GO MOD WITH YOUR MOBILE
by Fred Eady
Hollywood's collection of science fiction robots could do it all. Their fantasy mechanisms could
walk, talk, think, and fight. Most all of, the first generation silver screen metal men were space
travelers. They called a planet other than Earth their home. In 1951 in the movie The Day The
Earth Stood Still, Gort arrived via an extraterrestrial flying saucer in Washington, D.C. In 1956,
Robby the Robot found his residence on the Forbidden Planet. In 1965, it was the beginning of
a series of planet hops for the robot of Lost in Space.
The aforementioned droids were smart and powerful. However, they all lacked something that
we today consider a very important robotic part: a microcontroller. Robot was a lost
mechanical pup roaming the galaxy seven years before the first earthly microcontroller was
invented. Since Gort and Robby were not from this world, we don't know if their frames
contained a microcontroller or not. These days, it's not uncommon to find a number of
microcontrollers spinning electrons within a single robotic device.
Do you remember seeing Dr. Smith or one of the
Robinsons “deactivate” Robot by removing some type of
module? What that says to me is that despite being B.M.
(Before Microcontroller), Robot of Lost in Space was
modular. That same modular concept that applied to Robot
applies to the bots that you build.
Let’s walk through a typical modularbotic design
process. You want to build a mobile robot that is aware of
its location and always knows the time of day. In addition,
this particular robot is also a weatherman of sorts as it has
the ability to sample the temperature at its current location.
The robot’s location at any particular time and the
location’s temperature are logged to a microSD card which
is an integral part of the robot’s fabric.
Keeping the time of day by a
robot’s watch normally entails
selecting a real time clock IC that is
compatible with the robot’s host
microcontroller. Another timing
method to consider is the
PHOTO 1. We can always have access
to location and time of day by simply
incorporating this Digilent PmodGPS
module into our modularbotic design.
38 SERVO 01.2013