The TI Launchpad has got me really excited about creating a VERY low cost robot to help the scouts with there new merit badge. I wrote a blog about the new Robotics merit badge while I was at Freescale ( http://blogs.freescale.com/2011/04/25/robotics-there%E2%80%99s-a-me...). Unfortunately, I was not able to get anyone at Freescale excited about supporting the new merit badge so I am extending my request to the robotics community.
Let's create a Open Source + Open Hardware low cost robot for the Boy Scouts.
I have some seed ideas, but these are strictly to start the discussion. I encourage people with their own ideas how to make this work to provide input, or even start your own separate blog.
What I think the goal should be: A low cost Open Source + Open Hardware robot for the Boy Scouts
What I think it should have in terms of features:
1) Easy to build use common hardware that anyone can purchase on-line or at a local store (nothing proprietary)
2) Well documented assembly instructions
3) Expandable so if the scout is interested he/she can make the robot better or add more features.
4) Low-Cost - The base model should meet the merit badge requirements and be around $16.00. I came up with this price based on the Pinewood derby kits on the BSA store ( http://www.boyscoutstore.com/pinewood-derby-en/ ).
Using the above criteria, I came up with this as a first pass
1) Use the TI Launchpad as the electronics and development software. At $4.30 COMPLETE, there is nothing out their that is lower in cost.
2) Use the Tamiya 89915 Twin-Motor Gearbox Kit - Clear as the drive, it's only $8.25
This would also be the base of the robot, or we could use a piece of balsa
3) Use 2 AA's for power ( The TI part runs between 3.3 and 1.8 volts - perfect for 2 AA's ) and the motors only require 3 volts.
4) Use a single NPN transistor drive for motor control ( The TI part has a built in PWM generator ).
Use CDS resistors for line/light sensing depending on the configuration of the robot ( The TI part has a built-in A/D ).
5) Use half a ping pong ball for the 3rd wheel, and ????? for the drive wheels
Parts: TI Launchpad = $4.30
89915 drive = $8.25
2AA bat holder = $0.80
This leaves $2.65 for the wheels, ping pong ball, resistors, transistors, CDS cells, and pieces of wire.
I think we may have to get creative with the wheels to keep the price down. Maybe provide instruction on how to make them from cardboard or balsa.
Now, I know what you are thinking - C programming for kids?
I have some ideas for that. There is a 8K python VM out there called PYMite. Python is a incredibly easy language to learn, and the time spent learning it can be applied directly to real-world applications. Another choice would be Matlab. Basic and RobotSee have the distinct disadvantage of being completely useless outside of the robotics hobby ( no one professionally writes straight BASIC anymore - VB is NOT straight BASIC ).
The time spent learning Python or Matlab can be applied directly to college classes and a future in engineering or computer science.
So, like I said, this is just my 2 cents ( or $13.35 in this case ). What are your thoughts?
Either comment below, or feel free to start your own blog, and restart the conversation.