Help with School Project, RC car

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by Metalic soulja, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. Metalic soulja

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 29, 2009
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    Hey all,
    I'm making a large (roughly 1:4 scale of a Hummer) radio controlled car for a school project.
    I need some advice on how to go about setting up controlling it as i would like to use a laptop built into it which controls parts of the car (steering, driving, lighting, audio etc) in which is controlled by a wireless Xbox 360 controller, an Ipod touch (via wi-fi) or simply for starters a wireless keyboard and mouse. I am also putting in a camera which has its own wireless setup so there's no problem there although i would like to maybe control it with the computer for at least on and off.
    Id just like some advice on what microcontroller(s) would be recommended for a project like this as i haven't the money to experiment and waste money on something that wont do what i need it to. Also any ideas of whatever anyone thinks would make this project even more awesome would be appreciated :)
    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Metalic soulja

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 29, 2009
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    uhhh anyone?
     
  3. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
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    You mention incorporating a laptop into the car and several other devices for control. Then you mention using one or more microcontrollers, but it is not clear what their functions will be.

    If you would define the functions better, members may be able to suggest specific devices for you.

    John
     
  4. Metalic soulja

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 29, 2009
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    Ok sorry about that, i am a bit of a newbie and what i AM doing is putting in a laptop to control the functions of the car which are steering, motor control, lighting, audio and possibly video but that doesn't matter atm.
    What i am really asking is from here what is the best way to go?
    ive looked at usb micro controllers which from how i understand are run while plugged into the computer and controlled via the computer... http://www.pc-control.co.uk/motorbee_info.htm is this right? or even the best way to go?
     
  5. CDRIVE

    Senior Member

    Jul 1, 2008
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    This is to much project for a neophyte and USB interface is a hornets nest of its own. If you're going to learn microcontroller technology you would be wise to start with RS232 (Serial Port) interfaced controllers. ;)
     
  6. Metalic soulja

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 29, 2009
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    alright ill check it out but will this microcontroller be able to do everything i want it to?
     
  7. CDRIVE

    Senior Member

    Jul 1, 2008
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    That's hard to answer because you've picked a project that's definitely not junior level!
     
  8. StayatHomeElectronics

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2008
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    I would agree with everyone that this is not a project that will be easily done.

    What experience and comfort level do you have with this sort of thing? What time frame are you planning on completing this?
     
  9. Metalic soulja

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 29, 2009
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    well to tell you the truth i have no experience... However i will do as much as it takes to get this to work, i have school time and home time to do this which is about 5 months. I should be getting a job very soon I'm hoping (have applied for a few) and hopefully my parents will help out if needed.
    So far for the project i have the chassis cut out, the camera, a 12v battery and a laptop a friend is giving me.
    Another person has suggested using an I/O board, i think i understand how this would work... could you point me to some good pages of info on them and good places to buy them from? I will try google as well yes.
    I'll see if i can draw up some better diagrams this week of what I'm trying to do.
     
  10. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
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    I am sure you have guessed by now that several contributors on this forum have decades of experience in RC, and everyone is telling you that the project you outlined is too complex to complete in 5 months starting with no experience.

    Please consider these questions:
    1) Do you have experience with MCU's, including programming and interfacing with a PC?
    2) Do you have experience building any sort of RC model, particularly with respect to servo and motor control systems?

    If your answer to both questions is effectively no, then I suggest the following:
    1) Get in contact with a modeler group. Visit and observe how they work. I have seen lots of modeler groups, and they all welcome newcomers who appear interested. Do not ask, "Hey mister, how much did that cost?" That is the wrong first step, but unbelievably, it does happen. Just observe. Ask any questions you may have about how to or why, but not how much. "How much" gives the impression you think you can just go buy something that someone may have spent years building and perfecting, which may be taken as an unappreciative sign.
    2) Decide whether you want to focus on the mechanicals or the controls.
    3) If it's controls, buy a ready made RC truck and tweak it. If it's the mechanicals, then get a commercial RC unit, build the truck, and tweak it. In fact, I would recommend buying a complete truck and RC kit, then add modifications to the areas that interest you the most. For example, add some sort of auto-steering, maybe auto-navigation, or video camera that maintains a target, etc.
    4) Whichever you chose for #3, you will find many things to change and improve. Most important, you will also have time to enjoy your creation rather than being frustrated by an approaching deadline.
    5) Have fun.

