Archive for July, 2012
When someone thinks “robots’, they generally think of cold, calculating, emotionless machines. This couldn’t be further from the truth; all robots, from the complex humanoids to the basic welding arms seen in car plants, have complex and deep emotional personalities.
For instance, take a look at our new “Scaredybot”. Built entirely from VEX parts, an Arduino, and the sweat of our intern Dan West (by the way, great work Dan!), the Scaredybot is so ‘brave’ that it cannot stand being in the dark; given the choice, it will either chase a light source for dear life or spin blindly in place (desperately seeking a respite from the darkness).
On the technical side, the Scaredybot uses two VEX Light Sensors to compare light values on the left and right side of the robot and turns the robot towards whichever side is higher. By constantly moving side by side using swing turns (much like a line-tracking robot), the Scaredybot is able to track the light source as long as its sensors are able to read the light values. When the Scaredybot loses its light source, it spins in place until a light source is found again, at which point it starts to track it again.
The ROBOTC Robot Virtual World team is extremely proud to announce a brand new version of the RVW Curriculum Companion Tables for both LEGO and VEX. This new version (2.2.1) contains an incredible number of enhancements and new features. It is a free update for all existing Robot Virtual World users. Read on to find out more!
New Login Functionality
If you have an account on the Computer Science Student Network (CS2N.org), you can now log in and earn achievements. This also allows you to save your progress – marking the challenges that you’ve completed so far. If you don’t have a CS2N account, what are you waiting for?
If your computer isn’t online, you can also create a local account to log in and track your progress locally. If you’re not interested in tracking your progress, you can always take advantage of the “Log In as Guest” feature, too.
Achievement Badges and Updated User Interface
As the new login functionality implies, we’ve also added achievement badges to the challenges! You can earn Motivation badges as you work through a given challenge, Progress badges as you complete challenges, and Mastery badges when you complete specified sets from the Movement, Sensing, Remote Control, and Variables sections of the Curriculum Companion Challenges. For additional background information on badges, visit this page on CS2N.
We’ve upgraded the user interface to indicate which challenges have achievement badges. Challenges with badges have a star next to their name on the list on the left. Clicking on the challenge provides additional detail.
New In-Game Animations and Notifications
We’ve also added brand new animations and achievements to the challenges. You’ll be notified when you complete the challenge, or if your robot does something that that causes it to fail. Motivation and Progress badges will appear as you earn them on the challenges.
For more information about the Robot Virtual World software, or help getting it up and running, visit this page.
From the project page:
“The Vex Claw Game was chosen as our project for the first semester because we could really use it to promote engineering throughout the community. It’s not only fun and exciting, but it also incorporates each of the Project Lead The Way classes that we offer at Walker Career Center. Parts from the claw game include many skills that we have learned during out time in PLTW including constructing structures with Vex parts, programming, rapid prototyping, CO2 laser cutting, and wiring. This project took us around 3 months of in school time to complete.”
To read more about the project and see how it was built from the ground up, visit their project page here.
On behalf of the ROBOTC team, job well done!
One of the more useful (and challenging) things you can do with robots is program them to communicate with one another. With our recent Multi-Robot Challenge series, we tackled this tough aspect of robotics through two NXT* projects; the Relay Race Challenge and the Grid Challenge. Both sets of challenges and their accompanying source code files can be found on their own special wiki (along with a slew of other cool multi-robot material).
The Arduino is one of the most diverse robotics platforms. It truly opens the world of modern electronics to the students by allowing them to interface with all sorts of relevant, modern technology. We have seen this unfold in our latest project with the Arduino, the RC car hacking project.
For this project, we decided a good candidate to start with would be the New Bright RC ‘Interceptor’, a larger scale car that fit a standard-sized Arduino (in this case, an UNO) and a breadboard with lots of room to spare. This surplus of space opens up tons of options for adding sensors in the future. Plus, by tapping into the car’s standard battery we eliminated the need to add a second one. Since we needed to be able to control the RC car’s DC motors with the Arduino, we decided to use the VEX Motor Controller 29 to convert the PWM signals into corresponding voltage levels. This solution was cheap, easy, and effective; a true engineering triple play.
Once the Arduino was implanted into the RC car, it was time to tell the newborn robot to do something. Of course, we did this using our favorite programming software, ROBOTC for Arduino (more on this later).
It is important to realize that while most robots have a tank style drive system, the RC cars have the same steering system as that found in real-sized cars (Ackermann Steering). This unfortunately eliminates the possibility of making point turns, but it does open the doors to other interesting opportunities such as parallel parking (we plan on showcasing this in a later update).
Besides being incredibly awesome, this project also helps to expand upon the superb flexibility of the Arduino and VEX systems; although not specifically designed for one another, they can easily be used together with little or no modification to either system.
We could never allow you, the reader, to miss out on the hacking. If you are interested in this or any of our other current projects, we encourage you to take a look at the tutorials on our wiki. At the moment they are works-in-progress, but we are well on the way of having step-by-step guides for hacking a variety of vehicles, with different scales and sizes, and different methods of operation. We ultimately want the tutorials to act as guides to hack any RC vehicle, even if we do not cover it specifically.
When you were a kid, what did you take to school with you for show-and-tell? A pet hamster? Your baseball card collection? That really cool rock that you found on your way to class (because you totally didn’t forget that today was your turn for show-and-tell)?
How about a three-wheeled, LEGO MINDSTORM based, holonomic drive robot coded in ROBOTC and controlled using a Sony PS2 controller? That’s exactly what Anthony, son of R J McNamara (rjmcnamara.com), brought in for his show-and-tell.
Not only does the robot display the functionality of an omnidirectional drive (a drive that is capable of not only forwards and backwards but also side to side ‘strafing’ movement), it also shows the relative ease of coding even complex vectoral calculations using ROBOTC for MINDSTORM. Plus, the bot looks really, really cool (and is much more interesting than that boring rock anyways). Check it out at R J’s blog!