Inspiration

After a late night watching the inspirational film Chappie, a few members of our robotics team decided that they wanted to build a more personable robot rather than the drab autonomous vehicle we annually build to compete. Someone mentioned that they had the sheared body of a retired police robot in the basement and the rest is history.

What it does

Starbot's original job was a robotic teaching tool popular in elementary schools, but after years of duty in the 30 year program it was time for the old chap to turn in his hat. Starbot's guts were outdated in the worst types of ways with prototype-esqe motors, lights, and mainly hot glue. The state of the poor guy's innards was revolting, but we pushed through, gutted him like a pumpkin, and upgraded him to the 21st century. Although Starbot was able to keep his original body and motors, every brittle wire, LED, and 80s circuit board was replaced to top notch electronics.

Nowadays Starbot lives a more peaceful life assisting his masters with everyday tasks such as determining the weather and replying with puns, but also includes facial tracking to enhance user experience. Starbot may be controlled and also responds in both speech and text to provide easy access for those who may be hard of hearing or blind. Of course Starbot can let you know his ip address and the current weather, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.

Challenges we ran into

Right off the bat, our two most experienced members both failed in booting standard Raspberry Pi 3... so that was a great start to the project. Overall, there were a lot of new skills learned, especially relating to Google Assistant (Google AIY Voice Kit), but as always the most difficult parts were stitching the individual schools together. We had a bit of trouble using serial communication between our Arduinos and Pis, but one of our members figured out how to set up an access point using a EDIMAX dongle that was laying around. Powering the ridiculous amount of individually addressable LEDs we added to Starbot was a challenge both in terms of amperage as well as available pins for data transfer. We also learned that Google Assistant passwords shouldn't be included in GitHub repositories. Within just a few hours of posting, our account was hacked, used to mine bitcoin, and put on hold by Google. That was fun.

What we learned

Not to post private passwords in a public repository. Your account will most likely be hacked to mine bitcoin after the account information is raked by a bot.

What's next for Starbot

Starbot is happy to be back in service to the public. Though his days of touring elementary classrooms may be over, he will be used in the Oakland University robotics lab for the educational purpose of visitors as well as a general stock of knowledge. He will have the pleasure of greeting people at the door, keeping us up to date with the weather, and responding with snarky comments to keep us meatbags in our place.

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