Before anything can move, you must be able to communicate with hardware. Libraries for serial communication are essential for this, for example the serialport library by Chris Williams.
Theory is nice, but practice is equally important. And, this is the idea of the Nodebots day. During this day, you can learn about the multi-disciplinary approach that building robots requires. In Munich, we organized a meetup as a joint-event between the Arduino and Robotics enthousiasts meetup.
Andrey who works on the Veterobot and who organizes the Robotics meetup started explaining some concepts on getting started with robots.
There are three aspects to building a robot:
During the electronics sessions, we looked at some typical problems of integration. First, Andrey mentioned some thoughts about chosing batteries. Andrey’s favorite batteries are 12V batteries that have enough power to drive larger motors. Next, it might be important to think about a strategy for charging a battery. Andrey showed some simple circuit with a switch to attach a robot to a charger unit.
Since motors, microprocessors and sensor run on different voltages, you must then think about converting voltages from one domain into another. For example, a Raspberry Pi runs on 3.3V, sensors might require 5V and the motors then 12V. To generate these voltages, Andrey designed a small PCB board.
If your robot should move, you need to know how to make basic constructions to mount motors and gears. Also, a bit of sketching and CAD support for sending a blueprint to a 3D printer is nice
A large part of what makes robots tick is software. With software, you can control processes and react to inputs from sensors. Last, you can transform a plan of actions again into motions of motors and wheels.
Andrey released the code for running his robot here:
Working with sensors
When building a robot, sensing the environment is important too. For example, you can use the SFR-10 ultrasonic distance sensors to detect obstacles in a path. To illustrate some ideas of working with data from sensors, we mainly looked at a setup with an Intel Edison and the I2C Learning shield.
With this setup, we could monitor the temperature inside the fridge. Especially, the wireless aspects of the Edison were fun, and more meetups will be led in that directions. For example, multiple serial ports can be used to receive and send instructions via bluetooth to a robot. We did not yet follow that route, but might in the future.
We are planning the next Arduino Meetup at 21st of October about “Advanced Arduino” boards.