos, a coffee tin for a base, and a gaming controller. Even with these limitations, it still manages to be able to manipulate objects.

These string racing robots are awesome

One Maker decided to build tiny autonomous robots that could go back and forth along some string like a cable car. 

According to Adafruit forums user HarpDude, “Back in the 1980s, my college-aged brother designed a simple motor+battery car that raced along a string between the birch tree and the street-side power pole. For years now, we’ve been improving on the design.” Although this seems like a fun experiment by itself, one major weakness of the design was that it crashed at the end of its run, needing a human to catch it.


Now 30 or so years later, encouraged by his son the ‘Dude decided to get back into electronic design. Proving that no Maker project is never really finished, he decided to start making these racers again. This time though, his goal was to make them autonomous, able to avoid crashing at the end of the string.

HarpDude’s background is in transistor-based logic, but after discovering the Arduino for himself, it seemed like a this type of system would work well in his device. Adafruit’s Trinket, with an ATtiny85 at its core, fit the bill perfectly for his little device, and at around seven bucks, wouldn’t be a tragedy if one did end up crashing.


Currently, his string racer can be used in two modes, “Boomerang,” which travels to the end of the line and comes back, and “Pong,” which goes back and forth continuously. Besides racing, perhaps something like this used with a tiny camera to take neat video footage, or with a slower motor in time-lapse mode.

Explore the world of robotics with this 3D-printed, Arduino-driven hand

Hobby Hand is a 3D-printed robotic hand that mimics natural movement and can be easily controlled by anyone.

The brainchild of Iowa City-based Biomechanical Robotics Group, the Hobby Hand is a 3D-printed robotic hand capable of mimicking the natural movements of its human overlord.


The modular platform is ideal for hobbyists, tinkerers, Makers and robotics enthusiasts, as well as educators looking to introduce students to programming, analog sensors and hardware. In terms of its design, the Hobby Hand consists of five servo motors for lateral movement and five additional servos responsible for bending. A top piece mounts the hand onto the servo motor frame, which guides the flexion cables to the servos.

An Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and servo shield are tucked away inside the base, which acts as the control center for the Hobby Hand. This is also where you’ll find all of the motors, sensors and additional peripherals attached to the board. The electronics are driven by a 5V 4A power supply.


Each finger has a total of four bands that saddle the center line to maximize the stability of each digit. These elastics are tasked with bringing the finger back to its original position after closing. Additionally, the team has devised an analog board of potentiometers that handle flexion and side-to-side movement.

What’s more, the Hobby Hand even comes with a mini breadboard, which is connected to the servo motor frame. This enables Makers to add extra analog sensors (light, sound, muscle and others), LEDs and speakers to their project.


The hand itself ships in one of two forms: either as a fully-assembled, out-of-the-box product or as a DIY kit with a step-by-step instruction manual. The Biomechanical Robotics Group crew advises that the latter option requires some basic soldering know-how and a few common tools. Intrigued? Head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where the team is currently seeking $30,000. Delivery is slated for June 2016.

This Maker built his own robot drinking buddy

Bot-toms up!

Let’s face it, there’s no fun in drinking alone. This is what inspired South Korean Maker Eunchan Park to develop a robot that can literally go shot for shot with him, albeit never actually consuming the alcohol. Although he may not be able to chat like some of your best buds, the slick device can accompany you if you feel like throwing back a few when no one else is around.


While there have been plenty of bots capable of preparing and mixing cocktails for you in the past, we’re not sure if we’ve ever seen one that actually drinks with you instead. Not only can the aptly named Robot Drinky cheers your glass, his cheeks emit a red light with every chug and he can even signal for a refill as well.

The idea for such a companion was conceived after experiencing a lonely holiday a few years back. As Park explains:

On Christmas in 2012, I drank Soju (Korean alcohol) alone because I had no girlfriend at that time. Drinking alone was definitely terrible! So I couldn’t drink anymore.
Lastly, I put an extra glass in front of me and poured Soju into it. And then, I cheered by myself with the glass of Soju, as though there was someone in front of me. Surprisingly, after that, the taste became totally to be changed!!!!!! WOW!!!

So, I could finally find the secret of taste of alcohol totally depends on existence of partner. This is why I made this robot.

There’s no word yet on whether the Maker has any future plans for Drinky, but we wouldn’t be surprised to find it on Kickstarter or at a CES in the near future. See him in action below!