Thursday, July 10, 2014

PopPet (Basic Arduino Robot Kit) & Humboldt Microcontrollers Group July 10 Meeting

The Humboldt microcontroller post for July 10 has follow-ups on two topics mentioned in yesterday's post: microcontroller-based robots and this week's Humboldt Microcontrollers Group meeting.
PopPet Robot

First, the robot. PopPet is an Arduino-controlled basic robot kit and has just launched an
Australian-based Kickstarter campaign.

PopPet was seen in the article "$70 PopPet is an Arduino-powered robot anyone can build." The article describes the new robot thusly:
"The cheery little robot looks like a riff on the classic two-wheeled Turtle robot you may remember from elementary school. It’s a beautifully simple Arduino-based kit, and there’s no soldering required to assemble PopPet. Just pop the laser-cut chassis together and fasten with screws, mount the boards, slide the female connectors onto the correct header pins, and connect the power pack. PopPet has a pair of ultrasonic “eyes” to help it detect obstacles and avoid collisions. It’s also built for easy expansion. You can quickly wire in additional sensors or communications
PopPet with Mini Driver 
modules...If you need more options and have access to a 3D printer or laser cutter, all the files you need to produce your own will be provided. All the code that powers PopPet will be open-sourced, too
PopPet is mentioned in this post for a few reasons; (1) cost, (2) like the Hummingbird it's an MCU-based robot kit, and (3) it illustrates a potential way for an MCU user to make some money.

The PopPet is an 'MCU robot kit' that's (potentially) less expensive than the Hummingbird kit discussed in yesterday's post. Entry point for the PopPet is lower (described as a $70 kit) than the Hummingbird Duo kit (basic kit is $199). There's significant differences between the two kits, though.
DAGU Mini Driver board

Hummingbird and PopPet are both MCU-based robot kits. The PopPet can be controlled by an Arduino-compatible DAGU Mini Driver or an Arduino Uno. There are lots of other robot kits available on the market, so what the recent articles on the Hummingbird and PopPet illustrate is that if a person wants to build an MCU-controlled robot, they should do background research to learn about a few popular robot kits then decide what capabilities they want to have in their first robot build. If you just compare robot kits that have significant differences in capabilities, you're likely to be considering a very wide range for your project budget.

As the article mentioned, the PopPet might not just Kickstart the commercial availability of an interesting robot kit. It could also kickstart a greatly expanded business opportunity for the robot's creator, or at the least, bring him a short term revenue stream.
HR-SR04 Ultrasonic Distance Sensor

If interested in more info about PopPet, read the article, check out the Kickstarter campaign page, or look at the PopPet writeup on it's creator's website.

An interesting website mention of PopPet is on The page has a "Trending Toward" feature which posits (as of 8:46 PM on July 10) the Kickstarter campaign for PopPet will rake in 264% of its $8000 funding target if the current funding trend continues to the end of the campaign. It will be interesting to track the project and see where the final Kickstarter funding level ends up. This would be a sort of fun tracking tool to watch if you launch a Kickstarter project, especially one that gets off to a fast start.

Below is a summary of the Humboldt Microcontrollers Group July 10 meeting (as I get feedback from other meeting participants, I'll update this meeting summary...):
  1. Ed gave an excellent review of the I2C serial computer bus as used with microcontrollers. He said it was both frustrating and beneficial to use. Frustrating because the operation of the bus is such that it can hang if everything isn't written and operating in a foolproof way. Beneficial because the resistors gently pull the bus to a high signal, then devices on the bus will pull it low, which means it's a 'safe' bus and unlikely to overpower ('blow up') your components. He had a lot of other comments about the benefits and drawbacks of I2C versus SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface), but I don't have a firm enough grasp on all things I2C to understand or remember all the info he gave the group about I2C.
  2. We didn't talk a whole lot about Processing. Part of the reason for that was because Ed used a small LCD screen (2" x 2.5"?) to display the temperature sensor readings from a circuit that was different from the #7 Jeremy Blum video, but measured the temperature the same way and did a whole lot more. To display the temperature data on his little LCD screen (that cost
    Parrot AR.Drone
    him just a couple dollars, direct from China, from Gordon's supplier, I think), Ed had to use some code that similar to Processing, but it wasn't Processing.
  3. Ed talked some about temperature sensing, including the fact that the sensor in the #7 video exercise has a significant amount of thermal mass, so it doesn't react as quickly to temperature changes in its surroundings as something like IR sensors (infrared) would react.
  4. Had a general group discussion about buying and using inexpensive electronic components purchased directly from China, the Internet Archive and Wayback Machine, flying Ardupilot quadcopters (with 2 Hp in short bursts) and Parrot AR.Drone quadcopters, using Usenet and Apple II computers in 2014, and lots of other MCU and non-MCU topics.
Hope to see you at the next Humboldt Microcontrollers Group meeting on July 24!


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