According to Kevin Anderle, an applications-engineer manager at Freescale, "You don't have to be an engineer or have extensive design experience to learn new programming skills. By working with the robot, designers acquire valuable technical abilities they can apply to sensor applications."
"We aimed to create a tool that would let casual users and consumers of technology become creators and innovators," Rich Testardi, director of engineering for StickOS and CPUStick.com, told us.
"With StickOS and tools like the Freescale robot, creating innovative projects with sensors becomes much easier. There's no 500-page manual or complicated programming language to learn. The robot lets users with different levels of experience learn to program and work with sensors in a new, fun way." (You can download a 106-page "StickOS BASIC User's Guide," though.)
I look forward to trying the FSLBOT and refreshing my knowledge of BASIC. I last used BASIC on a Radio Shack TRS-80 in the early 1980s. You might wonder about using BASIC with a sophisticated MCU such as the ColdFire MCF52259, but from what I read in the user's guide, this version of BASIC offers many interesting capabilities, and you can get versions for many types of MCUs.
Design News will run a series of five one-hour "deep-dive" analyses of MCU development kits during the week of June 18, with one session each day. (Registration is not yet available, so please check back.) I'll lead the sessions and hope to include a session devoted to the Freescale robot kit and development tools.
Jack, that's a really interesting concept--parts specified and installed so they can be swapped out to update the robot or try out different technologies. Jon, was there any hint of this possibility from Freescale?
Hi, Jack. You probably want to keep the TWR-MECH board for all experiments because it provides eight servo outputs and can accept two add-on sensor boards. I have the LFDA7455 3-axis accelerometer board and the LFDA3110 magnetometer board inserter on my robot, so it can provide accurate magnetic headings. The TWR-MECH board has an edge connector that ensures compatibility with other Freescale Tower boards, so you can "stack" on other boards you want to experiment with or test. The TWR-MECH board has touch-sensor inputs and plenty of digital I/O pins, too. I'll have more to report later this week.
My wife had daVinci robotic surgery this past January and was walking about within a day. Using teleoperating machine control techniques and haptics, doctors are able to perform surgeries that are less invasive because of these highly accurate robotic machines. In addition to Parallax offering BoeBot kits that are great for STEM projects, they also provide a BoeBot shield that can be attached to an Arduino as well.
Ann, one of the many challenges facing engineers is staying current with new and emerging technologies. The Freescale TWR Robotics development platform is a cost effective training tool for learning evolving technologies.
I agee Ann. With all of the embedded products currently available and new ones on the drawing board, a familiarity with programming is important for technology literacy in our society. A robot like this one is a good way to experiment and explore key technologies such as sensors and microcontrollers used in an abundant products like smart phones, dishwashers, washers and dryers, to name a few. The $199 price makes it a good buy to explore robotics and Mechatronics technologies as well!
Thanks very much Jon for featuring the Freescale FSLBOT in your column. I'm really looking forward to hearing about your experience with this kit. For anyone interested, there's more information on the product page www.freescale.com/mechbot . And of course, we'd love to introduce you to FSLBOT (or the team behind the bot) at the Freescale Technology Forum in San Antonio, June 18-24.
Because the robot uses BASIC, I agree with Nancy that it would offer a good way to introduce kids to STEM topics and have them do things with a real-world device that includes motor controls and sensors. It wouldn't take much to increase the size of the metal mounting plate so people could add an ultrasonic distance sensor, limit switches, IR detector, and so on. I'll also add a pitch for Parallax, a company that sells many robot kits and plenty of add-ons. The company also has many good reference books and manuals with experiments. Look at the BoeBot, for example. www.parallax.com.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This radio show will show what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.