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Archive for March, 2013

Become a Robotics Academy Certified Instructor

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NXT Student Certification Version Advanced NBWe are extremely excited to announce our new teacher certification courses! A “Robotics Academy Certified Instructor” is officially certified by Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Academy. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Cara Friez

March 28th, 2013 at 6:51 pm

FREE Robot Virtual Worlds Webinars

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RVW Webinars RAWe understand the challenges robotics classrooms face every day in terms of cost, number of robots, batteries, and homework. That is why we created Robot Virtual Worlds (RVW). With RVW, every student can experience the same benefits of learning robots, right on their computer. RVW currently simulates popular real-world VEX, LEGO, and TETRIX robots in a 3D environment; while using the same language, ROBOTC, to program both your virtual robot and your physical robot.

To help you get started and get a better understanding of what RVW can do, we are offering five FREE webinars through Google Hangout  with project manager, Jesse Flot, and some members of his team! We will show you a brief tutorial on the specific topic of the day then take a few questions from the Google Hangout chat or on twitter using hashtag #RVWHangout.

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 

Listed below are the specific dates and topics we will be covering …

Free Robot Virtual Worlds Webinars on Google Hangouts

Monday, April 1 at 4pm EST
  • What is Robot Virtual Worlds?
    • Overview of RVW.
    • Why RVW?
    • Step-by-step tutorial on getting started.
    • Additional RVW Resources.
Monday, April 8 at 4pm EST
  • Using the RVW Curriculum Companion.
    • Free ROBOTC Curriculum, including programming challenges.
    • Programming challenges, along with the curriculum robots.
    • Solve one of the challenges.
    • Benefits of using RVW in addition to or in place of real robots.
    • Badges with RVW and on CS2N.
Monday, April 15 at 4pm EST
  • Using the RVW Level Builder with Model Importer
    • What is Level Builder and why we made it?
    • Sample level.
    • Program levels using ROBOTC.
    • Share levels with another person.
    • Import an object using the Model Importer and include it in the newly created level.
Monday, April 22 at 4pm EST
  • Gaming Environments with the Robot Virtual Worlds
    • Palm Island and Operation Reset.
    • Benefits of using the game environments.
    • Measurement Toolkit to find distances the robot needs to move.
    • Badges with RVW and on CS2N.
Monday, April 29 at 4pm EST
  • Competition Environments with the Robot Virtual Worlds
    • Why do so many teams wait until the last minute to program their robots?
    • Autonomous and remote control scoring in the environment.
    • Multiplayer features in development.
    • CS2N Programming Competition development.

Official Release of ROBOTC 3.60!

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ROBOTC 36

 

We are very excited to announce that today is the first day of Spring and …. the first day of ROBOTC 3.60! ROBOTC is the premiere robotics programming language for educational robotics and competitions. ROBOTC is a C-Based Programming Language with an Easy-to-Use Development Environment. We are really proud of this release and can’t wait to hear what you think! Remember, we could not do this without your support and feedback. We hope you’ll continue to share your comments with us, either in the forums or on our Facebook or Twitter page.
 

Some of the key enhancements are:

  • Added support for proxy server when activating ROBOTC (Proxy Support guide can be found here).
  • Add watchdog timer support to VEX Cortex to alleviate processor crashes that can occur with static (more information on this issue can be found on the VEX IME Product Page).
  • Fixed a bug in the NXT color sensor that now allows you to read individual RGB values.
  • Updated with the latest version of the 3rd party sensor drivers for NXT. (Thanks Xander!)
  • Updated Curriculum Tables included for Robot Virtual Worlds.

See below for the more detailed changelog and download ROBOTC 3.60 here!

ROBOTC Hangout
 

To celebrate the official release, we will be having our first Google Hangout! Tim Friez, John Watson, and Xander Soldaat will be there to discuss the new features and answer some of your questions. To tune in live, visit ROBOTC.net/hangouts at 2pm EST tomorrow (Thursday, March 21.)

