Robotics is something I’ve wanted to get into for years, pretty much since Robotwars appeared on TV and the idea of creating big machines with flames coming out the top that were designed to smash other machines sounded like fun 😀 I raced various forms of remote controlled cars on + off for a number of years, but that was mainly build the cars, then set them up from race to race. But, programming a microchip and building a robot to figure it’s way through an obstacle course or similar seems like a good challenge, and then there’s stuff like the RoboGames each year (along with smaller regional gatherings) which includes events for small sumo-bots or robosoccer (check the videos!).
Anyway, Parallax caught my attention a while ago with their Boe-Bot robotics kit based off a BASIC Stamp 2 microcontroller and mine arrived today. It seems a pretty good introduction to robotics, and the BS2 chip can be used for a bunch of other things too. Parallax make all their books available on-line in PDF format, so also I’ve worked through some basics with using the BS2 chip outside of controlling the Boe-Bot. With a number of projects included with the kit and components to allow the robot to make it’s own decisions based on position, speed, contact with objects, etc. it should keep me entertained for a while. When I have the rest of the circuitry built up and programmed for something slightly more advanced than moving backwards, forwards, and rotating around itself I’ll post some photos or videos 🙂
Using it within OS X was a little harder than inserting the CD and installing the software as Parallex don’t produce their programming suite for OS X or Linux, but others have written apps available for free online which work great. For anyone trying to use the USB version under OS X, download the FTDI VCP drivers here and then install MacBS2 by Murat Konar which is the equivalent of the Parallex programming tool for Windows. For code requiring user input using DEBUGIN, goSerial from Furrysoft works great for displaying the output the same as Debug Terminal does, but also capturing your inputs and sending them to the BS2 chip which MacBS2 can’t do yet. Simply select your USB connection under the ‘Serial Port’ option in goSerial, and then choose ‘9600 bps’ for the connection speed and it should work just fine so long as you close down MacBS2 first otherwise you have both apps trying to connect to the same port concurrently.