Archive for June, 2012

Basic Electronics and Arduino: A Winning Combination

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Electronics is an integral part of innovation, yet many electronic classes across the United States are being closed because of NCLB(1) and ever-shrinking school budgets.  However, more and more schools are instead opening robotics courses. With the Arduino platform we saw an opportunity for educators to integrate basic electronic principles into existing robotics courses using the VEX, LEGO, and BoE  hardware. Fortunately, Arduinos are very inexpensive and can be used not only as a mobile robot controller, but to create lots of other “smart” stuff as well.

Arduino on a NXT platform

The Arduino exposes students to a basic microprocessor concepts, prototyping on a breadboard, and basic electronics concepts through many cool projects.  The Arduino takes the processor ‘out of the box’ and gives students the opportunity to ‘build from scratch’ electronics systems. To augment these features, we’ve developed lessons around LEGO, VEX, and the BoE bot at our ROBOTC wiki and by the end of the summer we will have a set of plans that allow students to turn a RC car fully autonomous.  We have a team of folks dedicated to creating a series of lessons that makes teaching electronics through robots fun and easy, all while using technology that is already in your classroom.

In this regard, we have a very broad range of projects in mind for ROBOTC for Arduino; everything from basic LED control to creating homebrew sensors is covered. The end-goal for this research and development project is to expose students to a broad range of basic electronic concepts from simple circuitry to digital input (on/off switches) to analog inputs (potentiometer) to PWM concepts. As we continue to develop our ROBOTC for Arduino support materials, we need your help.  We are asking you, the ROBOTC community, to recommend projects that you are working on and are willing to share with educators and hobbyists.  Please consider sharing your project ideas and we will be glad to post them on both our blog and wiki. As always, keep an eye on our forum, Facebook, and Twitter pages for the most up-to-date news. Thanks!

Arduino on a BoE-bot platform.

Arduino on a VEX platform.

Written by John Watson

June 29th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Arduino,General News

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Board of Education Shield (for Arduino) + ROBOTC for Arduino

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A few months ago Parallax, makers of the popular STAMP microprocessor, released a new Board of Education (BoE) Shield for the Arduino. With ROBOTC for Arduino in the beta stage and a full-fledged release on the near horizon (expected third quarter 2012), the friendly folks at Parallax were kind enough to send us one of their Robotics Shield Kits (for Arduino) to prototype and test with.

Top and bottom views of Board of Education for Arduino. Note the header spacing on bottom side.

The kit includes a full Boe-Bot kit, an BoE Shield for Arduino, a Boeboost module, and a bag of basic electronic components (resistors, capacitors, microswitches, etc). In order to get the kit completely up and running, users will also need a compatible Arduino, a USB A to USB B cable, a compatible coding program (ROBOTC for Arduino), and either four (five with the BoeBoost) AA batteries or a compatible AC adapter.

From top left clockwise: Boe-Bot kit (we had assembled ours before taking pictures, hence some components being installed); Board of Education for Arduino; hardware kit; Boe-Booster; electronics components kit; Parallax screwdriver.

Once assembled, the Arduino can be programmed in ROBOTC for Arduino. Besides the pin layout and a few minor tweaks (on/off switch for servo power, for example), the Board of Education Shield is functionally  the same as the Arduino platform so programs coded for the Arduino are directly compatible with this kit.

Fully assembled Bot-Bot with Boe-Booster installed.

Even in its early stages, the ROBOTC for Arduino beta supports many of the features needed to code fully autonomous robots (with the applicable sensors installed). It is also continually upgraded and updated so that by the time the full version launches (expected third quarter 2012), users will be able to unlock the full potential of their robotic kits.

Board of Education with Arduino Uno attached.

All in all, this is a solid introductory kit into the world of robotics. Combined with the ROBOTC programming language, it makes for one powerful, flexible, user-friendly platform.

Fully assembled Bot-Bot with Boe-Booster, Board of Education for Arduino, and Arduino Uno installed.

