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  • Writer's pictureJoe Linogao

How to build an obstacle course for a robot buggy

I will also be going into detail about the upgrades I've done to my buggy AND, an update on the ping pong ball launcher.


Welcome to the obstacle course section of my series of blogs! In this blog, I will be talking about the pain I endured when making the obstacle course. Furthermore, I talk about the upgrades I made to the buggy stabilisation and an update on how the ping pong ball launcher will be used for the obstacle course. So with that chaotic intro, let's get to it!

Building the Obstacle Course

Below is the proposed obstacle course that we were tasked to create.

The obstacle course has a few walls which can be detected by the ultrasonic sensor on the buggy. After the buggy passes through the walls, the buggy stops in the collection zone, where the launcher will launch a ping pong ball into a holder (more on this later).

To create the walls, I used old cardboard I found lying around the house and some duct tape. The duct tape didn't completely stick the pieces together, but it can hold the pieces together well enough for a demonstration. After pre-measuring all the cardboard, I cut up all the pieces and stuck them together, as you can see below.

I was wondering if I wanted to do the course in the living room, or upstairs which has a thin carpet. After much thinking (and my dog breaking the course twice), I decided on the latter. The reason being is that my buggy wheels seemed to have a better grip on the carpet, which is ideal for it to execute the same movements consistently.

To make sure I knew exactly where each "zone" of the course was (e.g. ball collection zone, start etc.), I used extra cardboard to outline the absolute dimensions of the course. Additionally, for the bottle wall, I drew some circles on cardboard so I knew exactly how far the bottles were from the course, relative to the cardboard they were sitting on. Since I didn't like the idea of me downing a whole load of Coca-Cola for a project, I used various 500ml bottles to give the wall some width.

Finally, I did some pre-framing with my camera to make sure that I was able to capture the entire course in one shot. I opted for a "top-down" view, with the wide lens setting, as it would allow a better perspective of how far the buggy has moved.

Further Buggy Upgrades

If you didn't read my last blog, I did some upgrades to the Tumbller robot, giving it some nice new front stabilisers.

However, the back stabilisers definitely needed a change, as they were just two sticks chilling in the back. Luckily, I printed another front stabiliser for testing which seemed to do the trick. I bought some M3 sized nuts and bolts and screwed the new stabiliser to the back. Looks well, doesn't it?

For the buggy to catch the ping pong ball, the buggy needs a way to catch them (wow, who would have thought?). I opted for the simpler route of using an old cereal box and some zip ties. I cut holes in the bottom of the cereal box that aligned with the holes on the top plate of the buggy. Then, I threaded zip ties through the holes and secured them in place.

I didn't want to have the normal Coco-Pops logo on the box, so I got some blank stickers and printed an assortment of decals for the box. I think they look pretty good!

Oh! The reason why I have the box like that is so that the buggy is perpendicular to the launcher when catching the ping pong balls. This makes it easier for the buggy to exit, as it doesn't have to readjust itself when leaving the course.

Regarding the Ping Pong Ball Launcher

Ah yes, the mighty ping pong ball launcher. Look at it in all its glory.

Well...TURNS OUT, due to a technicality in the rules, I'm not actually allowed to reload the cock-back mechanism in the gun. In other words, I'm only allowed to fire it once. So, unfortunately, I won't be using the auto-reloading aspect of the gun for the demonstration and will be attempting to launch only one ball (sad jazz hands).

But all is not lost! I am pretty proud that I was able to make something from scratch using Arduino. And who knows, maybe it will be used in the Rube Goldberg machine that is coming soon!


So, that's the end of this blog (phew). I just wanted to let you know, that I won't be posting many IGTVs for the next few weeks. I have a lot of work outside of this project too, and since the IGTVs take almost 2-3 hours to edit each, I had to put it aside. But don't worry! Once life begins to slow down and I regain some free time, I will be uploading those IGTVs as "the lost episodes," or something along those lines.

As always, I hope you enjoyed reading this blog! This is part 1 of the obstacle course sage, with part 2 coming out sometime tomorrow. By then, I would have hopefully succeeded in completing the obstacle course, and can finally put this part of the project to a close.

Until next time, stay safe and I hope to see you again soon! (Also, don't forget to check out my Instagram!).

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