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3.59 to 3.60 BETA Changelog

VEX:

  • New Standard Models Added for PLTW.
  • Update VEX Cortex I2C interrupt handler to handle case where interrupt for last received character is not processed until STOP signal has already been sent.
  • Add parameter to I2C Device Driver (VEX Cortex) to indicate whether being called for a “timer tick” or for a “message is now complete”. Add a few more statistics to the error collection.
  • Increase VEX Cortex I2C message timeout to 6 milliseconds from 3.
  • Start sending VEX Cortex I2C polling messages immediately after last poll has finished. Improves I2C responsiveness for VEX Cortex.

LEGO:

  • Xander’s 3rd Party Driver Suite updated to version 3.3.1

Arduino:

  • New firmware conditional compiles to eliminate the get/set property opcodes for ‘long’ and ‘float’.
  • Arduino only. “Copy opcode from flash to RAM” performance improved.
  • On Arduino, sensor initialization incorrectly assumed as sensor types had the extra “sensor buffer” structure. But the extra buffer is only linked for complicated sensor types so RAM was being overwritten. Fixed.

General:

  • Updated application and desktop icon quality.
  • Fix “Multiple overloads match” error introduced with change that did proper validation of pointer expression with point procedure parameter variable.
  • Improved validation of procedure parameter matching for function overloads. Previously when parameter was a pointer, only checked to confirm that calling expression was also a pointer. Check was extended to also (correctly) match on the type of pointer as well.
  • Could not change “check array bounds” in Compiler Code
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    Optimization tab. The issue was that after changing the check mark the “code optimization type” would be recalculated and then the “optimization type” radio buttons updated. Array bounds checking is not used in determining the optimization type; but in setting the type it is modified. So the changed check mark was being accepted and then software was overwriting. Fixed.

  • Split “auto save” into two individually settable flags: (1) to auto save source files before compile and (2) auto save files when application exits.
  • Incorrect code optimization involving ‘struct’ variable offsets and perhaps other cases. For the assignment instruction “<variable2> is assigned address of <variable1>” compiler was replacing references to “<variable2> with “<variable1>. This optimization should only occur for “simple assignments” of “<variable2> = <variable1>”. Fixed.
  • Change ‘nSysTime’ and ‘nPgmTime’ intrinsic variables to “unsigned”. ‘unsigned’ intrinsic variables were being converted to ‘signed’ when used in comparison expressions generating a warning regarding mixed ‘signed’ / ‘unsigned’ comparison. Fixed.
  • Upper range check for “array bounds check” opcode used “>” instead of “>=” in comparison allowing ‘one past’ array size as valid.

3.54 to 3.59 BETA Changelog

VEX:

  • Add watchdog timer support to VEX Cortex. This will allow the VEX Cortex User Processor to “restart” automatically once the processor crashes/is halted. Useful for any potential static issue that may cause the User Processor to “crash”.
  • Change watchdog implementation from “windowed” watchdog to standard watchdog (no window, reset any time). Increase watchdog timeout to 0.75 seconds.
  • In Debugger Motors display the last motor was not always properly updated. Fixed.
  • Enable emulator for VEX PIC. Fix subsequent bug with “Motors” debugger display for VEX PIC locking up IDE when emulator is enabled; this bug should be limited to VEX PIC Emulator only.
  • VEX PIC downloading was failing when master firmware was out of date. Getting stuck in a repetitive loop that wasn’t exiting. Fixed.
  • VEX PIC was not executing user programs. Bug was that “start of flash file system VTOC” needed to be aligned on 4-byte boundary. Previous change had added a 1-byte field to the header preamble and there was not a corresponding 3-byte file added for VEX PIC. ARM platforms worked OK. This may also have broken Arduino (i.e. any 8-bit) platform).
  • Added a Conditional Compile flag for tUARTs to avoid confusion between uartOne and UART1
  • There are two separate flags for “allow any serial port for communications” — one for VEX Cortex and one for all other platforms. This was not obvious. Preferences “Environment” tab was only updating flag for non-Cortex; this has been changed to update the appropriate flag based on platform setting. The VEX Cortex flag can also be updated in the “VEX Cortex” tab.
  • User configurable UART setup was screwed up for the platforms whose “uart 0″ is fixed as non-configurable and usable only for system communications port to PC — i.e. VEX Cortex, VEX PIC. The ROBOTC IDE was storing the data in the persistent data table (at start of flash file system) offset by one entry. I.E. data for “uart 1″ on VEX Cortex was stored in “uart 2″, etc.

