It is easy to turn your tiny Single Board Computer, the Raspberry Pi (RBPi), into a robot. All that you need is a BrickPi board and a case that will fit onto your credit card size computer and make it capable of accepting inputs from sensors, to running motors and other parts. With the BrickPi, you can drive up to four EV3 or NXT motors and five sensors. A 9V battery powers the board and drives the motors and sensors, including the RBPi. While the sturdy case that holds the RBPi, has holes that can snap in LEGO parts, the LEGO Mindstorms’ BrickPi board untethers your RBPi from the wall outlet.
For programming the BrickPi, you have a choice from among three languages – Python, C and Scratch. If you need information on using these languages, visit the github site. It includes examples and drivers as well, including several projects that setup the BrickPi and demonstrate its use. The projects involve demonstrations of controlling the robot with web services such as Twitter, SSH and other web pages. Apart from the program listing for running these projects, the site includes Bill of Materials for the LEGO parts that the robots will need to use.
While the BrickPi controls the sensors, the LEGO motors and the new EV3 motors, the RBPi, in turn, controls the BrickPi. You can power the BrickPi with an on-board 9-12V battery pack, which will also supply the RBPi, the sensors and the motors. The design of the BrickPi is entirely open-source, so anyone can see the design and other details of the firmware design.
Creating a robot with the RBPi and BrickPi is indeed challenging, but not too difficult, since there are plenty of examples and drivers available. Once you have mastered the basics, you can progress to the more advanced creations. Using the LEGO elements makes the job even simpler and you can simply watch your computer come alive.
The BrickPi, controlling the four servomotors, offers precise control over the robot, ensuring that the robot moves with precision. The built-in rotation sensors can measure steps with on-degree accuracy. Among the other sensors is an ultrasonic sensor, to allow the robot measure distances and avoid obstacles. Two additional vision sensors allow the robot to sense and detect movement.
The BrickPi even has two touch sensors, with which your robot can pick things up on command, since they can detect when they are releasing or pressing something. For example, the touch sensor, when pressed, can allow your robot to talk, walk, turn off your TV or close a door. In addition, the included color sensor can be used either as a color lamp, distinguish light settings, detect black and white or distinguish a range of bright and paste colors.
Overall, the clever design elements in the BrickPi score an excellent rating. Users will enjoy the way it brings a new level of interaction to their experience of using LEGO parts and will appreciate the easy way of creating their first robot. The simplicity of building any robot from the cool hardware encourages inventive play.