Initial experiences with the Qu-Bot, a beginner’s robot

I have recently decided to concretize my interest in robotics. Towards this, I shopped around for beginner kits. A key criterion for me was that I should not have to do any soldering. Yeah, I know, it is just one of those things. I do plan to solder at some point but not with my beginner kit. My competency is software and I would much prefer to get ready-made hardware. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Quickly Programmable Robot or the Qu-Bot, a beginner’s robotic kit. Its website claims that you don’t need any other tools except a screwdriver, a pair of pliers and perhaps a spanner. I had several other questions before I bought the device. One of them was how would I program it? The Qu-Bot comes with its own visual programming environment. I’ve never been comfortable with this. Give me actual lines of code to see. In addition, I wanted to command it using the raspberry pie. This was indeed possible given that the Qu-Bot connects to a computer using a virtual serial port over USB.

My questions were answered promptly though the store (Robokits) always did not meet the four hour deadline which it claims on its website. Moreover, the website hints at an intermediate programming environment called quick c. As of this writing, this is not available for download. This is apparently a variant of the C programming language designed especially for the Qu-Bot. Robo kits sent me a copy of this programming environment even though it is still in beta and I had not bought anything from them. I like the clean interface and the simple commands. There are good sample programs that would allow me to get started quickly. Once I had seen this, I ordered the Qu-Bot. The kit arrived on time and, I began the process of assembly. This is where things became interesting.

  • The Robokits website claims that there is a printed assembly manual. I did not find any such manual. However, there was a copy of this manual in the portable document format on the accompanying CD as well as on the website.
  • The next problem I had was the pictures. No, it was not that there were no pictures, but the pictures in the manual did not match what was supplied. For example, the battery supplied with the Qu-Bot is a small rectangular piece of equipment. The picture showed something round. This led to a fair bit of searching and confusion. There were other minor mismatches enough to be sufficiently annoying.
  • There was also a situation where I had to attach three screws to the bottom of the board. It was fortunate that my family carpenter came around since 2 of the screws went in flawlessly but the hole to fit the third screw was too small. Once the hole had been enlarged using an ordinary drill machine, assembly proceeded on course. (Yes, I was hoping that no sensitive component had been damaged.)

Once I had the Qu-Bot assembled, I connected the USB cable to the back of the device and plug the other end into the computer. I was rewarded by the beep signaling that new hardware had been detected and the Qu-Bot came to life.

Note

The Qu-Bot, when fully assembled resembles a large circuit board on wheels. There is a left wheel, a right wheel and a third wheel at the bottom. The left and right wheels are connected to the motors. The third wheel at the bottom resembles the wheel of a computer mouse.

The first thing I did was to try all the sample programs. The LEDs blink, the speaker beeped and the motors spun. I have spent over two weeks with the Qu-Bot. I plan to describe my experience in the following posts, because there seems to be very little documentation out there on this product.

Current problems

The front obstacle sensor appears to be malfunctioning. It continuesly indicates that there is an obstacle in front of the robot. I am asking the Qu-Bot people about this and will update this post if I get a resolution


Filed under: robotics — Tags: , , — security-writer @ February 2, 2014 18:15

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