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Jordanís Gumstix Robot Project

Bringing LEON to life...

Project Details

The Frame

LEON is going to be powered by two 18 Volt Shop Force cordless drill motors. I found these drills on sale at Meijer for less than $30 a piece. The are very convenient because they are easy to take apart, they already have a gearbox with high and low speeds, they come with two batteries and a charger, they have a chuck which makes it easy to attach a wheel and axel, and they are surprisingly powerful. I think they should be sufficiently strong enough to move LEONs heavy steel frame.

I also have a couple servo motors that I salvaged from an old RC boat. I am planning on using them to make the head/camera rotate left and right and tilt up and down.

The Muscle

The frame of LEON is made of 3/16Ē thick steel. I know it is heavy, but I got it for free from my friend Brian who works at a welding shop! Thanks Brian!! I have access to a machine shop so I am doing all the construction myself.† I have the base of the frame built already and Iíd estimate it weighs about 15 lbs. Once I add the upper half I will probably cut slots out of the base to reduce the weight.† Ideally I would like to use aluminum for this but I am trying to save money. Maybe a future model!!

The front wheels are simple swivel casters from Lowes.


For an Electrical Engineer the brains of LEON are the most impressive part. The SBC that I am using is the Gumstix Verdex XL6P and it is the top card of the three in the image below. This thing is loaded! It has a 600 MHz processor (Marvel PXA270), 128 MB of RAM, 32 MB of Flash, and connectors to add all kinds of sweet expansion boards. The middle board in the picture is the Tweener board and it provides power and a serial port to the Gumstix. Finally the bottom board, the biggest one is the RoboAudio-TH. This board give me easy access to a 60 pin I/O header and includes built in functionality for SPI, I2C and on board Audio with the UCB1400. I have also used the UCB1400 in a past project as an Audio Codec and a Touch-Screen Controller. It is not pictured here, but my next purchase is going to be the NetWIFIMicroSD *FCC card. This card will be necessary for me to control the Gumstix via WIFI. It also provides a Micro SD slot which could come in handy.† Check out for more info on their products.

The Brains

I will need to be able to see where LEON is going if I want to be able to control him from my computer.† I am planning out using an Ethernet camera for this. Ethernet cams are nice because they are essentially stand alone devices. You can plug them directly into your LAN and they stream their video without being connected to any computer. I thought about using a USB camera but that would require me buying another expansion board for the Gumstix because none of the board I purchased have a USB jack. Using an Ethernet camera will also reduce the amount of code I have to write too.

The lower picture here is of a reflection sensor. Basically it shines infrared light on a surface and if the surface is reflective it outputs high if the surface is non-reflective it outputs low. I bought a metallic silver paint marker and I am going to put marks around the chuck of the drill motors and aim these sensors at them. The sensors will be connected to the I/O header of the RoboAudio board which will count the changes in the output. Hopefully I can use these as wheel encoders so that I can keep track of where LEON travels.

LEON Vision