    John
     
  11. StayatHomeElectronics

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2008
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    I think jpanhalt has made some very, very good suggestions.

    For the complete novice on the MCU front. I think things like the Arduino development board and environment is a nice think to look at.

    http://www.arduino.cc

    I don't know that it would have enough power to do all that you are trying to do, but it is a nice open source hardware platform with a great deal of software support. It has software libraries for things like interfacing to the PC and software and hardware support for things like servos and motors. Many things have and are being developed for it since it is open source hardware.

    It has a simplified programming language that gives you access to the ATMega128 that is on the board.

    Just something for you to look at...

    There are also BASIC Stamp and other modules that have a good deal of support.
     
  12. Metalic soulja

    Thread Starter Member

    Mar 29, 2009
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    I do see what your saying and i have looked at getting an Arduino to experiment with but as you said it might not do what i want.
    Going back to the start what would the http://www.pc-control.co.uk/motorbee_info.htm be like? A good idea for someone with my experience?

     
  13. jpanhalt

    AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 18, 2008
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    You are way to early in your project to start picking, much less buying hardware. We don't know what you really want to do, so obviously, no one can rightfully recommend anything.

    I am assuming you are either vocational tech or college level, but not graduate school or high school. If those educational levels don't mean much to you, then let's assume you are 18 to 22 years old, with time added if you have had military service, a no-future job, etc. I will also assume you do not have an academic advisor for this project -- at least not one who is very involved.

    The first step is to select a problem you want to solve. "What I want to do" is not a problem. The problem can be something like I plan to make an automated car that will travel from A to B without external input. Read about it. Make a block chart of what will be needed. If I were your advisor, I would meet with you at least twice a week for progress reports and insist that you have a written plan within 1 month for a 5-month project. Your design doesn't have to be detailed to the last resistor, but after one month, you shouldn't be saying, "Oh, and now I want to do that too." You will notice that in my suggestions for defining the problem, I have said nothing about building a 1/4 scale Hummer. That is not the problem you want to solve.

    I would then have to approve your plan. With that hurdle passed, you can get on to more detailed planning, prototyping or doing much more detailed study of systems you know least about and so forth. At some point, certainly before the end of 3 months, you should have a pretty good idea of most of the detail and can begin final construction. Leave one month for testing and fixing.

    In brief, construct a Gantt chart as part of your 1-month plan and stick to it. You will be surprised at how little time you will have to complete the project. You will see that there is no time to go off on tangents. Most important, you will see the need to limit the scope of your project. And to paraphrase the scene after the first sortie in Top Gun, one week is down, the clock is running, and your score is still zero.

    John
     
  14. KMoffett

    AAC Fanatic!

    Dec 19, 2007
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    For the size the vehicle you are talking about, the motorbee, won't handle the current levels of the motors you are going to need.

    I helped one of our Computer Science classes make a Fisher-Price Power Wheels Jeep into a independent robot vehicle. It has an Arduino as a local controller for the drive, steering, and ultrasonic obstruction detection/ranging. I used separate high current motor controllers for steering and drive. The on-board laptop did the actual "smart" processing, and the video.
    .......
    I did the hardware and electronics, they did the programming.

    Ken
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2009
  15. StayatHomeElectronics

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 25, 2008
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    I don't really know anything about the Motor-Bee, its interface to the PC or its output drive capabilities. Maybe someone else has experience with it.
     
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