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 ARobot FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

ARobot Mobile Robot
      * Motor Bracket only uses 2 screws.
* Wander program just goes backwards.
* Test Program Weirdness.
* Where Can I get more information?
* Steering servo seems to turn the wrong way
* Missing screws for collars and steering arms?
* Encoder wheel bumps into sensor
* Encoder doesn't work
* Can my Basic Stamp be fixed?
* RC Servo Motor Jitter
* Can I use a Basic Stamp 2E?
* Can I use a Basic Stamp 2P?
* Can I use a Basic Stamp SX?
* Comparing ARobot and the BOEBot
* Encoder sensor connection detail
* Questions about shipping and ordering?
* What about painting ARobot?
* Lost your Disk?
* Program crashing?
* Mac/Linux Downloaders?
* Discounts?
* Using different controllers.
* Whiskers don't work.
* Nothing works - help!
* Expansion?
* LCD Display?

 Motor Bracket only uses 2 screws       To Top      

We use drive motors from various manufacturers with various hole patterns. This can cause confusion when mounting the drive motor to the motor bracket. The user guide says use 3 screws, but just make sure at least 2 holes line up in the bracket and use 2 screws to mount the motor.

 Wander program just goes backwards       To Top      

If when you run the Wander program the robot goes backwards, check the whisker wires. Make sure they are not touching the metal brackets. The wire should be suspended in the center of the hole in the bracket. The wires should only touch the bracket when the robot runs into something.

 Test Program Weirdness       To Top      

The Test program is used to test all functions of the ARobot. To use this program, first remove both jumpers from the PCB. Then power on the ARobot. Touching each wisker wire will turn on an LED and make the speaker beep. Button #1 will test the servo motors. It will move the motor left and right. The other button will beep the speaker, flash the LEDs, and transmit data to the serial port. This data can be viewed in the Basic Stamp Debug window. When a jumper is attached to "J7" then motor #1 will turn in the forward direction. The encoder will be read and every 128 counts of the encodere will toggle the red LED. REMOVE THE JUMPER TO TEST OTHER FUNCTIONS. When a jumper is attached to "J6" then motor #2 can be tested (you can move the motor connector over to test this). The motor will turn in the forward direction. If button #1 is pressed the motor will reverse direction. REMOVE THE JUMPER TO TEST OTHER FUNCTIONS.

 Where Can I get more information?       To Top      

The ARobot page contains everthing you should need to know about ARobot. Please print it out for future reference. BUT, if you still have questions, just send us some email. For additional information about the Basic Stamp II, see the Parallax web site where you will also be able to download the Basic Stamp II programming manual (It's big! and very complete).

Don't forget to check out ARobot Projects Page for some great inspiration.

Check out the List Of Stamp Applications (L.O.S.A) at http://www.hth.com/losa.htm where tons of Basic Stamp application notes live. VERY GOOD!

Chuck McManis decodeds the Basic Stamp interpreter http://professionals.com/~cmcmanis/robotics/stamp-decode.html

See the great Basic Stamp information at Dontronics http://dontronics.com/stamp.html

Al William's Basic Stamp FAQ http://www.al-williams.com/wd5gnr/stampfaq.htm

Make sure to check out ROBOTBOOKS.COM for some great titles.

Check out the Basic Stamp books at AMAZON.COM. Search for "Basic Stamp" and you'll find:

Programming and Customizing the Basic Stamp Computer by Scott Edwards
Paperback - 350 pages Bk&Cd-Rom edition (March 1998)
McGraw-Hill; ISBN: 0079136842

Basic Stamp by Claus Kuhnel, Klaus Zahnert
Paperback - 416 pages (March 1997)
Butterworth-Heinemann; ISBN: 0750698918

Radio Shack also carries a Basic Stamp book. Catalog # RSU11915253.

 Steering servo seems to turn the wrong way       To Top      

If the servo is turning, then it is connected correctly to ARobot's controller board. ARobot has rear wheel steering. In order for the robot to turn right, it needs to turn the steering wheels to the left. This would appear to make it turn the opposite direction than is desired.

If the whisker brackets are connected backwards, while running the wander.bs2 program it will appear as if the servo is turning the wrong way. The robot will think the right whisker has been touched when actually the left one has been touched.

If the steering wheels are actually turning the wrong way then it is likely that you have connected the steering linkages wrong. Check the diagram in the manual for the correct linkage assembly.

