Many years ago I bought a simple robot construction kit from Robix called “Rascal”, though when I bought it it was called “RCS-6”. I never got around to using it to any significant degree and that always irked me. The kit was not cheap. This Holidays I was looking for some kind of fun project to share with my kids and so decided to break out the Rascal and get it working again.
The set I have is from so long ago that the servo controller board (pictured bottom left) interfaces to a parallel port and the old software that drives the board (via the parallel port, of course) will not longer run on my version of Windows. There’s a new USB based replacement board, and accompanying software, but it costs $250. Not going to happen. I decided to scrap the old board and find an alternative solution for driving the servos.
I quickly found a perfect solution online. Pololu.com have their “Maestro” series of servo controllers with a pretty cool software interface. But then I also discovered all the microcontroller boards, like Arduino and its stackable shields, and suddenly there were tons of possibilities for all sorts of robots and gizmos. I went straight to RadioShack and got an Arduino Uno board and a starter kit from Make. The rest is history.
I’m still going to get the Rascal working, even if my horizons have expanded somewhat. I purchased a 16 channel servo shield for the Uno that I can use to drive the Rascal. The only negative is that I won’t have the nice software interface that comes with the Maestro boards from Pololu. Maybe there is a way to still use that software or maybe someone has create an alternative for the servo shield itself. I’ll have to see.
While I’m waiting for the servo shield to arrive I plan on building a circuit to control a servo using a potentiometer and the 555 timer chip. I also assembled the Rascal into one of it’s arm configurations in anticipation of hooking it up soon.