RoboBrix

I have started this group topic to initiate some discussion about the modular robot building kits currently being distributed by
mondo-tronics. In particular here are some initial questions:
1. Has anyone purchased a RoboBrix kit from The Robot Store?
2. If so. What are your impressions / experiences with RoboBrix?
3. How easily (user) programmed are the RoboBrix brain modules?
4. Are you restricted to any particular programming language?
5. Is documentation included with the kits? Is it sufficient?
6. How much soldering is required to put the kits together? Any information anyone has would be greatly appreciated.
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Avatar wrote:

Yes, I have the Adventure kit.

They are well-made, but when I did this there was little documentation.

Except for the brain modules, you don't need to program the indivicual sensor/motor modules.

I will be programming mine in Java. I have a PicBrain11 and pretty much any 28-pin PIC will work. I'm using an 18F252 (a uVM-252).

Barely.
A bit of soldering. Basically you put the parts on the PCB and solder them together. -- D. Jay Newman
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Avatar wrote:

I have. Be a little careful to inventory the kit parts; sometimes they miss one.

I like them, but I am quite biased, since I designed them.

There are two RoboBRiX brain modules:
The MicroBrain8 module works with any device what is pin compatible with the Basic Stamp 2 from Parallax. This includes all of the Parallax variants including the Javalin. In addition, it works with the OOPIC-C. It will probably work with a bunch of others, like the Atom and BSX-24, but I have not had an opportunity to try these particular variants out.
The MicroBrain11 works with any of the 28-pin skinny DIP PIC chips that are compatible with the PIC16F876A. You can either program in assembler, get a C compiler for the PIC, or if you are adventuous, try out the uCL compiler that I give away for free:
<http://gramlich.net/projects/ucl/v1/index.html

There are no language restrictions. Any system that can generate and receive 8N1 (1 start bit, 8 data bits, No parity, and 1 stop bit) asynchronous data can talk to one. Most people use some sort of bit-bang (technical term) code to accomplish this.

The docuementation provided with the kits is unfortunately quite skimpy. You really need to be pretty comfortable with a soldering iron and reading an assembly diagram.

Soldering is required. All components are through-hole though, so there is no surface mount soldering required.

The RoboBRiX web site <http://www.robobrix.com is *still* in Beta form. It has been that way for almost a year. Somehow I don't think its content is going change very soon. I still have all of the development pages up at at my web site:
<http://www.robobricks.net/
This is where you will find the programming commands for the various modules.
Lastly, Bill Benson and I wrote a series of four articles about RoboBRiX for the January through April issues of Servo Magazine. Bill has these article posted at his web site:
<http://www.mbbenson.net/Robotics/robotics.htm
Hopefully, this will provide some additional information for you.
-Wayne
P.S. Disclaimer, I get a small royalty for each RoboBRiX kit sold by Mondo-tronics.
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Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

the
This great information thanks for taking the time to elaborate on the RoboBRiX kit.
I've just purchased the Developers Kit and look forward to working with it. I like the design idea and the expandabilty that it offers.
I am hoping to use Java and/or as programming languages for the PIC brain. Can anyone direct me to a C/Java compiler for the PIC microprocessor?
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Avatar wrote:

[snip a whole bunch of stuff]

You are welcome.

Let us know how it goes (both positive or negative.)

C compilers of the PIC micro's are available from mutliple sources. Please visit the MicroChip site to find a list of 3rd party software tool for the PIC micro.
For Java *and* the PIC, you should look at
<http://www.muvium.com/
If you just want Java, try the Parallax Javalin and the MicroBrain8 RoboBRiX.
-Wayne
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Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

microprocessor?
Thanks again.
I certainly will relay my experience with the kit.
Right off the bat... I am wondering how difficult it would be to implement some sort of user interface (LCD display). The LCD display might possibly be a great RoboBRiX module unto itself.
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Avatar wrote:

[snip a bunch of stuff]

I've implemented a module called LCD32. Here's the URL:
<http://gramlich.net/projects/robobricks/lcd32/index.html
Alas, this module is not yet available from Mondo-tronics.
Enjoy,
-Wayne
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After recieving the unassembled RoboBRiX kits I realized the soldering and electronics skills needed to put these kits together and begin using them - is higher than I had expected.
Once you do get them assembled programming the brain module in assembly (free) is much too tedious. Upgrading to a C compiler costs at another $150. Coming for a high level programming background this was my preference.
My final thoughts on this product too much work out of the box. I would think that if an "assembled & tested" product I and other prospective buyers (people who enjoy to program & mechanically build robots, but don't necessarily have soldering & circuitry skills) would love these.
My interest in hardware now is leaning towards the upcoming JCX by Systronix. These boards are natively programmed in Java, are easily compatible with Lego Mindstorms: Blocks, Motors, & Sensors. They come fully assembled, tested and offer a wide variety of additional components that are plug & play right out of the box.
Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

display
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Avatar wrote:

They could use a bit more documentation, but they are fairly easy to put together.

There are several free compilers for PIC processors.
For one thing, I'm tossing the PIC that came wiht the PICBrain11 and putting in a uVM-252 from http://www.muvium.com /
This is a PIC 18F252 that is able to be programmed in Java. It's fast and small compared to the Systronix stuff.
On the other hand, I like my JStamp and JStik. -- D. Jay Newman http://enerd.ws/robots /
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