Posted 06.27.2007 at 1:46 pm
Classes are finally in session at Professor Dave's iRobot iNstitute. It's not too late to use your new education to submit an idea for a build to Instructables' iRobot contest: you could win $5,000! Hurry though, because if you don't already have a Create kit, Instructable is only taking "scholarship" concept entries until June 30. Regular contest entries are being accepted until August 31, so there's still plenty of time to apply your knowledge.
Be sure to come back next week for Lesson 2. Oh, and see the bottom of this post for a great video sidebar, in which Professor Dave reveals his robotic mad scientist side!—Eds.
The iRobot Create kit feature a special interface that enables users to control the robot’s behavior and locomotion as well as monitor its sensors. This interface is the iRobot Create Open Interface (OI). By using the OI, users can modify the functionality of a normal Create and build a new set of operating instructions—but without a brain, the Create’s interface is largely useless. So in this first tutorial, we’re going to show you how to get your Create thinking on its feet with a third-party microcontroller.
Overall, there are two distinctly different methods for transforming your Create from a vegetable to a genius: hard and easy. In the hard method, users must install a serial terminal program on a PC (e.g., RealTerm; http://realterm.sourceforge.net/), attach Create’s serial cable tether to the PC’s serial DB-9 port, orchestrate a series of nonsensical command strings, e.g.:
128 131 [RETURN] 137 1 44 128 0 156 1 120 137 1 44 0 1 157 0 90 158 -5
...then send the string and watch the action.
While achieving successful results with this hard method are possible, it does require keeping Create tethered to a PC. Doable, but yuck. And who’s got a DB-9 serial port these days anyway?
In the easy method, users can simply add an onboard brain. iRobot provides a controller called the Command Module, but many third-party controllers will also work and can provide different feature sets—here we’re using a chip called the Mind Control. Manufactured by Element Products, the Mind Control consists of an elegant lipstick-sized, removable mini-DIN controller module that plugs into the Create’s serial port and a special Mind Control programming board.
Continue reading below for much, much more info and a handy demonstration video: