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Robot Builder's Bonanza

Robot Builder's Bonanza

4.8 7
by Gordon McComb, Myke Predko

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Everybody's favorite amateur robotics book is bolder and better than ever -- and now features the field's "grand master" Myke Predko as the new author! Author duo McComb and Predko bring their expertise to this fully-illustrated robotics



Everybody's favorite amateur robotics book is bolder and better than ever -- and now features the field's "grand master" Myke Predko as the new author! Author duo McComb and Predko bring their expertise to this fully-illustrated robotics "bible" to enhance the already incomparable content on how to build -- and have a universe of fun -- with robots. Projects vary in complexity so everyone from novices to advanced hobbyists will find something of interest.


  • 30 completely new projects

  • All projects have been revamped to be more customizable

  • More visual -- illustrations of the final product are right at the beginning of the chapter

Everything you need to build from plans provided or create your own designs:

* Robot Basics
• Construction Techniques
• Computer and Electronic Control
• Power, Motors, and Locomotion
• Practical Robotics Projects
• Sensors and Navigation
• Robot Programming
• Tips, Tricks, and Tidbits

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
The world is full of hobbyists who got into robotics after reading Gordon McComb's Robot Builders Bonanza. But that book came out 14 years ago. A lot's happened since then -- new servo motor technology, powerful new microcontrollers, and the Lego Mindstorms phenomenon, to name just a few highlights. Now, McComb has delivered a thoroughly updated Second Edition -- and it might keep you busy for the next 14 years.

A solid 720 pages, this new edition includes 99 do-it-yourself robotics projects: 11 complete robots in all. You'll learn how to build robots that walk, see, feel, talk, listen, and "think." Every project is thoroughly illustrated and comes with a parts list (McComb also tells you where you can get these parts).

You'll find coverage of Robotix-based robots, Lego Mindstorms Functionoids and Technic-based robots, remote control robots, and microcontrollers such as the cheap, easy-to-use Parallax BASIC Stamp, which integrates microcontroller, memory, clock, and voltage regulation, can be programmed via PC, and powered by a 9-volt battery. Best of all, this book is full of McComb's personal experiences with what works, and what doesn't. It's an instant classic -- again. (Bill Camarda)

Bill Camarda is a consultant and writer with nearly 20 years' experience in helping technology companies deploy and market advanced software, computing, and networking products and services. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.

"Offers a modular approach and many easy and inexpensive robot experiments and projects. Explains how a robot is put together using commonly available parts, and gives directions for locomotion engineering, constructing robotic arms and hands, sensor design, remote control, adding sound, and computer control. This second edition is updated to reflect technological advances since 1987."
-- Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

McGraw-Hill Companies, The
Publication date:
Robot Builder's Bonanza Ser.
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.48(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 3: Tools and Supplies

Construction tools are the things you use to fashion the frame and other mechanical parts the robot. These include a hammer, a screwdriver, and a saw. We will look at the tools needed to assemble the electronics later in this chapter.

Basic Tools

No robot workshop is complete without the following:

  • Claw hammer. These can be used for just about any purpose you can think of.
  • Rubber mallet. For gently bashing together pieces that resist being joined nothing beats a rubber mallet; it is also useful for forming sheet metal.
  • Screwdriver assortment. Have several sizes of flat-head and Philips-head screwdrivers. It's also handy to have a few long-blade screwdrivers, as well as a ratchet driver. Get a screwdriver magnetizer/demagnetizer; it lets you magnetize the blade so it attracts and holds screws for easier assembly.
  • Hacksaw. To cut anything, the hacksaw is the staple of the robot builder. Buy an assortment of blades. Coarse-tooth blades are good for wood and PVC pipe plastic; fine-tooth blades are good for copper, aluminum, and light-gauge steel.
  • Miter box. To cut straight lines, buy a good miter box and attach it to your work table (avoid wood miter boxes; they don't last). You'll also use the box to cut stock at nearperfect 45° angles, which is helpful when building robot frames.
  • Wrenches, all types. Adjustable wrenches are helpful additions to the shop but careless use can strip nuts. The same goes for long-nosed pliers, which are useful for getting at hard-to-reach places. One or two pairs of Vise-Grips will help you hold pieces for cutting and sanding. A set of nut drivers will make it easy to attach nuts to bolts.
  • Measuring tape. A six- or eight-foot steel measuring tape is a good length to choose. Also get a cloth tape at a fabric store so you can measure things like chain and cable lengths.
  • Square. You'll need one to make sure that pieces you cut and assemble from wood, plastic, and metal are square.
  • File assortment. Files will enable you to smooth the rough edges of cut wood, metal, and plastic (particularly important when you are working with metal because the sharp, unfinished edges can cut you).
  • Drill motor. Get one that has a variable speed control (reversing is nice but not absolutely necessary). If the drill you have isn't variable speed, buy a variable speed control for it. You need to slow the drill when working with metal and plastic. A fast drill motor is good for wood only. The size of the chuck is not important since most of the drill bits you'll be using will fit a standard 1/4-inch chuck.
  • Drill bit assortment. Use good sharp ones only. If yours are dull, have them sharpened (or do it yourself with a drill bit sharpening device), or buy a new set.
  • Vise. A vise is essential for holding parts while you drill, nail, and otherwise torment them. An extra large vise isn't required, but you should get one that's big enough to handle the size of the pieces you'll be working with. A rule of thumb: A vice that can't close around a two-inch block of metal or wood is too small.
  • Safety goggles. Wear them when hammering, cutting, and drilling as well as any other time when flying debris could get in your eyes. Be sure you use the goggles. A shred of aluminum sprayed from a drill bit while drilling a hole can rip through your eye, per manently blinding you. No robot project is worth that.

