What is a Makey Makey?

clock January 19, 2016 08:00 by author kimm |

A Makey Makey is an amazing new way to interact with a computer. With it you can use bananas, cats or just about anything to play video games, piano or whatever your imagination can conjure up. It lets you connect your computer to the physical world. Here are some of the things you can do…

 

Makey Makey is the invention kit that doesn’t need any soldering or programming.  Although there are wires and a circuit board with tiny electronics bits, it really is simple to use for all ages and a lot of fun. Since there is no programming or soldering required it is a great way to add interaction to a multimedia creative art project or just for play.

So how is it so simple?

...

The Makey Makey just pretends to be a keyboard and mouse. Now any program that runs on a computer can reach out and be touched by the outside world.

Here are some examples (hint see the video)

  • Banana space bar
  • Super Mario game pad using Play Doh
  • Play pac man uses pencil drawings as the controller
  • Dance Dance revolution using buckets of water as the game pad
  • Turn stairs into a Piano
  • Use friends hands and bodies as a synthesizer
  • Make a photo booth for cats
  • Alphabet spaghetti keyboard

The Makey Makey has a bunch of little connection points that represent keyboard buttons and mouse buttons/directions. You connect one end of little wires to these connection points and the other end of the wires to anything that conducts electricity. The Makey Makey then detects when you touch the connected object. You  can use anything that conducts even a little bit of electricity. It doesn’t need to be metal. The moisture and minerals in things like bananas and cats allow them to conduct electricity just enough. It is also very low voltage so no chance of a big zap.

More info can be found in this quick start guide



Build your own Zumo Robot for Arduino

clock January 11, 2016 05:00 by author kimm |

The Pololu Zumo is a small mini-sumo sized robot. It is a high quality tracked robot platform that is great fun for learning robotics. It comes in a number of variations including kit form and fully assembled.

The first version of the Zumo came with the V1.0 of the Zumo Shield for Arduino.

Pololu soon revised the shield to the V1.2 Zumo Shield but otherwise the robot stayed the same and is available as the Pololu Zumo robot for Arduino V.2. The changes to the shield were relatively minor improvements to the accelerometer and an added gyro. Pololu have also released another version of the Zumo that is based on the ATmega32U4 chip called the Pololu Zumo 32U4 robot which has more features but is more expensive.

The Zumo Arduino robot requires an Arduino Uno compatible micro-controller which is sold separately. This robot is a great option if you already have one of these boards lying around waiting for a fun project to happen to it. Good controllers are the Arduino Uno R3, Leonardo or SparkFun’s Redboard.

To get a Zumo going you can start with the kit or assembled bot...

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Starting with the Zumo Kit for Arduino

If you like building things and can do a little bit of soldering then the kit is the place to start.

Here’s what you need:

1 x Pololu Zumo Robot Kit for Arduino V1.2

2 x Micro metal gearmotors. We recommend these high power versions:

Higher gear ratios like 210:1 tend to make the robot a bit slow while ratios like 30:1 don’t quite give enough grunt on surfaces like shaggy carpet.

1 x Arduino Uno compatiable microcontroller. Arduino Uno R3, Leonardo or SparkFun’s Redboard are great well made choices.

1 x USB cable. The type depends on your microcontroller. ‘A’ on one end and either mini-B or micro-B for the microcontroller. These are very common for cameras and phones.

AA batteries. The Zumo takes 4 AA batteries. It will run for several hours continously on a set of quality alkaline cells or better still use rechargeable NiMh as they are cheaper over the long run. Both available in most supermarkets and larger hardware stores.

Putting the Zumo kit together

The best instructions to follow for putting together the Zumo kit are detailed here, covering soldering and assembly of the motors and other parts to the shield. These instructions are worth following as it saves time undoing mistakes like the ones I made.

Starting with the Assembled Zumo for Arduino

If putting together a Zumo 1.2 from scratch is not your thing, you can start with an assembled robot and add your own controller.

Here’s what you need:

1 x Pololu Zumo Robot for Arduino V1.2

1 x Arduino Uno compatiable microcontroller. Arduino Uno R3, Leonardo or SparkFun’s Redboard are great well made choices.

1 x USB cable. The type depends on your microcontroller. ‘A’ on one end and either mini-B or micro-B for the microcontroller. These are very common for cameras and phones.

