13 November 2013

Chicken door and robot update

The chicken door is pretty much done! (I will have to get pics later, because it's always dark now when I get home from work.) I installed the board, the battery, and the solar cell in the coop and hooked it up to the hacked up cordless drill motor we had already mounted. And... it works! Had to flash the firmware a few times after it was installed (ok, so my debugging skills need work), but I think we've about got it. One more change we might make is to make the door open half an hour before sunrise (currently it opens right at sunrise), since it gets fairly light before the sun actually rises.

In other news, I built (most of) the hexapod (6-legged) robot mentioned in the last post! It came together surprisingly fast. Which is good, because the Boise Robotics Club meets this weekend and I will actually have something to show them. The firmware is 98% written and the hardware runs!

I found a new program called BlackBoard. It's designed for my circuit board technology of choice, perfboard. (A lot of electronics hobbyists do surface mounted parts these days, but, yuck. Long live through-hole!) It was really nice to spend a few days tweaking my design, moving wires and components around until I was satisfied it wouldn't smoke the first time I plugged it in -- see, it's a lot easier to change things on the screen than with a desoldering tool (which I did end up using a couple times anyway, but not as much as I would have). One super nice feature is hitting a key to show the backside of the board. As you solder something together with perfboard, you place components on the front side and then flip it over to solder on the backside. So being able to see the properly flipped view means you make fewer soldering mistakes as the layout is flipped left-to-right when working on the back.

I still  have more debugging to do -- I did my prototype on my breadboard at a nice standard 5 volts, but my battery is 3.4 ~ 4.2 volts so my sensors and things need recalibrated -- I didn't use the commercially packaged sensors the Pololu project lists, I just rolled my own (cheaper and more fun!). Fortunately, in my board design I placed the pins necessary for reprogramming so I don't have to pull the chip to download new firmware -- just plug in a few wires and program the chip while it's still mounted to the robot. Same as the chicken door actually.

And I still need to make legs. Minor detail.


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