Posts by Ryan

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Video: LVBots April 2015 line following competition

Posted by Ryan on 29 April 2015
Tags: lvbots

LVBots held a line following competition at Pololu on April 16th. The goal was to make an autonomous robot that does three laps of the course the fastest. Seventeen robots faced off in a head-to-head double elimination tournament. The video above shows the robots in action and the full results of the contest.

Ben’s Mostly Red Racer won the line following competition for the second time in a row with an average speed of 1.2 m/s, but the competition was more fierce this time. Brandon secured second place with The Chariot, which had an average speed of 1.17 m/s and had a best course time that was only 0.7 seconds slower than Ben’s.

There were also some fun exhibition robots. Kevin made a hovercraft named Full of Eels that was able to sometimes follow the line. Kevin and Jeremy made The Next Level, a line follower on top of a line follower.

We will update this post with links to posts about the individual line following robots as they are published over the next couple of weeks.

Are you in the Las Vegas area? Check out the LVBots Meetup page to get involved.

Smartphone-controlled Zumo Robot for Arduino Tank

Posted by Ryan on 23 March 2015
Smartphone-controlled Zumo Robot for Arduino Tank

This Instructable by Annikken shows how to turn a Zumo Robot for Arduino into a smartphone-controlled tank. It uses the Annikken Andee for Android (they have one for iOS too), which is an Arduino shield that is connected between the Arduino and the Zumo.

Here is a video with the tank driving around:

More details are available on the Instructable page.

New Product: SparkFun Inventor's Kit (for Arduino Uno)

Posted by Ryan on 24 February 2015
Tags: new products
New Product: SparkFun Inventor's Kit (for Arduino Uno)

This new version of the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit brings back the Arduino Uno (the previous version had an Arduino-compatible SparkFun RedBoard).

The SparkFun Inventor’s Kit has everything you need to construct a variety of circuits that will teach you how to use an Arduino to read sensors, display information on an LCD, drive motors, and more. No previous programming or electronics experience is necessary, which makes this a great way for beginners to get started with embedded systems.

For more information, see the product page.

Pololu and LVBots CES Open House 2015

Posted by Ryan on 6 January 2015
Tags: lvbots
Pololu and LVBots CES Open House 2015

Are you attending CES or in Las Vegas this Thursday evening? Join Pololu and LVBots on Thursday, January 8th any time from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for CES Open House 2015! Like last year, LVBots members will be showcasing their robotics and electronics creations, Pololu will be giving tours of our manufacturing and other operations, and you can present your company or your projects. We will provide pizza. Registration and other details are on the LVBots Meetup page.

Last Call: Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale

Posted by Ryan on 1 December 2014


Last Call: Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale

Less than 12 hours to go for our Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale! Manufacturing and shipping are working hard to make your robot parts and ship them out. If you already placed an order, thank you! Customers who ordered earlier in the sale have already started to receive their packages Continued…

New product: Translucent Enclosure for Raspberry Pi Model B+

Posted by Ryan on 2 October 2014
Tags: new products
New product: Translucent Enclosure for Raspberry Pi Model B+

We are now carrying a translucent enclosure for the Raspberry Pi Model B+!

Video: LVBots August 2014 looped maze solving competition

Posted by Ryan on 19 August 2014
Tags: lvbots

LVBots held a looped maze solving competition at Pololu on August 7th. It worked a lot like the maze solving competition we held in May, except we advanced to a maze that had loops. Adding loops might not seem like much, but it makes solving mazes fundamentally more challenging. Instead of being able to follow a simple strategy like always turning left, the robots need to keep track of where they are in the maze in order to find an efficient path through it. The video shows the robot runs superimposed, making them easy to compare.

