Controlling Robotics Visually


The world — and the Hackaday Prize — is filled with educational robots. These are small, wheeled robots loaded up with sensors, actuators, a few motor drivers, and some sort of system that is easy to program. The idea behind these educational robots is to give students an easy-to-use platform to test out code, learn inverse kinematics, and realize odometry is a lot harder than you think it is. Give these kids some time and patience, and you’ll have a fleet of Battlebots at the end of the semester, if the teacher is cool.

But there’s a problem with all educational robots. The programming. For someone just starting out in robotics club, being able to code isn’t a guarantee. You need an easy to use programming interface. This project for the Hackaday Prize gives all students a great visual programming interface. It’s basically like the first generation of Lego Mindstorms, only you don’t need a weird IR tower attached to a serial port.

Of course you can’t program a robot without a board, and this project brings it in spades. The brain for this platform is built on an ARM microcontroller, has Bluetooth, supports up to six DC motors, twelve analog inputs, PWM and serial ports, and all the ports are color-coded for kids who can’t read so good.

This is a visual programming environment, though, and with that, you get a fancy IDE filled with loops that wrap around commands, IO access that’s in easy to read blocks, and control software that gives students a dashboard filled with buttons and odometers and the video feed from the camera. It’s a great Hackaday Prize entry, and an excellent way to introduce kids to robotics.



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