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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 2 September 2010

Professor Dale Carnegie from Victoria University explains some of the fundamental considerations for designing robots. These considerations lead to decisions regarding the shape and size of the robot, the power and intelligence level required and the sensors needed by the robot to operate in the environment where it is used.

Point of interest

 In this clip, the small robot being tested in the maze is made from a Lego Mindstorms kit.


First, you find out what the need for the robot is, because to a huge degree, that will determine what the shape will be. If it’s a very small robot, you have to fit very small components in there and especially the batteries. They’re our biggest problem.

Most of the time, we want our robots to be operating somewhere where they can't be wired in, so they have to be able to carry their own power supply with them, and they need to be able to operate sometimes for 1 hour, 2 hours, 10 hours, and they have to carry all of that power supply themselves, so that has to come from batteries.

Then you have a look at how much intelligence it will need. So do we put in a full computer board in there? Do we put in a smaller microcontroller?

Then we need to work out how the robot will be working, what environment will it be operating in? And then that will determine the sensors that we put on. Does it need full vision sensors or does it just need to avoid obstacles or does it just need to detect that something is happening?