Written by John Watson

June 25th, 2012 at 4:32 pm

ROBOTC for Arduino – Wiki Tutorials Update

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The first few sections of the Arduino Tutorials have been placed up on the ROBOTC wiki. The vast potential of the Arduino means that it is possible to use it to control just about any platform. As such, we have made several sections for the basic tutorials to help get you started.

We currently have a section for the Parallax BoeBot, a section for using the LEGO hardware platform with the Arduino, and a section for using the VEX hardware platform with the Arduino. We also have plans to develop tutorials for the TETRIX hardware platform in the near future.

As it stands, we currently have tutorials to show you how to use the Arduino to control LEDs, control continuous rotation servos, regular servos, and how to use switches, and we have several more topics in the works.

You can find the full list of Tutorials at or go directly to the individual platform section using the links below. Keep in mind that ROBOTC for Arduino is still in development, so the content of the wiki tutorials may change frequently – so stop by often!

Parallax BoeBot + Arduino Platform

LEGO Hardware + Arduino Platform

VEX Hardware + Arduino platform

Written by Jacob Palnick

June 25th, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Posted in General News

PLTW Students Integrate LynxMotion and VEX

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Do you get hungry? Do you enjoy eating food more than you enjoy making food? If you answered “Yes!” to both of those questions, you’ll be happy to know that the future engineers of America have you covered.

Students from two Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Schools have integrated the sensing and control capabilities of the VEX Cortex Robotics system with the advanced articulation capabilities of the LynxMotion Robotics system to create highly capable (and delicious) assembly lines.

The first two videos are brought to us by students in a Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) class at Kings High School in California.

Robotic Sandwich Factory:

Buttered Toast Factory (complete with real-life toaster):

The work behind the last two videos was done by students in another CIM class at Lancaster High School in New York.

Coffee Manufacturing Line:

Widget Assembly Line:

Well done to all the students involved, and to the instructors that inspired them. Keep up the great work!

If you’re looking for more information, additional videos and explanation can be found on their respective YouTube channels.

Written by Jesse Flot

June 12th, 2012 at 10:48 am

Posted in PLTW

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Michael’s Macro Mouse Project

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This project was submitted by ROBOTC user Michael B. He uses an NXT robot equipped with a HiTechnic EOPD (Electro Optical Proximity Detector) to determine the robots surroundings and then intelligently create and navigate a path through the maze maze.

From the creator:

It shows a robot solving a maze very similar to the micro mouse challenge. It’s an excellent application of 2D arrays. It’s also the most accessible task I could conceive of that would require students to build robots that remembered stuff about their surroundings, related that information and build on it, and then use that information to make intelligent decisions.


Here’s video of the Macro Mouse in action, with lots of additional detail:

Written by Jesse Flot

June 11th, 2012 at 9:36 am

Posted in Cool projects,NXT

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RC Car to Arduino Robot – Cars have arrived!

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The RC cars for the Arduino guided project to convert an RC car into a robot have arrived.

We tried to select cars with various features, sizes, prices, and body designs in an attempt to get a good sample of the insides of RC cars. In the end we selected the following six RC cars.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jacob Palnick

June 6th, 2012 at 9:03 am

Posted in Arduino

Guided Projects with ROBOTC for Arduino

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The Arduino is a powerful and versatile piece of electronics hardware, that can be used for anything from taking sensor readings or making LEDs flash, all the way to making a robot that can be controlled from the internet. With such vast potential, getting started with the Arduino can be a little intimidating to some.

As such the ROBOTC Development Team is pleased to announce the development of a series of guided projects to introduce users to the Arduino. These projects will cover topics such as making a simple mobile robot, making your own sensors, communicating with VEX or NXT robots, and how to make and use advanced sensors. The projects will all lead up to a capstone project where you will be guided through the process of converting an RC car in to a Arduino controlled mobile robot.

If you’re interested in helping out with the development of some of the lessons, feel free to contact us at arduino[at]robotc[dot]net – We’ll be offering free licenses of ROBOTC for Arduino for anyone who contributes lessons around using the Arduino with ROBOTC.

We’ll be posting all of the project materials on our Wiki – The outline for each project’s development can be found on the ROBOTC wiki at

Written by Jacob Palnick

June 4th, 2012 at 10:17 am

Posted in Arduino