dwhall is currently certified at Master level.

Name: Dean Hall
Member since: 2002-10-10 00:05:10
Last Login: 2011-10-08 16:46:57

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Homepage: http://www.deanandara.com


Past Bots:

  • Robocat: large, 6-legged
    NASA/USRA-sponsored university project (1994).
  • RedWoody:
    medium, 3-wheeled university competition participant (1995).

  • Valkyrie:
    medium, 3-wheeled university competition participant

  • Reno: small, 3-wheeled wanderer (1997).

  • Aurora I: tiny, 2-wheeled photophobe (1998).
  • Snaggletooth: medium size, lightweight,
    3-wheeled, uses MMB103. (2001).

More details here


  • Argonaut:
    An outdoor, off-road autonomous vehicle for Long Haul-type
  • MMB103:
    Atmel ATmega103 based PCB for robotics. PCB is made and
    is in use.

  • Python-on-a-Chip (featuring the PyMite VM):
    flyweight Python interpreter for 8-bit and larger microcontrollers without an OS.


Recent blog entries by dwhall

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I need a wireless data connection for my next bot, Argonaut. I am choosing Zigbee, specifically the Series 2 module from MaxStream (now Digi). The modules arrived from Digikey, but I'm still waiting on the carrier boards. I'll detail my work with Zigbee as it progress here .

1 Aug 2007 (updated 1 Aug 2007 at 18:58 UTC) »

Instead of the USBasp, me and the SHARP guys have made our own version of the UsbProg. We call it, oh so cleverly, UsbProg-SHARP. It works like a charm.

I also reworked my website so I edit reStructured text files, use a Makefile to build the static pages and rsync to upload to my web host. I wrote up some details on how I did it .

8 Jun 2007 (updated 14 Jun 2007 at 01:25 UTC) »

I designed the MMB103 that I am using for my controller board to have an Atmel-standard 6-pin ISP header as well as a PonyProg serial interface. I had been using the PonyProg interface with its software on a Win32 system for years. I lived with the 7 minute programming time (for 128 KiB Flash on the ATmega103). Even after I switched to a PowerBook in 2003, I would always borrow my wife's Dell to burn my chips.

Well, I finally got fed up with the long waits to test my code. I got an STK500 from Digikey. I got the package deal where the STK500 comes with the JTAG ICE MkII. I connected my Mac to the STK500 via a USB-to-serial adapter. I set "AVRDUDE_PORT = /dev/tty.KeySerial1" in my Makefile. I typed "make program" and BOOM! My programming time went from 7 minutes to less than 20 seconds.

This is SUCH an improvement in quality-of-robot- programming- life that it was well worth the money. Next I intend to find something smaller than the STK500 so it is portable. Hopefully I can also find something that is all-in-one, so I don't have to use a USB-to-serial converter and can use power from the USB port.

Follow up (2007/06/13): I plan to make my own version of the USBasp for my portable, USB programmer. I might even etch the PCB with the help of my club-mates at SHARP.

I was recreating my encoder measurement set-up on my breadboard, but having significant trouble. I was just sticking copper wires into the motor ribbon connector. These wires were shaking loose and not giving good connections. I swapped-in some 2x and 1x headers and some Connectamundos and had a much more reliable connection. However, I still wasn't getting good numbers from my test software. It took me about 30 minutes to realize I had a floating ground between my MMB103 board and my breadboard. Once I connect their 2 ground planes, I was back in business. With this better test setup, I am finding that the encoders aren't that reliable. Supplying a short-duration (0.25 s) low current pulse to the motor and returning both motor leads to Vcc results in erradic counts: often little to no change in the count; sometimes the count is even backwards! I attribute this to back EMF: the motor is trying to overcome inertia and fight friction. The magnetic encoders are getting a larger back-current reading. A second source of trouble is when a low "leak" current is supplied to the motor leads. The output shaft doesn't spin any, but the encoders are counting away almost at the same rate as a full-speed spin. I can't explain this one.

I ordered some motors from BG Micro at 3pm on Thursday last week. They arrived two days later at noon via the USPS! They are small MicroMo motors with Faulhaber gearboxes and, best of all, built-in magnetic quadrature shaft encoders.

I made the following measurements on just one of the motors using a crappy DMM:

  • No load current @ 5 V: 18 mA
  • Stall current @ 5 V: 180 mA
  • Angular vel @ 5 V: 84 RPM
  • Encoder output (low, high): 0.25 V, 4.87 V

Then today, I connected the encoder output (ChA only for testing) to pin PE4 on my Atmel ATmega103. I used that input so I could get edge-triggered interrupts. I wrote an interrupt handler in C that incr/decrements a 16-bit counter variable. The main program prints the counter variable to an LCD once every second. Here is the code (minus comments so it all fits):

#include <stdint.h>
#include <avr/io.h>
#include <avr/interrupt.h>

#include "libmmb103.h"

volatile int16_t encoderCount;

void init(void) { encoderCount = 0; DDRE = DDRE & ~(_BV(PE4) | _BV(PE5)); EICR = EICR | _BV(ISC41); EIMSK = EIMSK | _BV(INT4); sei(); }

ISR(INT4_vect) { uint8_t chBA;

chBA = (PINE >> 4) & (uint8_t)0x03; if ((chBA == 1) || (chBA == 2)) { encoderCount++; } else { encoderCount--; }

EICR = EICR ^ _BV(ISC40); }

int main(void) { init(); mmb_init(BAUD19200, ADC_CK_DIV_16, PWM_CK_DIV_8, 2); mmb_lcdPrintStr("EncA:");

for (;;) { mmb_lcdSetLine(1); mmb_lcdPrintHex16((uint16_t)encoderCount); mmb_sleepms(500); } }

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