Screw LED Matrices (for now), It's time to talk ROBOTS

So as I’m sure you’ve probably noticed by my previous entries on my blog, I am easily distracted by new fun things, and I’m heavily limited by my hobby budget (about $50/mo and it’s the first thing to get cut when my family needs money).  It’s been said before that time is money. For me, money is time!  I have plenty of time to invest in playing with all of the toys I buy, but since money is tight I sometimes have to make careful consideration in what toys I invest my money in.

So I was thinking. led matrixes are cool and all, but do I really want to invest my money in a new circuit that is only KIND OF COOL?  Heck no.  Thus I have back-burnered my blinky lights in lieu of something way more awesome.  A robot.

My plan with this robot is to focus on simplicity and flexibility in design.  Stage one is going to be building the wheels, transmission, and chassis since these are the base of the robot and probably the most significant parts.  For this I’ve chosen the following components from sparkfun.com

I went with Tamiya parts due to their flexible configuration and simple design.  I decided to go with the tank treads for several reasons including
  • increased surface area contact means more torque transfered to linear power.
  • duh, tank treads are super cool.

Here’s an example of what the chassis, wheels, and motor assembly should look like when completely assembled.

treads chassis and motor example

treads chassis and motor example

For the time being, I’m anxiously clicking the FedEx tracking link. but I should have more to post on this by this weekend when I get the parts.

For phase 2, I’m designing an all purpose control board for the robot. I’m going to put quite a bit of work and research into designing the control board before I get a prototype made because I really only want to do this once.  At the center of the control board will be the ATmega328P microcontroller (my favorite for innumerable reasons) clocked externally at 16MHz via a crystal oscillator and programmable via a 10 pin ICSP.  The board will also contain the power subsystem, which will provide busses at 5V and 3.3V (common power supply for most IC’s), An RS-232 UART subcircuit for debugging and communication with the PC, a breakout for an XBee wireless module(future planned addition), a buzzer, and breakout ports for all of the remaining usable pins.  You might notice that the control board contains no permanent I/O as far as sensors and displays are concerned.  I am trying to keep the main board as simple as possible, but with the ability to add on or remove additional devices as I see fit by designing them externally and interfacing them with the broken out pins on the micro.  This way I can easily add or change any peripherals and continuously learn new things using my robot as a base platform.

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