The last few blogs have highlighted some of the NETMF uses at the Imagine Cup. These are presumably products that are targeting commercial applications and both of these project teams are exploring the road to bringing their products to market. There are also some really cool things happening in the student and hobbyist space that I want to shine a little light on. The first is a great grassroots robotics competition that is driven by the students of UC Berkeley.
I spoke with Amy Fu of UC Berkeley the other day. She is one of the student volunteers who make the ‘Pioneers in Engineering Robotics’ Competition happen. This competition has been taking place for several years now in the public schools in the Berkley area. The goal of this effort is to increase the exposure to and interest in math and science among the high school students. This last year they had 9 schools participate and 12 teams.
To make the competition happen, the Pioneers in Engineering (PiE) defined an inexpensive platform so that as many teams as possible can afford to participate. Their platform is built on the GHI Fez Panda. “Each team also used Microsoft Visual C# with our own API to program and run their robots through both autonomous programming and a configurable input interface capable of bidirectional communication for everything from joystick input to remote sensor feedback” said Amy. As you can see below, the tasks include moving ‘pillows’ around among other things.
The students picked NETMF because they wanted to expose the high school students to an object oriented language from the start and found that it worked quite well to start students there. They have built a framework to get them started and to provide classes for some of the more daunting parts of the problem like writing the integration for the encoders.
The Berkeley Students ran this competition on a budget of $15K last year from a combination of corporate sponsorships and college funding. At that level of funding, they had to turn teams away and have larger teams than they wanted. This year they are hoping to double the funding to enlarge the program. We all know how important increasing the opportunities for students to get exposure to technology is and these Berkley students are doing something about it. They deserve all the support we can get them.
Do you know of any other grassroots efforts like this? I am sure that there is some benefits to consolidation and collaboration in these kinds of projects. Let’s hear from you if you know of someone else doing anything like this.
On a different vein, here is what a couple of hobbyists are doing. One is Fabien Royer from the XBOX team here on campus. He and his partner, Bertrand, are building an Open Source game platform based on the Netduino Mini. As you can see in the video at his blog site, the console fits easily in your hands and provides two analog joysticks with 2 built-in buttons for interacting with the games. Once they get the console where they want it, they are going to write a book describing the design, the build process and the game framework. They are also talking about not only sharing out the PCB designs but seeing if they can make them available as kits to people interested in making their own console
Once you have made your console, you can play the games that Fabien and Bertrand have written or you can make your own games up and (hopefully) share them out to the community as well. The last time I checked, he had a Pong-ish game and another reminiscent of Asteroids.
You can check out this project (and a bunch of other cool ones) at Fabien’s blog – http://fabienroyer.wordpress.com/.