Austrian robotics institute shares proven teaching platform

Austrian robotics institute shares proven teaching platform

Technology News |
By Julien Happich

Dubbed Hedgehog, the Raspberry Pi 3 SBC runs a programmable ARM-based STM32 microcontroller and is described as simple enough for use by elementary schoolers, yet versatile enough to allow even university students to learn new things.

The kit uses Google’s open source Blockly visual programming editor that allows kids to start their first programming experiences visually. As kids grow up, Blockly allows them to transition naturally to textual programming and for more advanced programmers, existing Blockly programs can be converted to Python code. PRIA uses a web-based integrated development environment (IDE) that lets you code on any operating system using a browser. The IDE’s server runs on the controller itself, so an internet connection is not required and users can connect to the controller either via WiFi or Ethernet. On top of programming, the IDE lets users control connected motors and servos, and displays the analogue and digital sensor values, so the robots can be tested quickly.

Compatible with standard RC servos and DC motors, with 4 motor ports and 4 servo ports, the Hedgehog robot controller can take the inputs from a variety of sensors using any of the 16 sensor ports (8 digital and 8 analogue). As an example, a standard webcam could be used to provide machine vision but any other Raspberry Pi compatible USB device could be plugged-in.

To make things easy, all software tools necessary for developing Hedgehog are installed on the controller: an STM32 microcontroller toolchain for the firmware, KiCAD for designing circuit boards, Python 3 and node.js for the server software, and Git for getting the sources and blueprints.

The Hedgehog shield is designed for the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, so the kit benefits from Raspberry’s compatibility in form factor and pin layout. Regular programs talk to the controller using the message based Hedgehog Protocol which lets users run programs remotely, and embed Hedgehog commands in various environments. The protocol uses ZeroMQ and Protobuf – technologies that target over 20 popular programming languages.

The Practical Robotics Institute Austria already uses Hedgehog in classes, workshops, robotics competitions and projects. Now the association wants to raise enough money to fund a large production run and share its teaching success beyond Austria.

Check out the kickstarter campaign

The Practical Robotics Institute Austria –

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