Guy Fawkes robot

The military has been using robots for bomb disposals for many years now. Most of them are remote controlled.
However, lately there has been development of more specialised and autonomous EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) robots that do risky operations that human beings don’t need to risk their lives for. I always wanted to design a robot that did something that is too risky for humans – and thus potentially save lives.

So early this month when we had Guy Fawkes night, I decided to use a robot based on my MINDSTORMS NXT to light our fireworks. There has been a lot of concern lately about fireworks maiming and injuring the person igniting it and a few cases of fatalities. So I thought it would be a good idea.

This autonomous NXT robot will light multiple fireworks in a sequence - while the family sits back and watch the display! The robot is incredibly simple - It uses a MINDSTORMS NXT, two light sensors (one for navigation and other to detect a lighted fuse) and an Ultrasonic detector (to detect the top of the fireworks (and hence the height of the fireworks fuse wire) so it can adjust the torch arm height depending on the position of the fuse. It uses three motors - two for motion and the third for the torch arm elevator. For the wheel base we used a simple motor driven wheels + casters based on JennToo designed by fellow NXT Step contributor, Brian Davis, but with a few modifications.

Warning: Working with fireworks is dangerous. Please exercise extreme caution.



Micah E. said…
It's your NXT kit.
1. Excellent use of the great song, "Firestarter" in a video

2. Seeing the words "explosives" and "bomb disposal" in the keywords for the same blog posting made my day.

3. Your next challenge - program the robot to use a fire extinguisher

Fireworks ... $32.75
NXT ... $249.00
Custom Powder-Burnt NXT ... Priceless!

How will YOU customize your NXT this season?

Anonymous said…
speaking of speical projects I just looked at your profile Jim and saw your arcade project. Very veyr cool. When will it be finished? Whyd didn't you choose a robot theme?

BlueToothKiwi said…
- LOL Chris - and for everything else you got Mastercard

- Thanks Jim for your comments.

- Yes Anonymous- I been following it on Jim's blog. I hope the painting goes well this weekend, Jim
Ha - I forget that my profile has both blogs listed. I try to keep my project separate...

Yes, the priming is done... painting will happen this weekend. Because it'll require numerous coats, I don't expect to finish the painting until the following weekend.

Brent - I'm hoping to have it finished and working by Feb/March but I have a wife and a baby so I've learned not to set hard dates ;)

As for the theme - maybe my next one will have a robot theme but for now, I wanted to go with a 1950's style flying saucer theme.
Seriously, this one contraption could save many hundreds (if not a few more) visits to the hospital during our Independence Day celebrations here in the States!

But sadly...the cost are all those crispy NXTs sent home smoking.

Won't somebody think of the NXTs?!?!

Unknown said…
As much as I love NXT robots and good designs, I have to say I am very disappointed this has been posted on this website. I have seen a skyrocket get knocked over, fire and explode into a person and it's unbelievably horrible. I think it's irresponsible to encourage any use of NXT that has the potential to cause such pain.

Anonymous said…
Sometimes NXT STEP people, you just can't win, can ya? I felt the same way about the Green thing posted the other day - very offensive. If this were left on the grass, someone might not see it and fall and hurt themself. Consider changing the wheels to red or yellow. Oh forget it. Just shut down the blog before lawsuits begin.

(Paul - get a grip. The purpose of the robot was to remove the danger to someone lighting a firework. Did you actually watch the videO?)

I can certainly understand your position. As someone who once had a firecracker blow up in his hand, I'm not a huge fan of fireworks these days.

I don't believe the creator of this robot meant to encourage haphazard playing with fireworks... if anything, I think he meant to actually create something that would serve a real purpose for either himself or a child.

Kids are going to play with fireworks - we can't change that. But the post/video does mention that the reason for creating the robot was to remove the danger to the person lighting the firework.

With over 25 contributors here, we still try to edit our posts and comments to keep with our friendliness to the younger audience but we also try to avoid overt censorship. There are plenty of robots that have been posted on this blog (the Packbot, for example, used in Iraq/Afghanistan) that are used in decidedly unfriendly situations but this doesn't mean that we shouldn't write about them.

