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Moving Your DIY Robot using Arduino and Servos

Sumobot Bot JR

Interested in building your own Arduino robot? For me, it has been a fun project to do with my kids. We built our first the robot using the PiBot robotics kit. Additional iterations utilized Legos, Sumobot Jr, cardboard, and other materials around the house. It’s fun to invent your own chassis and designs. Using some of the ideas from this blog post,
you’ll be able to build your own DIY robot. Hope you enjoy the journey.

In future blog posts, we’ll show ways to control your robot using a Wifi connection, Raspberry Pi, Droidscript and Android. This blog post will focus on controlling the wheels of the robot using continuous rotation servos and
a simple communication protocol.

Here’s a components that you’ll need to get started:

This post will focus on programming the servo’s with Arduino’s programming environment. For sample instructions on building a Sumo Bot Jr, check out the following video. In this post, we’ll assume that you have put together your robot chassis and your servos, breadboard, battery pack and Arduino have been connected to your chassis.

Servo Robot

  1. Connect the GND pin on the Arduino to the ground line of the bread board. The ground line is marked with a blue stripe.
  2. Connect the black wires of the servos to the ground line.
  3. Connect the red wires of the servos to the voltage line of the bread board. The voltage line is marked with a red stripe.
  4. Connect the white wire of the left servo to pin 9 of the Arduino. This wire will act as a signal wire between the servo and the Arduino.
  5. Connect the white wire of the right servo to pin 10 of the Arduino.
  6. Connect the black wire of the battery pack to the ground line.
  7. Connect the red wire of the battery pack to the voltage line.
  8. Install 4 AA batteries into the battery pack.

At this point, we’re ready to install some Arduino code into the Arduino. Copy the following Arduino sketch and upload into your Arduino. To learn more about uploading sketches using the Arduino IDE, check out the following video:

Here’s another tutorial on setting up your Arduino and uploading sketches:
https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Howto

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#include <Servo.h>

Servo leftServo;  
Servo rightServo;  

int LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE = 180;
int LEFT_BACK_VALUE = 0;
int STOP_VALUE = 90;
int RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE = 0;
int RIGHT_BACK_VALUE = 180;
int LEFT_SERVO_PIN = 9;
int RIGHT_SERVO_PIN = 10;
 
void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(9600);
  leftServo.attach(LEFT_SERVO_PIN);
  rightServo.attach(RIGHT_SERVO_PIN);
  stop();
}
//================================================================================
void forward()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void stop()
{
    leftServo.write(STOP_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(STOP_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void back()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_BACK_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_BACK_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void left()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_BACK_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void right()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_BACK_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void loop()
{
  if (Serial.available() > 0) {
    int inByte = Serial.read();

    switch (inByte) {
    case 'w':    forward(); break;
    case 's':    back(); break;
    case 'a':    left(); break;
    case 'd':    right(); break;
    case ' ':    stop(); break;
    }  
  }  
}

How does this code work?

We start by importing the “Servo” header and declaring the left and right
servos.

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#include <Servo.h>

Servo leftServo;  
Servo rightServo;

The continuous rotation servo has a simple protocol for controlling rotational
motion using the frequency of voltage pulses. In the Arduino framework, the following
code stops the rotation of the servo.

leftServo.write(90);

To make the servo spin forward, use the following code:

leftServo.write(180);

To make the servo spin backward, use the following code:

leftServo.write(0);

With these ideas in mind, we define the following constants for the left and right servos.

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int LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE = 180;
int LEFT_BACK_VALUE = 0;
int STOP_VALUE = 90;
int RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE = 0;
int RIGHT_BACK_VALUE = 180;

We also define the constants for the Arduino digital pins.

int LEFT_SERVO_PIN = 9;
int RIGHT_SERVO_PIN = 10;

In the following code, we setup the serial port, attach the left and right servos,
and send the stop command.

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void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(9600);
  leftServo.attach(LEFT_SERVO_PIN);
  rightServo.attach(RIGHT_SERVO_PIN);
  stop();
}

The following functions are used to move the robot forward, backward, left, and right.
There’s also a function to stop movement.

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//================================================================================
void forward()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void stop()
{
    leftServo.write(STOP_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(STOP_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void back()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_BACK_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_BACK_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void left()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_BACK_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_FORWARD_VALUE);
}
//================================================================================
void right()
{
    leftServo.write(LEFT_FORWARD_VALUE);
    rightServo.write(RIGHT_BACK_VALUE);
}

//================================================================================

In the loop function which is called repeatedly, the Arduino waits for a character
from the serial port. If the Arduino receives a “w”, the program sends a forward command.
If the Arduino receives a “s”, the program sends a backward command.
If the Arduino receives a space, the program sends a stop command.

