Hacking the HexBug(tm) Spider with the EMGRobotics MSP430G2553RCB for Line Following


This low-cost hack ($44.30 including the cost of the Hexbug spider) converts the remote control toy into a C programmable autonomous robot with a IR range sensor "eye" and a TI MSP430G2231 16bit brain.  After this hack the robot will be able to turn left or right and walk forward or backwards and follow a line of black electrical tape under the control of the EMGRobotics MSP430G2553 Robot Controller Board (RCB).

The Hexbug(tm) Spider is a remote control walking toy you can buy at your local RadioShack, Target, Walmart, or ToysRus for about $25.00.  From the store, the spider is controlled by a IR remote and can walk forwards, backwards, and turn left or right.  The walking gate of the spider is creepily realistic and fun to watch. 

$17.00 EMGRobotics MSP430G2553RCB shipped with MSP430G2553 in socket

This hack replaces the remote control receiver board in the spider toy with a fully programmable robot controller (pictured above) making the toy a fully autonomous robot.  The hack uses the EMGRobotics MSP430G2553RCB available at www.buildsmartrobots.com and the TI Launchpad available here: http://e2e.ti.com/group/msp430launchpad/w/contents/ordering-launchp....

EMGRobotics MSP430G2553RCB Features:

  • Board ships fully assembled
  • Board ships with MSP430G2553 in socket ( 16K flash, 512 Bytes RAM, A/D converter, ... ) $17.00 version
  • Runs on 3 volts ( 2 AAA batteries )
  • FAN8200 dual DC motor drive in socket - Control up to two 3 volt DC motors
  • Control up to 4 RC servos
  • Built-in IR Range sensor to detect objects up to 12 inches away
  • 3 mounting holes for easy mounting
  • Separate RC servo power supply connection
  • Programmable using the low cost TI Launchpad


The EMGRobotics MSP430G2553RCB drives 2 DC motors, 4 RC Servos and includes a integrate IR Range Sensor


The User Connector makes it easy to add additional sensors to the MSP430G2553RCB

MSP430G2553 Pin      Function

P1.0                                User4      Digital/Analog

P1.1                                IR analog in

P1.2                                M2CE

P1.3                                M1CE

P1.4                                M1IN

P1.5                                Servo0

P1.6                                User9        Digital/Analog

P1.7                                User8        Digital/Analog

P2.0                                Servo2

P2.1                                Servo3

P2.2                                M2IN

P2.3                                User13      Digital

P2.4                                Servo4

P2.5                                User12      Digital

P2.6                                IR LED

P2.7                                User5         Digital

The Integrated IR Range Sensor is analog, providing a distance value of 0-1000 under software control

Under software control the integrated IR sensor can detect object up to approximately 1 foot away and provides a estimated range to the object.  Using the provided software the IR sensor provides a range of 0 to 1000 for a object distance of 1 to 12 inches respectively.  By bending the IR transmitter and receiver down towards the ground, the IR range sensor can be used for line following.  The IR signal is absorbed by the black electrical tape.  The graphic above was generated by putting a piece of black electrical tape on a wood polyurethane table.  The distance returned from the IR range sensor increases as the Black electrical tape absorbs the IR energy, making the sensor thing the electrical tape is far away.

You can order the TI Launchpad for $4.30 from: http://e2e.ti.com/group/msp430launchpad/w/contents/ordering-launchp...


The TI Launchpad is used to program the EMGRobotics MSP430G2553RCB.  The Launchpad connects to the robot controller using 3 wires, and can fully debug and program the robot controller.  The TI Launchpad comes with the FREE Code Composer Studio professional C compiler and debugger.  Using these tools you can create your program, flash it to the robot controller, and debug your program using breakpoints and stepping as expected from a professional tool.  Time spent learning how to use the TI Launchpad and Code Composer Studio can be referenced on your resume.  These are professional tools used by electronic manufactures around the world.  


Steps for Hacking the Spider

Tools required: pliers, wire cutters, phillips screwdriver, soldering iron, solder  

You will also need some double sided tape, and some hookup wire.  Of-course you also need the EMGrobotics spider hack kit and the TI Launchpad (see above).

The Hexbug(tm) Spider direct from Radio Shack

After opening the package, flip the spider over and find that battery cover screw

Remove the battery cover

Remove the three screws shown above

Remove the "head"

Remove the batteries and cut the black and red wires

Remove the piece of plastic shown above from the head using the pliers

Unsolder the 4 black/white motor wires from the receiver board, discard the receiver board

Solder the motor wired to the EMGRobotics Low-Cost robot Controller

Screw the head back on the spider with the motor wires going through the slit

Apply double sided tape to spider as shown above

Stick AAA battery holder on head using double sided tape

The completed autonomous robot ready for programming using the TI Launchpad

You can download the Source Code here: http://buildsmartrobots.ning.com/group/source-code-for-projects

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