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Houston Robot Project Underway

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Hi all,   I've recently started on my robot project using an old Tamiya RC car for a chassis. Bought a Basic Stamp to tinker with and it's interesting but so limited.   My name is Tim Wasson, I'm

You could just put a 3-4 wire header on the target board and use the LaunchPad as an in-circuit-programmer.

Here you can see the sparkfun motor controller that is used.  The grey wires go to the '430 and power, and the heavy wires are from the motors.  The controller is hot-glued to the top of the batter ca

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Yes, it's a 1990's vintage Tamiya "Quick Start" chassis. Came with the "Hunchback VW Bug" body. Picked it up at an auction for $5! No remote, but the chassis was in good condition and it will certainly have plenty of rough terrain capability compared to most hobby robots.


The front is set up to be a servo but has no electronics - just the motor and the pot to note position, so the MSP430 is going to play servo controller for the front.


The axles are sprung but there is not a huge amount of suspension articulation, but it will be good for relatively fast travel over the yard.

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Using sample code from TI, I got the ADC working and can now read the position of the steering wheels of the robot.


Now I'll need to write the code to control the steering motor and let the wheels maintain a given position. Later I'm going to add a small gyroscope and a pot to allow the steering controller to maintain a specific heading.

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I got the front wheel positioning code working. Henry is now able to move and hold his front wheels in a particular position. The ADC reads the position of the front wheels, compares to a register holding the desired wheel position value, and then pulses the motor controller to move the wheels a small bit at a time.



Next I'm going to get some code written to swivel the wheels back and forth, and ramp the drive motor up and down, and let him wander around a bit...


Then I'll need to get the modified I2C bus working to start passing events and controlling the front and rear subsystems together.

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This is a neat project, I'm excited to see where you get! If you would like to use a regular lcd instead of pulsing that pedometer then you can try out the code I've been working on here:



I'm also very tempted to write some code for the obex that would allow the Prop and MSP to communicate to each other. If you don't beat me to it then I suppose I'll let you know when I get it done.


This project really does remind me of another robotics project I put on hold a while back though...two years into it and I found myself too broke and resourceless to continue on. I hope you have better luck.

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I do want to use a larger/better lcd later on - the pedometers are just a fun hack. With the I2C code examples working, I can finally get Henry rolling around under his own command, and from here on out, things get more interesting.


What were the similarities between your project and this one? I'm curious to know what direction you were going with it.

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Well, it sure is a bit bigger. I was planning to use 2 props and a few smaller microcontrollers such as the msp. My primary focus was on hardware however, while it seems the primary focus of your robot is on brains. Guess that makes us alike but opposites?


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Well, that's definitely headed in the bigger direction! I was wondering how running out of finances could be a problem on a little bot, but when when you get to that size you're talking industrial type actuators, and I can see how that would add up quick.


You're right, I'm mostly focused on the brains, and Henry is also an indoor bot, so I needed something that would fit through people-sized spaces...


Well, at least you wouldn't have to worry about running down the batteries with all that HP...

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Well, I still would until I fit an alternator on it. But I suppose I need to get working on it again first, and not only is my battery for it very corroded but the ups you see attached in the picture is bad so I can't use it to charge. Alas, money...


@zeke--a relay requires power or the spark plug is shorted, it will eventually have breaks that will automatically engage with multiple microcontrollers capable of engaging it with backup power, and I'm wanting to create a plow-like break that has a motor that must be powered on to hold it up.


@wasson-- what kinds of tasks are you thinking for your robot that requires so many microcontrollers? You would have to have quite the array of sensors to come even close to using up that I/O. And I thought my robot was expensive :)

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It's not so much that I'll have a billion sensors, as it is that Henry is biologically inspired and as such is an experiment in parallelism, modularity, simple programming, and localized control.


I've got a bit of a writeup here: http://henrytherobot.com/?page_id=8 that covers the philosophy behind Henry. It's pretty wordy but it covers the ideas pretty well. Let me know what you think...

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I think it needs a good way to sense it's environment. How about some ir sensors, with the data shared on the bus? And maybe some photoresistors tinted different colors pick up mostly one color each. This should be a cheap way of getting many sensors working together on your neural network.

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The sensors are coming, for sure. I'm just focused on getting the architecture and basic transport mechanisms working between the chips, then I'll be off to the races on the sensor stuff.


If I can get the architecture working well, it should make it relatively simple to add lots of capability relatively quickly.


I'm planning on including

IR distance

Ultrasonic distance

bumper switches


short term inertial nav gyroscope


hall effect speed sensors on each wheel for direction and speed

Visible light detection (bright spots as it scans side to side)

Capacitive detection of people close to his body

RF detection (to identify landmark beacons)

Sound level and direction (probably not much freqency processing tho)

"Leash" mode where it generally follows me but not under complete control

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