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void loop()
{
  if (Serial.available() > 0) {
    int inByte = Serial.read();

    switch (inByte) {
    case 'w':    forward(); break;
    case 's':    back(); break;
    case 'a':    left(); break;
    case 'd':    right(); break;
    case ' ':    stop(); break;
    }  
  }  
}

In the Arduino IDE, press CTRL+SHIFT+M to open the serial port monitor. This window is used to send bytes to the Arduino. Try typing “w” and press enter. The robot should move forward. Try typing space and press enter. The robot should stop.

Congrads! You’ve built your first Arduino robot!

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Sumobot Jr: Fun Open Source Robot Kit using Arduino and JavaScript

Sumobot Bot JR

Looking for a fun weekend project? The Sumobot junior is a fun open source robot kit using Arduino and JavaScript. If you already own an Arduino, this kit can be an inexpensive way to tinker with robot building. (i.e. about $50)   Since the plans for the chassis are open source, you can customize the robot as you see fit.  The design can be completed using a laser cutter or a 3D printer.    You might extend the base of the robot so that you can have room for a bread board or anything else you like! You can find complete instructions for building your Sumo Bot JR at http://sumobotkit.com/.   The design uses continuous rotation servo’s which are pretty easy to program and re-use in other robot projects.  You can purchase the servo’s here: https://www.parallax.com/product/900-00008

While researching this blog post, I found another cool post detailing the process of building a NodeBot Jr.
http://www.tattdcodemonkey.com/blog/2014/7/26/nodebots

You can find the build plans and code here: https://github.com/makenai/sumobot-jr

 

 

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Image from https://github.com/makenai/sumobot-jr

 
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Civic Hacking: Why does it matter?

Hack for change picuture

Civic hacking has become a potent movement for engaging coders, designers, and technology professionals in challenges that matter to the community.   Computer hacking tends to have a negative connotation.  Some call civic hacking “hacking gone good” since it’s really about community service and place making.

I had the good fortune to participate in the National Day of Civic hacking on June 6th at SparkMacon MakerSpace.  I want to give a shout out to the organizations that made the event possible: TAG Middle Georgia, LBA Ware, Infinity Network Solutions and Spinen.   I especially want to thank the team that organized the event for their investment of time in organizing challenge mentors, making people feel welcome, and supporting our makers.

Hack For Change

Some argue that civic hackathons have little value since it’s rare to find apps that find their way into full implementation and  achieve impact.  I, however, feel that civic hackathons offer our communities a number of benefits.

  • Building a tribe change makers: It’s great to meet like mind technologists who care about making a positive impact in their community.  Hackathons enable you to meet new people, make connections, and learn about the deeper needs of your area.  Through the experience, you learn about new tools, practices, and strategies for doing rapid prototyping.
  • Local Data, Local Impact: Democracy only works when citizens are engaged.   I appreciate that the civic hacking movement helps us to learn about local concerns and empowers us to do something about it.  Being a geek about data, it’s also fascinating to learn about the open government API’s and data sources that can support civic apps.
  • Voting with your code: It’s interesting to see what problems makers care about.   In a typical hackathon, there’s a broad range of issues, data and topics to choose.  The team tends to select projects based on skill level, their engagement in the topic, and challenge difficulty.
  • Building a community of support: During our hackathon event, it was cool to see how different teams mentored and supported each other.  Everyone has different strengths in terms of design or technology.   I can honestly say that everyone learned from each other.   In our hackathon in Macon, it was nice to see the experienced hackers mentoring the new developers and helping them feel welcome.

In our hackathon in Macon, GA, one team created an mobile app serving Peace corp team members to help them to know about safety and security alerts as they travel to various countries.   Another team of hackers helped propose and prototype applications that would help high school students with learning vocabulary for SAT/ACT .

We had some important discussions on the real impact of hackathons.   In general, how do we care, feed, market, and grow various hackathon ideas?  How do you care for the hacks from a software maintenance point of view?  How do you intentionally organize the challenge ideas and data sets?  The team from Spinen made some strong arguments for making a home for these concerns.  I’m interested in seeing how this idea can grow.

