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TrotBot tackles rough terrain

November 17, 2016

Hi, I’m Ben. I was a member of the team that developed a new walking mechanism, TrotBot, that we eventually scaled up to the size of a mini-van. We were inspired to begin this project in 2012 when we discovered Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest. This led us to embark on a LEGO building spree, attempting various existing walking mechanisms.  However, they performed poorly on rough terrain, so we decided to design our own. We wanted our design to have lifelike motion and to be functional on rough terrain. After a couple months we had designs and LEGO iterations of TrotBot, a walking mechanism with the gait of a galloping horse, and a very high footstep to tackle obstacles. Below is a simulation of the linkage we discovered compared to Strandbeest and Klann’s Mechanical Spider.

After tinkering with our new linkage in LEGO, it wasn’t long before we, somewhat naively, decided to scale it up to the size of a minivan. This turned out to be a more difficult challenge than we originally anticipated, like asking a bridge company to build a bridge, but with moving supports that occasionally lift off the ground. Despite a rat’s-nest of problems to solve, we finally managed to get this machine walking after two summers of hard work. Below is a clip of TrotBot 1.0.

I scaled back down to LEGO scale, using the insights gained from the scale-up, and the functionality of my builds improved enough that I decided to post the mechanism and build plans. For an example of how TrotBot’s high foot-path improved its functionality, below you can see a LEGO TrotBot tackling an obstacle course.

I’ve posted detailed plans on how I built TrotBot in LEGO, some of the engineering insights behind the design, as well as some of what we learned throughout the process of creating TrotBot at DIY Walkers, where I will continue to post my progress with future builds.  If you have insights into TrotBot or walker projects you’d like to share, or if you are a teacher hoping to motivate your students to take on a hard STEM challenge, please visit the site and get in touch!

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Ben Vagle is 16 years old and has been building mechanical walkers for the past 4 years, at both LEGO-scale, and SUV-scale..... read more

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