Saturday, June 21, 2008

My New Desktop Buddy

Well, I broke down and bought a small Wall-E action figure for my workspace desk. It is very detailed. I will probably get a robotic Wall-E at some point or maybe even try to build one like my friend 4mem8 over at Take a look at his thread on the construction of his Wall-E with tons of detail here. Can't wait for the movie, although it comes out while I am away at camp!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Solarbotics Compact L298 Motor Driver

Solarbotics Compact L298 Motor Driver allows control of 6 to 24 volt motors, with up to 4 amps of drive current. It comes in kit form. I assembled the unit and have attached photos of the test set-up and a video so you can see it in operation (the photo of the driver by itself is from the Solarbotic's site). Four LEDs indicate motor direction. The driver uses eight Shottkey diodes to shunt back EMF generated by the motors.
With a Basic Stamp, you can control motors of higher voltage with 5 volt signals and simple programming. The code I used was a test sample available on the Solarbotic's web site. The code runs both motors forward, runs both in reverse, stops each motor separately and then runs one forward and the other in reverse and vice versa. It is both simple, yet amazing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

CBA Robot Kit

The CBA (ChiBot Alpha) robot kit is a club robot for the Chicago Area Robotics Group (ChiBots). It is sold through It was designed to be a suitable beginner robot. I wanted to get so that I could get the experience of putting the components together myself (especially soldering the components on the PCB). It features a Parallax Basic Stamp 2e OEM, so it is compatable with all my other Parallax goodies.

I had one glitch assembling it. I mounted the crystal about a 1/16" above the board. I did this because it is heat sensitive and I used a heat sink to protect it. As it turns out, this kept the Basic Stamp from being identified by its software. Luckily, the technical support for the ChiBot is excellent and with the help of Mike, it is working fine (he said he had never seen this problem before!).

I finished the rest of the assembly today and have had it running around on the floor. The kit has some accesories like a line following module and wheel encoder module also available from BudgetBot (these can be viewed at the web site).

I have attached a photo of the overall bot and a detailed photo of the assembled PC Board. My son has dubbed it the 2W Bot - (of 2 Wheel Bot).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lab Remodeling

I picked up a used computer from a friend (for free) and added it to my lab space. It is very handy to have a computer right in the lab (the keyboard and mouse slide right under the flat panel monitor for even more work space). Please note the cool Wall-E wallpaper on the monitor too. I also added a wire shelf above my desk to give me more desktop space. I holds tools mostly. The shelves at the side have gotten taller. They contain books, files, some parts and completed projects. To see a picture of how the lab used to look, check my original post on this subject here. I have lots more in the space and more desktop too!

Of course to remodel the space, I also had a lot of cleaning to do. This took the most time. I consolidated boxes and stored parts where I hope they will be easier to find. Take a look at how clean and neat it is. It really makes it easier (at least for me) to start a project if everything is clean. I am trying to decide now what to start on to get it dirty.

I also enjoyed the Habitat for Hobbies - Part I article by Vern Graner in the June 2008 Nuts and Volts. Can't wait for Part II.