I'm sorry that this post has bothered you - rest assured, this time next week it'll be pushed down the page and there'll be something new to talk about. Your opinion is valid and I'm sure others will agree with your position - thanks for commenting.

Unknown said…
I'm sorry guys, but if you think this in-any-way improves safety we're on a different planet. Why do you think you can't buy a "real" one of these? Besides, if I said I made a NXT robot to control an elevator, a car or a gun to "improve safety", does that mean it does? If we're talking about toy elevators, cars, or guns, that might be a reasonable intent. But if they're real things its a no brainer.

Sure - the robot is "fun", as are the fireworks, but that's not the point. When things are posted here, people, including kids will try to make them. Would you want a ten year old debugging their attempt at this robot?

Paul (normally not so serious)
Anonymous said…
YOu know, when I was 13 someone told my parents that playing D&D was goign to make me a bad person. Then someone told my parents that my videogames were going to make me go on a shooting rampage at the mall. My parents were smart enough to give me some credit. I don't think posting a video of a robot lighting fireworks is going to overly influence kids to go and do this. But then again, I have smart kids, not dumb ones. Someone told me that it's no longer survival of the fittest but survival of the smartest.

BlueToothKiwi said…
Hi Paul and others,

I am the creator of the above mentioned robot (and video), and I thought I would take the time to respond to your points:

- I think it is healthy that posts like this invoke healthy debate – about social issues beyond NXT robotics. Paul, you are entitled to your opinion and views – and I respect that - and thank you for sharing it.

- However, As a parent of four children (including two teenage boys), I balance being responsible parents with having fun in life. And like I said in response to another commentator on YouTube - I rather have a blown up NXT than one of my family members losing a limb.

- In most countries sale of fireworks to the public is prohibited. However, it is not where I live. I hope children and adults behave responsibly around fireworks, so we continue to enjoy them for years to come.

- I have to agree with some of the points Jim and R.K. made in defence of video. I post a video of a robot that cleans up insects in pools - and people cry danger. I post a video of a robot interacting with our pet rabbits - and people cry cruelty... I post a video of my family having fun with NXT and fireworks - and people cry irresponsible. I think (with no disrespect to you Paul), people should relax and stop taking life so seriously.

Unknown said…

First off, the design of your robot is excellent (as always) and you've documented it well. I commend you for this. I've enjoyed everything else you've published and look forward to more.

However, the point I am raising is not about fireworks or social issues to do with them. Having lived in NZ for over 20 years, I am well aware of the fun that's had at guy fawkes. I have no problem with fireworks or responsible people using them. I think it will be a shame when they are banned in NZ. (

My issue is with respected members of the NXT community encouraging the NXT to automate a potentially life threatening task, then saying it's in the name of "safety". Do you think that's being too serious? Are fireworks life threatening? I think they are. In NZ, I have witnessed a skyrocket, placed by a responsible adult, accidentally fall over, launch into a family inside a house and explode into a person. This has a devastating affect on all involved. To me, that's worth being serious about.

I've worked on industrial control software and hardware for life threatening applications and feel I'm qualified to ask you some questions about your design -
- What happens when your robot accidentally knocks over a firework? What does it do then?
- what's your fail safe if all goes wrong? Does the robot swamp the fireworks with water? Throw sand on it?
- How have you ensured your code or hardware won't fail? Does it have unit tests to ensure it always does what you think it will in every case?
- When you melt your controller and it malfunctions, what stops it lighting other fireworks?

Do you think a child might even consider some of these scenarios? Apparently there are some super smart kids out there. These don't even start to address safety aspects that would be required for a real world application. But hold on, these are real world fireworks.

You may think your application encourages safety but I totally disagree. You may also feel that you're protecting your family and that's your choice. If you choose to publish something like this, I feel it would be irresponsible not to comment.

I'm sorry if you feel I'm taking this too seriously. There are some things I never want to see again.

Anonymous said…
Thank you Paul for your response and explaining to the readers where you are coming from.

I have left your comments unedited under my post - so anyone reading the original post can read these comments in the full context and consider the valuable points you have made.

Anonymous said…
I'm a student of the University of Padua (Italy), and I'm interested in building your Firestarter. Where can I find building instructions of it?

If you want to contact me, my email is .



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