Hands-on with FEZ Mini, a .NET-powered microcontroller (+ robot kit)


Szymon Kobalczyk, one of my collaborators on the Generic Serial Driver for Windows 7 Sensor and Location Platform project, recently posted a link in our forum to the FEZ line of .NET-powered microcontroller kits. Shortly after that, Gus Issa from GHI Electronics (makers of the FEZ) got in touch, and sent kits to both Simon and me. Simon’s had a chance to play around with the kit and build the robot shown in the video above:

Two reflective sensors are included in the kit (useful for line following and edge detection projects), and you can order additional components both from TinyCLR.com and other robotics sites. Many construction parts are included in the kit so it is very easy to attach additional sensors or other parts. As you can see on the picture above, I already added a Sharp IR distance sensor in front (so I can teach the robot to not bump on walls). I also added an Xbee expansion board on the back so one day I can control the robot remotely (and my Holy Grail is to connect the robot to Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio).

In my previous post I complained how upset I’m that there is no cheap .NET Micro Framework hardware for hobbyists. Now I can take it back. IMHO we finally have a very powerful alternative to Arduino and similar platforms, with the price that won’t break the bank (especially with FEZ Mini).

The FEZ comes in two form factors: the FEZ Mini, which has a pin configuration that’s compatible with the BASIC Stamp from Parallax; the FEZ Domino, which is pin-compatible with the Arduino USB models (and they even have a beta driver for the WIZnet Ethernet module used in Arduino Ethernet shields).

First day with FEZ Mini Robot Kit

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I'm a tinkerer and finally reached the point where I fix more things than I break. When I'm not tinkering, I'm probably editing a book for Maker Media.

View more articles by Brian Jepson


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