LEGO:

  • NXT color sensor read RGB individual values broken with pointer implementation. Change “getMemoryParmXXX” function calls to “getCommonParamaterValueXXX” function calls. Check rest of firmware for same mistake.
  • New feature for 3rd Party Sensor Driver Suite to set the two digital I/O lines on NXT sensors. Added two new sensor types (sensorCustom, sensorCustom9V) for this along with two new property intrinsic variables to set I/O line direction and values; these intrinsic variables are bit masks (2-bits) for the two lines.
  • “setPixel” intrinsic (and corresponding “clearPixel” and “invertPixel”) take “unsigned” parameters. But implementation was using “signed” parameters and not properly range checking if parameters were negative. If negative, then should do nothing. Instead they were incorrectly wring to invalid buffer address which eventually caused a firmware crash.

Arduino:

  • Fix issue for “Motors” tab for Arduino in “Motors and Sensors Setup” property sheet. Was incorrectly trying to setup “encoder information for motor”, but Arduino platform does not “associate encoder sensor with motor” — which is currently only a feature for VEX Cortex.

General:

  • Added Support for Proxy Server when activating ROBOTC – Users can set Proxy preferences under “Detailed Preferences – General – Environment”.
  • Incorrect generation of compiler error message when double pointer (i.e. “**”) is used.
  • “Print” a range of pages was not working when the starting page was not ’1′. Fixed.
  • Remove incorrect error message from error “Assignment between two different pointer types” when one side of ‘=’ is a ‘void *’.
  • Compiler was incorrectly generating error message for “Expected a pointer expression in a pointer expression with ‘++’ or ‘-+’ operand. Compiler was incorrectly checking to verify the right operand was an integer value.
  • Compiler was incorrectly generating error message for “Invalid pointer expression” in a pointer expression with ‘+’ or ‘-’ operand. One operand of the expression must be a pointer and the other operand must be an integer (without implied conversion of a pointer to an integer). Compiler was incorrectly checking for the integer — the expression incorrectly had a “!” in it!
  • Change code generation of ‘var arg’ for pointers to be consistent with standard C — i.e. the value of the pointer is placed in the argument. This may result in an additional instruction generated when argument is a ‘string’; previously RobotC got too cute trying to save this extra instruction which only worked for “%s” format codes but was broken for “%d” on a pointer.
  • In ‘sprintf” implementation for “%s” and “%p” format codes– change from  “get Address of parameter” to”get value of parameter” to match corresponding change in compiler code. Also minor cleanup of “%s” and “%p” format codes.
  • Assignment expressions of “<char * variable> = <char constant> were generating compiler error because the “<char constant>” was evaluated as a “string” type. Added code in “get expression type” to check for this and not generate error as the compiler auto converts “string” to “char *” during code generation.
  • Fixes an issue with the Live Start Page and “check for updates” that may have caused crashes.
  • Improved validation of pointer expressions. Fix bug in calculating expression type of pointer expressions like “<ptr sub-expression> + <numeric constant>”; the result was (always?) incorrectly set as “long *”? Also added check that “=” of pointer is from a pointer of the same type – otherwise generate error message.
  • Fixed consistency in implementation of “random” intrinsic property.
  • Eliminate compiler error message in constant expression evaluation of sub-expressions using “*” operator. If either of the two operands is ‘zero’ then result is zero regardless of whether the other operand is a compile time constant.
  • Do not generate additional errors — “too many parameters” specified — when procedure is “compiler generated undefined symbol”.
  • When switch between “real robots” and “emulator”, the function that calculates “size of RAM pointer variable” was not being called. It adjusts between 2-byte (VEX PIC, Arduino) and 4-byte (Emulator, VEX Cortex, NXT) pointer sizes. No issue with VEX Cortex and NXT as they only use 4-byte pointers. But a problem with VEX PIC and Arduino where real robots use 2-byte RAM pointers! Added the appropriate call to function setup.
  • Small code optimization for “postfix –”/postfix ++” operators to avoid temporary. In some cases they can be simplified to prefix operands.
