Using XBees for Wireless NodeBots!

Tethered robots just aren’t nearly as cool or fun as wireless robots. When you’re just getting started or prototyping, having your robot directly connected to your computer is fine, since your little bot probably isn’t going to be going very far.

But eventually, just like an over-confident teenager, your robot is going to want to leave the comfort of the workspace. And, like a good parent, you should let it.

Thanks to the work of Rick Waldron, Francis Gulotta, and Jeff Hoefs, we’ve got wireless working in NodeBots land! (By wireless, we mean replacing your USB cable with two XBee radios. If you’re using Johnny-Five, this means your j5 commands will still be processed on your host machine and then sent over the air to the Arduino.)

Here’s what you’ll need*:

  1. 2 XBees (I’ve got two PRO Series 1 Wire Antennas, but here’s a good guide for you to decide what you want/need)

  2. XBee Explorer (for your XBee transmitter)

  3. XBee Shield (for your XBee receiver)

  4. USB A to USB mini-B cable (actually tought to find now that USB A to USB micro-B cables are super prevalent)

* I’m not part of any affiliate programs - most of the links here will lead you to a local shop run by a real person who genuinely cares about hobby electronics. If you want to buy your electronics from one of the bigger retailers, no worries - I just thought I’d give Al a shout out for being awesome :-)

Once you’ve got the goods, make sure you’ve got the right drivers.

Now, I had the distinct luxury of having my XBees configured by someone else. When you get yours, however, you may not be so lucky. If you have a PC, you’re in luck, as the general recommended method for pairing XBees is done using X-CTU. If you’re on a Mac, however, you can still make it work! You’ll just need the Arduino IDE and this handy tutorial.

And that’s it!

Got questions? I’ve got answers (or I know someone who does). Ask away!