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Build and Program a Braccio Robot

There have already been a few other articles on DesignSpark about the Braccio Tinkerkit. It’s not surprising really, as the Arduino and Braccio combination is a low cost (and great FUN!) way to start your journey into robotics. In this article, I will reminisce on my first day with a Braccio Tinkerkit – and the creation of our New Year message to DesignSpark readers.

If You Build It, They Will Come…

Opening the box on a Braccio Tinkerkit brings back fond memories, inspired by the Ghost of Christmas Past, where a small boy can be seen near the Christmas tree; gleefully tearing off the wrapping paper from a present to reveal a Meccano No. 7 set. Opening that box revealed all those neatly packed parts that led to hours of construction fun (for both my Dad and me!) as we built all the examples in the manual and then went off-piste to create all sorts of strange, Heath Robinson contraptions together. In a similar vein, the Braccio box too presents you with neatly packed parts crying out to be put together according to those funky pictogram instructions.

So, in the best traditions of pictogram build instructions, here is the step by step guide to how my Braccio came together:

Talk is cheap. Show me the code.*

Of course, our Braccio is merely a stunningly orange, repositionable sculpture without some code to motivate it. Luckily for us, the Braccio is an Arduino-supported product, so the heavy lifting in programming it has already been taken care of by folks who know the hardware intimately.

What that means for us, is that getting our Braccio to do something is as simple as feeding it sets of articulation angles for each position we want the robot to assume.

As it is always easier to show something than explain it, there are some Braccio examples available that will end up being installed somewhere like C:\Program File (x86)\Arduino\libraries\Braccio\examples on your PC. You can also find them in the development tree on Github.

I have included our New Year message example with this post. Hopefully, the comments with the code will make it clear exactly what we are doing; which essentially boils down to:

  1. setup to a known position
  2. assume some other positions
  3. repeat 2

After you have been playing for a while, it might be an idea to have a look at the underlying C++ in the Braccio and servo library source code to get to grips with some of the ideas behind programming robots from scratch for yourself.

Happy Robot Controlling!

*To quote Linus Torvalds

Mark completed his Electronic Engineering degree in 1991 and worked in real-time digital signal processing applications engineering for a number of years, before moving into technical marketing.
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