Monday, April 14, 2014

Wandboard and Sumo robots

The Wandboard is a low-cost Cortex-A9 board based on the Freescale i.MX6 family of SoCs.

More and more non-profit open platforms are popping up in the spirit of Raspberry Pi. Wandboard is one among them. The board was released already at the end of year 2012, but I first time familiarized myself with it at Embedded World in Nuremberg, at Freescale department. Also at Scandinavian Electronics Event in Stockholm, Freescale demonstrated Wandboard with Rightware Kanzi 3D graphics technology at their booth.
Wandboard. Picture from Wandboard web site.
Wandboard is a Single Board Computer (SBC), which consists of two PCBs. Isn't that contradictory? However, the solution is nice from embedded systems development point of view. One can use the 2-board product as the basis of development, and then just plug the CPU-module into the end product once the custom motherboard is ready. Wandboard MCU modules are sold separately in bunch of ten.

Even if Wandboard was new to me, it was already in use by our engineers. In our R&D center at Wroclaw, Poland, employees have organized a hobby robot competition with small autonomous Sumo-robots. Currently there are 5 teams with 3-5 members in each programming at their spare time.

The core organizers of the competition have developed a common electromechanical platform for all the teams, based on custom PCBs. For higher level control, each team has then chosen a CPU or MCU board of their own. For low level control, there is TMS320 DSP processor in the platform together with power source, H-bridge driver, sensors, etc.

Balancing Sumo robot with Wandboard.
One of the teams selected Wandboard Quad. They also tough out of the box, and put the robot frame upside down, to balance with two tires just like the Segway, with help of gyros and accelerometers. That's quite something!

The Wroclaw site is not only active internally, but they are participating academic and other external events, for example by sponsoring LabVIEW programming competition and the Sumo robot competition at local technical university. The HR lady organized a drawing competition for kids during the previous event. Now there are nice drawings all around walls of corridors, kitchens, and meeting rooms of the office.

Kids' robot drawings.

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