 Can my Basic Stamp be fixed?       To Top      

We've heard that Parallax will repair broken Basic Stamps. Contact their technical support department at 916-624-8333 or email them at sales@parallaxinc.com

 Missing screws for collars and steering arms?       To Top      

Some people are confused about the screws used for the collars and steering arms in their ARobot kit. We decided to provide normal pan-head screws for these items instead of set-screws. This makes it easier to adjust them and eliminates the need for a hex wrench. Look closely and you'll see that the manual deals with this.

 Encoder wheel bumps into sensor       To Top      

Sometimes the encoder will will bump into the encoder sensor because the front threaded axle has loosened and unscrewed out of the motor coupling. To fix this, simply screw the axle back into the coupling then tighten the wheel against the coupling. Also tighten the star washer and nut against the wheel. A detailed drawing of this can be found in the user guide.

 Encoder doesn't work       To Top      

Make sure the connectors are installed correctly and that the dots on the connector match with the dots on the sensor. Like this picture.

Make sure the encoder wheel is attached well to the axle and not spinning freely.

Make sure the encoder wheel is riding the middle of the sensor slot but not touching it.

Push the bracket that holds the encoder sensor closer to the encoder wheel so that the encoder wheel is full inside the sensor slot but not touching it.

The Body cable must be connected to ARobot's controller board for the encoder sensor to work.

 RC Servo Motor Jitter       To Top      

RC servo motors are controlled by ARobot's coprocessor. This coprocessor has its hands full controlling 4 RC servos, 2 DC motors, 1 optical encoder, and reading serial data. Watching for commands from the master processor is its highest priority. When a command comes in, it must ignore other devices and handle the command. This will often result in a small jump in the motors. To help this, try to reduce the communication on the coprocessor network bus.

If you are using additional coprocessors you may want to communicate with them using additional I/O pins from the main processor instead of a single networked line. This will reduce the amount of traffic that must be ignored by the coprocessors.

 Can I use a Basic Stamp 2E?       To Top      

Yes, use version 1.33 or higher of the Stamp.exe editor/downloader which can be found on the Parallax website. Start enjoying more memory!

 Can I use a Basic Stamp 2P?       To Top      

Yes, Change the coprocessor baud rate from 396 to 1021 to compensate for the different speed of the 2p.

 Can I use a Basic Stamp SX?       To Top      

In short, YES. The SX pulls much more current than the standard Basic Stamp II. The specification shows a maximum of 9 volts, but we've contacted the technical support staff at Parallax and they said it would work ok at 12 volts but may run a little hot. We've run tests with the SX in ARobot with success, so go for it! There are some timing issues that require minor changes to some programs which are detailed in the SX addendum on the Parallax website. Network baud rate shoud change from 396 to 1021 due to these timing differences.

 Encoder sensor connection detail       To Top      

The encoder sensor detects slots in the encoder wheel in order to keep track of the distance traveled. See this image that shows how the encoder sensor connectors are attached. Match up the dots on the sensor with the dots on the connectors and you're all set. Installing them incorrectly will not harm anything, ARobot just won't be able to move the correct distance.

 Questions about shipping charges and ordering?       To Top      

Most common questions about ordering can be found on the order form.

Email us for:

  • Exact shipping charges for special methods and international orders. Please include your exact shipping address, email address, phone, and fax number.
  • A formal quotation sent by fax or mail.

 Painting?       To Top      

See these great examples of creative paint jobs on our projects page.

ARobot's frame and motor brackets are made out of aluminum and come unfinished. This allows you to add your own creativity to the robot's appearance.

If you wish, simply sand the surface a little to create a nice looking texture. You can also use common spray paint of any color. We recommend using a primer designed to adhere to metal. We also recommend a little sanding and cleaning before painting - see the instructions on the back of the spray can. Most hardware stores carry good spray paint and primer for a few dollars per can. One can of each will be more than enough. Primer usually dries in less than 15 minutes but you normally need to let the top coat of paint dry overnight.

You may want to check out some of the non-conventional paints that add texture to a surface - they look cool! Be creative, consider adding colored tape and other flashy ideas to make your robot stand out. Colored electrical tape can be found at Radio Shack - Catalog #64-2340.

It may be necessary to clean out holes on the robot that have a build-up of paint. Simply use a pocket knife or exacto knife to clean them out. This is especially important on the whisker wire mounting holes and ground hole since they must make electrical contact to the base for grounding.

See these great examples of creative paint jobs on our projects page.

 Lost your Disk?       To Top      

If you've lost your ARobot disk, here are the programs.

 Program Crashing?       To Top      

Several things can cause an ARobot program to crash.

