FireCheetah returns

Posted by Erica on Jan 13, 2013 in Electronics, Making

Last year I participated in the Abingdon firefighting robotics competition, in which a robot must navigate a maze, find a candle, and put it out. We entered two divisions: K-6 where kids are allowed to remote control the robot, and the senior division where all actions must be autonomous. The kids won their division, but [...]

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Repairing my own laptop

Posted by Erica on Dec 5, 2012 in Electronics, Making, Web and Computer

This was a short but sweet project — very empowering.
For years I have owned a Dell Precision M4300. It is not a sexy computer by today’s standards, but it has a very large screen, comfortable keyboard, runs fast, and has all the ports I need. Therefore, no reason to replace it. I figured at some [...]



Free Coursera online course: Heterogeneous Parallel Programming

Posted by Erica on Nov 27, 2012 in Making, Web and Computer

I’ve posted before about Stanford and Udacity free online courses. Tomorrow I am going to be starting another one, offered by Coursera. The topic is Heterogeneous Parallel Programming. From the course description:

All computing systems, from mobile to supercomputers, are becoming heterogeneous parallel computers using both multi-core CPUs and many-thread GPUs for higher power efficiency and [...]

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Robot competition day

Posted by Erica on Apr 23, 2012 in Electronics, Making

After two months of work, the big day was finally here. Friday night we drove up to Philadelphia with lots of tools and the robot nestled in a box at my feet. The kids were very excited and we all brought matching robot t-shirts to wear. Saturday morning we showed up bright and early for [...]

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Finishing the firefighting robot

Posted by Erica on Apr 20, 2012 in Electronics, Making

As I write, we are on our way to the Abington Firefighting Competition. Up until last night, I was not certain that we would make it. In the previous post I mentioned various gremlins with the motor control system. Running at a lower voltage more or less made them go away. It worked so well [...]

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FireCheetah navigates on his own

Posted by Erica on Apr 15, 2012 in Electronics, Making

With less than a week to go before the robot competition, I have been working very hard. Most of the previous week was spent on navigation. With this particular maze design, there is a section where the robot is forced to move and do some turns without having a wall to guide it. I wanted [...]

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FireCheetah is running

Posted by Erica on Apr 1, 2012 in Electronics, Making

Good news — FireCheetah’s remote control mode is working! Here is a video of the bot in action:

The robot is actually quite fast. I had to slow it down to 30% of full speed to control it reliably by hand. The weight is unevenly distributed right now as well, which adds to the challenge. I [...]

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Firefighting robot update

Posted by Erica on Mar 5, 2012 in Electronics, Making

The firefighting robot competition is only a few weeks away, and I’ve been working steadily. Because of the time pressure, there hasn’t been much leisure to blog about it! I’ve accomplished the following tasks, and may write about them later. Partial list includes:

Set up wireless communication between the Arduino-controlled robot and a PC running the [...]

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How to configure an XBee on Linux, Mac, or any other operating system

Posted by Erica on Feb 21, 2012 in Electronics, Making

Consider this post a corrective to all the over-complicated advice I’ve seen out there.
If you own an XBee, you likely already know that the official configuration tool, X-CTU, only runs on Windows. As result, if you need to configure an XBee on a different operating system, a Google search brings up repeated suggestions to install [...]

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Building a fire-fighting robot

Posted by Erica on Feb 19, 2012 in Electronics, Making

I’ve been looking for a reason to build another robot. A few weeks ago I found a list of robot competitions around the world. Ignoring the battle bot options, geography and capability led to me to the Penn State Abington Fire-Fighting Robot Contest:
The objective of the fire-fighting robot contest is to design a computer-controlled robot [...]

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