visual basic barcode scanner input EXPERIMENTING WITH TILT AND GRAVITY SENSORS in Software

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692 EXPERIMENTING WITH TILT AND GRAVITY SENSORS
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ing. But when higher accuracy is required, the timing of the T2 pulse train should be re-read every 5 or 10 minutes, and even more frequently if the robot will be subjected to sudden and sharp temperature changes. The output of the ADXL202 is sensitive to temperature, so changes in temperature will affect the timing of the T2 pulse. As the program runs you will note that the value of the X and Y outputs will change 50 to 75 just by tilting the accelerometer on its sides. Sudden movement of the accelerometer will produce more drastic changes. Note the values you get and incorporate them into the accelerometer control software you devise for your robot.
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Though the ADXL202 accelerometer is ideally suited for use as a tilt sensor, it has other uses too. No additional hardware or even software is required to turn the sensor into a movement, vibration, and shock sensor. Assuming that the accelerometer is oriented so the robot travels in the chip s X-axis, then as the robot moves the 202 will register the change in acceleration. Should the robot hit a wall or other obstacle, it will be sensed as a very high acceleration/deceleration spike. Your control software will need to loop through the code at a high enough rate to catch these momentary changes in output if you want your robot to react to shocks and vibrations. The Repeat_ Loop in the code in Listing 41.2 repeats often enough that your robot should detect most collisions with objects. If you absolutely must detect all collisions you ll need to devise some kind of hardware interrupt that will trigger the microprocessor or microcontroller when the output of the 202 exceeds a certain threshold. Most hardware interrupts are not engineered to accept pulse width modulated signals, however, so additional external circuitry may be required. Another approach is to dedicate a fast-acting microcontroller just to the task of monitoring the output of the ADXL202. The low cost of microcontrollers these days makes such dedicated applications a reasonable alternative.
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Alternatives to Store-bought Accelerometers
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While factory-made accelerometers, such as the Analog Devices ADXL150 and ADXL202, are the most convenient for use with robotics, there are some low-cost alternatives you might want to experiment with. You can make your own homebrew accelerometer using a 50-cent piezo ceramic disc and a heavy steel ball or other weight. The homebrew piezo accelerometer isn t as accurate as the ADXL series or other factory-made accelerometers, but it ll do in a pinch and teach you about the physics of motion in the process. The piezo disc accelerometer works by using a well-known behavior of piezoelectric material: it is both a consumer of energy and a producer of energy. Most applications of piezoelectric materials are in consumer products like speakers and beepers. Apply a voltage to the piezoelectric material, and it vibrates, producing a tone. Conversely, if you vibrate the piezoelectric material using some mechanical means, the output is an electrical signal. Piezo discs are common finds in electronic and surplus stores. These units are typically used as the elements in low-cost speakers or tone-makers (like smoke alarms, car alarms,
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LIMITATIONS OF THE PIEZO DISC ACCELEROMETER 693
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and what not). The typical piezo disc is about an inch in diameter and is made of brass or some other nonferrous metal. Deposited on one side of the disc is a ceramic material made of piezo crystals. It is these crystals that vibrate when a voltage is applied to the disc. Most piezo discs already have two wire leads conveniently soldered to them so they can be easily connected to the rest of your circuit.
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CONSTRUCTING THE PIEZO DISC ACCELEROMETER
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We ll be using the disc in electricity-producing mode, with the help of a steel ball or other heavy weight to provide mechanical energy. Place the ball or weight on the disc ceramic side up and tape the ball in place so it won t roll or fall off the disc. Connect the output of the disc to a fast-acting voltage meter or an oscilloscope. Lift the disc up and down rapidly, and you ll see the voltage output of the disc fluctuate, perhaps as much as a full volt or two. The faster you move the disc, the more the voltage will swing. And, just as important, note that the polarity of the voltage changes depending on the direction of travel. The output of the disc might be in positive volts when moving up but negative volts when moving down. To complete the construction, mount the disc either on a separate sensor board or on the robot itself. As an accelerometer that senses lateral motion, the disc can be mounted in a vertical position, though that will reduce its sensitivity since the ball or weight is being pulled off the disc by gravity. Be sure that the tape holding the ball is secure. You may wish to construct a more reliable captive mechanism, perhaps housing the disc and ball or weight in an enclosure. A 35-mm film can cut to size or a plastic bug case (like the kind used for prizes in bubble gum machines) are good options. As with a factory-made accelerometer, you can use the piezo disc accelerometer for vibration and shock detection. Sudden jolts like when the robot bumps into something will translate into larger-than-normal variations in the output of the disc. When you connect this accelerometer to the brains of your robot, this information can be used to determine the machine s proper course of action.
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