I finally got a chance to test my xbee explorer/shield combo I bought from Sparkfun. They were out of the retail package when I went to order it, I made a wishlist that contains everything in the kit, you can see it here. Although I did manage to get the xbee radios talking, they are set up identically, so it is not so useful. For anyone else using Arduino and/or xbees on a Mac (I have OSX 10.6.7), you should know that I had a strange problem with both my Lilypad and my xbee Explorer: Neither was detected by Arduino or my Terminal program (CoolTerm). Even though I could see that both were powered up by the USB, nothing was appearing in serial ports. I thought it was maybe my miniUSB cable, but it was not, I tried many. The solution: Install this driver http://www.ftdichip.com/Drivers/VCP.htm. Also, for the xbee radios, you need a program that will allow you to configure them on your Mac. I used a program called CoolTerm, which worked great.
The reason I want to get xbee communication sorted out is so I can finally use the controller shield to control ol’ Spazzie manually. This will be really cool, because the shield has 5 buttons as well as the analog joystick which I can use to send commands to the robot. This would be great for toggling him between modes (autonomous/manual override), or changing his action (from wander around to watch a certain spot, for example, allowing it to be a sentry of sorts). You get the idea…
I have been working on figuring out a much smaller footprint for the control system. Using the little motor driver I tested in my last post, a 5v Arduino mini, and a tiny little rechargeable battery pack, I should be able to do everything I am doing now with a much smaller package. This should also give me enough space to fit on a little xbee radio to let me control it! I have noticed that the robot can haul around a pretty decent amount of weight (it can move an Arduino Uno, the ArduMoto, a Protoshield with a mini breadboard, and TWO 9v batteries – I used one 9v as a counterweight.).