well as serving as a link between the brain and ventral
nerve cord (VNC).
• The final ganglion — the suboesophageal ganglion
— monitors, regulates, and controls the sensory and motor
activities of the mouth parts.
Bug brains are pretty impressive, eh? Even more so
when you consider the flexibility and diversity in the number
of different roles that insects play. Sure, some are pests,
but even those bugs that annoy us are very resourceful and
resilient in their deliberate actions to continually bug us.
Now, on to bot (bug) brains!
If you want to add some “control” (i.e., movement and
brains) to your robot, you’ll most likely reach for a
microcontroller. Self-contained with its own programmable
memory, a microcontroller is a small discrete digital device
that shares a lot of characteristics with a desktop PC.
Some robot builders, however, might argue that one of
the biggest drawbacks with using a microcontroller on a
robot is that you must write your own software program
for driving your creation. This is not an insurmountable
obstacle. Merely another piece of the puzzle for turning a
pile of parts into a functioning robot.
Ironically, programming most microcontrollers requires
a PC. Go figure, eh? Luckily, the big names in robot
microcontrollers (e.g., Arduino, Stamp, PICAXE, RaspPi, etc.)
have easy-to-use PC-based programming environments (i.e.,
Integrated Development Environment or IDE) that can be
coded in Basic, C, or C++ computer languages. So, the
entire robot microcontroller programming process sorta
Develop program on PC -> Compile program -> Load
program -> Test on robot -> Repeat process.
No matter how much you think you know about
programming, you are bound to make a coding mistake.
Some mistakes — also known as “bugs” (an ironic term
when you consider the discussion earlier in this article) —
are relatively easy to find and correct. Others can be
downright inscrutable in their nature and seemingly
impossible to eliminate.
If you don’t like being saddled with programming and
its inherent debugging tasks, that’s okay. Either hire a
programmer or find another brain for your robot. A brain
that doesn’t require any programming — like my
Microcerebrum that is outlined in Figure 3.
Introducing a Bug-Inspired
Just like Mark W. Tilden’s BEAM robots (i.e., Biology,
Electronics, Aesthetics, Mechanics), not all robots run on
microcontrollers. Remember, Mark championed a non-programmed robot building movement that grew with a life
of its own to become one of the elemental building blocks
in every budding robot builder’s vocabulary.
This was a true ‘less is more’ convention that relied on
digital electronics coupled with discrete components, but
SERVO 11.2015 41
9 Two-pin headers
4 Three-pin headers
20 2.2M ohm resistors
10 100K ohm resistors
4 2N3906 transistors
10 2N3904 transistors
3 CD4011 ICs
4 CL905HL photocells (for vision input)
4.0047 μF capacitors
2 100 μF capacitors
1 .1 μF electrolytic capacitor
1 10 μF electrolytic capacitor
1 1N4001 diode
1 3 mm Red LED+resistor
1 3 mm Green LED+resistor
2 SPDT Snap-action simulated roller switches
(BG Micro part #SWT1116; for tactile input)