Are you interested in contributing a challenge problem for future hackathons for SparkMacon Makerspace?  Feel free to contribute your ideas here:

Submit a hackathon challenge idea to SparkMacon

To help contribute to this conversation locally for Middle Georgia, I have compiled most of the challenge problems, data, resources, and links from previous SparkMacon hackathons and HackForChange events.  At a minimum, it would be cool to create a backlog of challenge ideas that can be used in future Middle Georgia hackathons and SparkMacon Open Make events.

Middle Georgia Civic Hacking Projects and Resources

To close, here’s some links sharing the impact of civic hacking in communities.   I think it’s work that matters.   I believe it’s a cool way to innovate our communities and create engagement.   What do you think?

 

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8 Resources for Building Your DIY Robot #Arduino #RaspberryPi #JavaScript

PIRobot

  • http://www.coderbot.org/ – This project details open designs, plans, and software for building your robot with Raspberry Pi.  The computer vision features and teaching resources are impressive.
  • http://sumobotkit.com/ – This is the first open source robot design I tried.  I uses Arduino and continuous rotation servo’s.  It’s a great weekend project.
  • Johnny-Five: Using JavaScript to Code Your Robots – I have been amazed by the community of JavaScript/Node programmers creating easy to use API’s for robot building.  The Johnny Five community has great documentation and support for many hardware platforms.
  • Servo control with Raspberry PI in 5 minutes or less – Got some continuous rotation servo’s and a PI? I used this procedure to create my Raspberry PI robot.   It’s cool since you just need the servo’s and the Rasberry PI.
  • ServoBlaster – Here’s a link to ServoBlaster
  • How to stream video from Raspberry PI – I found an old web camera around the house.  I tried to implement some video streaming from my PI using this procedure.  Amazingly, it just worked!  With the video streaming feature, my brother in another city can remotely drive my robot around my house.   Lots of fun.
  • Building robots with Raspberry Pi and Python
  • Ruby Robot – Detailed e-book – While researching this blog post, I found this cool ebook.  Looks like a good read.

 

Are you interested in building Arduino or RaspberryPI robots?  Let us know what you’re building in the comments!

 

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“CITIZENSHIP IN A REPUBLIC” – Theodore Roosevelt

Published on May 8, 2015 by in leadership, making

IMG_20131023_152451

During my morning reading, I encountered this powerful quote from Theodore Roosevelt from his “CITIZENSHIP IN A REPUBLIC” speech.  I just had to share it.  Life is a gift.  Life is short.  Are we “daring greatly?”

 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 

You can find the whole speech here:
http://design.caltech.edu/erik/Misc/Citizenship_in_a_Republic.pdf

 

 
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Key Insights from Microsoft Build 2015 Conference

Build 2015
 
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FireSarter: Entrepreneur & Innovation Community

 

 

Firestarter in Warner Robins,GA

 

Are you looking for a place in Warner Robins, GA to rapidly prototype a product or test a business concept?   Are you looking for a community to learn technical skills and grow your business concept?  Are you interested in learning more about the makers movement in Warner Robins, GA?   If you’re a business leader or maker in Middle, GA, make sure to attend the FireStarter meetup on April 30th.

If you follow this blog, you know that I serve as a founding member of SparkMacon Makerspace in Macon, GA.  Our community is VERY excited for the FireStarter community.   Our leadership team is actively finding ways that we can support and grow this community of business leaders and makers.   We hope to find ways for SparkMacon and FireStarter can collaborate.   From reviewing their website and materials, I’m excited to see the focus and direction of this community.

What kind of benefits can makerspaces and fab labs have on the local economy?  Check out the impact of another makerspace in Augusta, GA: Clubhou.se .

If you care about fostering the makers movement in Middle, GA, make sure to attend the FireStarter meetup.   You won’t be disappointed.

 

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Ardublock: GRAPHICAL PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE FOR ARDUINO

Lego Crane

Thanks to projects like Code.org and MIT Scratch, students can encounter ideas from computer science using rich puzzle interfaces. Using these puzzle interfaces, students grow their skills of creativity and critical thinking while building something fun. Puzzle based programming interfaces put emphasis on the student learning sequencing, loops, and connecting appropriate pieces together. In this post, I wanted to share my experiences with Ardublock, a puzzle based programming interface for the Arduino platform. Using the most recent beta of Ardublock, I found that I could create an Arduino program to control motors quickly. I’m looking forward to seeing how students in our makerspace will enjoy the software.

