Archive for the ‘Texas Instruments’ Category

About 9 months ago, FATCATLAB posted a Kickstarter for an EV3 cape for the BeagleBone Black, an open source embedded Linux computer created by Texas Instruments. Their product was called the EVB. It was successfully funded and kits shipped out a few months ago. I received mine  a little while back. Generally I prefer using an EV3 brick, but I have loaned a bunch of my EV3s out to a local school district for training for FIRST LEGO League as they were awaiting their shipment of EV3s from LEGO Education.

See my thoughts (that didn’t make the video) after the break. (more…)

Panda APRSI know I have been bad at posting projects recently, but here is one I have done a few times now that is super easy to reproduce. With the super cheap embedded Linux platforms (Raspi, Beaglebone, etc.) and cheap TV dongles, it is really easy to make your own APRS iGate, just like the one in the photo above. This tutorial will give you the steps to get going with an APRS iGate. What is APRS you ask?

APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System. It is a 1200 baud RF (mainly ham radio) packet system commonly used to record telemetry. Sometimes it is fun to log a trip or track a robot. APRS is a great tool for these sorts of problems. In the USA, APRS is commonly used on 144.39 MHz. It can be used between radios directly or can be used to log on the internet (via websites such as  via an internet gateway or iGate.

To get started, follow me past the break.  (more…)

WP_20131111_0012013 welcomed a new attraction to the Walt Disney World Resort. No it is not a ride, but a new way to enjoy some of the Disney Parks. “Glow with the Show,” as its called, brings light up LED mouse ears. The ears can light up depending on the area of the park or show. I was last down in the Magic Kingdom on Friday and picked up a set. I have been wondering what makes these guys tick ever since I first heard about them from Disneyland.

WP_20131111_004First off, these are not the traditional beanie caps you can buy in the park. They fit more like a helmet with quite a bit of padding to hide the battery box. As you can see above removing the padding reveals the battery box and plastic support for the ears. The ears are attached via 1 screw and 1 rivet. This made them super hard to remove, and in the end, I never actually got it off.

WP_20131111_007Popping the plastic facing off the ears revealed a large tricolor LED (no surprise) and another smaller LED. My friend Matt did some searching online and discovered it was a 940 nm LED. This is probably used for inter-ear communication between different headsets.

WP_20131111_009The other ear (above) revealed another tricolor LED, but also an IR Receiver. Both ears contain a flexible PCB and go into the central part of the beanie cap.

WP_20131111_013Inside, the two flexible PCBs are attached to a central main rigid PCB. This is vary different from earlier models. The board has only a few test pads and is marked version 1.5. As you can see, getting to the PCB was hard due to the support plastic in the way. I had to cut the beanie open to get to it and then pop off a plastic cover. The PCB is held in place by a couple of plastic rivets that I was able to easily remove.

WP_20131111_016With the PCB out, it is also clear to see this revision uses a mechanical switch. The original Disneyland version had a capacitive button on the ears. (Probably for cost savings and simplicity.) You can see the switch connected to the red and white wires. This also means a physical disconnect between the PCB and battery. The switch is held in by a couple of screws and came out easily.

WP_20131111_019The photo above shows the electronics, cut free from their housing and battery box. The overall length is about 6 inches. A forward direction is marked on all the PCBs, indicating that direction does matter (even if the user doesn’t wear it correctly). The MCU is a TI MSP430. TI knows a thing or two when it comes to low power and that makes sense with this device that should a full day in the parks. (The ears blink randomly if there is no signal received.)

WP_20131111_020All said and done, this teardown took a bit more effort than I expected. There was a ton of foam to remove and in the end, I still had to cut the top off the hat. As you can see above, just a few tools were used. Special thanks to my friend Matt for looking up all the parts. Now time to see what I can do with! Lucky for me, the control codes have been cracked and it should be just as simple as implementing an IR transmitter.

So I have been working on the Beagle and while it compiles I cant help but continue to play with some electronics. I have finished constructing (and basic electrical testing). This is built off of  1 Launch Pad, 2 linear power regulators and a Sharp IR distance sensor. I have a dual motor gearbox (taken from the myDAQ bot) and a battery box to provide power and locomotion.

The photo here is just the electronics (and a wiring mess). I have some work to do still with respect to programming, but it does generate the required signals to move. I will be posting a schematic with the video later this week. (Following the NXShield video.)  I will mount the Launch Pad better when I add the motor and battery pack. Let me know what you think!

In addition to NIWeek, I have a few new projects in my queue. After a busy week and a lot of LEGO, I will be taking a (short) break to explore some new toys from Texas Instruments. Right, you will see the new Panda Board designed by Texas Instruments. The board is an open source design featuring the TI OMAP 4430 (same as in the Droid 3 and Droid Bionic). Furthermore the OMAP featured on this board has much of the RF built into the single piece of silicon. The board can run Ubuntu and Android. I plan to make a thin VM to target the board from LabVIEW (similar to LabVIEW for Arduino).

The next two boards from TI are equally awesome! First up is the smaller TI Launch Pad with Cap Touch Booster Pack. This addon contains a capacitive touch board and a new MSP430 to interface with it. It has a built in proximity sensor and is pretty cool to play with. Over the next few days I plan to experiment with it and see what ideas I come up with. The last board to join my army of embedded (soon to be robotic) projects is the Beagle Board. With a community of over 50,000 members, the Beagle packs an ARM Cortex A8 and can run several variants of Liniux. I plan to get LabIVEW working on this board as well, but what is more important is that this board integrates nicely with daughter boards, bringing the power of the Beagle to new heights. Expect to see some code in the next few days. I want to thank TI for these boards and helping me to continue my hobby. TI makes amazing digital and analog products that are great for building cheap low power projects. For example a Launch Pad costs $4.30 from the TI eStore.

And just in case you were wondering, I have a lovely bot built from the NXShield from I plan to shoot a video this weekend and post it later next week.