Monday, October 27, 2008

My First Step Towards Making A Robot

I finished my 12th grade exams, i am preparing myself for university. I am somewhat exited and somewhat scared. I have big dreams. I visualize myself in university working out thrice a week, making robots, improving my swimming and table tennis and doing many more things while excelling in academics simultaneously.

Well finally I join the university. Its called NITK (National Institute Of Technology Karnataka), one of the reputed universities in India. The first week went smoother than expected, I thought my dream was going to be reality. Then the second week passed by. The classes had started normally. Well the days started becoming busier. Assignments and test started pouring in. Well that was the end of my dreams. Already 2 months had passed by, i had barely gone to the gym twice, maybe i swam a couple of times. And the robot, you're kiddin' right. I didn't even have time to think about it. I could see my dreams being nothing more that dreams. But I was still not ready to accept it.

The mid-exams got over and the end-sems were approaching fast. I finally admitted that my dreams will be nothing more than dreams. Then just at that critical moment a ray of hope emerged out of no where. The Robotics Workshop of our University had organised a Robotics workshop. That was it. I could see it coming. They said that only 30 teams from Ist year could participate. And a team must consist of three members. I quickly managed to form a team with two of my friends, Vishwaas and Ameya. Vishwaas had some previous experience in electronics and basic robotics and Ameya had some experience in programming.

We all were enthusiastic and attended the workshop. They told us some basics of micro controllers and its programming.We were also supplied with kit with a bread board, an ATMEGA8 microcontroller and many other components. Our first assignment was to complete a simple IR circuit(without the micro controller) that would light up when we place an object in front of it. Amazingly our team managed to complete it the fastest. We were all shocked with the limitless possibilities we could achieve in this field. In the following sessions we were taught how to program and use a micro controller to make it do what we want. All excited we went back to our hostels and just realised that the End-Sem exams were coming up within a few weeks. Dam!!!. Again i could see my dreams drifting away. Then we decided to start building on the project the next semester.

Studies for our exams had started and we were all busy. One evening when we were relaxing after a long day of studying, my friend Vishwaas asked me, "Hey!! Why don't we just solder the BSD programmer(the device that is used to transfer the program from the computer to the ATMEGA8 microcontroller)". I was like, "Sure". I didn't mind sparing some time from studies. Well then we started. It was about 10.30pm when we started . We finished soldering the bsd programmer at about 11.15. Then Ameya (the other member of our team) said, "Hey!!! I could write a program for the microcontroller". Then we decided to make a simple circuit that could blink two led's alternatively. I started designing the circuit while Ameya did away with the programming.(He finished the program in no time). Me and Vishwaas completed the circuit on the bread board while Ameya did the necessary stuff on his desktop. It was late. About 3.00 in the morning. Well it was toooo late. We were all excited to see the result of our combined effort. We hooked up the circuit to the desktops parrallel port. All was set to burn the program on to the microcontroller. We all took a deep breathe and Ameya clicked on the EXCECUTE button. Well nothing seemed to happen. It was our first time. We didn't know what to expect. Well experience had taught me that electronic circuits rarlely work the first time. We still hoped for the best and attached the micro controller to the completed circuit. It was a very exciting moment. I attached the battery and ......."Dam!!!! Its not working". My prediction had been true.

We didn't lose hope yet. We rechecked the connections, we rechecked the program but in vain.. It was already 3.45 in the morning. We tried to burn the program again having double checked everything. "It must work this time", I said. I connected the battery. "Whow".."Damm!!"...The LED had lit up for a sec but stopped glowing.. Well it was about 4.30 and we are a little bit frustrated.. Something was wrong but 'What was it'.. Well the led blinked every time i touched the controller. Something was loose..The microcontroller was not fitting properly in the bread board.. "That was the problem".

We decided that we'll have a last go. We hooked the circuit in the computer the last time..It was now or never. I held the controller tightly on the circuit hoping that the was the only problem in the circuit and we burned the program again.. All three of us had our fingers crossed. If the LEDs dont blink this time, then all our effort would be a waste. The circuit lying on the table, the battery in my hand. Suspense in our hearts, "Will it work this time". It was about 5.00 in the morning, our eyes heavy and our fingers crossed. I carefully attached one terminal of the battery, took a deep breathe and connected the other terminal......"WHOA"...."ITS WORKING".. The LEDs were blinking alternatively, just as we wanted it to.We hi5'ed each other..It was the moment of truth..All our sleep vanished and our eyes were wide open. We were now in a party mood 5.00 in the morning.. But then the stinging feeling in our brain, we have our exams coming up in a week. Nonetheless we had accomplished something great that night.

My dreams were finally turning into reality.

The Universities Tech fest, ENGINEER is coming soon and i hope we will we ready by then to build a robot with some help of course..

You can see on the right the final working micro controller circuit with the blinking leds.

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