Programmable robot vehicle, a motivating technology teaching resource, a complete solution: robot + software + curriculum, Line following, maze solving and much more...
This individual Formula Flowcode Kit includes a built and tested controller board, and a plastic chassis with gearbox. It also includes a special, reduced-functionality version of the Flowcode programming software and tutorial.
1. The brain of Formula Flowcode - a PIC18F4455 chip
2. USB socket
3. Master reset switch
4. Programming LED
5. External 5V supply input
6. Power switch
7. Plastic chassis with battery compartment, motors with gearboxes, and 2 wheels.
8. Motor driver chip - a L293D
9. Microphone with sound level amplifier circuit
10. User-definable press switches
11. Distance sensor - right
12. Distance sensor - center
13. Distance sensor - left
14. Light sensor
15. Line following circuit board
16. 8 user-definable LEDs
17. Loudspeaker volume control
19. E-blocks expansion socket
The Formula Flowcode robot works with the downloadable reduced-functionality Flowcode free version. Flowcode is one of the world's most advanced graphical programming languages for microcontrollers. The great advantage of Flowcode is that it allows those with little experience to create complex electronic systems in minutes.
Flowcode achieves this in two steps:
1. Users drag and drop flowchart symbols onto the screen, and fill in the dialog boxes when prompted.
2. Flowcode compiles the flow chart into code that is downloaded to a PICmicro microcontroller which executes the program.
The version of Flowcode shipped with the Formula Flowcode robot is fully functional with the limitations that it can only compile code for the Formula Flowcode robot, it has a maximum code size of 2K, and on-screen components are limited to switches, LEDs and ADCs.
You can purchase the Flowcode Professional for more functionality that includes unlimited code size and use of all on-screen components, as well as being able to produce hex code for a wide range of PIC microcontroller devices.
Curriculum and Support
As background learning material, the CD-ROM An Introduction to Microcontroller Programming is available. This CD-ROM includes a wealth of material on PICmicro microcontrollers, their operation, circuitry and project work. It also includes a large section on developing programs using Flowcode which covers inputs, outputs, loops, decisions, macros, memory, string handling and much more. This CD-ROM is included only with the class bundle packages mentioned below.
User support for Formula Flowcode is available on the Matrix web site forum where users can ask each other questions and swap programs.
A 28-page user guide is shipped with Formula Flowcode which includes assembly instructions, installation instructions, the circuit diagram and operation.
Formula Flowcode is named after the Formula Ford racing competition where the cars are all identical and winning only comes down to the driver's skills. In this case, winning comes down to the programming skills of the user. Several challenges/exercises are included. For details, see the Formula Flowcode brochure. Some challenges require the full version of Flowcode Professional.
E-blocks The Formula Flowcode robot is fitted with holes at 20mm intervals and a full expansion port on a D-type E-blocks connector. These features mean that it is possible to add an E-blocks board to the chassis to extend its functionality, e.g., an additional LCD or a Bluetooth communications board.
Other expansion The E-blocks connector exposes the communications port of the chassis, so it also is possible to add a wider range of accessories, including ultrasonic, image, speech, etc. Servo motor connectors are also available to provide additional robotics functions.
Mechanical engineering work The Flowcode controller circuit board is designed so that it can be used on a mechanical chassis other than the one supplied as standard, using expansion features such as additional connections for servo motors, and wheel encoder inputs. This makes the chassis suitable for use as part of a course where students study both electrical and mechanical engineering.