The Arduino platform enables makers and students to program experiences involving electronics or sketches. You can learn more about this platform from the following blog post. In our previous blog post, we used Arduino, Lego’s, and a few servo motor’s to create a small toy crane. In this sketch, the user can move the crane by sending a character to the Arduino through the serial monitor.

  • w – moves the crane up.
  • s – stops the crane.
  • x – moves the crane down.
  • a – moves the crane left.
  • d – moves the crane right.

In the crane setup, pin 9 of the Arduino is connected to a standard servo. Pin 9 will be used to move the crane left and right. Pin 10 will be used to move the crane up and down. We initialize our variable for the direction or angle of the crane. We also send an angle of 90 degrees to both servo motors to ensure that the motors stop moving.

Ardublock setup

 

In the Arduino platform, the programmer needs to define a main loop of functionality.   In the crane control program, we start the process by accepting a character from the serial port and storing the character in a variable called “input.”   If we receive the character ‘d’ for move left, then the system changes the angle variable and writes the angle to the servo motor.  You can see the Ardublock code below.   The character ‘a’ for move right operates in a similar manner.    When we receive the characters x and w to move up and down, we write an appropriate value to the continuous rotation servo.   (0 = move up, 180 = move down)

Ardublock main loop

When using Ardublock, the student is not hidden from the C code generated by the tool.  The student can be encouraged to change the C code.  I see this as a nice learning advantage.   I want our students to make the connection between puzzle pieces and traditional code.

If you’re interested in learning more about this free and open source product, check out the following link:

http://blog.ardublock.com/engetting-started-ardublockzhardublock/

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How to build a Lego Crane using Arduino [Tutorial]

Lego Crane

I’m always looking for new ways to play and build with my kids.  In the Rosario house hold, we enjoy building stuff with Lego’s.   My kids have also enjoyed playing with Lego Wedo and Lego Mindstorm kits at our makerspace.   For many families, getting access to a Lego Mindstorm EV3 kit that costs $350 to $400 can be a challenge.   Even the Lego Wedo kits are not inexpensive.   Our family already had a pretty nice collection of traditional Lego and Lego technic pieces.  I started wondering if I could build some pieces that would enable us to combine the world of Lego and Arduino.  In this blog post, I would like to share some of my experiences of building a fun Lego crane for my kids.   I hope to use some of these ideas to engage older students in coding and making at our local makerspace.    You can see a video of the crane in action here:

Here’s some of the materials that you’ll need to build your own!

  • Traditional Lego pieces
  • Lego technic pieces – These lego pieces are used with Lego Mindstorm/Wedo kits for constructing robots.   They include parts like beams, gears, and connectors to enable pieces to turn and spin.  You can learn more about Lego technic from this post.
  • 1 Continuous rotation servo.  You can purchase this servo for about $15.00 . Here’s a link:https://www.parallax.com/product/900-00008
  • 1 standard servo.  This costs about $14.00. You can find it here: https://www.parallax.com/product/900-00005
  • Bread board
  • Arduino
  • Wires
  • Computer to program and control the Arduino.
  • 2 Lego servo horns – I found the following design from Nenzilla from Thingiverse.  It works pretty well.

For this construction, you will need two Lego servo horns.   Connect Lego technic beams to the Lego servo horns.

 

3D printed servo horn for lego

 

In the following picture, you can see how we used Lego, rubber bands, the standard servo to enable the crane to turn left to right.

 

Left and right Lego servo

 

In the following picture, you can see how we used the continuous rotation servo so that the string of the crane can be extended and retracted.  We’re just using rubber bands to connect the servo’s to traditional Lego pieces.   We also used our second Lego servo horn.

 

Up down servo

 

Here’s how we connected the top beam with the support beam.

 

Constructing the top beam

 

What does the Arduino code look like?

In this section, we’ll give you an overview of the source code used to drive the servo’s. In the Arduino platform, the host PC can communicate with the Arduino at runtime using serial communication. In the code, you’ll see that we are using serial communication to send out servo commands in response to characters sent by the host PC.

