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Building a Programming Training Rig

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  • Building a Programming Training Rig

    We're a Middle School FTC team, and we only serve 7th and 8th grades which means we're cycling students pretty quickly. One of our annual challenges is training new programmers and giving them as much experience and runtime with the robot hardware as possible. This season we're building two "programming mules" as we call them - test rigs that are essentially robots with all of the representative hardware that a typical FTC robot would have. Have others done the same thing? Has anyone documented their programming rig?

    One of the challenges I'm trying to solve before it becomes an issue is powering this rig. For the rig itself, I've purchased a REV MiniBot and the necessary electronics, and I'm mounting it to a board so that the robot is static (but all of the motors and servos and such can move and spin as necessary). However, I'd rather not have to worry about charging batteries all the time, and would rather just have a plug-in power supply. Has anyone sourced an inexpensive power supply that can fairly easily handle the needs of a mostly-static robot?

    Also, I've heard that some USB hubs can provide power to phones through the USB - like if I plugged in a USB Battery Pack, it would keep the phone charged even while using it. Is that correct? I'd love to do the same thing with a 5V power supply, so I don't have to constantly keep phones charged, too.

    Thanks!

  • #2
    We have recently built a "programming board" and it includes at least one example of each REV sensor, REV and Tetrix motors, expansion hub, phones, custom built sensors and an external camera. The motors and sensors are installed so they can interact with each other. We have used it a classroom training tool with projects intended to highlight the relationship between sensor inputs and desired activities. The board is set up so that the students can learn to configure devices, create load and run their own op modes and see the physical results without fear of damaging anything. WiFi direct can attach up to 8 computers (per documentation although we have only successfully attached 7) so that each student (or student group) can program their own op-mode simultaneously. The reason we spent the money and built the board was student feedback on the ability to participate in programming was lacking. The desire and caution that need to be taken when programming and operating your robot exponentially increases with the complexity of your design. This coupled with time constraints between when the actual hardware is complete and needed for meets and competitions leads to the mentors working with more experienced programmers to complete the necessary task and therefore minimizing the availability of less experienced programmers to learn. The board also separates the learning and building so both can be done simultaneously.

    I will attach pictures of our board later but a brief description is a 1/2 plywood base about 18"x24" with all the devices securely attached and neatly wired so as to allow for easy inspection.

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    • #3
      There are OTG adapters that have a charge port (or perhaps it is actually just a hub that can redistribute the power I don't really know).

      The first thought coming to my mind for cheap power supplies is a desktop computer power supply. But... those are not nearly as plentiful as they used to be (and I show my age). Having said that, there are some inexpensive power supplies on Amazon such as this one:
      https://www.amazon.com/Volt-Power-Su.../dp/B00B8TRF0A

      You would need to change the plug (or adapt it), but I would think 10 amps should be fine for such a project.

      Another option for power if you wanted mobile would be to purchase a sealed lead acid battery (much lower cost). If I could go ideal, I would have a robot that could be held stationary, but as students advanced allow it to roam the room.

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      • #4
        Posting 7678 Training Board.

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        • #5
          MikeRush - That looks Great!!! Thanks for sharing!!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by FTC12789 View Post
            One of the challenges I'm trying to solve before it becomes an issue is powering this rig. For the rig itself, I've purchased a REV MiniBot and the necessary electronics, and I'm mounting it to a board so that the robot is static (but all of the motors and servos and such can move and spin as necessary). However, I'd rather not have to worry about charging batteries all the time, and would rather just have a plug-in power supply. Has anyone sourced an inexpensive power supply that can fairly easily handle the needs of a mostly-static robot?
            Robocracy (9773) used a marine battery for their testing. It is still a battery, of course, so you will need to charge it, but a typical marine battery should have enough capacity to power a robot for a whole meeting. Two examples are a 35 amp-hour battery (Amazon serial # B008974VFG) or a 60 amp-hour version (Amazon serial # B0042QD5AK). Remember to get a compatible charger!
            John McDonnell
            Co-Mentor, Team 5873
            https://www.facebook.com/Team5873

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