I teach a Robotics module in the final year of our DT009 Electrical Engineering programme here in DIT Kevin St. The philosophy of the module is to give the students enough bits and pieces to get stuck into designing and building some small-scale robotic systems that they dream up themselves. It’s a very enjoyable module to teach (and hopefully to participate in!) because it spans a really useful range of problem solving technology and theory (sensors, actuators, programming, interfacing, kinematics, etc) and it involves many hours of enjoyable robot hacking in the lab.
One of the things I like most about this module is that every year people come up with brilliant ideas of things to build. Everyone on the module (including me) documents their work on WordPress blogs, which means that a lot of the useful stuff learned during the design and implementation process is available immediately for others to learn from. Each year, it takes a little while to build up momentum but after a few weeks, little gems start appearing on the students’ blogs. I’m just beginning to see some interesting stuff appearing on this year’s blogs, so I thought I’d share a few videos that caught my eye over the last few days. All three of these use a $2 stepper motor driven by a dsPIC30F4011 microcontroller, via a SN754410NE driver chip. These three components are included in the kit I give out at the start of the module.
This video by Simon Kirwan is of his Countdown Clock, complete with the music from the iconic TV show. You can read more about this on Simon’s blog.
This video by Jonathan Baldwin is of a mock-up of a light-tracking solar cell. There’s no actual PV cell (yet?) but it really does track the light. An array of four light-dependent resistors is used to work out the direction of brightest light and then a stepper motor is used to face the dummy solar panel in that direction. You can read more about how it works on Jonathan’s blog.
Finally, this stone cold classic from Jason Franey almost eclipses the original Kylie video. Ok, maybe not quite.
You can read more on Jason’s blog.
Edit: Two more great videos hot off the presses! Both are servo-based systems.
The first is an object tracker by Aron Horan. A SHARP infrared rangefinder is attached to a low-cost servo and it scans back and forth looking for an object. You can read more on Aron’s blog.
The second is a servo pointer controlled by an ultrasonic rangefinder. This one was created by Andrea McConnon – you can read about it in detail on her blog.