Here we are using our homemade CNC to machine a custom electronics plate for the new Mars Rover we’re building. The robot’s circuit boards and electronic components are mounted onto this plate, which is then mounted inside the robot’s main box. Check out the video and the photos below.
The completed electronics plate for the Mars Rover.
Here is the electronics plate with the various circuit boards and other electronic components mounted. Wiring and soldering comes next. The wires will go through the rectangular holes underneath each circuit board and then run beneath the plate.
Here at Beatty Robotics, we have a keen interest in mixing cool, old technology with exciting new technology. Recently, we became interested in Morse Code and telegraph equipment. We began exchanging written secret messages in Morse Code. And then we continued on by learning to tap the codes with rocks and listen to them at some distance. We are still learning and practicing, but it’s pretty clear that they are getting better and better and will soon be fluent. So now we’ve embarked on our next project, which is to build a functioning telegraph system by refurbishing several very old, antique telegraph keys and sounders, and then combining then with our modern electronics knowledge. We aren’t ready to show the completed project quite yet, but here are some pics of us wiring up the electronics. As we complete the project over the next few weeks, we’ll post pictures of the complete telegraph system (we’re hoping it’s going to look pretty cool), an explanation of how it all works, and the list of components.
Genevieve solders the headers on the Arduino Nano while I wire up the screw terminal board
I power up our wireless Xbee LCD screen to see if test messages are being transmitted properly from the Telegraph key. (The telegraph system itself won’t include an LCD screen. This was just for a test.)
Working together on some delicate soldering on the main microcontroller
Today, we would like to introduce Terrabot, our Terrain Traveling Robot. Based on a modified “rock crawler” chassis, its primary purpose is to traverse rocks, branches, steep slopes, flower beds, boulders, mountain trails, and other extremely rough terrain.
Terrabot is equipped with 4-wheel steering (4WS). Two high torque servos shift machined aluminum linkages to rotate its front and back wheels independently. Note the navigation GPS on top of the back servo (on the left) and the sensor turret on the front (right). Terrabot’s four wheels are driven by two powerful brushless motors (bright blue) and robust gearboxes (centered in each axle).
Terrabot’s highly-articulated chassis is designed to twist up to 90 degrees as the robot is moving, allowing it to climb over huge boulders and other obstacles. In this picture, the chassis is articulated 45 degrees. Note that the back tires are still on the ground because the center linkages of the bot are twisted.
Terrabot’s topside electronics include a tiny Arduino Nano (lower left), an XBee Radio (right), and a 9-DOF Mongoose Inerntial Measurement Unit (IMU). The IMU measures the degree of tilt and the rate of acceleration in the X, Y, Z planes, which we plan to use for our stabilization algorithm.
Terrabot’s other electronics are stuffed into the little chamber inside the aluminum core (note the blue LED at the bottom of the picture). This includes the two Electronic Speed Controllers for the motors, the Pololu Maeastro motor/servo controller, the power rails, various voltage regulators, and other electronics. The navigation GPS (see the first picture), is mounted on top of the rear servo so that it has a clear view of the sky.
Terrabot Side View, showing the shocks, the frame, and LIPO battery beneath. Note the “roll posts” we installed on the top to protect the topside electronics if Terrabot falls off a rock during a climb and flips over. (We learned this one from experience!)
Terrabot Front View. There are three sonars mounted in the sensor turret, which rotates 270 degrees when the robot “looks around” to determine the best course through obstacle-ridden rough terrain.
Several readers have requested an inside view of our Spirit II – Mars Rover so that they can see what the electronics look like. We have provided an annotated picture below, along with a couple of external shots.
We have been hard at work on our latest project called Mechatron. To control our Mechatron robot as well as our Mars Rover, we designed and built our own remote control box. We developed our own communication protocol for transmitting commands from the remote control to the robot. On other projects we used iPhones and Playstation remote controllers, but in this case we wanted to build a large, metal box with lots of retro-switches and joysticks.
1. Although it wasn’t cheap, the hall-effect 3-axis joystick was critical for controlling the function of Mechatron’s specialized drive system. We originally tried a traditional analog/resistive/potentiometer-style joystick and it did not work well at all. We thought our whole project was going to fail until we realized that not all joysticks are created equal. The joystick based on the “hall-effect” principle worked perfectly for us.
2. You can’t see it in these photos, but this controller can be charged via banana jacks and re-programmed via a USB jack without having to unscrew and remove the case. The same is true for the Mechatron robot itself.