National Robotics Week 2011: Freescale loves robots!

By Eric Gregori

Originally posted on Freescale’s The Embedded Beat Blog

This week is National Robotics Week (April 9-17). “National Robotics Week is a product of a 2009 effort by leading universities and companies to create a ‘national road-map’ for robotics technology, which was initially unveiled at a May 2009 briefing by academic and industry leaders to the Congressional Caucus on Robotics.”

A week dedicated to everything and anything robotic, National Robotics Week (NRW) recognizes the importance of robotics technology as a pillar of 21st century innovation. Robotics is perhaps unique in its ability to ignite the imagination. This ability to create interest makes robotics the perfect platform for education in the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). “During National Robotics Week, a week-long series of events and activities is aimed at increasing public awareness of the growing importance of ‘robo-technology’ and the tremendous social and cultural impact that it will have on the future of the United States.”

The Freescale Cup is a robotics competition held by the Freescale University Program to promote STEM concepts to students around the world. The Freescale Cup is a race between autonomous robot cars. The autonomous vehicles follow a line around a track, with the winner being the car that completes the track in the shortest amount of time. The Freescale Cup is supported by a community website: StreetSmarts. StreetSmarts has over 700 members, and contains multiple videos of Freescale Cup races held around the world.

A Freescale Cup car is made using a standard chassis provided by Freescale. The chassis is a plastic 1/18 scale model car using a DC motor for drive, and a RC servo for steering. The battery provided in the kit is a VEX 7.2 volt 6 cell NiCd pack. Electronics for the robot are up to the designer, but to be eligible for the Freescale Cup it must use a Freescale microcontroller or processor. Look for a future blog detailing how to build a Freescale Cup car using the new Freescale i.MX53 Quick Start board.

Freescale Cup autonomous car chassis

Freescale Cup autonomous car chassis

smart car track

Smart Car 2010 track

Smart Car 2010 cars

Smart Car 2010 cars

The Freescale Robot Team celebrated National Robotics Week by releasing a teaser about the Freescale Robot Sensor Platform (FSLBOT) and Tower Mechatronics Board (TWR-MECH).

We at Freescale are busy putting together as many FSLBOT kits as possible, so when the official release occurs in the first week of May (and the BUY direct button at Freescale.com is enabled ) we will minimize any chance of backorders. We expect the FSLBOT kit to be a very popular training tool and general-purpose development kit. FSLBOT is a walking robot development kit, designed to highlight our sensor product line.

FSLBOT is upgradeable to a truly intelligent machine using the i.MX53 Quick Start Board. The Quick Start Board is a 3-inch by 3-inch embedded Linux computer with 1GB of RAM, running at 1GHz. The Quick Start Board runs a free public source Linux BSP from Freescale, or a public source Android BSP from Adeneo. With the addition of the Quick Start Board, the robot can be programmed in any language supported by embedded Linux such as Python, Perl, Bash, or other scripting languages.

In addition to adding programming languages for the FSLBOT, the i.MX53 adds the ability to do computer vision and/or artificial intelligence. OpenCV runs very nicely on the i.MX53 with enough horsepower to do face tracking.

Anyone who has read my blogs knows that I love robots! National Robotics Week gives everyone a chance to love robots. There is something about robots that is ingrained in an engineer. They open the imagination of what could be.

The robot on the left is a FSLBOT upgraded with an i.MX53 Quick Start board, while the robot on the right consists of the basic FSLBOT kit.

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