Tron III, is designed as a demonstration robot for trade shows and special promotions, as well as an R&D platform for testing new software, sensors, and mechatronic devices.
Tron’s capabilities are: Base platform moves forward, backward, and turns, waist rotates neck turns and tilts, shoulders lift, rotate, elbows bend, left wrist rotates, both grippers open and close, head is a color LCD screen, he is battery operated, and has a variety of sensors and a camera.
Tron III is currently being refitted with custom designed motion control boards, upgraded software, and some mechanical upgrades. Planned upgrades include face and object recognition, as well as an internet based control interface.
Tron’s parts were designed and fabricated in-house using TechCare-TronLabs well equipped machine shop and prototyping tools. Tron III has been a work in progress for the past three decades, always getting the latest in technology advancements.
The official designation for this robot is L4DY8U6 (Leetspeak for LADYBUG)
The L4DY8U6 Ladybug robot was conceived as a research project to test the feasibility of a six legged walking robotic lawnmower. While the project has been in the back of my mind for many years, Bll was recently inspired to start this project by the acquisition of a Ladybug Sandbox.
His belief is that robots should be visually attractive and friendly looking to allow them to better interface with, and be accepted by humans. The ladybug beetle is one of the few insects that most humans perceive as non-threatening and beneficial, and thus is a good choice for a robot body.
Bill decided that the ladybug sandbox would be the basis for a walking robot creature, and that incorporating the lawn mowing function would be a logical task for the robot to perform. The design goals were set up as guidelines for the project development to test L4DY8U6’s capabilities and functionality.
The original ladybug sandbox was constructed of all red plastic. In order to better represent a real ladybug beetle it has been painted with black spots and black head. Antennae, legs, and red lips (borrowed from a Mrs Potato Head toy) have now been added to enhance her appearance.
A sound system with a female voice has been added to allow the Ladybug robot to verbally report operational and diagnostic information, and will also enhance her personality for human operators. She currently has 32 words in her vocabulary that can be used to create sentences that report status, and greeting messages.
F4N (leetspeak for Fan) was conceived as a fantasy robot that would follow you around, keep you cool, and light your workspace, He was constructed from a conventional floor fan, a couple of flexible table lamps, and two monitor stands from Wyse 50 terminals that looked like great robot feet. While F4N doesn’t actually walk and follow you around (Yet), he does function perfectly as a fan and a light. You can find F4N hanging out at the customer counter at TechCare-TronLabs.
iSteve was inspired by Apple Inc’s unique designs for their computers while Steve Jobs (RIP) was the CEO. The iMac G4 had a stylish robot like articulated arm supporting the LCD screen atop a half sphere base that contained the computer, and the EMac sported a white shell that enclosed the CRT and computer. having several of the obsolete units laying around Bill decided to turn them into a robot that would be a tribute to the late Steve Jobs. The project went together from eight iMac G4’s, Two EMacs, and a iPad 2, the tablet has an assistant app that is voice controlled and will answer questions, remind you of appointments, and even tell jokes,play music and show videos. What more would you want from a personal assistant robot?
Tron I was built by TechCare-TronLabs owner Bill Forshey when he was a student in high school.
The 1965 TV series “Lost In Space” peaked young Bills imagination, and he desperately wanted a robot like Will Robinson had on the show. he drew up plans for his robot design and set forth on building parts for it when he was in shop class in school.
His father asked a local sheet metal shop to construct the robot body parts from his drawings. When it was time to start putting together the mechanical parts. His father took Bill to a store that sold gears and belts, and the nice gentleman there helped him pick out what he needed to make the treads. The waist was made from parts of an old phonograph turntable and a lazy-susan bearing. Gear-motors were from vending machines, purchased surplus.
Parts scavenged from a convertible top car provided the hydraulic cylinders and pump to extend and retract the arms that were covered with drier vent hose, solenoids operated the grippers that were mounted on round electrical boxes, a cassette tape player was installed in the chest to play audio, a control box connected by 20 foot long one inch diameter flexible conduit had various switches to operate all of the functions. Everything ran off 120 volt AC wall current, no low voltage batteries.
The head was an inverted angel food cake pan with a clear plastic dome on top. A 12″ circle line flourescent lamp was around its neck that was scavenged from the light fixture in my bedroom (which was finally replaced). An old film type camera was fitted in the head with a solenoid to activate the shutter to take pictures. Bill designed and etched a printed circuit board that had 10 red LED’s (they were new technology back in 1973) in a circle that flashed in sequence that was under the dome.
Bill learned how to use an electric drill and other hand and power tools to fabricate parts for his design. Bill did all of the construction himself including the wiring. His father provided only advice and occasional transportation.
Bill named his robot “Tron” this was long before the Disney movie of the same name. He used Tron to hand out candy for Halloween that year (1975) people still talked about it years later.
Tron had a fall from a crack in the sidewalk on the way back to the garage that October evening and broke his grippers. Bill was a Junior in high school that fall, and had classes in Electronics, Welding, and Machine shop. Back then he spent four hours a day in the vocational education wing taking shop classes. He brought Tron to school that spring and built new and improved grippers for him in the welding shop, and upgraded the bulky control cord with a multi-conductor cable with connectors that could unplug in electronics lab.
While Tron was at the high school someone called the local newspaper, and a reporter and photographer came out to the school, interviewed Bill, and took pictures of Tron and Bill in the electronics classroom. The newspaper article appeared several weeks later in the Kalamazoo Gazette Sunday paper with a picture of Tron on the front page. Suddenly Bill was a celebrity.
That was the start of Bills long career in electronics and robotics. He has built several other robots since.