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Nashua Robot Builders (NRB) Newsletter

December 1997

The NRB meet the second Saturday of each month at the Nashua Public Library in Nashua. Meetings start at 1pm.
You can find our web page at:

In this issue:

   New Meeting Place
   PICs with Ben Wirz
   Next Month's Topics

New Meeting Place:

   Much to our disappointment (and surprise!), Cyber Jo's Internet Cafe is no longer in business. Fortunately, the Nashua Public Library had a nice meeting place available in the back of the Bibliography section. We will continue to hold our meetings the second Saturday of every month at 1pm. The Bibliography section is downstairs from the main library  entrance. (Here are directions to the Library)

PICs with Ben Wirz:

Ben Wirz presented an excellent talk and demo on Microchip PIC microcontrollers. There's no way we can cover the material to the same extent as Ben did in the meeting (that's why people go to meetings!), but we can provide the references and pointers.



Ben explained that the PIC is a RISC based (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) Harvard Architecture (the program and data are stored in separate memories) microcontroller. There are three basic steps to getting a PIC to work:

     #Power Supply
     #Reset Circuit

Ben likes to use ceramic resonators for the oscillators in his projects, although the PIC can be configured to use a  crystal or R/C oscillator as well. Ben strongly suggests using Microchip's PIC simulator to perform most of your initial code debugging. Bugs can be  extremely difficult to find in a system without the use of a simulator or emulator, and since Microchip gives their's away, you might as well use it.

As a bonus to the robot club, Ben gave out blank Dontronics DT101 PIC SimmSticks to help people get started. Thanks
Ben! (see - you really should come to the meetings!).


Ben demonstrated his PIC based robot in action, and stepped through the development cycle using the various PIC tools. Ben's robot currently avoids obstacles using two infrared proximity sensors.

Microchip Technology Inc.
Microchip is the manufacturer of the PIC microcontrollers. They can provide you with datasheets, books, CD's, and development systems for the PIC family.

Wirz Electronics
Ben's company, a provider of Microchip PIC programmers, development kits, and literature.

PIC Beginners Guide
A few suggestions and pointers to PIC information.

This is a simple language developed for the PICs.

Micro Engineering Labs Inc. is the developer of a Basic compiler for the PICs.

PIC C Compiler
Custom Computer Services Inc. offers a PIC C Compiler that includes libraries for the various built in PIC peripherals, plus support for many common external peripherals.

PIC ANSI C Compiler
High Tech Software offers an ANSI C compatible compiler plus a complete integrated development environt for PICs.


   Books (available from Wirz Electronics)
   Easy PIC'n by David Benson
   PIC'n Up The Pace by David Benson
   Programming and Customizing the PIC Microcontroller by Myke Predko

Next Month's Topics:

We started to hash out various contest ideas towards the end of this month's meeting, but decided it was such an involved topic, we should table the discussion until January. Here are a few of the ideas currently being considered:

       Obstacle Course. Gain points by amount of area covered.
       Obstacle Course. Attempt to touch four different walls.
       Alley Run. Travel down and back between two rows of books.
       Line Following. Follow a black line on a white paper.
       Beacon Hunt. Find a beacon in a room.

Since many of our robot platforms are home grown and very different from each other, one of the interesting ideas may  be to push some common technologies so people can work with and help each other. We'll be devoting a large portion of next month's meeting talking about the contest. Please attend the meeting if you plan on entering the contest!


Chris Burian
John Cook
Matt Cross
Jay Francis
Quentin Lewis
Jim Shepherd
Ken Wilkens
Charles Williams
Ken Williams
Ben Wirz

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