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Norland Research Calculator Robot II

When Norland Research originally sent Generation5 their first calculator robot, it was a great little machine that allowed users to quickly create quite functional wheeled robots. The documentation lacked a little, especially since the programming method was a little confusing.

New calcbot on the right All this has changed with the new version! A much-improved build, better documentation and direct link support makes the new Calculator Robot a brilliant educational tool. The picture on the right shows the old and new versions next to each other (calculators aren't included). You can see how the new one has much smaller wheels, making it quite a bit closer the ground. This was done so the new caster could be added, allowing for movement in any direction. The new Calcbot will easily perform a 360-degree spin, making it incredibly manuverable.

Assembly

While Norland Research shipped this version to Generation5 complete, we did build the first one which was fairly easy to do. The newer version looks slightly more complicated since a slide cover is mounted on a chassis. The chassis makes things a lot neater and sturdier. Unfortunately though the kit doesn't come with a calculator slide like the old kit did, so you'll have to use one of your existing one (although additional covers are available from Norland Research). While you don't need to drill the cover, you tape it (very firmly!) to the plastic chassis.

Operation

The operation of the new version is brilliant. There is no intermediate assembly program to work with - just use the Send( and Get( commands built into TI-BASIC. The system is very intuitive too - you nearly always send a three digit number. The hundreds digit specifies the command type, while the tens and single-digits denote the left and right motors respectively. For example, to move the robot forwards until the bumper is pressed:
Send({222})
200 - move until the bumper is triggered. 20 - Left servo forward. 2 - Right servo forward. Each Send( command must be paired with a Get( command. You can use this to retrieve information to aid the behaviour of your robot. For example, you can tell the robot to return the number of milliseconds it moved before stopping. The measurement is surprisingly accurate, although I'm sure it changes with battery levels. The Get( command can also be used to retrieve bumper information. Take a look at this slightly more complicated program:
Send({322,500})
Get(R)
Disp R
If R!=500:Then
Send({51})
Get(B)
Disp B
End
Send({100,100})
Get(R)

The robot will move forward for 5 seconds or until the bumper has been hit. It then displays how many milliseconds it travelled for. If the robot didn't travel for the expected 500 milliseconds, it retrieves the bumper status when it was pressed (which side was depressed). After that, it reverses for 1 second.

A lot of this might look at a little confusing at first but thankfully the documentation for the new robot has been improved. The build instructions still aren't as in-depth as they could be (very few pictures), but the instructions on how to use the robot are good. I still miss a decent example to show what the robot can really do though. The great plus-point about this new direct connection method is that it works with any of the TI-range of calculators! I successfully tested the robot with the TI-73, TI-83, TI-83 Plus, TI-83 Plus Silver Edition (in pictures), TI-89 and TI-92 Plus. Of course, the 92 doesn't fit in the cradle but it still works. The robot also works with the older TI-82, TI-85, TI-86 and TI-92. This means that students ranging from middle school to university level might already own a calculator compatible with the robot.

Conclusion

Don't expect a C3PO, the Calcrobot can only provide the programmer with two servos and bumper. Nevertheless, as an educational (and downright fun) tool, the new Calculator Robot is fantastic. The integration with the TI-BASIC environment makes it a brilliant way of experimenting with robotics in the classroom. Any school that uses the TI-range should consider getting a couple of these in to play about with in mathematics or physics class.

Cover 9.0
Price:$99.95
Liked:Educational, easy to build, documentation improved, build quality much better, direct control, compatible with all TI graphing calculators!
Disliked:Doesn't include slide cover.
Website:http://www.smallrobot.com/

Submitted: 09/04/2002

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See Also
- Calculator Robot (Original)

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