pic: Behold The Black Box

This is what we have been working on down at 1745’s shop.

its called the Black Box after the black box found in airplanes. its a off board sensor processor that supports 8 digital inputs(bump switches ping sensors compass sensors, etc), 8 analog inputs(pots, gyros, etc), 1 camera, and 2 serial ports(one called up stream and one called down stream). the really cool thing is the 2 serial ports. one goes to the main Rc while the other can be hooked up to another black box . . up to 254 black boxes can be hooked up in this way and there is no effect on speed of updates(1152k baud /255 boxes /32 byte packets you figure out the speed). yeah really proud of this.

Are you planning to release any information on how to build this like the processor specs or anything. I think a lot of teams would like to know how you did this. Keep of the great work.

is that an 8722? because that would be funny. am i safe to assume that the black box is so that you can record what happens on your robot for troubleshooting?

well be releasing the schematics and code(in the works with releasing it under GPL v2) some time after march( not that we want to keep it from teams but were all very busy with other things and don’t really have time to get it all together until after LSR). the chip is a parallax propeller chip. and no it doesn’t record any thing its more of an electrical / programing black box i.e. I don’t care how it works or whats going on all I know Is I tell it this port is a ping sensor and it gives me a distance in inches.

and depending on how well things go this summer, you may be able to buy one(or more) of these for next season at the 50- 75ish price point(there may also be a drag and drop programing tool that develops the C code for the RC to run these things).

This looks great, I do like the professional “naked” look of a board, but a nice black case for this would really be nice. (adds to the name too)

If you need drivers for an Memsic Accelerometer, I have written one before, I can dig it out if you want it.

I <3 embedded systems!

One of our programmers was working on a “black box” last year, but he had a lot on his plate this year (i.e. control box with built in laptop w/ GUI), so he didn’t get around to making one. We were just discussing something like that at the NJ regional earlier today, since we needed to know what our IR sensors were returning in autonomous.

Sooo… tiDSP, Freescale, Atmel, Microchip, etc.?

aka, what processor is that?

I don’t understand what you mean by ‘no decrease in update rate’. If you have more data comming over the same line, it will take longer for it to come through, unless you double you’re baud rate each time you add another box. (double the data, double the rate = same time. double the data, same rate = double the time)

Did you guys design the PCB? If not, where’d you get it from?


the chip being used is a propeller chip by parallax. as far as how the protocol maintains its speed . . well I wont go in to much detail here( but I will later) I will say that if you took a token ring . . and made it a line you would have something that looks like a “black box array” as I call it.


I was attracted to this thread by it’s title, but now I’m confused…

A “Black-Box” is a datalogger, used to record what happens during flight (for later analysis), but what you are describing seems more of a serial I/O device… ie: there is no mention of data storage capacity.

Is the purpose of this board to expand the RC’s I/O capability, or is it truly an event logger.

I needed a data logger this year, so I used a serial flash board from SparkFun to do the job simply. Here is the white paper: http://www.chiefdelphi.com/media/papers/2065

“Black box” is also a term for something that you don’t need to know the inner workings of, just the interfaces. The classic example of this meaning of “black box” is a car - the average person doesn’t know how it works, but they know how to use the interfaces (shifter, gas pedal (more correctly termed the air pedal though…), brake pedal, etc.) to achieve a desired result. This board takes a whole bunch of sensor inputs and presents the result of the signal processing to the RC in a nice series of packets without requiring that the RC programmer to know how it gets the data from the sensor, the data just comes in the serial port.

OK, I get that… ie: the company called “Black Box” that makes a million different I/O devices.

But… the original poster said:

its called the Black Box after the black box found in airplanes

So I wondered if it really WAS a data recorder “like in an airplane”.


It looks like a sensor relay that expands the number of sensor inputs to the RC to me…