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Balance Bot

This robot balances by itself on its two wheels. Three different programs are provided for you to try. With one program, you control the overall forward and backward travel of the robot with your hand in front of the distance sensor. With another, the robot holds its overall position in addition to balancing automatically. Click on the program images for details, and also see the usage notes below for tips.

The programs use a mathematical technique called a PID Controller to do the balancing, based on input from the hub's gyro sensor. 

Building Instructions

Balance Bot


All three programs use the hub's gyro sensor, so see this note to make sure it is calibrated properly.

Each program builds on the techniques of the one before it, so study them in order if you want to see how they work.

Tips for Balancing

Getting a LEGO robot to balance can be tricky, and it may not be consistent when you try it, so here are some tips.

1. Charge the hub battery to 100%. The motors weaken as the battery loses charge, and the programs are tuned for a fully charged battery.

2. Make sure you leave the hub motionless for a few seconds after you turn it on to let the gyro calibrate properly (see this note for more information). If the gyro is not yet calibrated when you try to run a balancing program, the robot will think it detected a fall and will quit with an error sound.

3. Before running a program, gently hold the robot upright as balanced as possible, then when you run the program, as soon as you hear or feel the motors turn on, let go of the robot completely. Do not try to hold it to "help" it balance. If you support it, you will confuse it and make it overcompensate and fall.

4. Once the gyro is calibrated as in step 2, keep the hub powered on for all of your test runs, then run the "PID Balance 1" program a few times to check the overall balance. The gyro may calibrate slightly differently each time you turn the hub on, and it is not perfectly accurate, so you may need to make an adjustment. Run the "PID Balance 1" program several times and keep an eye on the overall forward/backward travel of the robot. If the robot travels more and more forward overall, or more and more backward over time (and then eventually falls), you may need to adjust the tiltNeutral variable in the programs. 

The tiltNeutral variable in the programs (which is set in the Initialize My Block) specifies the expected tilt (roll) angle from the gyro sensor when the robot is perfectly balanced. The balanced roll angle is roughly -90 degrees (with the hub on its side as built here) but not exactly, because the robot is not quite symmetrical front to back. Unfortunately the hub gyro only reports integer degrees, so you can't determine the correct value directly. The programs have tiltNeutral set to -90.2, but if the robot travels backward overall when running "PID Balance 1" and doesn't recover, then try changing tiltNeutral to -90.3. If the robot travels forward overall, then try changing tiltNeutral to -90.1. When I test this with my own robot after powering up the hub, sometimes I need -90.1 and sometimes I need -90.2. However, once you find a good value, if you leave the hub powered on, it should stay adjusted.

5. Once you get decent balancing with "PID Balance 1", you can try either of the other two programs. If you adjusted the tiltNeutral variable, you will need to change it in these programs too. Note that in the "Balance Dist" program, the robot is designed to creep forward or backward by itself, depending on what the distance sensor sees, and this will be unstable if you just leave it alone, so it needs your help balancing!

6. The balancing programs are sensitive to the center of gravity and other physical aspects of the model as designed. If you make any modifications to the build, you may have to re-tune some of the constants in the Initialize My Block. The tiltNeutral variable explained above is perhaps the easiest to change. If you make more significant changes, you may need to modify the Kp, Ki, and Kd values as well (which are unfortunately tricky to get right).

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