Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Sci-Tech watch, 31: Mechatronics, the Raspberry Pi (Java, too) and education for development

The Raspberry Pi is a business card sized low-cost [down to US$ 25 each, or in a cut down version US$ 5 each] educational single board computer. It uses ARM architecture processors and is capable of implementing a Linux based computing platform. It is far more capable than the Arduino open source microcontroller board, and can be used in mechatronics. (NB: There are ways to adapt the Raspberry Pi to work with the vast world of Arduino devices.)

Accordingly, we can see a case that uses Lego components to develop a "turtle" style rolling robot, optionally a robotic arm . . . and why not bring the two together? . . . :

(Note on Java on the Raspberry Pi here, this on the general purpose input-output lines [driving three LEDs, then go on here to assemble and operate a simple turtle robot . . . yes, Python code involved + 30 minutes of viewing] and the Pi4J Java oriented input-output library here.)

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Which should now make the following backhoe suddenly pop into focus as to what it is: 

Yes, a human-operated wheeled turtle vehicle with a tele-operated high powered manipulator arm (but without an arm-mounted sensor turret or proprioception that internally informs the unit of the relative position of its bits and pieces as well as its orientation in the external world).

And, with a nod to Science Fiction [and, pardon the militaristic example . . .], we can now look at the AT-AT Walker Tanks from Star Wars with new eyes:

Then, let us compare an elephant:

And, let us take a glance at Eng. Derek Smith's Bio-Cybernetics loop model with the two-level controller using a shared memory:

Then, we may wish to ponder John von Neumann's kinematic self replicating machine (which if/when we can develop such operationally would transform manufacturing and civilisation):

Of course, all of this allows us to see how to explore robotics educationally -- and well beyond that -- as a key element of the Mechatronics Paradigm:

. . . as, isn't that essentially what a backhoe tractor is about? Which, in turn points straight back to the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) initiative.

Of course, such is entry-level, for getting toes wet.

But to walk and run and fly, one must creep and learn how to stand up first.

Onward, I am struck by the potential significance of the  Arduino-controlled BCN3D MOVEO, an open source, education-oriented educational robot that is in large part based on 3-D printed components:


Such developments point to opportunities to introduce the Mechatronics Paradigm in education for Technology in the Caribbean. Where, I am so bold as to say Electronics is dead, long live mechatronics. That is through Information, Communication and Control Technologies [ICCTs], electronics and mechanical devices are now to be brought together to work together synergistically in products, systems, production processes and the world of work.

I further believe that through ICCT's, Mechatronics and developments of Jakubowski's GVCS, we are in a position to move towards opening up room for technological empowerment and economic transformation of our region. 

But to access such a transformation, we first have to build the education base and thus the critical mass of empowered people; requiring a viable way to develop training systems.

Hence, the focus of this post as we explore a way to re-open a future of growth for our region. END