  • Incorrect initialization of static variables in “inner scope” for local procedure. They were initialized every time inner scope block was accessed rather than once on program startup.
  • Debugger Panes for “Locals” and “Globals” (especially Globals) was not properly handling updates to ‘long’ and ‘float’ variables. Globals was completely broke — only lower two bytes of 4-byte variables was being updated which broke ‘long’ and ‘float’ variables. In both, ‘char’ variables were updating a short value — i.e. overwriting following characters.
  • Fix problem with incorrect user code using a “short” variable and “sprintf” format code of “%f”. This can crash ROBOTC VM firmware if the short variable is not aligned on a 32-bit boundary.
  • Add additional entries for StringFind for Character Constants and added test program.
  • Redefine datalog opcodes and intrinsics. Legacy datalog incompatible with 3.5x VM operands which split memory variables and intrinsic properties into separate items.
  • Firmware for all platforms now call “datalogHandlerInit()”. Conditional compile will define as NULL macro if a platform does not support Datalog. Datalog support is now conditionally compiled via “bHasDatalog” define rather than hard-coded as NXT only.
  • Fix incorrect compiler type checking error when string constant is assigned to a char pointer.
  • Fix bug in check for “is this a preprocessor string comparison expression”.
  • Eliminate preprocessor string comparisons in Natural Language and replace with “defined(_Target_XXX_) where “_Target_XXX_” are three new system defined preprocessor variables — “_target_Robot_”, “_Target_Emulator_” and “Target_VirtWorld_”. Sample programs modified appropriately. Legacy user programs using legacy definitions will still work but will generate a compiler warning about non-standard extension.
  • Add registry flag to enable compiler extension to allow preprocessor expressions support for string comparisons. Generate compiler error message if encountered without the flag being set.
  • “cast” code generation fix. Previously when cast changed sign of result the ‘cast’ was applied before expression was converted to ‘int’ size used during a calculation. So casting a “ubyte” to “int” incorrectly converted it to a “signed char”. What should happen is “ubyte” expression gets evaluated into an “int” as part of expression evaluation (all expressions are evaluated at ‘int’ (or higher) level in “C”) and then the cast to “int” has no additional effect.
  • Function to extract numeric “COMxxx”. Expanded syntax to support successful parsing of “(COM99)” previously would not accept extraneous characters.
  • Add improved Dialog for selecting Communications Port. It uses a list box to display information about the port. Add check box to select any communications port.
  • Compiler crash when parsing invalid syntax of ‘?’ expression. Compiler was not handling the case when “NULL” pointer returned from parsing sub-expression. The “NULL” was incorrect.

Written by Cara Friez

March 20th, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Student Receives First ROBOTC Student Certification

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We are proud to announce that Landon Woollard from Shasta High School in Redding, CA is the first student to finish the CS2N ROBOTC student certification!

Students Robot

Mr. Brian Grigsby teaches the 2-hour per day, 5 days per week Career Technical Education Space, Science, and Engineering class at Shasta High School.  Mr. Grigsby states, “[In this class,] we combine engineering principles with the VEX system with science exploration through NASA data programs (like the Mars Exploration Student Data Teams and the Student Planetary Investigator program) to emphasize how STEM related disciplines work together in our world.” As part of the curriculum he has incorporated CS2N.org and the ROBOTC certification, along with the physical part of building and programming.  Students taking the class get lab science and elective credit for the University of California A-G requirements. The class also satisfies their computer proficiency for graduation.

Mr. Grigsby and Landon were nice enough to answer some questions for us…

Students Computer

What ways has the ROBOTC certification program and CS2N helped you reach your teaching goals?

Mr. Grigsby: It has allowed me to have another measure of student understanding and assessment to my course.  By including ROBOTC certification, I am able to know how much the students truly understand about programming and where they need extra help.

Can you explain how students have responded to CS2N and the curriculum?

