August 8th, 2021—
Almost done with his degree in mechanical engineering, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology student Josh Eckels had the inspiration to put what he learned to the test by creating an AI-powered robot that plays chess against a human opponent. The system is essentially a giant cube fashioned from a series of aluminum extrusions placed at right angles with a large chess board at its base. At the top is a gantry made with a few metal rods and timing belts that slide the X axis and grabbing mechanism to the correct positions.
Four total stepper motors were used to move the grabber, including one for the X axis, another for the Y axis, a motor that spins a threaded rod to lift the gripper, and a final motor that rotates to open or close it. All of these motors connect to a central Arduino that has a CNC shield on top. This is connected via a USB cable to a Raspberry Pi running the Stockfish chess engine.
Stockfish is a great chess engine that keeps track of the current state of the game and makes moves according to the selected skill level. At the upper ranges, it becomes nearly, if not fully, impossible to beat by a human. The player selects on a screen where they want to position their piece, which then causes the robot to pick it up and place it somewhere else. Afterwards, the engine makes its move.
You can read more about this project here and check out its demo below!