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VEX/Arduino Bot Chases the Light

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Close up of the ‘Scaredy Bot’. Note the two VEX Light sensors side by side that provide the control for the robot’s movement.


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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.

Written by John Watson

July 30th, 2012 at 5:19 pm

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