Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer in Colorado: HardwareHardwareHardware

An embarrassing amount of time has passed since my last blog post. I don't resent that, because I think it just means my life is getting more interesting, so I have had less time to myself. Certainly though, I have missed my secret life as a rogue robot tinkerer, and all the creative stimulation that having projects to work on seems to bring. My six-wheeled friend, TOBL (soon to be TOBL2), has been waiting patiently, yet eagerly in his little box. He's finally about to get some attention!

Box O' TOBL has a pretty nice view. 

Yesterday, I moved to Colorado to spend the summer interning as a hardware engineer...sort of. My first day is Monday so we'll find out what work really entails then. As far as I can tell, I'll be beating some oscilloscopes to death and then when they fail, attempt to figure out why from a hardware perspective. I was told that you're either a hardware guy, and you'll absolutely fall in love with it, or the opposite. I'm hoping for the former.

In a way, I'll learn more about my various robotics projects this summer more so than ever before. Hardware is at the heart of each of them after all. It's also going to be tantalizing working somewhere with so many oscilloscopes, logic analyzers, a machine shop complete with CNC mills and a water jet, pick-an-place machines, clean room, the lot. Surely, I won't have access to any of these nice things for my personal projects, so it'll be a true test of character not to use my keycard to sneak in on weekends.

So, last time I had just got my motor controller boards back and soldered together. There were (and still are) a lot of loose ends to take of for MKI. In the original DigiKey order, I forgot to put in the resistors for the current detection circuit and the ones for the hard-short between the signal and power ground planes. The board has also yet to be hooked up to a scope (this is going to kill me), though this isn't as critical until I get around to the current detection stuff. It would also be nice to take a look at the pwm too, though.

All of the hardware! Arduino board, motor controller, motors, radio, servos, everything.

As for the rest of TOBL2, all of the pieces for the new drivetrain are in but I still don't have a frame. Most likely this will be a water jet piece(s) so that's something I can work on here. Since last time I got some new XBee radios. They're still Series 1 but this time I opted for the chip antenna, which has slightly worse range but should help keep the electronics a little more compact. The old ones I had worked great but were salvaged and had such old firmware that it couldn't be changed. This doesn't matter since they were already set to talk directly to each other. It's nice to have a second set so I can have multiple boards going at once. I updated the firmware and paired them so they're ready to go. I also modified the code so the servos trigger on a new button I added to the iPhone control layout. Though the way I did it would probably make CS people cry.

Well, that's not much of a progress post but all I got for now. Looking forward to summer of hardware and outdoorsy things!

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