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Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Freescale announces 'creative' robotics design contest

By Nick Flaherty

Freescale Semiconductor has launched a design contest to develop and submit a unique sensor robotic or system design based on Freescale’s latest sensor development kit in the form of a walking robot or the Freescale Tower System.
To coincide with the contest, Freescale has introduced a sensor development kit and new Tower Mechatronics Board that contestants will use for their designs. The Tower Mechatronics Board enables designers to write software for a variety of sensor applications. When used in the Freescale sensor robot, the Tower board is capable of making the robot walk and respond to touch, motion, vibration and other external stimuli. The Freescale robot is a nine-inch tall, four degrees of freedom bipedal walking robot, with a 32-bit ‘brain’ and a three-axis accelerometer for balance.
Unfortunately to be eligible to participate in the Freescale Make It Challenge, contestants must attend the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) from June 20-23 in San Antonio, Texas. The contest will challenge attendees FTF and complete an online course and quiz or one of two training courses offered at the forum.

The Make It Challenge will have two tracks:
1. Mechatronics Robot Track
2. Tower System Track

The challenge is limited to the first 200 registrants (100 per track), and participants can choose to enter one or both tracks. Each contestant in the Mechatronics Robot Track will receive the Freescale robot (FSLBOT) that contains the Tower Mechatronics board (TWR-MECH), as well as FSLBOT code. Participants in the Tower System Track will receive a Tower System kit containing one controller module selected by the participant. Contestants in both tracks will have access to the on-site FTF Make It Lab, where they can work on their designs and interact with Freescale technology experts.

Contestants must enter their designs on June 22, 2011 at 4 p.m. CDT and are limited to one submission per track. Entries will be judged on application innovation and creativity, as well as integration of different elements of the tool kit provided.

"Design challenges allow engineers to learn about new technologies and think of clever and unique ways to implement them into future designs," said judge Joe Grand, electrical engineer, former host of Discovery Channel's Prototype This! and president of Grand Idea Studio and a long-time Freescale customer. "As one of the judges for Freescale's Make It Challenge, I'm really looking forward to seeing what the FTF attendees can come up with using the Tower System."
First place winners of each track will receive $3,000 USD, second place $2,000 USD and third place $1,000 USD. The grand prize winner, selected from the first place track winners, will receive a Freescale Motorsports VIP weekend package for two, which includes travel and lodging for an upcoming motorsport event. For official rules; visit
The Tower Mechatronics Board, robot and software allow users to experiment with acceleration, magnetic, pressure and touch sensors, as well as electromechanical controls for industrial and consumer applications. The goal of the Tower Mechatronics Board and sensor robot is to help designers create innovative projects as quickly and easily as possible.
The Tower Mechatronics Board combines 32-bit computing, sensors and an actuator control onto a single standalone board with an on-board battery supply. The board, controlled by a 32-bit ColdFire microcontroller with 64K of RAM and 512K of flash, supports the range of Freescale Xtrinsic sensors via plug-in daughter boards.
The Tower mechatronics board is also supported by a range of development software. RobotSee is a scripting language as easy as BASIC, with the power of C that can be used without prior programming experience to create innovative projects. The Tower Mechatronics Board operates standalone, but can be plugged into the Tower System to expand its capabilities. Freescale’s robot is a sensor development kit controlled by the Tower Mechatronics Board, which includes simple development tools that help designers learn to write software for sensors.

Useful Links
FTF Americas 2011
Freescale Robotics
Freescale Tower System
Tower Geeks

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