Mbed Robo-Rover

There are a ton of rapid prototyping available on the market these days which all cater to different niches. Todays project, a robotic rover on a 4 wheel chassis, is based on the NXP mbed. The mbed is a popular board for higher need applications, and is centered around an ARM Cortex core.

This multi-part writeup is a great place to start for people who are looking into making a robot of any kind. [Aaron] explains a lot of important concepts that are often overlooked by novices of robot building, including the importance of movement feedback such as quadrature encoders, as well as the usefulness of Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) to maintain bearing and terrain awareness. This project is nearing completion, and promises to deliver essential material such as source code, a bill of materials, and the robot in action.

This could also be a valuable tool for any FIRST teams looking to understand some of the necessary ideas in creating a robot. Are there any Hackaday readers out there participating in or mentoring a FIRST (or any other robotic competition) team? We would love to hear from you!

11 thoughts on “Mbed Robo-Rover

  1. I mentor the Rolling Thunder Robotics team (#2421) in Springfield, VA. My first year I was really amazed how well the kids took to building robots. FIRST is definitely a great program for learning electronics and programming. It’s also a ton of fun! Check out one of the competitions if you’re curious.

    The only down side is that FIRST has chosen to use a PLC and they do not allow any custom circuit boards. They did that to keep everything simple and on an even playing field, but it does limit the robot a bit. If only we could use an ARM and custom PCBs. Now, how do I get a Hack-a-Day sponsorship for my team?

  2. @Luke – some custom circuts are allowed. The team I was on last season (and will mentor this season) (EPIC [3183]) used a few custom circuits for our lifting system and centering system.

    I’d go insane trying to code for ARM. (Maybe just me not liking ARM in general?) I found working in pure Java on the NI cRIO (realistically, a souped up FPGA) much better than the lower FIRST levels (An attempt at C on the Lego NXT platform – which all lower devisions use as of now.)

  3. I am a member of the FIRST team 3021 The Caiman Agents Escondido, CA. Let me start off with saying FIRST is awesome. This is my third year involved, and every year it just gets better and better. Ive learned so much about marketing, Engineering, electrical, and fabrication.

    I understand what Luke is saying about not allowing custom circuit boards on the robot, However, As-long as the custom circuit board is in slave [as a sensor input etc…] to the PLC or the drivers station (big remote control for the robot0) It should be legal.

  4. Long-time FIRST addict here. I am an alumni of Truck Town Thunder (#68).

    To be honest, I much prefer working at a lower level–when I was coding in C, it was much more pleasurable than dealing with a pre-built framework in Java. Then again, I didn’t do much of the Java-cRIO stuff myself because I graduated in ’08; the new system came in ’09. I did help mentor with that one, but I was nowhere near as hands-on as before.

    There’s something to be said about writing the boilerplate and knowing how every drop of your code works. Then again, writing boilerplate may not be the most conducive to helping inspire high schoolers.

  5. Never had FIRST in high school, now about to enter my third year (and my fifth and final year of my engineering undergrad…) mentoring Team 1829 which includes the school I graduated from.
    It’s a blast. I can’t wait until this season where I’ll have more time to be involved. It’s for the kids, but I’ve learned a TON of awesome stuff from it as well. The first year I was involved was the first year my old high school got on board, we built almost the entire robot out of carbon fiber panels and plexiglas. Last year we learned vacuum forming. It’s fun and did I say awesome?

  6. I’m a mentor for team 1817, a team mentored purely by engineering college students and it’s a blast! We’ve put together a couple custom circuits with the kids in order to use special sensors a couple times, and everything has worked out well. We actually use LabVIEW to program the robot rather than C or Java and have had excellent success with it! I recommend everyone at least give it a try!

    Can’t wait to see what sensors these guys come up with, I’m sure they’ll help with next year’s competition!

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