Flashback: The Mini-Me Robot

I just rediscovered some photos of a robot I threw together in about an hour back in 2003.

Mini-Me v.1

Mini-Me v.1

Mini-Me v.1

Mini-Me v.1

This was made out of an Innovation First educational robot kit which came with the official FIRST robotics kit (which also had parts made by Innovation First). The small edu kit later evolved into the VEX robotics kit. They also make a cool little toy called Hexbug.

Hexbug

Hexbug

I had been spending a lot of time in a basement laboratory at Northeastern University, primarily to advise the FIRST team hosted there (the NU-Trons). This little robot had the same computer as the real competition robot, so it was useful as a programming testbed. Eventually it was dubbed “Mini-Me.”

Mini-Me (Verne Troyer) from Austin Powers 2

Mini-Me (Verne Troyer) from Austin Powers 2

The photos of the Mini-Me robot only show the original configuration.  Later on, the infrared sensors on the front were turned downward and I programmed it to be a simple line follower, as we were thinking about having the big FIRST robot do that as well.

Simple linetracking finite state machine diagram

Simple linetracking finite state machine diagram

Illustrating a line tracking robot's potentially zig-zag path during a competition

Illustrating a line tracking robot's potentially zig-zag path during a competition

Of course, being an optimistic college student, I designed a more complicated program of which the line tracker was one component.

Subsumption architecture diagram for a FIRST robot

Subsumption architecture diagram for a FIRST robot

Program flowchart

Program flowchart

But we never finished that on the final system (the big robot) as we spent most of our time on less glamorous tasks like soldering.

The NU-Trons robot from 2003

The NU-Trons robot (#125) from 2003 (here it is being teleoperated)

It was a good lesson in systems though—the amount of time for testing and integration is massive. With robots, most people never get to the interesting programming because it takes so long to make anything work at all. These robot kits help though, at least for programmers, because you don’t have to waste as much time reinventing the wheel.

Later on I used some of those Innovation First edu kit mechanical parts as part of my MicroMouse robot. Unfortunately I don’t think any photos were ever taken of that. Just imagine something awesome.

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