April 2006


The RAD Robot HACK!

Here's a sneak preview of Chapter 7's project: A "Hands-On" investigation to controlling the RAD 4.0 Robot with a Handy Cricket. In previous blogs as well as sample chapters of the book I've illustrated how the Handy Cricket can easily be interface to other electronic gadgets and devices. We'll the methods discussed in those earlier blog postings apply here as well. The key to any electronics interfacing project is to find what I call a "hook." The technique used in finding this "hook" is to do a little reverse engineering, whereby a key electrical signal is identify and exploited for the sole purpose of allowing the Handy Cricket control of the target interfacing device. The key components for this Robo-Hacking project consist of:

bulletThe Handy Cricket Embedded Controller
bulletThe RAD 4.0 Remote Transmitter
bulletThe RAD 4.0 Robot
bulletA Transistor Relay Driver Circuit
bulletCricket Logo Code

As the project develops, I'll post small snippets of information on construction and testing of the RAD Robot HACK. Next blog posting, I'll discuss the basics of a transistor relay driver circuit!



Virtual Electronics Prototyping-Capturing Ideas Through 3D Models

I'm continuing my investigation into 3D Visualization of PCBs by brainstorming ideas for using this imagery tool for sci-tech gadget development. Here's a few ideas I've documented, so excuse the rambling!

bullet EDA (Electronic Design Automation) Tools {Schematic Capture: Circuit Simulation and PCB Layout}
bulletPOV-Ray Tracing - 3D Model Generator
bulletAllows the developer to create a software Proof of Concept Electronics Gadget on their desktop
bulletLittle to no investment in purchasing expensive equipment
bulletCan conduct experiments and test electronic gadgets on their desktop
bulletDocuments generated from the tools can be incorporated into an electronics lab book
bulletDocuments can be used in product specifications for physical prototypes

Here's a no cost way of creating 3D PCB models using Eagle CAD software and a special utility library. I'll have more info and a small tutorial on creating your own 3D PCB Models in a future blog entry. Until then, Enjoy!!!



Handy Cricket Robo Hacks Excerpt!

I've just completed Chapter 6 The PICAXE Meets The Handy Cricket and the material looks quite good! This chapter discusses how to create a Distributive Computer using both the PICAXE microcontroller and the Handy Cricket. To put the interfacing technique into practice I've used the Mini Walking Bot as the main mechanical automaton. Also, I've included a section on how to use the Flowchart tool within the PICAXE IDE (Integrated Development Environment) for checking out the software logic used to give the Mini Walking Bot its intelligence. You can read a section from this chapter on how to build and program the PICAXE microcontroller (Note: username and pswd is public). I like to think of this material as What is A Microcontroller tutorial. Enjoy!!!



3D Visualization of PCBs -MultiSim Software

I've been investigating the use of MultiSim via re-designing a wireless receiver controller printed circuit board (pcb) for Ceiling Fans. Version 9 is the latest package with NI (National Instruments) VI (Virtual Instruments) icons available to the developer. Traditional schematic capture packages like Eagle Lite allow electronic circuits to be drawn within the Drawing Editor environment and imported to the board layout package. From there, the printed circuit board can be laid out and ready for manufacturing. Eagle Lite is a cool circuit design and pcb development package but it lacks the ability to show how the board will look with electronic parts and connectors added . Here's where MultiSim comes in: A 3D pcb can be viewed once the electronic parts are placed on to the printed circuit board. Copper traces can be viewed along with the ability to look at the pcb's layers, component dimensions, and placement orientation.  MultiSim also has the ability to create new components thus building a User Library of virtual electronic parts. This design package opens up a world of new possibilities for the sci-tech enthusiast, inventor, and creative types. Some ideas I plan to explore with this software include:

bulletTech paper presentations and product specifications
bulletCreating pcb design concepts for electronic circuit interfaces and controllers
bulletCreating solderless breadboard component placement layout models (Templates)
bulletCreating a User Library of specialized electronic components
bulletCreating new electronic controller concepts for robots and sci-tech gadgets
bulletCreating Interactive Training Tools on Electronics Technology

Although I own a Student version of MultiSim 2001 , it has the full functionality of the professional package with the exception of component and parts usage limitation. I would encourage all sci-tech enthusiasts, inventors, and creative types to purchase the latest Student versions (MulitSim Student Lite and Electronics Workbench Student Suite). I've included a 4 page document showing images of the wireless receiver controller created using MultiSim. The package is easy to use and the 3D imagery of the printed circuit boards are cool as well.


VB Express - Not Impress!!

Iíve been experimenting with VB Express and folks Iím not impressed with the programming application. The language is supposed to be easy because itís VB but truth be known its just the opposite. Everything is based on .NET constructs where the basis of the language is for developing Web and Windows based applications. To execute a simple application is not as easy as it seems. First of all, to receive Help you must be on online. Second, the examples illustrated are too confusing thereby providing no Help. Last, once the application is built and no errors detected, the programming cannot be saved as an executable file but as an applet (small application). With these short misgiving, Iíll stick with Excel VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) to build useful applet. Besides, Excel VBA is easy to use and you donít have to be online to get Help!  Enuf Said!!!