Petter Reinholdtsen

The space rover coquine, or how I ended up on the dark side of the moon
2nd June 2019

A while back a college and friend from Debian and the Skolelinux / Debian Edu project approached me, asking if I knew someone that might be interested in helping out with a technology project he was running as a teacher at L'├ęcole franco-danoise - the Danish-French school and kindergarden. The kids were building robots, rovers. The story behind it is to build a rover for use on the dark side of the moon, and remote control it. As travel cost was a bit high for the final destination, and they wanted to test the concept first, he was looking for volunteers to host a rover for the kids to control in a foreign country. I ended up volunteering as a host, and last week the rover arrived. It took a while to arrive after it was built and shipped, because of customs confusion. Luckily we were able fix it quickly with help from my colleges at work.

This is what it looked like when the rover arrived. Note the cute eyes looking up on me from the wrapping

Once the robot arrived, we needed to track down batteries and figure out how to build custom firmware for it with the appropriate wifi settings. I asked a friend if I could get two 18650 batteries from his pile of Tesla batteries (he had them from the wrack of a crashed Tesla), so now the rover is running on Tesla batteries.

Building the rover firmware proved a bit harder, as the code did not work out of the box with the Arduino IDE package in Debian Buster. I suspect this is due to a unsolved license problem with arduino blocking Debian from upgrading to the latest version. In the end we gave up debugging why the IDE failed to find the required libraries, and ended up using the Arduino Makefile from the arduino-mk Debian package instead. Unfortunately the camera library is missing from the Arduino environment in Debian, so we disabled the camera support for the first firmware build, to get something up and running. With this reduced firmware, the robot could be controlled via the controller server, driving around and measuring distance using its internal acoustic sensor.

Next, With some help from my friend in Denmark, which checked in the camera library into the gitlab repository for me to use, we were able to build a new and more complete version of the firmware, and the robot is now up and running. This is what the "commander" web page look like after taking a measurement and a snapshot:

If you want to learn more about this project, you can check out the The Dark Side Challenge Hackaday web pages.

As usual, if you use Bitcoin and want to show your support of my activities, please send Bitcoin donations to my address 15oWEoG9dUPovwmUL9KWAnYRtNJEkP1u1b.

Tags: english, robot.

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