Monday, December 20, 2010

WiFi/Xbee Robot Background

I have always wanted to have a WiFi controlled R/C car of some sort. The idea started when a coworker sent me this one, Roboteq VIA WiFi Robot. If he reads this I think he will know it was him. This was about early 2000 and I added it to the list of projects I wanted to try, another one being a GPS controlled glider. Upon research I realized it would probably cost close to $1000 to build. I didn't think the cool factor was worth that much.

Flash forward to 2008 when I moved to Monterey, CA and became an NGC employee. Upon getting to know a few coworkers I came to hear about the Maker Faire. For the past 3 years I have been attending one of the two days and subscribing to the Make Magazine. Most people who are familiar with Make are familiar with the Arduino microcontroller. At the time I didn't think much of it or really see the possibility of what I could do with it. I saw projects here and there that you could buy but nothing that really got my attention.

Now it is 2010 and I find myself wanting to work with circuits and possibly take some classes. My background has been in IT but I find myself always wanting to play more with hardware than software. I did some research for some electronics kits, but found they were limited and I probably would get bored quickly as I am a fast learner. I remembered the Arduino but wasn't sure I wanted to go that route. After talking to some friends and doing some research I realized that the Arduino has tons of possibilities. I am not sure if it was before or after I purchased one that I decided to create a robot. I have wanted to go that route but didn't realize until now, especially since it is much cheaper and easier to play with robots at home.

After getting the basics down with the Arduino, I started to a lot of research for my robot design. I found that WiFi might not be the answer as it draws more power and uses a lot of pins on the Arduino. My WiFi robot has become an XBee robot but with the same goals.

I will try to post as much as possible to track my progress and where this project takes me. I already have some ideas for version 2 and hope to start that next year. Originally, version 2 was going to be an upgrade for my first bot but  I could actually create a 2nd one. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Blog on the Interwebs

After some time of resisting, I have finally succumbed to my first blog. For a while I had resisted some of the online services such as Twitter, Facebook, and blogging. Most of them were created out of necessity to access something or follow something for an event. The same happened for this blog. I have always been into projects at home and more recently have wanted to share them with friends, so my GF, suggested I created a blog. I had thought of other ways like Facebook or my own site as I am the DIY yourself type and rather create/host my own stuff. Problem is exposure and uptime. So I decided to go with the blog option.

A few years ago a friend had introduced me to the MAKER Fair and in turn MAKE magazine, which opened me up to a whole new world of creative chaos. So many ideas and projects I wanted to get my hands on and try, it was quite overwhelming. I love new tech projects and challenges so I knew I had to do something. I had seen the Arduino micro controller but didn't think much of it at the time and didn't really understand/see the possibilities. Recently I had repaired an Xbox 360 controller and realized it wasn't as too difficult to solder a PCB. This lead to repairing or rather, attempting to repair a Dell LCD screen (which I thought I had fixed but the problem returned).

Some time passed and the urge became too great - I just needed to get my hands on some more soldering projects. After some research and talking to a few friends of my mine that are EE's, I caved in and went to Fry's Electronics store to purchase09950-01 an Arduino Projects Pack. There isn’t a Fry's nearby to me, but it just so happened that I needed to RMA some RAM, so in the mean time I needed a replacement. This gave me more of a reason to make the journey to Fry's worth while versus buying online and waiting for shipment. Of course in my mind I wanted to make the trip as worthwhile as possible even though it involved spending more unearned money, so while I was there, I bought a Logitech G700 wireless mouse as well.

The following day I couldn't wait any more, I set aside some time to tear open the projects pack and have at it. Quickly, I was able to do the "Hello World" and create a blinking LED. Even though this was a simple task, to my amazement I was in awe that I could make an LED blink with code! At that moment my brain exploded with ideas and possibilities. From that moment on I became addicted, almost like a new drug.

A few years ago I had always wanted to make a WiFi controlled R/C car. I had seen one made on the internet using a VIA C3 motherboard with a robot controller board. The cost had always kept me from pursuing this project. Then it came to me, I could use the Arduino and do it on a smaller scale with a lot less money. Ever since, it has become my obsession. The deeper I get, the explosion of ideas just gets larger and uncontrollable. I hope this blog will give me a chance to document my progress, share my projects with others out there that are interested and inspire others. I have found that a lot of my research takes me to other blogs which has been very helpful. I hope I can do the same for others.