In this Instructable you will learn how to hack the Snap Circuits Rover by adding a PICAXE micro controller and building a Snap Circuits Programmable Robot. First, you will learn how to install the PICAXE Programming Editor (the PICAXE is the microcontroller, or computer brain for your programmable Snap Circuits robot). Next, you will learn what a simple PICAXE program looks like and what it does. Then you will learn about the various parts and electronic components used to build robot. You will then assemble robot. Finally you will learn how to program and test the robot. And, as a bonus, you will learn how to build a motion detecting robot.

Snap Circuits is an educational toy that teaches electronics with solderless snap-together electronic components. Each component has the schematic symbol and a label printed on its plastic case that is color coded for easy identification. They snap together with ordinary clothing snaps. The components also snap onto a 10 X 7 plastic base grid analogous to a solderless breadboard. There are several Snap Circuits kits that range from a few simple circuits to the largest kit that includes 750 electronic projects.

All the kits include manuals printed in color with easy to follow diagrams to assemble the projects. The illustrations for each project look almost exactly like what the components will look on the base grid when finished. Because the electronic symbol is printed on each electronic component, once the project is completed, it will look almost exactly like a printed electronic schematic.

Elenco does not currently have a Snap Circuits programmable robot product. I find this surprising since Elenco has developed the Snap Circuits Rover, which is a remote controlled rover, and the Snap Circuits Micro that teaches you how program the PICAXE microcontroller and how to build circuits for the PICAXE, but Elenco has yet to develop a product that combines the PICAXE with the Snap Circuits Rover.

Here's a video of the robot running the test program (see the last step for a video of the motion detecting robot):

Parts Needed:

Software CD from the Snap Circuits XP kit or the Snap-Micro I kit (if you don’t have of these kits you can download the PICAXE Programming Editor from http://www.picaxe.com/Software/PICAXE/PICAXE-Programming-Editor/)

1 10 X 7 Plastic Base Grid
1 Snap Circuits Rover
1 9 volt Battery Block B5
1 Motor Control IC U8
1 8 Pin Socket U21 With PICAXE 08m Installed
4 1KOhm Resistors R2
1 Slide Switch S1
1 USB Programming Cable
3 Single Snaps
9 Two Snap Conductors
1 Three Snap Conductor
2 Four Snap Conductors
1 Seven Snap Conductor
1 Orange Jumper Wire
1 Yellow Jumper Wire
1 Green Jumper Wire
1 Purple Jumper Wire
1 Gray Jumper Wire
1 White Jumper Wire

Optional Parts:

1 Single Snap
1 100 Ohm Resistor R1

parts can be ordered from http://cs-sales.net/sncirepa.html

Install the PICAXE Programming Editor

The PICAXE Programming Editor is the software you will use to program the PICAXE micro-controller installed on the Snap Circuits 8 Pin Socket U14 block (the PICAXE chip carrier). The software contains the flowcharting software, the editor that you can use to write BASIC programs and the compiler for the micro-controller.

Install the PICAXE Programming Editor from the Snap Circuits XP or Snap-Micro I software CD on your laptop or desktop computer (Windows XP/Vista/7). The setup program will auto-run when you put the CD in the drive. When the dialog box for the install program appears on your screen, click the large button that says “Install the PICAXE Programming Editor software." When the install program finishes, you will see an icon on your Windows desktop that says “PICAXE Programming Editor.”

Insert the Snap Circuits USB Programming Cable into an empty USB port on your computer. Click on the PICAXE Programming Editor icon on your desktop to open the editor.

The Options dialog will automatically open (if the “Show options on startup” check box is checked). If it does not, go to View > Options. On the Mode tab, select 08M--this is your PICAXE microcontroller.

Click on the Serial Port tab and select the COM port where your USB Programming Cable is connected. Click the Ok button to go to the programming editor.

In the Programming editor click File and then click New Flowchart to start entering your flowchart. Before you start to create your flowchart, let’s take a look at some of the parts used to build your robot.

Step 1: The Picaxe Microcontroller

The PICAXE is a micro-controller, or a computer on a microchip. It is the computer brain of your robot. It’s not as powerful as the computer in your video game console, or your laptop computer, but it does have circuits for processing, memory, logic, input and output. You can find micro-controllers in many toys, your DVD player, your TV, your microwave oven, and nowadays even in your washing machine and dryer. In your microwave, for example, the micro-controller processes what you punch in on the keypad, outputs information on the display screen, controls the cooking time, the turntable, and the bell when your dinner has finished cooking.

The Snap Circuits block (U14) that serves as the PICAXE carrier is specially labeled to more easily identify the pins on the PICAXE microcontroller chip. Think of the chip as a square bug with eight legs. There is a notch in the top to help you orient the chip and a little dot marks leg 1. Legs and pins can sometimes get confusing, but on the U14 block the legs (and the corresponding snaps the legs are connected to) are labeled in red 1-8 going in the counterclockwise direction.

Leg 1 (snap 1): This is the positive (+) voltage input. It can take from 3 volts to 5 volts. You will want to avoid putting more than 5 volts through the PICAXE since this might damage it.

Leg 2 (snap 2): S-In. Serial In pin--it is used to download your program to the PICAXE.

Leg 3 (snap 3): This pin 4! Luckily the snaps are labeled or the pin numbers could get confusing. Pin 4 can be used as an Input pin or an output pin. In the previous step this is the pin the program set to high to send current to the motor for ten seconds. Then the program set the pin low to cut the power to stop the motor from spinning.

Leg 4 (snap 4): This is pin 3. It is an Input only pin

Leg 5 (snap 5): This is pin 2. It can be used as an Input pin or an output pin

Leg 6 (snap 6): This is pin 1. It can be used as an Input pin or an output pin

Leg 7 (snap 7): This is pin 0. It is an Output only pin. It is also the Serial Out pin. This pin will also be used when downloading your program to the PICAXE.

Leg 8 (snap 8): This is GND or Negative (-) for the PICAXE.

Picture 1 source: http://cs-sales.net/pimiicinso6s.html

Picture 2 source: http://www.elenco.com/admin_data/pdffiles/SCM400.pdf

Picture 3 source: www.picaxe.com/docs/picaxe_manual1.pdf
Cool instructable bro!!!!
nice, have you ever committed any of these snap circuit projects to a pcb?

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Bio: You can try my projects AT YOUR OWN RISK. There's infinite ways to damage or destroy persons and property. I can't think of ... More »
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