AA batteries. The Zumo takes 4 AA batteries. It will run for several hours continously on a set of quality alkaline cells or better still use rechargeable NiMh as they are cheaper over the long run. Both available in most supermarkets and larger hardware stores.

Optional Line Sensor

The Zumo for Arduino can be fitted with an infrared line sensor “Zumo Reflectance Sensor Array”. This enables the robot to follow lines and solve maze puzzles. It is a great addition that adds lots of possibilities to the robot. It works with both V1 and V1.2 of the Zumo Robot for Arduino, assembled or kit form.

Other Sensors

The V1.2 Zumo Shield breaks out a lot of the pins from the arduino based microcontroller.

You can connect all manner of 5V based sensors directly to these pins. Some suggestions are:

Infrared distance sensors

Sharp distance sensors These come in all kinds of ranges and are either analog (give a distance reading) or digital (true/false) detection. These work great indoors and can detect other robots or walls, chairs etc.

3-pin JST ZH-style cable connected to a Sharp GP2Y0A51SK0F Analog Distance Sensor 2-15cm (1)

Ultrasonic range finders

Ultrasonic range finders use reflected sound waves these sensors measure the distance to an object. The would well in bright light and have a wider detection area than infrared sensors. Common ones for little robots include the SRF02, SRF05 however a wide variety exist with difference response characteristics and detection ranges.

Other options

Your robot could use a photocell resistor to detect light and scurry away or attack or bling it up with some LED lights.

Remember the V1.2 Zumo Shield comes with a 3-axis accelerometer, compass, gyroscope!



Introducing Thing 1 and Thing 2. The SparkFun ESP8266 Thing

clock December 24, 2015 20:26 by author kimm |

We are now stocking the SparkFun ESP8266 Thing and the deceptively similar SparkFun ESP8266 Thing Dev Board

image

The SparkFun ESP8266 Thing is based on the ESP8266 WiFi SoC. It enables you to easily create WiFi enabled projects and is Arduino compatible at a very low cost. Both boards allow easy access to the ESP8266 pins and provide features like voltage regulation, power switch and indicator LED.

Get started in the Internet of Things revolution! The easily programmable boards can be hooked up to control relays, motors or lights and gather information from sensors like temperature or moisture readings. You can program them easily using the familiar Arduino software.

Both boards look similar, so what is the difference between the SparkFun ESP8266 Thing and the Dev version?

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SparkFun ESP8266 Thing

SparkFun ESP8266 Thing Dev Board

 

SparkFun ESP8266 Thing

SparkFun ESP8266 Thing - Dev Board

Feature

   

All module pins broken out

Y

Y

On Board LiPo Charger / Power supply

Y

 
PCB holes for 2-pin JST, 2-pin 3.5mm screw terminal, or a simple 0.1"-pitch 2-pin header  

Y

802.11 b/g/n

Y

Y

Wi-Fi Direct (P2P), soft-AP

Y

Y

Integrated TCP/IP protocol stack

Y

Y

Integrated TR switch, balun, LNA, power amplifier and matching network

Y

Y

Integrated PLLs, regulators, DCXO and power management units

Y

Y

Integrated low power 32-bit CPU could be used as application processor

Y

Y

+19.5dBm output power in 802.11b mode

Y

Y

On-board FTDI USB-to-Serial

 

Y

PCB trace antenna

 

Y

U.FL Connector for external antenna

Y

Y

     

The Thing Dev board is intended for development so it includes a built in FTDI chip enabling you to plug in a USB cable to program it. It also has a PCB trace antenna that is good for connecting at short range. A U.FL connector is on both boards to allow an antenna to be connected for range or outside of an enclosure.

The Thing board is made for installation. It includes a LiPo charger and a JST connector.



Time for a new look

clock December 17, 2015 15:20 by author kimm |

Robot Gear started over 6 years ago. That’s 42 Internet years, long before everyone had a smartphone and tablet and the browser arms race had barely begun.

We have always believed that our web site experience should be the very best for our customers but unless you have super hero eye sight and tiny fingers this wasn’t the experience on phones.

It looked more like this…

robotgear-on-iphone_thumb1

Now after many long days and nights we have a new website. I hope it is faster and easier to use.

Enjoy,

Kim



Encryption always on

clock December 17, 2015 15:15 by author kimm |

Security and privacy of our customers and anyone who views our web site is important to us. We have changed things so it will now be SSL all the way.

You will see https:// in the browser window and a bit of green to indicate everything is ok.

robotgear is now ssl always