Mr. Grigsby: The students had been trained in the area of building and testing physical robots, so adding CS2N into the mix gives students another outlet to experience programming.  They can also design programs and test them on the virtual robots before they test it on their physical robot.  If there are any problems with motors, encoders, or other parts to the robot that are causing problems with their programming, they can go to CS2N and the Robot Virtual Worlds to make sure their programming is solid.  Then they can troubleshoot their physical robot, and learn how to better engineer what they have built.

Landon Grades

What is your favorite part of ROBOTC?

Landon: My favorite part of the ROBOTC course was the creativity required. The creative freedom allowing the accomplishment of various tasks is something that isn’t found in very many classrooms today, and really made it fun and challenging.

What did you find to be the most challenging part of learning ROBOTC?

Landon: What I found to be the most difficult part in learning this language was my previous coding knowledge in Java. I frequently found myself trying to implement many Java keywords into my ROBOTC code and trying to use methods from the

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Java API, which the compiler didn’t like.

What does it mean to have a ROBOTC Certification?

Landon: To me, the ROBOTC Certification means better opportunities. As a student who wishes to study computer science and software design in college, this class and certification course was an excellent opportunity to further expose myself to the coding aspects of computers. Also, having a physical documentation to show to college admissions will set me apart from every other student, hopefully increasing my chances of acceptance.

Landon’s classmate, Marisa Kuntz, was the first female to finish the certification a few weeks later. We want to congratulate Landon and Marisa, as well as Mr. Grigsby!

All Three

To find out more about the ROBOTC student certification, visit:

ROBOTC MINDSTORMS Robotics Certification

ROBOTC VEX Robotics Certification

Note: This is one of the first schools to work through our ROBOTC certification. We are slowly rolling this out to all teachers and students, through CS2N, in the very near future. Check back for more details in the next few months!

Introducing Palm Island: Luau Edition!

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To be more precise, this new Luau Edition of Palm Island is really a “reintroduction”. Our first version of Palm Island was released in the summer of 2011.  Since that time, we’ve learned quite a bit and developed a lot of great features, so we decided to put together this major upgrade to the world.

 


 

Whether you’ve used the original version of Palm Island or this version is your first, you will appreciate just how beautiful and vibrant this world is. Take a look at this comparison picture between the two versions (more pictures below):
 

Palm-Island-1.0-vs-2.0
 

Of course, the changes are much more than skin deep. Players are immersed in a world where they are programmers-in-training under Commander Roxie Rivet-minder. In addition to programming their robots to traverse the boardwalk path as part of the typical training regiment, they will have to prepare for a Luau Commander Rivet-minder is throwing by setting Lobster Traps, collecting Coconut Clusters, and placing Trash Bins. Just look at some of these shots from the world:

 


 

As players make progress, they’ll earn badges in the game, which can also be tied to a CS2N.org (Computer Science Student Network) account (click here to create your free account).

Achievements2-Copy
 
There’s a ton of new features and functionality included in Palm Island: Luau Edition, too many to give justice to in one short blog post, so we’ll be highlighting different features in the coming days and weeks. A quick snapshot of some of these new features includes:

  • A completely refreshed world with new art and immersion elements
  • New side missions, a keyboard control area, and a line tracking element
  • An in-game map and interface that updates as the player makes progress in the world
  • A new Tutorial system that allows content to differ whether you’re using Virtual Worlds for Mindstorms or Virtual Worlds for VEX Cortex
  • Two highly detailed, printable maps of the island, and a new issue of Robotics Today Magazine
  • Measurement tools that allow you to quickly view the distance and angles your robot needs to move
  • A new main menu to log in, quickly get to content, switch between robots, and enable/disable features in the world

Of course, the best thing that you can do is download and install Palm Island: Luau Edition from the RVW Level Packs page. Like all of our Virtual Worlds, Palm Island is completely free if you have a Robot Virtual Worlds license, and if you don’t have one you can try it for free. We would love to hear your thoughts about Palm Island! Please share them on our Facebook page, here on the blog, or the ROBOTC.net forums.

Written by Jesse Flot

March 4th, 2013 at 4:38 pm