Monthly Archives: May 2013

Android Controlled Tank

At work someone mentioned using a robot to distribute the Friday afternoon sweeties and I accepted the challenge. Already having a tank remotely controlled with a PS3 Controller I decided it would need a camera to see where it’s going. Having recently upgraded my phone I was able to use the old one with IP Webcam to share the camera feed over wifi.


When I stumbled upon a brief article on Let’s Make Robots about a LEGO robot with a wifi camera which is controlled by a custom Android App. I followed the instructions on the website linked in the article and had the proof of concept up and running with the free version of the app. Upon buying the Pro version of the app I was able to drive the tank around via bluetooth and simultaneously see the camera footage from the old phone over WiFi.


My configuration takes a Heng Long 1:32 scale Bulldog Tank base (chassis, motors, gearbox and treads) driven by a Dagu 4-channel motor controller (over the top in this instance but a common item now found in three of my robots) and controlled by an Arduino MEGA ADK (also over the top but I was using this for the USB Host aspect when the tank was operated by PS3 controller via bluetooth dongle). The bluetooth dongle has been replaced with a Bluetooth module for a simple serial link.

The Bluetooth module I have is only identified by the following address written on the back and the label BT_Board v1.1. Thankfully I didn’t need to do much to make it work, just wired up the power (VCC, GND) and plugged the Tx and Rx of the bluetooth module into the Rx and Tx of the Arduino (crossed over so Tx talks to Rx and vice versa).

Servo added and the Arduino code updated I can now tilt the camera using some buttons on the BTBotControl interface.

A video has been uploaded to YouTube.

Where should I go from here?

  • Overhaul Arduino sketch to allow for joystick control of camera angle (like a pan and tilt mode where horizontal joystick moves will rotate the robot but vertical moves only raise or lower the camera).
  • Perhaps mount an Airsoft BB gun (I have the original one from the tank turret).
  • Write my own custom Android app? Try piping control of the robot through the on-board Android phone, doing away with the mix of Bluetooth and WiFi. While I’m at it make more use of the Android, it has GPS, an accelerometer etc.
  • Reversing view using phone’s second camera? Phone orientation means the rear-view camera is hidden in the holder.

Edinburgh Mini Maker Faire

Edinburgh’s Summerhall was home to a Mini Maker Faire on the 7th of April 2013 and I travelled through with MAKLab to help out and to see what was on show.

We set up the Repair Cafe in the overspill of Summerhall’s cafe, taking over a picnic bench and surrounding area. Although there was ample signage around Summerhall the footfall was quite light, especially for the 2,500 visitors that came through the door. That said some folks came prepared with items to repair.

We took a look at a waffle iron and though we found the fault we couldn’t safely repair it.

This collection of stained glass pieces was dropped off and we all worked together to reassemble the mobile as it had once been. This was hampered by the fact we didn’t have the self adhesive copper which had been used to assemble the original but we made do with the original copper strips where available and added some sheet tin to reinforce the structure.

MAKLab were setup in the courtyard area with a laser cutting producing little dinosaur kits. They had also brought along two large dinosaurs, Derek the Raptor and Terry the Pteranodon. These were cut out of 18mm plywood on MAKLab’s big CNC router (I helped with Derek and produced a time lapse which you can see here). The two dinosaurs were painted by the visitors and by the end of the day they were looking well camouflaged.

As Repair Cafe was quiet we each took some time to tour the Mini Maker Faire. My first destination was the Robot Room where I saw some awesome projects. The DR-1 by Eve Robotics Team was an interesting little Arduino Tank, At another table an off-the-shelf USB robot arm had been upgraded with position feedback by attaching a USB webcam and pointing it at a matrix of black spots on a white screen. I got the chance to see an OpenROV which featured on Kickstarter last year among the other Underwater ROVs built and displayed by Martin Evans.

Up the stairs from the main entrance there was a lot to see, I especially liked the PolarGraph, a series of drawing machines (photo below). There was 3d printers churning out musical instruments, a pair of model houses with a variety of energy saving materials an lots of wonderfully crafted items. Through into the next room there was electronic kits, vintage LEDs and large quantities of Arduinos on sale. The PolyFloss Factory were showing off their candyfloss machine adapted to produce a wool like material from recycled plastic, members of the public could make a ruler using the materials (packing it into a form which was heated up and subsequently cooled by the PolyFloss folk). Last but not least there was a Tesla coil in a lift cage.

Unfortunately I only took a whistle-stop tour of the exhibits upstairs and I didn’t even get a proper look outside to see what else was out there. There are a few more photos in my Flickr photoset which I haven’t included on this page.

I didn’t want to let the lovely vinyl poster go to waste so I re-purposed it as a covering for my briefcase while we were packing up.