Aaron and I had a long discussion about the robot design this morning, and we conceptualised a new orientation for the Intel NUC to allow room for the batteries and voltage regulator while still making the robot overall a bit smaller.

The current robot may be slightly too long, and half of the I/O is only accessible from the outside. This means that if we need more than 2 USB ports or an ethernet port internally, we need to run a cable outside the robot.

Our proposed design change involves rotating the NUC around 90 degrees anticlockwise to give access to all the important I/O from the inside of the robot (IR sensor and audio out are blocked by a wall). This frees up the opposite side (which was previously taken by I/O) for the battery. In fact, there’s so much excess room that we can expand the battery as well as shave a few centimetres off the overall length of the robot. Even after all this, we’re still going to have more room to play with than in the old design, where the internal I/O configuration wasted 56 square centimetres of space.

I feel like I need to stress this point:

  1. We get a bigger battery
  2. We make the robot smaller
  3. We still get more internal room for everything else

Rotating the NUC has the double effect of protecting the I/O and the fan exhaust from gravel and rocks on the course.

This change also means we don’t need to solder the power source right onto the NUC – we can simply use Aaron’s existing plugs (See blog for day 122).

It also simplifies I/O. The camera cable is thick and unwieldy, and in the old configuration, it was impossible to bend into shape. In the new configuration that Aaron and I tested, it is just possible to make it fit. This is a small argument for the new arrangement though, as we will try to find a thinner cable for the camera either way.

The USB2AX, however, is something that we can’t swap out, and it’s already as small as it’s going to get. In the old design, the cable was crushed up against the wall in a way that made me feel uneasy. In the new configuration, we have 4 USB ports to choose from with ample room to spare.

All in all, I count 6 reasons for changing the design:

  1. Room for larger battery
  2. Option to reduce the length of the robot
  3. More I/O options
  4. Protecting the I/O and fan exhaust from the environment
  5. I/O cables are no longer crushed
  6. More internal room for components

Aaron and I are pretty excited for the redesign. If it gets the go-ahead from the rest of the team, we will have solved a number of issues and the robot may actually be able to turn around on itself inside the maze. Very cool, very important. Very happy.

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