  • Make sure to check your program VERY carefully.
  • Low battery power.
  • High current, electrically noisy devices such as motors.
  • Make sure you are getting response from a coprocessor immediately after the command is sent. Don't put any statments between the sending (SEROUT) and the receiving (SERIN). You may miss your coprocessor's response and the SERIN command will wait forever.
  • Make sure to upgrade your coprocessor to the latest version. Use GETVER.BS2 (currently V1.1)
  • Make sure to check your program VERY carefully again.
Try to reduce the program to a short segment that crashes to eliminate other problems.

Still got a problem, email to info@robotics.com

 Mac/Linux Downloader?       To Top      

YES! Parallax has software that lets you to download Basic Stamp II programs to your robot from your Macintosh or Linux machine.

Go to Parallax.com and go to their download section and select 'Basic Stamp Software' where you will find the Macintosh Editor and the Linux Editor among other items.

 Discounts?       To Top      

If you purchase 10 or more ARobots and/or Basic Stamps, you will receive a 10% discount. There are no other discounts available at this time.

 Using different controllers       To Top      

ARobotís controller board is designed to accept the Basic Stamp II controller chip from Parallax http://www.parallaxinc.com. It is possible to remove the Basic Stamp II and use a different controller. Instead of removing ARobotís entire controller board, leave it to make use of the DC motor drivers, powerful output, encoder sensor circuit, RC servo motor drivers, speaker, LEDs, switches, and power regulation that is available there. Simply make a cable between the two controllers.

Cabling between ARobotís controller and another controller
You have two cabling choices: #1 Cable from the Basic Stamp II socket to the new controller, #2 Cable from the expansion port to the new controller. See the expansion port connector pinout and the Basic Stamp II pinout in the schematic for pin numbers and signal usage. Cabling to the Basic Stamp II socket will allow access to the RS-232 connector, raw DC voltage, and the reset button. These signals could also be wired over to unused pins on the expansion connector if needed. Signals that go directly from the Basic Stamp II socket to the Expansion connector and are not used anywhere else can be ignored. The ones youíre interested in are the signals that go to the coprocessor, whiskers, LEDs, speaker and other devices you wish to utilize. See the coprocessor command structure section of this manual to learn how to control the DC drive motor, RC servo motors, and powerful output through the coprocessor.

Using ARobotís controller as a coprocessor
Another option is to use the existing controller with a Basic Stamp II installed as a coprocessor which receives commands from a master controller. Communication between these two controllers could be accomplished using the serial port. A program could be written on the Basic Stamp II that would respond to commands as needed. This arrangement would offload motor control and other tasks such whisker reflexes to the coprocessor and free up the master processor.

Download ARobot User Guide for more details.

 Whiskers don't work       To Top      

The whisker wires are electrically attached to ARobot's frame. It's important that the mounting holes and about 1/4" ring around the mounting holes are clean of paint so the mounting hardware can make contact. Also check the ground wire that comes from the body cable and make sure it is making contact with exposed metal of the frame.

See this close up image of whisker brackets and mounting.

 Nothing works - Help!       To Top      

Don't panic - most of the time there is a simple reason. Check a few things:

  • Batteries are good? Use a volt meter. Should be 9-12 volts.
  • All cables plugged in good?
  • Basic Stamp II installed correctly? Any bent pins?
  • Try our test program.
  • Remove any cable from the expansion connector.

Another idea:
Some of the Basic Stamp Editors use the first line of the program as a special directive which specifies the type of Basic Stamp you have (BS2, BS2E, BS2P, etc). If this directive doesn't match your Stamp then there could be problems. For example, if the first line of the program says '{$STAMP BS2e} and you have a Basic Stamp 2, that could be the problem. The correct directive is '{$STAMP BS2} for the Basic Stamp 2.

Still nothing? Don't waste another moment - email us now.

 Expansion?       To Top      

We designed ARobot to be expandable in several ways:
1 - There is an expansion connector that provides access to the Basic Stamp II signals. The connector used is a common 40 pin IDC flat cable connector which is carried by Radio Shack (RS Catalog # RSU11924453). This is also the same type of connector found on IDE Disk drives.
2 - There is a master/slave coprocessor bus that allows additional coprocessors which help distribute the computing load.
3 - The mounting holes and diminsions of ARobot's controller board are the same as the prototype boards (RS Catalog #276-170) and breadboards (RS Catalog #276-174) found at Radio Shack.

Make sure to check out the Projects page for expansion ideas.

 Add an LCD Display?       To Top      

See Scott Edwards Electronics makes several LCD systems that can used with your ARobot. These LCD systems include controllers that take much of the programming burden off of the Basic Stamp so it can focus on high level activities. See their website at http://www.seetron.com/

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