Pololu Blog (Page 38)

Welcome to the Pololu Blog, where we provide updates about what we and our customers are doing and thinking about. This blog used to be Pololu president Jan Malášek’s Engage Your Brain blog; you can view just those posts here.

Abstractions

Posted by Jan on 24 November 2010
Abstractions

We should consider the general concept of abstraction in robotics a bit before moving on to more specific topics. Abstraction comes up a lot in computer science and programming, so I think people in that field are exposed to it early and often. Just about any program will have at least some user-made abstractions in it, be it a data structure or a subroutine, so programmers tend to be aware that the abstractions are just whatever they choose to make them and that they are not necessarily statements of absolute fact. In other introductory engineering contexts, at least in my experience, there is less of an explicit acknowledgment of the abstractions being used. Continued…

What's in a name?

Posted by Jan on 22 November 2010
What's in a name?

At the risk of sounding like I’m telling you to eat your vegetables, I’m going to zoom out one more step from the last post about units and talk even more generally about the importance of names. Whatever you think of Juliet’s famous answer, the reality is that if you want to get someone a rose, or even just to talk about a rose, you need to know what it’s called. Naming things is a very powerful human skill that allows us not only to better communicate our thoughts but to better form our thoughts in the first place. Continued…

Know your units

Posted by Jan on 19 November 2010
Know your units

How many volts of current are there in a bolt of lightning? That’s the kind of stupid question your local news anchor might ask while bantering with the weather guy. Perhaps your favorite cringe-inducing unit abuse is someone thinking light-years measure time or a model rocket enthusiast telling you that a newton-second is a little longer than a regular second. Of course, I made the same class of mistake when looking for a 1-amp battery, which I described in my previous post about battery capacity. That article addressed a specific instance of a general problem: not knowing or understanding units, which allow us to talk about and measure physical properties that we must understand whether we’re designing robots or baking cakes. Continued…

Understanding battery capacity: Ah is not A

Posted by Jan on 12 November 2010
Understanding battery capacity: Ah is not A

My earliest electronics projects and my first robot were powered by regular alkaline batteries, and I didn’t think about current or the capacity of those batteries. The batteries were prominently labeled “1.5V”, and I was happy in my understanding that putting four in a battery holder got me to 6 volts; when the motors slowed down, it was time for new batteries. When I began designing my second robot, I found some 12V, 1A motors (what a “1-amp motor” might mean is a topic for another post) and promptly wasted many hours dragging parents and teachers to Radio Shack and car parts stores looking for a 12V, 1A battery. Continued…

Introduction to Jan's blog

Posted by Jan on 12 November 2010
Introduction to Jan's blog

My name is Jan Malášek, which is a Czech name, so the “J” is pronounced as an English “Y” (if you care, we can go over the last name in person, or you can consult your local Czech person). I grew up on the Big Island of Hawaii, spent five years in school in Massachusetts, and then moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to work on Pololu. I recently turned 30, and I’m still not the millionaire I had hoped to become at age 23 and then by age 25. Hitting 30 means it has been twenty years since I got started with electronics and ten years since I routed the first circuit board that said “Pololu” on it. Continued…

Jrk 12v12 TV Lift

Posted by Ryan on 3 November 2010

This news report from the Philippines shows a custom TV lift using a Pololu Jrk 12v12 made by “gadget kid” Francisco Estrada III.

mbed.org m3pi cookbook

Posted by Ben on 21 October 2010
mbed.org m3pi cookbook

This mbed.org cookbook page will help you get started using your m3pi robot with an mbed development board as your high-level robot controller.

Featured link: http://mbed.org/cookbook/m3pi

3pi PCB skeleton

Posted by Paul on 21 October 2010
3pi PCB skeleton

Alex Louden has released an open-source template for custom 3pi expansion boards for use with the Eagle PCB design software. The picture shows an example expansion with an mbed microcontroller, Xbee, and accelerometers.

Featured link: http://alexlouden.com/2010/3pi-pcb-skeleton/

Interfacing a FrSky telemetry receiver with a Baby Orangutan.

Posted by Paul on 15 October 2010
Interfacing a FrSky telemetry receiver with a Baby Orangutan.

Forum user erik46 wrote up a document (523k pdf) showing how to read FrSky telemetry data and display it with a Baby Orangutan. The whole setup is small and light enough to clip on to an RC transmitter. For more information, see his forum post.

iPhone-controlled 3pi Robot.

Posted by Ryan on 20 July 2010
iPhone-controlled 3pi Robot.

In this project, a WiFi module is connected to a 3pi robot, allowing it to be controlled by an iPhone. Here is a video of the robot in action:

Featured link: http://forum.pololu.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=2816