Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I had a discussion with Devin Linnington and Hans Christofferson at a Silicon Halton meetup last week about using microcontrollers in robotics and remote controlled vehicle projects. Devin went home and came up with this amazing set of links:
Hack-a-Day - Great website for project ideas, thousands of random things on there
And related to that, I was looking for the super-cheap robotics platform but apparently that deal has expired. Found a cheap propeller platform though:
Sparkfun - Awesome resource for hobbyist-friendly electronics, also has tutorials for beginners (Hans, search 'motor driver' to find a ton of pre-built boards)
Solarbotics/HVWTech - Canadian company out of Calgary that has some more resources and really cheap solar panels
Seeed Studio - Chinese website that sells really cheap stuff. Also sells unlicensed bluetooth modules for less than half the price of N.A. retailers.
Open Circuits - Haven't used this site much but there should be tons of circuit designs you could use for your projects
...to which I added
Servo magazine is full of ideas: http://www.servomagazine.com/
The current online version has an article about using the Arduino to make robots.
There are lots of good project ideas in the Arduino Playground Wiki.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I ran across another Freeduino board made by Modern Device called the Bare Bones Freeduino. I ordered one along with an LCD kit (driver and 2 x 16 display). The BB board uses a separate board called a USB BUB (USB to TTL) to connect to a computer. I like this setup. I can use a single BUB to program any number of BB boards. I also like the way the BB board simply plugs in to a breadboard giving me access to the Atmega 328 i/o while putting 5V power and ground on the corresponding rails at the top. This is a very neat and cost effective package for microcontroller experiments. I look forward to taking the LCD kit on the road when I visit other schools to talk about my SHSM Computer Tech. program. The piece provides and interesting focus for discussion about the technology and - hey - looks flashy!
I soldered the BB board with my old 30 watt soldering iron (connected to a dimmer switch to control power). I've used that old iron for years and so I treated myself to a new Elenco SL-5 soldering station - nicer to hold and easier to control.
I've spent some time going over my non-functioning Freeduin0 board looking for the problem. I even built an RS232 to TTL board (my own design) to bypass the USB interface to see if that was the problem. I also tried the USB BUB to talk directly to the Atmega chip. I keep getting the same error.
avrdude: stk500_get_sync(): not in sync: resp=0x66
avrdude: stk500_disable(): protocol error, expect=0x14, resp=0x66