Who and What is Beatty Robotics?
We design and build custom robots for museums and science centers. We also build functional robotic prototypes. Our main area of expertise is Mars Rovers, Lunar Rovers, and other such robotic exhibits, but we’ve built a wide variety of robots over time.
We are a family that enjoys building robots and other electronic projects. Our goal is to have fun, to learn, and to be together. We build robots because we love the fusion of creative design, electronics, metal machining, and software programming. This website is a tech blog for us to share our projects with our friends, family, and other roboticists around the world.
We’re located in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, where we have setup our workshop. Our team consists of my fourteen-year-old daughter Camille (username: Lunamoth), my twelve-year-old daughter Genevieve (username: Julajay), and myself (Robert Beatty, the Dad), along with support from Mom. Camille got us started in all this when she was 11 and her sister was 9. Camille loves machining the metal parts. Genevieve does most of the electrical soldering and wiring on the robots. They both work on the mechanical assembly work, CNC machining, and robot testing. I order the parts and keep the projects moving forward, but where possible, I try to have the girls do most of the work. Hands-on. That’s what keeps them engaged and happy. Soldering. Machining. Assembly. Electronic wiring. It’s great to see their minds and their hands hard at work building cool high-tech stuff.
When we build our robots, we make the component parts from scratch (with our homemade CNC Mill and other tools), or we buy the component parts from various excellent sites on the Internet, and/or we hack the parts out of other things (we love voiding warranties!). When we started out, we didn’t know anything about building robots. We didn’t know how to use power tools, operate a vertical mill, or even use a soldering iron. I remember struggling to figure out how a common ground worked. We use the Internet extensively to learn and interact with other makers. My girls and I have greatly enjoyed the process of learning and creating together. That’s what this is about. One of the main things we’ve learned is that if you can imagine it, then you can do it–whatever it is. Beatty Robotics has been an excellent lesson in entrepreneurialism for the girls. Who needs a paper route when you can start a robotics company, right?
How did we get started with all this?
How does a perfectly normal family get into robotics? OK, we were never perfectly normal, but we were pretty close. Then this happened…
When Camille was 10 years old, she started taking things apart around the house. Screwdriver in hand, she opened up a remote control, an electronic timer, and a toy car.
“I want to see how they work inside,” she said. She saw little resistors, wires, and circuit boards. It amazed her.
Impressed by her curiosity, I said, “Now that you know how to take something apart, do you want to try building something?”
“Really? Can we actually build something? Is that even possible? That’s so cool.”
“What do you want to build?” I asked, thinking it would be a simple little toy or maybe something that lit up an LED.
“Can we build a robot?” she asked.
“Um,” I said, a bit taken aback. “I suppose we could, but it will take a long time to figure out how to do that…” I said uncertainly. I wasn’t sure she’d have the attention span for it ( not to mention that I didn’t know how to build a robot).
Then her little sister chimed in. “Can we build one of those cute little droids from Star Wars Clone Wars?” (her favorite show)
“Well, we can try…” I said. “Let’s see what we can do.”
So we set out on our first adventure. We started drawing sketches, coming up with ideas, and learning what it would take to construct a small robot. Then we just jumped in and started building. We learned about wires, resistors, capacitors, voltage, current, and other electronics. We learned about integrated circuits, electronic components, and software programming on microcontrollers. We learned about cutting, drilling, and machining aluminum and other metals.
The girls insisted that our new robot have a name, so after much discussion, they decided to name it I.C. 12. The name is a play on words for “I see” because its eyes are its most important feature. This robot was inspired by “327 T,” a little repair droid who searches for Ventress in the “Cloak of Darkness” episode of the first season of Clone Wars.
That first little robot was pretty cool. It cruised around on three wheels, had LED lights in its eyes, and we controlled it with an iPhone using a little infrared transmitter and receiver. Then the girls constructed little trays on the side and back of the robot for transporting Genevieve’s Playmobil figures around. She loved it!
We had so much fun building I.C. 12 that we immediately had an idea for a new robot, and then another, and then another… Now we usually have multiple robots going on at a time because we can’t stop thinking up new ideas. We’ve built robots that roll, robots that crawl, and robots that fly. We’ve done about 35 projects so far. This site contains pictures of many of them, but not all of them.
Although our various projects vary from simple to complex, we strive for two goal: 1. learn everything we can 2. have as much fun as possible.