Vorpal Combat Hexapod
by vorpal, published
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Here's a 1 minute Intro Features Video
This project has an associated Kickstarter where you can buy all the non-3D printed parts (and even the 3D ones if your printer isn't big enough). We even offer them fully assembled if you want.
I made this all open source and respectfully ask you to consider supporting the project. We successfully funded on Kickstarter with hundreds of kits sold, and now we have our own store. We have more than just the Hexapod electronics, we have all kinds of things useful for small robotics and other projects:
Vorpal Robotics Store with Hexapod Kits
What in the World Is It?
This is an awesome 3d printed, open source, Bluetooth controlled, Scratch programmable combat hexapod with a 3d printed gamepad and a bunch of accessories to play different games. I mean, seriously, let that concept wash over you for a moment. You absolutely need this little guy running around your house!
The Vorpal Combat Hexapod was built to be extensible. We've already published a bunch of items that are compatible and hope the community will contribute even more.
Thing 2539659: Vorpal Joust Game
Thing 2546533: Vorpal Capture the Flag Game
Thing 2555606: Vorpal Fidget Spinner Challenge Game
Thing 2538181: Vorpal Eye Decorations
Thing 2538179: Vorpal Name Plate Decoration
Thing 2548308: Vorpal HC-SR04 Rangefinder Sensor Bracket
Thing 2615267: Vorpal Hexapod Stand
What in the Heck Can it Do?
Quick feature list (See complete details at the Vorpal Combat Hexapod Wiki:
- All parts print with no supports. Some parts do require brims or rafts for proper bed retention to avoid warping. But generally, this is a fairly easy print.
- 60 different motions directly accessible from the 3D printed gamepad, including modes for walking, dancing and fighting. These can be used for many fun activities for Makers or the classroom. Here are a few sample activities, more are on the Vorpal website:
Fidget Spinner Challenge Activity Video
Joust Game Video
Obstacle Course Activity Video
- Gamepad has a cool RECORD mode allowing you to record a set of gamepad actions then replay them with a touch of a button, great for classroom activities like "Dance Party!" where students program a choreographed dance routine to a popular song:
Dance Party Video
- Magnetic accessory attachments surround the cap, great for decorations, name plates, or small sensors
- An accessory port on the front of the robot allows you to attach optional accessories for games and combat styles, such as Joust, Capture-The-Flag, heavier sensors like ultrasonic rangefinder, etc.
We've provided a bunch of 3d printable accessories; feel free to develop more yourself!
- Plug the gamepad into a computer USB port and it becomes a transmitter for the MIT Scratch drag-and-drop programming language!
Xylophone Scratch Activity Video
We have a fully developed set of Scratch extension blocks that let you totally control the robot using Scratch, including reading sensors from the robot and using the values to modify behavior.
Scratch Obstacle Avoidance Using Ultrasonic Rangefinder Video
Because many schools use Scratch to introduce programming, this makes the Vorpal Combat Hexapod perfect for educational use!
For more information see our Vorpal Scratch Programming Guide.
- We went beyond the call of duty with Scratch: you can program new hexapod actions in Scratch then upload them to gamepad buttons!
You can have 60 custom actions, triggered by "long tapping" on the mode buttons.
Short tapping executes the default actions again.
- 1 hour battery life from commonly available, inexpensive "18650" Li-On batteries (used in many rechargeable flashlights).
It's like a big fat AA battery and they're about $3 each (two required for the hexapod) and can be recharged 1000 times! Tons of them available on Amazon or other places.
Gamepad takes a standard 9v transistor battery.
- All 3D model source files posted publicly on OnShape.com so hack, remix, or extend this design to your heart's content!
- All Arduino and Scratch source code posted publicly on GitHub (github.com/vorpalrobotics/vorpalhexapod)
Where Do I Get the Electronics Parts List And Build Instructions?
For complete build instructions and bill of materials, see our build instructions page.
IMPORTANT NOTE: We are in a Beta phase right now and all docs should be considered DRAFTS. In some cases info may be sketchy, diagrams not available yet, etc. We're working hard to get this up to speed as quickly as possible.
We are perfectly fine with you acquiring all the parts yourself from local sources, but if you want to help support this project and gain a little convenience, consider buying the electronics kit from us. You get all the right items in one simple package, and you'll make it possible for us to continue developing and releasing open source projects. See the Vorpal Hexapod Kickstarter for details on how to purchase kits containing the parts.
The kit that comes from us has these features:
- Every single non-3D-printed part you need is included, electronics, servo motors, Bluetooth modules, screws, bearings, the whole 9 yards.
- No soldering required; we did the soldering for you! Great for schools who don't what to deal with soldering.
- Arduino Nano processors for both gamepad and hexapod are pre-flashed with the control programs; just plug them in and run.
- Bluetooth modules in each kit are configured to auto-pair on boot. That means, no cryptic "AT" commands or other frustrating setup to do. Again, plug and play.