Robots based on the 3pi once again dominated. Ben’s 3pi: Ghost has an especially fun provenance: it is serial number 0J17, which is a very early production unit that David gave to Kevin for his birthday back before Kevin worked at Pololu. Ben’s ridiculously optimized/calibrated code from many years ago somehow worked only on our earliest 3pis, which had motor brackets that we painstakingly injection molded by hand and 3D printed wheels and ball casters. Now that he has kids, Ben doesn’t have as much time for hours of fine tuning, so his era of dominance will likely come to an end as soon as he runs out of access to ancient 3pis.

Are you in the Las Vegas area? Check out the LVBots Meetup page to get involved.

The Manufacturing of A-Star 32U4 Micro

Posted by Ryan on 17 July 2014

We recently released the A-Star 32U4 Micro, which we think is the best available AVR breakout board for its size. If you are like us, you enjoy taking factory tours, seeing how things are made on How It’s Made, and watching your Krispy Kreme doughnuts get created right before you personally eat them. Since most of you have not been able to visit us here in Las Vegas, we’ve made a video that shows how your A-Star Micro gets made!

The video shows how the A-Star Micro goes from a bare printed circuit board to an assembled and tested product. It is one of our more complex boards to make because it has components on both sides—this means two trips through the stencil printer, pick-and-place machine, reflow oven, and automated optical inspection machine. Here are some of the machines featured in the video:

  • Speedprint SP700 AVI stencil printer
  • Samsung SM421F pick and place
  • Heller 1707 MK III reflow oven
  • Nordson YESTECH BX-12 automated optical inspection
A-Star 32U4 Micro, side A.
A-Star 32U4 Micro, side B.

For those of you who like to be mesmerized by big machines moving thousands of tiny components quickly, we also have a video that shows the full pick-and-place sequence of a panel of forty A-Star Micros. (Note that this is not an accurate representation of the assembly time since the feeders are moved to the side to make room for the camera.)

For more videos like these, see our YouTube playlist: Pololu manufacturing: how our products are made and subscribe to our channel. By the way, you can still get a free A-Star Micro with your order over $100.

Video: LVBots May 2014 maze solving competition

Posted by Ryan on 12 June 2014
Tags: lvbots

On May 29, LVBots held a maze solving competition at Pololu. The goal in maze solving is to get from the start to the finish in the shortest time. Contestants had four tries to solve the maze. The first run is typically in a learning mode where the robot goes slowly and explores the maze. On subsequent runs, the robots would attempt the shortest path, and the best robots had progressively more aggressive speeds.

I would have liked to see one of the custom-built robots win, but despite their best attempts, none of the other competitors were able to beat a stock 3pi robot running Ben’s maze solving code from six years ago. The old video below demonstrates how the 3pi solves a maze and also describes how the course is built.

This year, we tried to hone our rules about robots cutting corners of the maze. No robot will follow the line perfectly, so we have to allow some corner-cutting, but we do not want to make it so lax that the robot could dead reckon directly to the finish. After a lot of debate, we settled on two rules:

  1. A designated point on the robot must not go past the walls of an imaginary 6″-wide corridor centered around the path.
  2. The whole robot needs to generally follow the same path through the maze.

It was exciting to see Paul’s robot, Dr. Maze, use dead reckoning to cut the corners. Paul was hoping to get away from line following and rely on encoders to navigate the maze. Unfortunately, this caused the robot to get lost on the long straightaway and fail to solve the maze. Dr. Maze exhibits its corner-cutting skills at the end of the first video.

Are you in the Las Vegas area? Check out the LVBots Meetup page to get involved.

Qtechknow wins Educator's Choice award at Maker Faire

Posted by Ryan on 25 September 2013
Qtechknow wins Educator's Choice award at Maker Faire

We saw a tweet from Atmel that “Qtechknow”’s Fuzzbot—a robot based on a Zumo that helps clean floors by dragging a dust cloth around while avoiding obstacles—won the New York 2013 World Maker Faire Educator’s Choice award. Qtechknow was recently featured in a Popular Science article.

Related post: Fuzzbot

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