ericzayers is currently certified at Journeyer level.

Name: Eric Ayers
Member since: 2004-06-09 16:27:10
Last Login: 2007-04-12 18:55:15

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I am a software developer who has become interested in robotics. I've put together a robotics kit and modified it and am now pursuing other robotics projects. I have a project on hold which is building a mini line following robot that uses stepper motors and a PIC16F876A. My current project is to modify the "Billy Bass" toy so you can record your own messages and control his movements.


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I went to the Georgia FIRST Lego League championship tournament at Georgia Tech. The team I mentored didn't come away with any prizes, but we did get to see some wonderful works of Lego engineering.

Now I'm working with Norcross High School's FIRST robotics team. We have about 3 weeks left and the kids are doing well - they have a drivable base and a prototype for completing the 'shooting' part of the task that works. I'm helping out with the software for the most part. If you want to check out some great control code for a robot, check out the software that Kevin Watson wrote for the First competition. Of course, you'll need to purchase the Innovations First Robot FRC controller and operator interface to use it as-is.

14 Dec 2005 (updated 14 Dec 2005 at 14:14 UTC) »

I'm going to be working with a FIRST team this year and wanted the kids (and myself) to get a leg up on programming the controller. In years past, they have used an Innovation First FRC controller and sample code from Kevin Watson.

I wanted to play around with the controller myself. But, the controller is about $450, and we don't even know for certain if it will be used this year. However, it is based on a PIC18F8520, so I ordered a sample from Microchip and a PicProto80 board from MicroEngineering Labs (I also picked up a serial programmer while I was at it.)

Soldering the 80 pin chip to the board was somewhat of a challenge. I got some liquid flux and .015 silver bearing solder and a really fine tip. Still, I felt like I was using the blunt end of a baseball bat and solder was everywhere. So I just used solder wick to clean up and everything turned out O.K. in the end. I actually got 3 chips: an 18F8520 18F8620 and 18F8720 (different size FLASH in each one.) I felt that I might have damaged the first chip, so there is actaully an 18F8620 on the board right now.

Tonight we have the AHRC RBNO. I'm going to take it to the lab at Norcross High School where they have the PIC18 compiler and see if I can blink an LED or something. If it all works, I'm going to give it to one of the kids to take home and mess around with.

Yesterday the First Lego League team I've been mentoring from Belmont Hills Elementary in Cobb County, Georgia had their regional qualifier at Wheeler High School. The Wheeler robotics club did a great job of putting on a competition with 27 teams. They had 3 of their FIRST robots out from previous years and they were awesome.

This was my team's first year, and they are at the young end of the age range, so I didn't expect them to do incredibly well. What they lacked in experience they made up for in teamwork and dilligence on the presentations, and they ended up being selected as one of the top 17 teams to advance to the state competition at Georgia Tech.

Their robot design was quite simple - just a wheel hub on the front of the robot to help it steer straight and two direct drive wheels in the back (no gearing). Then they added different arms to do each competition. Their advantage was speed and the fact that it went where they pointed it.

For their presentation, they explored the topic of dynamite fishing. The kids did some research and wrote letters to countries where this has been identified as a problem. Then they baked cookies, attached messages to the bags and mailed them off to places in the Phillipines. They got quite a few responses to their letters and put on a play for the judges to present their work.

If you ever get a chance to mentor one of these robotics teams, I highly recommend it! It wasn't too much of a commitment for me since they already had a teacher acting as the coach. I visited the class 3 times, wrote to them via email, and helped them out financially a bit too.

My LCD is now working with the ATMEGA 162 MCU mounted on my Linefollower2 robot (updated this site with a new picture). First, I had to disable the JTAGEN fuse on the MCU in order to use pins PC3 and PC4.

I recently came to the realization that I'm not going to need these wheel encoders for pure line following, but that's O.K. - I'd like to use this platform for other uses as well.

I've been messing around with an LCD display for about 2 weeks now. Had things working on my development board, but then when I made a PCB, it didn't work. Back to the development board, worked again. Then when I switched to directly wiring to he processor on my robot, it stopped working. When I moved it back to the dev board, still didn't work. Finally this morning, I found it...

A word to the wise, there is a continuity tester on your meter - use it whenever you make a new cable.

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