Basketball Robot with Intel Edison

Version 9

    He shoots! He scores! The crowd goes wild! Let’s build a robot that plays basketball with you. This tutorial is a step-by-step guide for a simple and small differential-drive robot that uses the Intel® Edison. You’ll get to know a few more tricks on how to use Mini Breakout Kit and set up a node.js server for the communication.


    Here is a video of the completed project.



    Before you begin, make sure you’ve followed through Intel® Edison Getting Started guide, and our previous tutorial, the Intel® Edison mini-breakout Getting Started Guide.


    This means that your Intel® Edison:



    - has updated firmware (check this page )

    - is connected to the local wireless network

    - can connect to ssh/scp through microUSB or WiFi









    Here is a list of items you’ll need to make this project:


    1 Intel® Edison with Mini Breakout Kit

    2 continuous micro servo motors

    1 CD40109B level shifter

    1 10k ohm resistor




    Male Pin headers

    Female headers

    1 50 mm x 70 mm protoboard

    4 AAA batteries

    1 AAA battery holder

    9V battery contact

    1 battery holder power connector

    Jumper wires





    1 lithium battery


    Stiff wire

    Copper tape





    Nuts and bolts

    Scrap sheet of plastic

    Ping pong ball









    Soldering iron and solder




    Assembling the Basketball Robot and electronics:


    Sort the lasercut pieces (design files are in attach to this document below ) for easier construction. (Note: Place nuts into Part B5 first for easier assembly.)





    Solder the electronics.

    Use the schematic to solder the electronic components together.




    Solder female headers onto the Intel® Edison and male pin headers onto the protoboard. This will make it easier to reuse the mini-breakout for later.




    Attach battery and protoboard.

    Secure the battery pack to Part B5 with the contacts towards the back edge.

    Using Part A1 as spacers, secure the protoboard to Part B5 with the pin headers towards the back edge.





    Attach the sides.

    Secure Parts B4 and B6 to Part B5 with the motor opening towards the front edge.




    Insert and secure the motors.




    Attach connections to protoboard.

    Connect the Intel® Edison and Mini Breakout onto the protoboard.

    Connect the battery pack and servos.





    Connect a fully-charged lithium battery to Intel® Edison

    Identify the connector J2 on left top side of the mini-breakout board.

    Connect the red wire to the left pin (J2-1) and the black wire to the right pin (J2-2).


    NOTE: The battery is charged when the bottom microUSB port (J16) is connected. Make sure to plug it in for charging.



    Attach front wheels.

    Make tread on the tires by weaving a rubber band back and forth through the slots.

    Push the servo arm into the recess.

    Secure to the servo.




    Attach back wheel.

    Cut a 100 mm length of stiff wire and slide Part A2 to the middle.

    Bend the sides of the wire up on both sides, then bend the ends slightly. Insert the ends into Part B2.

    Attach Part B2 to the assembly.




    Make the basketball sensor switch.

    Solder one end of basketball sensor wires to a small strip of copper tape.

    Tape over the center hole on the bottom of Part B8.

    Cut a 40 mm x 10 mm piece from some scrap plastic to make a switch.

    Fold it in half and cover one half entirely with copper tape.

    Trim the plastic so that it bends easily under the weight of a ping pong ball.

    Punch a small hole in the middle of the other half.

    Screw through the middle of Part B8 and secure the plastic switch.

    Insert the other basketball sensor wire into the side hole of Part B8 and solder to a small strip of copper tape.

    Tape onto the top of the copper half.


    NOTE: The screw acts as a contact with the copper tape. Adjust the screw height and shape of plastic switch so that the connection is activated easily.






    Make basket.

    Attach Part B8 to top of assembly.

    Glue and insert Parts B9 into Part B8.



    Close the robot.

    Program the robot.

    Attach part B7 to assembly.




    Programming the robot



    The first step will be to update the mraa library which is used for driving the GPIO pins with various languages in Linux.



    SSH into your Intel® Edison board with either the serial port or the IP address.

    Type the following commands into the terminal:



    echo "src maa-upm" > /etc/opkg/intel-iotdk.conf



    opkg update


    opkg upgrade



    It will take a few minutes for the update process to finish.


    Download the file  from the attachment, copy it into Intel® Edison with scp. It includes the files needed for running the server.

    Unzip the zip pack into your home directory. “unzip ~/”

    Start the server. Go to the directory “cd ~/robotServer” and run “node index.js”. If you see “listening on *:3000”, congratulations! It is running.

    Using the Robot


    After the server is established in the Intel® Edison, access the web interface to control the basketball robot.


    If you don’t have the IP address to your Intel® Edison board, type “ifconfig” in the terminal and it’s under the section “wlan0”.

    Open a browser in your computer or mobile phone, browse to “edison-ip-address:3000” to find the web interface.

    Control the robot by click the arrow keys or start a basketball game by clicking the “Basketball!” text. Throw the ping-pong ball into the basket, and the robot will do a little celebration dance.


    Calibrating the Servos


    If the servos are moving unexpectedly without commands, you will need to calibrate the motors. To do this, insert a screwdriver into the slot behind the servo and turn until the motor no longer moves.


    Level Shifting


    In our last tutorial, we talked about the mini-breakout board using 1.8 V as logic HIGH. A continuous servo motor usually needs at least 3 V for logic HIGH so we will need to a level shifter.


    If you just want to turn an LED on/off or have different levels of fading, a transistor amplifying circuit would be enough to do the work. Servo motors require high-frequency data input, but the transistor circuit inverts HIGH and LOW.


    To remedy this, we will use a CD40109B. It is a 4-channel low-to-high level shifter which means it can convert 4 pins from a low-voltage signal to a high-voltage signal in a single direction. Follow the schematic or you can read the datasheet to find out more.


    There is quite a range of different level-shifters like this one from SparkFun which is bidirectional or this one from Adafruit that supports I2C. They may have a lot features in common, but can be unique in different ways. Do plenty of research to find out which one is best for your project.


    Powering the Robot


    If you have worked with multiple servos before, you probably know that it’s better to power the servos separately from the Arduino board since it alone cannot provide enough power to drive them. The same applies to the Intel® Edison.


    In this particular case, we are using a 4-pack of AAA batteries to power the servos. They provide 5 to 6 volts which is good for servo motors. An added benefit is smaller footprint for the battery pack.


    To power the Intel® Edison with mini-breakout board, you can either provide 7-15 V or use a lithium battery. Since the AAA pack meets neither criteria, we’ll need a dedicated lithium battery.


    For more details of how to power Intel® Edison with mini-breakout boards, see our Intel® Edison mini-breakout Tutorial.





    Node.js is a programming platform that runs on javascript. It is efficient and powerful and a good choice for building a web-based application. It is supported by the Intel® Edison standard system image so you can run node.js scripts directly on it.



    In this tutorial we used a few libraries to achieve our goal. is used for socket communication so that the remote control signals can be transferred in real time. Express is for serving the web interface easily and Cylon.js is a mraa-based library for interfacing with pins and hardware.



    Similar to how you run python scripts in Intel® Edison, you will type “node scriptname.js” to execute a node.js application. Our code is running as a web server, so you’ll be able to visit the webpage through a browser and send data.



    If you want to know more about Node.js, you can read more from the official site Node.js or find various tutorials around the internet.