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Build The Picman Programmable Robot

A PIC microcontroller lets you program in the commands.

By Anderson Nguyen

PICMAN 2000 is driven by a single PIC16F84 microcontroller and will perform up to fifty combinations of manoeuvres involving left and right, forward and back movements and a pause.

Like all good robots, he lets you know when he’s turning and stopping with his built-in turn indicators and brake light.

It’s a simple project which we believe will be very popular with schools as they move into this new phase of the information technology age. PICMAN 2000 will not only give hours of entertainment, it will teach a lot about how basic microcontroller programs work. Build PICMAN 2000 now and you could become the twenty-first century’s Bill Gates!

Click for larger image
Above photo shows PICMAN 2000 going away from you, while the shot on the facing page is comin' right at ya! The front wheel doesn't steer: all direction control is performed by the instructions you give to the PIC which in turn drives the stepper motors.

Apart from the PIC microcontroller, there are not very many other components – just a few to supply appropriate power to the robot’s drive motors. There are also a few switches which not only control various functions (such as power on/off, speed, etc) but also allow you to program the PIC (and therefore the robot). Finally, there are the previously-mentioned blinkers and stop light which are LEDs driven directly from the PIC chip.

Unlike some previous robots, PICMAN 2000 has a single 6V supply derived from 4 x AA cells. This provides power for both the logic circuitry and the motors.

And also unlike some previous robots, the motors power the back wheels with a free-turning front wheel (castor).

With the exception of the battery pack, three switches and the rear (brake) LED, all of the electronics is assembled on a single PC board. Mechanically, everything is mounted onto two small pieces of clear acrylic sheet (although other materials could be substituted) which are themselves glued to two back-to-back stepper motors.

The drive shafts from the stepper motors are fitted with cogs which friction-drive the large rubber-tyred wheels. Turning is achieved by driving one wheel faster than its mate or even one wheel in a reverse direction to its mate.

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