being at the same or lower cost.
A further advantage are the high functionality
Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS) and high
performance development tools available for them.
For the Jade robot, I settled on the Freescale Kinetis
K22, running at 96 MHz with 512 Kbytes of Flash
and 128 Kbytes of SRAM, and using the MQX
RTOS. This proved to be a potent combination,
allowing me to compartmentalize different tasks
(such as the user interface, sensors, motors, and
communications), keeping them simple and
independent for easier software development.
Throughout the years of doing robot
workshops, we learned the importance of listening
to people. A great example of this was when we
were using the Tab Sumo-Bot and were having
problems with the screw that mounted the motors to its
carrier. When the robot was developed (I was one of its
creators), the motors that we were given as samples had
larger holes than the ones provided for production. We
realized this was a problem when an older gentleman
approached me after a workshop saying that he used to
work for a car company and they had a similar problem
with screws. The solution was to put a bit of putty in the
hole to hold the screw in place. Looking down at what he
was showing me, I noticed that he was missing several
fingers on each hand — I must confess that my first reaction
was that maybe I shouldn’t be taking advice from him on
how to assemble things!
What I did realize was that we had two problems that
needed to be addressed, the immediate
problem being the difficulty fitting the carrier
attachment screws into the motors. The
ultimate solution was to buy small self-tapping
screws and provide them with the build
materials in the workshops. Along with this,
we also recognized the difficulty people with
physical challenges would have in assembling
anything. This further strengthened our resolve
to develop a robot that would be pre-assembled, allowing as many people as
possible to use and learn from it. This was a
good example of moving past the obvious first
reactions and acknowledging that there was
an issue that needed to be improved upon.
Ultimately, it resulted in a better, more
We also learned the importance of not
blindly listening to what the “experts” say. As a
startup, we have been involved in a number of
accelerators and with that goes experts that
will tell you what to do. One piece of advice
that we were repeatedly told was that we
needed to have a nice, well designed cover for
the robot. We took this advice and found an
industrial design house that did some gorgeous concepts
(Figure 8), which we were then told to take to prospective
customers (teachers, in this case) and see which ones they
liked best. As part of this canvas, I took along a hand-wired
prototype to show off how I thought the UI would work,
along with pictures of what the designers came up with.
You can see a picture sample design alongside my
prototype in Figure 9. To our amazement, 100% (every
one) of the teachers we showed the renderings to said,
“That’s nice” and then went on to say that what they really
wanted was something that looked like the hand-built
prototype (Figure 9), something their students could touch,
and be able to see the components — not have it hidden
away like so much technology that people have today.
SERVO 12.2014 49
Figure 8. Jade as imagined by an industrial design house. Clean and
interesting, but not what the customer wanted.
Figure 9. This is what actually excited teachers and customers.
Function beats form.