From Prototype to Product with the BeagleBone Black

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From Prototype to Product with the BeagleBone Black


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A group of students from The University of California, San Diego created a motor control shield for the BeagleBone Black. The shield can be used in projects like self-balancing vehicles (as shown in the video above), drones, or robots. Amy Szeto from Texas Instruments was demoing the board on the floor of International CES 2014 along with a few other maker-friendly products. The self-balancing ‘bot project served as an early prototype for the WowWee’s iPhone-controlled MiP robot, which was also unveiled at CES. (See correction below.)


Students from UC San Diego’s embedded control and robotics class each built up their own MiP using the kit. If you’re looking to buy your own kit or breakout board, it will be available within a few months through Sparkfun and other distributors.

Correction: The video and article above are incorrect in that the BealgeBone version of MiP was not the prototype for the consumer version. Saam Ostovari, PhD student in the Coordinated Robotics Lab at UCSD explains:

When WowWee approached the lab we looked at a number of different things we could do with them. One of the things that came up was what is now MiP. I took lead on the development of the first prototype, which was Arduino-based. I did all the programming, the electrical and the design work. This was about a year and a half ago. I then have been working with WowWee on the production model, teaching them how balancing works, helping them get all the right components together, making sure it has good balancing performance with the low cost toy-grade components and that the toy hits a great price point.

Once we were working towards getting the production version’s details together, my professor wanted to start on the educational side of things. With all the work that was done on MiP, we had a much better understanding of what needed to be done to make a small Segway-like vehicle that hit a low price point. So my professor, Thomas Bewley, one other PhD student, Nick Morozovsky, and I started work on the first educational MiP called MyMiP. Much of what I had done for MiP went into MyMip. And we ended up successfully teaching the first hands on controls course based around MiP.

Some time later after the completion of the course, we began to look at what we wanted to do for next year’s course. It was at this time that we made the decision to pursue the BeagleBone Black as I had taken Arduino to its limits to do MiP. We wanted students to be able to do more after the class then just get a mobile inverted pendulum balancing. We wanted them to be able to start adding some level of autonomy. For this new project, James Strawson, a new PhD in lab at the time, took lead. James went ahead and took the educational MiP to the next level resulting in BeagleMip.

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Matt Richardson is a San Francisco-based creative technologist and Contributing Editor at MAKE. He’s the co-author of Getting Started with Raspberry Pi and the author of Getting Started with BeagleBone.

View more articles by Matt Richardson


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