The Stumbler is Finished

Ahh, I love LEGOs!  Several weeks ago I signed up to be a volunteer for elementary school children with the LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Mentor Program.  Because of this, I now have my own MINDSTORMS NXT kit.  Me and Asa K. from work decided that we’d like to make some AI robots to do sumo wrestling.  We were going to create a ring (tape on carpet) and have our robots be fully autonomous.  Then we got the idea to have them controlled with a Wiimote.  So we started on that.  Then the next day we got the idea to have the Wiimote-controlled LEGO robot have 2-way communication via Bluetooth and have the Wiimote control it fully, and also read back the state of the touch sensors on the robot.  The touch sensors would make the Wiimote vibrate and light up the corresponding LED on the Wiimote.  This started sounding fun, and consuming a small portion of our lives.

Three days later, we had our prototype working fully, except the Bluetooth.  Evidently the BT stack that my adapter uses won’t connect to the NXT.  Bummer.  So we put the project on hold, because after all, it was just for fun.  Well, two weeks later, Stephanie B. (formerly J.) came up to us and asked us if we were finished.  We told her that everything worked except the Bluetooth because my adapter was really cheap.  She told us that if we could get it working by Monday then we could have it on display for customers to experiment and play with at the Robotics Pavilion at NI Week ’08.  This was really exciting!  So, I cleaned up the code tremendously and wrote a .LLB for it, everything was in .NET calls, provided by a managed library by Brian Peek.  Asa went to Best Buy and purchased an appropriate Bluetooth adapter and I spent the whole rest of the day (another 3.5 hours) getting the blasted thing to work properly.

After another 11 hour day of work (this is becoming far too common) we got our robot working 100%.  We decided to name it, “The Stumbler” because it stumbles in comparison to The Tumbler from Batman Begins (did I mention I saw this recently at the IMAX, and wow!).  Additionally, we have given it an official purpose.  Because of how the robot is designed, it will be used to navigate through a maze which the operator cannot see.  Essentially, the robot will give the feedback necessary for the operator to feel their way through.  There are four touch-sensors which will turn on an appropriate LED on the Wiimote controller, as well as cause it to vibrate.  This was pretty fun, but not super useful, especially with LEGOs.

Well, when we were driving our robot about the department this evening, Devin K. and Mike L. saw what I had developed (the Wii Toolkit, as I call it), and wanted to use it to control the robot they were working on.  Their robot is amazingly awesome, and has been being built for several months with several people.  It is an all aluminum chassis, with an onboard cRIO with several DIO modules.  There is a wireless router and a host laptop which takes in all of the readings and does some more heavy processing.  There is also a SmartCamera onboard which will recognize street sign-type symbols and react accordingly.  I let them use my library and gave them my cell phone number if they had any questions implementing it over the weekend.  Pretty dang awesome.

To top things off, Stephanie loved what we had done and suggested I come to the opening session for the first day of NI Week on Monday.  I told her I would love to except that my schedule doesn’t work to well.  She told me to send her an email and she’d make it happen.  She adjusted my scheduled on Monday to earlier in the day so I could spend the evening at the Austin Convention Center.  She explained that this could be a good opportunity to meet with editors and other members of the press.  Way cool.  She also was kind and eliminated my shift on Thursday for me, because it is Elisabeth’s birthday.  To make it a more even trade, I will volunteer down at the convention center Thursday morning and also go on Monday, which I wasn’t originally planning on doing.  All in all, well worth it!

4 Responses to “The Stumbler is Finished”

  1. You never told me you named your creation :-p
    You’ve done a lot of work on it though- I’m both very proud and very excited for you, and I am happy that Stephanie was great about adjusting your schedule so you could show your creation off (and of course, eliminating the Thursday phone shift…)! 🙂

  2. yeah!! What a cool project! Do you feel like a genius? You are!

  3. sounds very awesome, just like you!

  4. Ok, now I’m just jealous. I’ve been wanting to start doing some robotics stuff like that but haven’t been able to make the leap to the real world. As it is, most of the stuff I work on is tending to go more virtual. Go figure.

Leave a Reply