We wanted to build a fun robot. Something interactive that you can play with but also something that can be scaled up beyond a toy. After discovering instructions for a modular origami sphere (and after much more debate), the team settled on Shybot - an interactive, Hide-and-Seek robot.

What it does

The concept behind Shybot is simple - it is a robot that will hide, and your job is to find it! Due to it's unique wheel shape, this sneaky robot is able to change it's height (and width) to fit into tight spaces. From couches to doors, Shybot takes the classic "Hide and Seek" game to the next level.

The applications, however, of Shybot extends beyond children's games. Shybot's unique ability to hide can be translated over to a more Martian terrain. It can be used to find shelter from the extreme Martian storms or it can be used to approach alien life forms with caution (we don't want to violate the prime directive!).

How we built it

We carefully and meticulously folded the two shape changing wheels. These wheels essentially are just really complex origami, so every fold matters!

The sensors and motors are run off of an Arduino, which is connected to a Raspberry Pi. A webcam is attached to the Pi via USB and a python script utilizing OpenCV takes a picture every few seconds. This picture is analyzed for shadows - with the assumption that a shadow of a specific shape and size might prove to be a good hiding spot.

A webapp for the project was also built on google cloud platform. Unfortunately, it was not fully implemented due to time constraints and technical difficulties.

Challenges we ran into

Our team vastly underestimated the difficulty of implementing the origami wheels. The building of the wheels went smoothly (but slowly); the real challenge was connecting the motors to the wheels. Since we were building a design that relied on string & servos to change the size of the wheel, a basic configuration wouldn't work. Instead we implemented a gear system. Unfortunately the quality of the gears available resulted in a pretty hacky setup! However, lots of tape, hot glue and frustration later and we managed to get two wheels that spun!

We also found working with OpenCV challenging. It wasn't something that any of the team was familiar with, so we spent a lot of time learning about it!

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We're very proud of the wheels! The mechanism of 'inflating' and 'deflating' the wheels worked much better than we expected, and if given more time and stronger materials we're confident that we could make something really robust.

What we learned

We learned SO much about the mechanical engineering related side of robotics! Most of us come from a very software/electrical oriented background so it was fantastic to get our hands a little dirt(ier) than usual with the mech work!

What's next for Shybot

We'd love to fully prototype this idea out with proper materials and more time! The wheels could be made out of more durable material and a better grip could be put on them. We would also like to implement a web app to allow users to receive "hints" from the robot, if finding it ends up being more challenging than the user thought. In a galaxy not too far away, we see Shybot being sent as an exploration bot along with whatever autonomous rover NASA decides to send. It can be good for reaching tight spaces, traversing uneven terrain, adapting to conditions, and due to its oragimi influence, be stored in small spaces.

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