If you plan to build your robots from wood, you may want to consider adding rasps, wood files, coping saws, and other woodworking tools to your toolbox. Working with plastic requires a few extra tools as well, including a burnishing wheel to smooth the edges of the cut plastic (the flame from a cigarette lighter also works but is harder to control), a strip-heater for bending, and special plastic drill bits. These bits have a modified tip that isn't as likely to rip through the plastic material. Small plastic parts can be cut and scored using a sharp razor knife or razor saw, both of which are available at hobby stores.

Optional Tools

There are a number of other tools you can use to make your time in the robot shop more productive and less time consuming. A drill press helps you drill better holes because you have more control over the angle and depth of each hole. Be sure to use a drill press vise to hold the pieces. Never use your hands! A table saw or circular saw makes it easier to cut through large pieces of wood and plastic. To ensure a straight cut, use a guide fence or fashion one out of wood and clamps. Be sure to use a fine-tooth saw blade if you are cutting through plastic. Using a saw designed for general woodcutting will cause the plastic to shatter.

A motorized hobby tool, such as the model shown in Fig. 3.1, is much like a handheld router. The bit spins very fast (25,000 rpm and up), and you can attach a variety of wood, plastic, and metal working bits to it. The better hobby tools, such as those made by Dremel and Weller, have adjustable speed controls. Use the right bit for the job. For example, don't use a wood rasp bit with metal or plastic because the flutes of the rasp will too easily fill with metal and plastic debris.

A RotoZip tool (that's its trade name) is a larger, more powerful version of a hobby tool. It spins at 30,000 rpm and uses a special cutting bit-it looks like a drill bit, but it works like a saw. The RotoZip is commonly used by drywall installers, but it can be used to cut through most any material you'd use for a robot (exception: heavy-gauge steel).

Hot-melt glue guns are available at most hardware and hobby stores and come in a variety of sizes. The gun heats up glue from a stick; press the trigger and the glue oozes out the tip. The benefit of hot-melt glue is that it sets very fast-usually under a minute. You can buy glue sticks for normal- or low-temperature guns. I prefer the normal-temperature sticks and guns as the glue seems to hold better. Exercise caution when using a hot-melt glue gun: the glue is hot, after all! You'll know what I'm talking about when a glob of glue falls on your leg. Use a gun with an appropriate stand; this keeps the melting glue near the tip and helps protect you from wayward streams of hot glue.

A nibbling tool is a fairly inexpensive accessory (under $20) that lets you "nibble" small chunks from metal and plastic pieces. The maximum thickness depends on the bite of the tool, but it's generally about 1/16 inch. Use the tool to cut channels and enlarge holes. A tap and die set lets you thread holes and shafts to accept standard-sized nuts and bolts. Buy a good set. A cheap assortment is more trouble than it's worth...

Meet the Author

Gordon McComb is an avid electronics hobbyist who has written for TAB Books for a number of years. He wrote the best-selling Troubleshooting and Repairing VCRs (now in its third edition), Gordon McComb's Gadgeteer's Goldmine, and Lasers, Ray Guns, and Light Cannons.

Myke Predko has 20 years experience in the design, manufacturing, and testing of electronic circuits. An experienced author, Myke wrote McGraw-Hill's best-selling 123 Robotics Projects for the Evil Genius; 123 PIC Microcontroller Experiments for the Evil Genius, PIC Microcontroller Pocket Reference; Programming and Customizing PIC Microcontrollers, Second Edition; Programming Robot Controllers; and other books, and is the principal designer of both TAB Electronics Build Your Own Robot Kits.

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Robot Builders Bonanza 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cool ;) :) :() :*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Without any doubt, Robot¿s Builder Bonanza is a great book with great sources. If you have even Lego Mind-storm Invention, pick up this helpful book. The sources are more than just great. Actually, if you are tired from looking around Google for any online bargains to buy parts for your project, you will find the sources here are just incredible and amazing. In addition, I really like the way the author decides to approach. He focused to teach beginners as well as professionals at the same time some easy ways to design circuit boards and make your own program that really works successfully and efficiently. Don¿t start somewhere else, start learning robotics here.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best book ever written on hobby robotics. It is amazing on how much this book covers in an introduction level robot book that is explained in an easy to understand format. Gordon McComb never uses florid speech with repetitions that would confuse the beginner; this book is truly a five star beginner¿s guide to building robots. If you want to get started in robots for a hobby, this is the book to start. I highly recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the best robotics book I have ever clapped eyes on. I spent six hours at the library, and not one book that I read came even close to the level of this book. Gordon McComb explains very clearly and covers such a wide range of topics, this becomes a must for every robot builder! Even if you have no other experience with robots, you will still enjoy this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is awesome!!! (^_^)+book= (^o^)
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just purchased this book and it is excellent! It covers all the important topics for a beginner in robotics including electronics, mechanics, programming, where to get materials, etc. It also contains plans for about 10 different robots and gives advice on how to design and build your own. The only thing it didn't cover that I might have liked for it to is biped (or 2-legged) robots. I guess this is more of an advanced topic though and maybe not suitable for a beginner's book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This second edition of Robot Builder's Bonanza provides a much needed update on the rapidly expanding interest in mobile robotics. Many amateurs started their robot building hobby with the appearance of the first edition in 1987. Since then there has been many updates in the sensors and especially microprocessors available for robot builders. Gordon McComb brings us up-to-date on this technology while maintaining the valuable construction tips and techniques of the first edition. Every book has an intended audience. I know of no better book than Robot Builder's Bonanza for beginners in this fascinating and future technology. The book is also a valuable compendium of ideas and techniques for more experienced robot builders. Finally, if you're a tinkerer, you have to have this book.