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Junkbots hits Moulton: Part 1

The junkbot project moved to Moulton  School & Science Academy, and working with eighteen Year 7 students and their teacher Desmond  O'Niell, looking at issues relating to waste management and also using engineering and computing principles. Examples of the the robots produced and the level of creativity can be seen below:

Some creative ideas are demonstrated using cans and motors with eccentric cams either as a source of vibration or as wheels, and all used the principle of control similar to tank tracks (control one side then the other) to direct the robots. Also the students were encouraged to consider form over function (and especially the weight will have an effect on the effectiveness of the solution). Two groups actually developed solutions that could move a drinks can but also small parts into a specified area.

This was taken from the first part of the project and I would like to thank Mr O'Niell for inviting us in and also for the suggestions of the future direction to take this and possible other related project, including a future robot project. This project is about developing cross-disciplinary (Computing/ICT/Design) material using the Matrix Multimedia robot that could be used at several years, revolving around robot programming is especially interesting for under a £1000 you can have ten robots that can be added to relatively easily, be programmed in a simple specially written language or  in more widely and industrially used langauges such as C.

As personal point of view I think robots are a great teaching tool for developing engineering and computing skills, as well engaging people with STEM subjects (hence the junkbot project and my own research). We are also especially lucky in Northamptonshire to have two leading companies in automation and robotics  Festo and ABB having a presence in or near Northampton.

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Controlling a junkbot with a Micro:bit

A new direction has been developed for the junkbot project (http://junkbots.blogspot.co.uk/); previously Raspberry Pis have been used to control the junkbot’s movement (http://robotsandphysicalcomputing.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/python-junkbot.html) – but what about the recently released Micro:Bits; can it be used to control a junkbot?
Matthew Hole, a student from Wrenn Academy, Northamptonshire ; has been investigating this idea whilst on a Nuffield Research Placement (http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/nuffield-research-placements) working with Dr Scott Turner, University of Northampton. The project was to look into developing junkbots controlled using a Micro:bit and also to produce some materials for schools to use with or without outside assistance.





What is a Junkbot?For this project, it is a moving ‘bot’ made from waste materials, combined with an electric motor and a programmable device (in this case a Micro:Bit) to control (or try) it. An example is shown above. More details on junk…

Do it yourself: 'Radio' Controlled Micro:Bit Junkbot

I
In an earlier post, I showed how you could build a Micro:Bit controlled Junkbot. In this post I want to show a modification to it, to use one Micro:Bit to control the junkbot controlled by another Micro:Bit. A nice feature of the Micro:Bit using micropython, is it can send and receive simple messages via radio - so here is my take on it.

The first problem is the Python editor available on https://www.microbit.co.uk/ does not seem to work with the radio API. One solution to this is to change to the mu editor.


Two pieces of code are needed.

Sending Code for the 'remote' control:
Essentially it is set up to send two messages, via the built-in radio module, spinl or spinr depending on which button is pressed.

import radio
from microbit import button_a, button_b

radio.on()

while True:
   if button_a.is_pressed():
       radio.send('spinl')
   if button_b.is_pressed():

       radio.send('spinr')

Junkbot Code
This takes an adapted form of the previous Junkbot code to work by; on r…