One of the briefs we’re running in the Physical Computing Workshop at CSM involves programming robots to draw. Illustration students are tasked with using a simple programming language to control a pen-carrying robot, and explore the relationship between designer and machine. This brief was conceived by Dr Rebecca Ross.
From a technical point of view we needed to get some robust robots that could be easily programmed, and would allow for a wide range of movement and control. Creating our own Arduino-based robotos was a possibility, however time was limited and an off-the-shelf solution was needed.
The selected robots were the Scribbler 2 by Parallax.
These are based on the Parallax Propeller chip, these robots have a serial connector, a central holder for a Sharpie pen, and various built in sensors (line sensors, proximity sensors, light sensors).
Setting up the programming environment is a little bit tricky, as the one provided by Parallax is Windows based, and the workshop runs Mac. Luckily, Brad Campbell developed a multiplatform tool for programming Propeller chips – Brad Spin Tool (BST).
This, combined with and FTDI driver and Serial programming board allows us to connect to reprogram the robots. By editing the provided sample code that comes with the S2, I put together a code framework where students could simply drop in their movement commands. These are pretty simple, basically making the robot turn and move by defined amounts. It’s amazing the breadth of designs that the students can produce with these though.