Seminar Post mortem

The first seminar for the robotics competition was today. It turned out pretty well. I talked at my slides a lot to give people some background, but I tried to keep it pretty hands on. We had someone from almost every team at least.. A few people were a bit hung over or forgot about it.

I ordered from sparkfun Thursday evening, hoping they’d get my order shipped quick. I paid for standard overnight, but apparently that doesn’t include Saturday delivery (how freakin lame is that?) so I should be getting it tomorrow. Because most people already had their own arduinos, this didn’t really effect the seminar much. Myself and Caroline had a few extras, so it went over well.

Getting started with the LED blinking went about as smoothly as can be expected. There were a few people with driver issues (win 7 doesn’t come with the FTDI drivers installed by default, and since I run linux on everything, that completely slipped my mind.) Everyone got their LED blinking and fading on an analog curve.

We then did the simple MOSFET motor controller, which I think will probably be the biggest effect this seminar has on these kids. We scrounged some motors together and really quickly they had them controlled with speed. They were having fun writing loops speeding up and slowing down the motors, so I think that once we have these things skitting about they’ll really start to get some cool stuff down. Spencer was optimistic and was trying to control this huge LED panel we have (the “death ray”) but we decided to move on with the seminar instead.

The last activity was hooking up the L298N H-Bridge they’ll be using to drive the robots. The concept itself wasn’t much different from the FET, but I wanted to expose them to the driving control we’d actually have during the competition. The seminar ended up with the more industrious of the group tinkering with the controllers trying to write more interesting things.

One thing I did notice during the seminar was someone’s freeduino was having issues restarting during the mosfet control stage. When the motor was supposed to switch off, it seemed that he was getting brownouts, while the identical circuit wasn’t giving anyone else problems. I assume it was the flyback current messing with the supply, but I imagine the freeduino may be more sensitive. Then again, he wasn’t entirely confident about soldering the whole thing together, so it could be that.

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