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What is the Miniboard?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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The Miniboard is a type of electronics board designed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors Dr. Fred Martin and Randy Sargent. Its main purpose is to act as a robot controller, providing primary functional abilities to various ad hoc designs. Overall, the MIT Miniboard is capable of running a basic program and attaching to other components while not taking up much room in a device. Its overall design is based on previous attempts at the same idea, namely the MIT 6.270 board.

Overall specifications for the Miniboard include a Motorola MC68HC11E2 processor with two kilobytes of electrically erasable programmable read-only memory, a type of memory that cannot be erased when a power source is removed. Additionally, the board is fitted with 256 bytes of random access memory on the chip set, providing the system with computer data storage that can be accessed by the processor. This allows the board to add a small amount of variables to a program, enabling the robotic system to make adjustments based on outside and internal stimuli.

To allow voltages in either direction of the board, enabling the robot's motor to travel in either direction, an H-bridge is supplied within the circuit. This is fitted with four outputs for direct current motors. In addition, there are two light-emitting diodes, one red and one green, placed on the right side of the Mini-circuit board, providing information on the state of the motor.

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Other features of the MIT Miniboard include a series of eight analog-to-digital converters, which are capable of transferring analog signals into digital numerical representation, particularly useful in identifying voltage magnitude. It also has eight input/output (I/O) pins capable of working in either direction. This hooks the board to peripheral devices such as a computer if necessary, meaning readouts and additional controls can be sustained. Eight more pins are also built into the board, either working as secondary I/O or as output capture, giving various readings about the robots status, such as timestamps. The Miniboard can also attach to a speaker to make a series of beeps and squawks depending on the programming.

Martin and Sargent built the Miniboard, along with its sister circuit board, the Hanyboard, to make it more efficient for MIT students to experiment with robotic technology. Using this design as the basis for the devices, enabled the students to focus on other parameters of the robot, such as its overall purpose and dealing with anticipated variables. One of the first competitions the professors established was a vehicle for students to build Lego® robots.

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