Texas Instruments recently came out with a fun and powerful development robot based on the Stellaris LM3S9B92 microcontroller. The robot, known as the Stellaris Evalbot, is packed with tons of functionality that leverages the LN2S9B92's robust feature set. The Evalbot comes pre-assembled, with the exception of the wheels and bump arms which take just a few minutes to put together.
First of all, let's talk about the function-rich microcontroller at the heart of the Evalbot: the Stellaris LM3S9B92. The Stellaris, created by Luminary Micro (acquired in 2009 by Texas Instruments) is a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M3 MCU which runs at speeds up to 80Mhz. It sports a wide array of features including:
- 256 kB flash and 96 kB SRAM
- 32 Channel DMA
- 32-bit external peripheral interface
- ROM preloaded with a boot loader, AES and CRC functionality
- 10/100 Ethernet MAC/PHY
- 2 CAN controllers
- USB 2.0 Full Speed OTG/Host/Device
- 2 SSI / SPI controllers
- 2 I2C interfaces
- I2S interface
- 3 UARTs
- 8 motion-control PWM outputs with dead-band
- 2 quadrature encoder inputs
- 4 fault protection inputs
- 3 analog comparators
- 16 channel 10-bit ADC
- 16 digital comparators
- 24-bit systick timer
- 4 32-bit or 8 16-bit timers
- 2 watchdog timers
- Low drop-out voltage regulator
- Up to 65 GPIOs
The Evalbot is the perfect platform for learning about and developing for the LM3S9B92. It takes advantage of nearly every feature included in the Stellaris MCU. The Evalbot is both battery and USB powered, and automatically switches when plugged in to a computer. It features a collection of analog and digital peripherals along with a large amount of breakout pads and headers for I/O expansion. The Evalbot includes:
- MicroSD card connector
- USB Host and Device connectors
- I2S audio codec and speaker
- RJ45 Ethernet connector
- Bright 96 x 16 blue OLED display
- On-board In-Circuit Debug Interface (ICDI)
- Wireless communication expansion port
- Two DC gear-motors provide drive and steering
- Opto-sensors detect wheel rotation with 45° resolution
- Sensors for bump detection
The Evalbot comes preloaded with the μC/OS-III real-time kernel. The Evalbot includes a time-limited version of the IDE (from IAR) you will need to get started programming the bot. Also included is the source code for the Evalbot and some handy in-circuit debugging tools. It's fairly easy to get set up, but runs on Windows only. I was able to flash a modified version of the firmware after just a few minutes of tinkering. My only complaint is that the software is quite expensive to purchase once the trial period runs out.
The Evalbot retails for $149 for the robot by itself or $200 for the robot and a book about programming the μC/OS-III real-time kernel. If you're looking to learn more about real-time systems and play with a powerful microprocessor I highly recommend the Evalbot.
As I mentioned in the headline, I have five Evalbots to giveaway, click here for more info about the giveaway.
Texas Instruments was generous enough to send me five Evalbots to give away. I
will be drawing drew names from a hat on Black Friday, November 26th. To be entered in the drawing you must [have] meet the following requirements:
- Have a project idea for the Evalbot
- Be a paying member of a hackerspace
- Be willing to share photos and/or a brief writeup once you have completed your project
- Be a US resident (I have to ship these on my own dime)
- Post a comment with your project idea and hackerspace affiliation below
To be entered in the drawing, post a comment below describing your project idea. Don't forget to mention which hackerspace you belong to.
I drew names out of a hat (literally), here are the winners:
- Clarence Risher from Freeside in Atlanta, GA
- Daryll Strauss from CrashSpace in Culver City, CA.
- Erik Arendall from Makers Local 256 in Huntsville, AL.
- flea from 23b in Fullerton, CA.
- tilver from DenHac in Denver, CO.
- Although not drawn out of a hat, members of Null Space Labs in Los Angeles, CA can use mine.
A few years ago I toured the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Robotics Lab in San Diego. I shot photos and wrote a piece for Wired about my experience there. What follows are some out-takes along with high-res versions of many of the shots in the piece. Autonomous military robots... what could go wrong?
SAN DIEGO -- The Navy's MDARS-E is an armed robot that can track anything that moves. Told that I was the target, the unmanned vehicle trained its guns on me and ordered, "Stay where you are," in an intimidating robot voice. And yes, it was frightening. Perched atop a strip of cliffs lining a beautiful section of the Pacific Ocean, the Space and Naval Warfare System Command in San Diego develops semiautonomous armed robots for use in combat by the U.S. military. "We're not building Skynet" says Bart Everett, the technical director for robotics at SPAWAR. Though Everett assured me that the use of the robots' on-board weapons is under the strict control of their operators, the lab's bots can navigate and map complicated terrain, work cooperatively with soldiers and identify and confront hostile targets. Sure, they're no Johnny Five, but robots with guns are both creepy and fascinating.
ROBART III is a prototype platform designed in-house at SPAWAR. If it weren't for the chain gun and missiles, he would be pretty cute. Once he's ready for battle he'll almost certainly don an evil-looking suit of armor. ROBART's sensor array consists of a multitude of cameras, SICK LIDAR (like radar, but with lasers), ultrasonic transducers (gold spots), passive IR (infrared radiation) detectors and more. The weapons are planned to work in unison with a special rifle that would automatically target where a soldier points his weapon.
One of ROBART III's weapon systems is this nonlethal pneumatic chain gun. It uses a combination of laser sighting and machine vision to lock in on its target and barrages it with a torrent of 3/16-inch-diameter projectiles. In tests, plastic pellets (like air-soft munitions) and steel darts were used.
This prototype robotic weapon platform is designed to be buried underground for camouflaged deployment. When called to action, the robotic gun pops up and starts shooting. If you're the unlucky soul on the business end of this gun, it's likely curtains for you -- this robot is an extremely accurate shooter. A high-tech night-vision scope permits dead-on targeting even during moonless nights.