The only thing the kit does not include is batteries. See below for battery info.
We also do sell the 3D printed parts if you don't have a 3D printer that meets the minimum requirements (5.8" cube build area).
We also sell fully built and tested hexapods for those schools or hobbyists who just want to use this to learn or teach programming, use the activities, etc.
Does This Thing Really Work?
In development for over a year, this has been worked, reworked, an honed to perfection. It was used during a six week STEM program for Appalachian Girls this past summer (8 hexapods) and was a smashing success. We've been invited to the NYC Maker Faire, we've done teacher technology training on board the USS Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City, gave presentations including hands-on activities at the New Jersey Science Teacher's STEM Conference, and we'll soon do a 2 day workshop at the Franklin Institute Science Center in Philadelpha. This thing is for real folks, in use by real students and in teacher training, with professional level software to make it work.
Is This Really Open Source?
All the 3D models are open source, along with the Arduino code for both the hexapod and gamepad, as well as the Scratch block extension. All the electronics are items that are either open source (Arduino Nano, Adafruit servo controller) or standard off the shelf items like hobby BEC for power supply and MG90s mini servos.
For specific open source licenses, see our website's Open Source License Info Page.
Where Do I Get the 3D Models, Software Source Code, and Activity Rules?
3D Model Source is posted publicly on OnShape.com, just create a free login then search for Vorpal Combat Hexapod. If you were not aware of it, OnShape is a professional level cloud-based CAD system.
It's free as long as your project is public, so no cost to you, no install time (runs entirely in your browser). Make a free account in less than a minute and you're up and running with a professional grade system. This site was developed by some of the founders of SolidWorks, so they know what they're doing.
Arduino Source Code and Scratch Extension code is posted publicly on GitHub (github.com/vorpalrobotics/vorpalhexapod)
- Activities suitable for hobbyists, Makers, and schools are posted free on our website's Games and Activities Page.
Gamepad takes a standard 9v transistor battery (either alkaline or rechargeable such as NIMH).
Hexapod takes two 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Although many people are not familiar with this kind of battery, they rock. They are commonly available at Amazon and other places because they are used for flashlights. They are cheap: you can get a bundle that includes smart charger and two 18650 batteries for only about $12 to $15.
They are powerful: you get 60 to 80 minutes runtime on the hexapod! They are lightweight, putting less stress on the servo motors. They can be recharged 1000 times. Super economical! You start using these in your projects and you'll never want to use AA or AAA battery packs again, trust me.
(The only reason we don't include these in our kit is that the margins are so low on batteries we would actually lose money by shipping them to people.)
Tested at 0.38 mm layer but should work at other settings
Recommended plastic is ABS or PETG. PLA tends to be too brittle. Brims or rafts recommended for the following parts: base, cap, legs, electronics caddy. Heated bed recommended. Minimum bed size is 5.8 inches cube.
Rafts: Some parts need brims or rafts for proper bed retention (I prefer brim; they seem to work fine and are typically easy to remove). The parts that I strongly recommend brims/rafts for are:
- Electronics Caddy
You may find, depending on your printer, that you need brims on:
- Various nameplates
- Joust lance
Overview and Background
There are many different activities available for this project in many different areas. You could fill a whole marking period with different aspects or just concentrate on one.
- You can focus on 3D printing aspects (even for younger grades simply designing a new set of 3D printed "eyes" to magnetically attach is a great intro). For older grades, middle school or high school, have students develop a new game including attachments that must be compatible with the existing robot, game pieces, rules, etc. Brainstorm, design, fabricate (i.e. 3D print and assemble), test, analyze test results, then iterate the design!
- Introduce concepts such as repeatability by using the RECORD function, then extend this to programmed Scratch projects that stress repeatability.
- Use Scratch programming to introduce the use of sensors for real world navigation such as obstacle avoidance.
- Illustrate "Search and Rescue" robots by designing a disaster area using cardboard boxes, have students use the robot to find and rescue "victims".
- Simulate an exploration robot: send the Vorpal Hexapod to "Mars" and drive (or program) it to take a soil sample, or use a sensor to get a temperature reading.
- Simulate a military robot used to disarm an improvised explosive device.
- Teach concepts of walking gaits (tripod, metachronal, ripple, etc.) and discuss advantages and disadvantages of different ways to make a robot walk.
Lesson Plan and Activity
For an extensive list of activities suitable for education, see our Games and Activities page. This is constantly being updated and extended, and we would be glad to hear your ideas for new activities and lessons based on the Vorpal Combat Hexapod.
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Vorpal Combat Hexapod by vorpal is licensed under the Creative Commons - Attribution - Share Alike license.
What does this mean?
- You must attribute (give credit) to the creator of this Thing.
- You must distribute Remixes under the same license as the original.
- Remixing or Changing this Thing is allowed.
- Commercial use is allowed.
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