Although called a "wireless" robot, it does not come with a wireless connection, although Freescale has a wireless tower board, TWR-12311, a development tool for the MC12311 system in package (price $149). Or you can use a TWR-RF-SNAP wireless board (price $149). I suggest using a small wireless module such as a Digi International XBee Series 1 module that can provide point-to-point serial communications, as well as communicate digital and analog information. Use a Freescale TWR-PROTO board to mount the XBee (or similar module). In any case, you also need a radio transceiver to communicate with the robot if you want wireless control and information communications. Digi International manufactures the XBee modules and I have used the X24-ACI-001 modules with good results in other applications. They cost about $20 each.
If you plan to hardwire a wireless module to the TWR-MECH board, you don't need what Freescale calls the "elevator" card-edge connectors that supply the card-to-card bus and control signals. If you want to use the elevators, use Freescale's part number TWR-ELEV to locate them on the Freescale or a distributor's website. Digi-Key shows some in stock for $29. The boards have four edge-connector receptacles.
You can find several references that describe the use of XBee modules and wireless sensor networks. Search bookseller Websites for "xbee" or "wireless sensor."
One final thought: The robot has metal feet that slip on smooth surfaces. I used some contact cement on the bottom of each foot and attached rubber material to reduce skidding. The thin rubber pieces sold in grocery and hardware stores as "jar-top openers" work well. Cut to fit the bottom of the feet.
Nice in-depth account of how to work with FSLBOT, Jon. Based on your hands-on experience, how might the robot help students and hobbyists dive deeper into mechatronics? And is this simply a training platform or are there possiblities for real applications based on FSLBOT?
Jon, that was an interesting description of your first experiences. First, I suggest you get off of WindowsXP. Windows 7 will make your machine run better and would not have the driver problem, I expect. I did the upgrade to an old machine and it definately improved the system.
I am also wondering about wireless communications. It has a USB port. I wonder if a Zigbee or Bluetooth dongle might work with this. Something to try.
Hi, Beth. The Freescale robot serves mainly as a teaching tool, but because it uses the Tower-family boards, engineers can "graduate" and learn more about these boards and how to use them in an embedded system. The Tower board in the robot provides eight servo outputs, so students can do more than make the robot walk.
I might switch to Windows 7 when I need a new PC, but I don't want the hassle of getting replacement software that will run under Win 7. I ran the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and many of my programs will run, but according to the Advisor, I would need to reinstall them again. That's too much of a pain. The Freescale Robot caused the only USB-driver problem in some time and I believe the problem stems more from a lack of follow-up and information from Freescale than anything else. So for now, it's Windows XP.
I have upgraded the OS on my Mac several times without any problems and USB devices install without any difficulty. I discovered recently that the audio input on Macs requires a signal input rather than a microphone connection. For about $7 I bought a USB headset adapter that Mac OS immediately recognized and worked with. If I could find all the engineering and design software I use in Mac versions, I'd dump Windows immediately.
I'll continue to look into the problems with the robot and expect to try it with two other Win XP PCs in my lab. But this effort has a low priority for now.
I'm not sure that tool comes for free. When I looked into Windows 7, I found only the "Professional" version at $US 199 includes the capability to run in XP mode. If you know another source of such a program, let us know. Thanks.
Your description of Windows' typical cluelessness about drivers was very funny. According to programmers who worked on kernels for the pre-X Mac OS (back in the PC Paleolithic), due to its mouse-based GUI, among other things, the Mac OS was originally designed to recognize peripherals as an integral part of the system, instead of treating them like alien invaders.
I bought a USB audio adapter so I could use a standard computer headset with my Mac for Skype calls. The Mac audio input expects an active audio signal rather than just a microphone. I plugged in the adapter and had a headset up and running within about 3 minutes. Glad I didn't try that on my Windows PC. But wait, I did...
I wanted to use the PC for Skype, but it has three sound-card options (it came that way) and I could not get the microphone AND the earphones to both work on the same device. I used the system tools for Win XP without success and tried troubleshooting on my own. The small plug-in adapter cost about $20 and was worth every bit of it. The Mac is a gem.
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