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#include <Servo.h>


int incomingByte;      // a variable to read incoming serial data into
int angle = 0;
int delta = 3;

Servo servoLeftRight;
Servo servoUpDown;


void setup() {
  // initialize serial communication:
  Serial.begin(9600);
 
  angle = 90;  
 
  servoLeftRight.attach(9);
  servoUpDown.attach(10);  
  servoUpDown.write(90);  
}

void loop() {
  // see if there's incoming serial data:
  if (Serial.available() > 0) {
    // read the oldest byte in the serial buffer:
    incomingByte = Serial.read();
   
   
   
    if (incomingByte == 'd') {
     
      angle = angle - delta;
      if(angle <= 0)
        angle = 0;
       
      // move left  
      servoLeftRight.write(angle);
      delay(15);
    }

    if (incomingByte == 'a') {
      angle = angle + delta;
      if(angle >= 180)
        angle = 180;
     
      //move right  
      servoLeftRight.write(angle);
      delay(15);
    }
   
    if (incomingByte == 'w') {
      //raise the hook
      servoUpDown.write(180);
     
    }
   
    if (incomingByte == 's') {
      //lower the hook
      servoUpDown.write(0);
    }

    if (incomingByte == ' ') {
      //stop the continuous rotation servo
      servoUpDown.write(90);
    }



   
  }
}

In the following setup code, we declare variables for the character typed by the user and the angle of the crane. We also declare our servo’s. One servo is used to change the direction of the crane. (servoLeftRight) The other servo moves the hook of the crane up and down. We initialize the direction servo to 90 degrees. “ServoLeftRight” will be attached to Arduino pin 9. “ServoUpDown” is connected to Arduino pin 10.

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#include <Servo.h>


int incomingByte;      // a variable to read incoming serial data into
int angle = 0;
int delta = 3;

Servo servoLeftRight;
Servo servoUpDown;


void setup() {
  // initialize serial communication:
  Serial.begin(9600);
 
  angle = 90;  
 
  servoLeftRight.attach(9);
  servoUpDown.attach(10);  
  servoUpDown.write(90);  
}

The “loop” function keeps repeating code forever. If the Arduino finds bytes incoming from the host computer, we read the byte and do something useful with it.

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void loop() {
  // see if there's incoming serial data:
  if (Serial.available() > 0) {
    // read the oldest byte in the serial buffer:
    incomingByte = Serial.read();

    //Do something!!

  }

}

To send characters to your Arduino, you will need to open the serial monitor window by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+M . By entering ‘d’ or ‘a’, you will move the direction of the crane left and right.

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    if (incomingByte == 'd') {
     
      angle = angle - delta;
      if(angle <= 0)
        angle = 0;
       
      // move left  
      servoLeftRight.write(angle);
      delay(15);
    }

    if (incomingByte == 'a') {
      angle = angle + delta;
      if(angle >= 180)
        angle = 180;
     
      //move right  
      servoLeftRight.write(angle);
      delay(15);
    }

In a similar fashion, entering ‘w’ and ‘s’ will raise and lower the hook. Sending a space character will stop the continuous rotation servo.

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    if (incomingByte == 'w') {
      //raise the hook
      servoUpDown.write(180);      
    }
   
    if (incomingByte == 's') {
      //lower the hook
      servoUpDown.write(0);
    }

    if (incomingByte == ' ') {
      //stop the continuous rotation servo
      servoUpDown.write(90);
    }

In a future blog post, I might try to recreate this program using ArduBlock to make the programming experience more accessible to kids.

Let us know if you need help building your own Lego robots using Arduino. I would enjoy hearing what you’re trying and building!

Wish you the best!

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DroidScript: Building Simple Android apps using JavaScript

DroidScript

 

Let’s say you want to tinker with making simple Android applications, but you don’t have a lot of time.   Perhaps you just love JavaScript and want to write Android Apps.   Consider checking DroidScript on the Google Play Store.  DroidScript enables you to quickly build simple Android apps using JavaScript.

I greatly appreciate DroidScript enabling you to edit programs directly from a Wifi connected desktop computer.  All you need is a desktop web browser.   You don’t need to install Eclipse, Java, simulators, Netbeans or anything.   You press a button in DroidScript and the app fires up a web server on your Android device.   From your web browser, you can start making new apps, exploring and running sample programs, and checking out the documentation.

What features of Android can you access using DroidScript?

  • You can use the GPS, Compass, Camera, and Accelerometer.
  • DroidScript can do basic graphics functions.
  • According to the documentation, you can send and receive emails and SMS.
  • You can control Arduino and Lego NXT.
  • On a personal project, I used DroidScript to send commands to an Arduino through serial communication.
  • You can also fire up a custom web server so that your phone can respond to HTTP requests.

I think users will appreciate the effective samples and documentation.

Docs screen

For the young programmer, hobby programmer or someone who needs some quick code duck tape on Android, DroidScript is worth checking out.  If you need help, they have an active forum community at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/androidscript

 

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