ribbon from a microcontroller using three transistors.
• How to control a servomotor from a microcontroller
by building a PWM.
• How to control a small speaker from a
• How to check a battery’s state of charge using
potentiometers and operational amplifiers.
The students have to test the different circuits on a
prototyping board. The microcontroller is programmed
using the assembly language of the PIC16F88. It’s a low-level programming language, but it is suitable for the
simple program they have to write. Finally, they have to
design the circuit board, solder in the components, and test
For the mechanics portion of study, many different
robot types are chosen for consideration. Students have to
create presentations of specific robots that interest them
and explain how they function to the other students. Based
on the presentations of actual robots, the students make
suggestions on potential designs to build. Students vote for
the robot of the year, and once a victor is chosen the
design of the mechanical parts of the robot can begin.
To design the robot’s physical components, the
students use Solid Works. All the parts are manufactured in
the workshop at the school by the students. Finally, again,
they have to assemble the robot and test functionality.
In order to improve their English proficiencies, the
entire course is taught in English. However, some activities
are more relevant than others to English proficiency. For
• Much of the presentation work is in English.
• Historical events such as Turing’s life are studied.
• Videos about the RoboGames competition are
• The rules of RoboGames are studied.
• Their visit to San Francisco for the event is planned.
• Articles for the blog of the class are written.
The team’s entrants this year included Gypsy (hexapod
walker), Simulo (four-legged walker), and Nony (bipedal
walker). For this event, the students had to run
demonstrations to show their robots and explain how they
work. This was no easy task for these high school French
students to give technical demonstrations in English!
People were very impressed with both the robots and
the students. Simulo and Nony were entered in the junior
division Best of Show, winning the gold medal and bronze
medal, respectively. This year, Gypsy was converted from a
walking robot to a musical robot, taking the gold medal in
the Art Bot-Musical category.
SERVO 10.2013 35
Gypsy was the first robot built for this program. six legs,
18 motors, 36 LEDs, and six circuit boards!
Gypsy in action, on its way to a Gold medal. Gypsy can play the piano
and drums, and even curtsy upon completion of its performance.
Simulo — four legs, nine motors, six RGB
ribbons of LEDs, and three circuit boards.