Turtle Robots

Public summary: 

Learn the basics of robotics by teaching simple robots to move and draw.

These turtles want to draw you shapes.
Useful information
Kit List: 

Valiant Roamer Turtle Robots (Currently have 4, one is cracked)
Valiant Roamer Control Unit (Currently have 1 and sensors)
Roamer Turtle Cases (I think there's two, one should be used on cracked robot)
6V Lantern Batteries (2 per robot) [These are available from some shops (camping ones) but are best got on Amazon or eBay]
Custom wooden base plates (these are wooden and cover the batteries)
Obstacles (improvise)

Packing Away: 

This has a box called Turtles Robots. Make sure turtles are packed safely as they're fragile(ish). Remove the batteries.


The Roamer moves forward and back, turns left and right, waits and makes sounds. You teach the Roamer to do this by pressing keys on the top of its body. There is a key for each of these functions, and a set of number keys.
To enter an instruction press a key, followed by a number. This tells the Roamer how far to move, how much to turn, how long to wait or what sound to make. There are three other function keys: Sense, Two-State Outputs and Stepper Motor.
There are two types of program, the GO Program and Procedures.
The GO Program is a list of instructions carried out when you press GO.
A Procedure is a list of instructions with a name. Once you have defined the list, its name (e.g. P1) is used like any other instruction. When you enter its name in the GO Program, the Roamer will carry out the whole procedure list.
The Roamer has two types of memory, GO Memory and Procedure Memory.
The Roamer will remember up to 59 instructions, and its powerful programming facilities enable it to carry out hundreds of actions.
When its memory is nearly full the Roamer will sound a warning, similar to the sound you hear when you press CM.
Instructions in the GO Memory are carried out when you press GO. If you add more instructions after executing the GO Program, they will be added to the GO Program and carried out the next time you press GO.
The Roamer waits for two seconds after you press GO before executing the GO Program.
Pressing CM then CM clears the GO Memory and allows you to enter a new GO Program. It does not clear the Procedure Memory.
The first time you press CM a warning is sounded. Pressing CM a second time clears the GO Memory.
If you press by mistake, press another key, or wait 10 seconds. The Roamer will then carry on with its GO Memory intact.
If you press GO after you switch on the Roamer, it will carry out the Demonstration Program. This can be used to show beginners the basic Roamer functions.
Pressing (forward) or (back) followed by a number from 1 to 99 tells the Roamer to move forward or back that number of units. (See UNITS OF DISTANCE AND TURN). (These examples are illustrated in the style suggested on the programming sheet).
Pressing (right) or (left) followed by a number up to 999 turns the Roamer to the right (clockwise) or left (anticlockwise) that number of units. (See UNITS OF DISTANCE AND TURN).
Pressing (W) followed by a number from 1 to 99 tells the Roamer to be still and quiet for that number of seconds.
The Roamer has a programmable sound facility. You need to specify how long each note will last (duration) and how high or low the note will be (pitch). To play a note, press followed by a number from 1 to 8 for its duration, and another number from 1 to 13 for its pitch. If you want a rest (silent note), enter 14 for the pitch.
The default units are 30cm (one robot length) for movement and 1 degree for turning. They can be changed by pressing (forward) or (right) and then ([]) and a number of cms or degrees.
Hold any key to stop the currently executing programme.
pressing (CE) cancels the last instruction from the programme.
Pressing repeat, (R) followed by a number then ([]) some instructions and a closing ([]) repeats the enclosed instructions as a loop. Conditional loops aren't supported.
Press (P) followed by a number to define that procedure. Then place instructions inside ([]). To use a procedure in the programme press (P) and its number and the only way to edit or delete is to redefine the procedure.
Recursion is not permitted and is implemented by procedures only being able to call procedures of strictly greater number. 99 procedures can be stored.
The robots are very simple to use so can be programmed with a try it approach. The sound feedback tells you what works and what doesn't and people will find out quickly what to do. You may wish to masking tape over some of the buttons, like the note and procedures to prevent them being used and increase the success of random button pressing.
The simplest aim is to set up some obstacles and ask them to navigate around the course. With sharpies one could also draw shapes on paper as an alternative.
Obviously there are also things to learn. Roamers are procedurly programmed, one can talk about how one might try and solve a problem. A natural way is to break it into sub problems, when setting out the course think of repeatable steps you can build in so they can see they solve some problems a few times. This is where a procedure comes in. This could be something like navigate around a cone and this can be called whenever it's needed to navigate around a cone.
Procedures also have other advantages. For instance if we swap all the cones for different obstacles then we only have to change the cone procedure to work for the new obstacle.
Bottom up programming - using existing knowledge to solve a new problem.
Top down programming - diving a complex problem into smaller sub problems.

We now own one Control Unit, this is in a cardboard box with lots of electronic sensors, I've not yet tested it as I didn't fully realise it was included with a robot I bought.
The control unit screws into the depression on the bottom and the cable goes into the battery compartment to link to the robot. You can plug in sensors or two-state outputs (and also motors but we don't have any). In theory the button on top allows you to use these. It introduces some limited conditional elements using the sensor blocks and throwing in several loops lets you use these in more usual ways. Please use and document!

Risk Assessment
Date risk assesment last checked: 
Fri, 31/01/2020
Risk assesment checked by: 
Beatrix Huissoon
Date risk assesment double checked: 
Tue, 04/02/2020
Risk assesment double-checked by: 
Emma Crickmore
Risk Assessment: 
Hazard Risk Affected person(s) Likelihood Severity Overall Mitigation Likelihood Severity Overall
Battery covers Batteries may become loose/caught/punctures if improvised covering fails. All 2 2 4 Check covering before beginning experiment. Call first aider in the event of accident. In case of fire, call fire department. 1 2 2
Rain Batteries may react with rain due to improvised covers. All 2 2 4 Don't use in rain. Call first aider in case of injury. 1 2 2
Roamers Roamers may fall off table, raised surface and hit a person. All 2 3 6 Use on the floor or have barriers on tables.
In the event of accident, call a first aider/mechanic.
1 2 2
Roamers Roamers may be trip hazard if used on floor. All 2 2 4 Don't use in thoroughfare and section off area for operation. Call first aider in the event of accident. 1 2 2