Hacking the Roboni-i (Part1)

In a previous post (Robonica Roboni-i: inside out), I took the smart little, two wheeled robot apart and discussed the parts that make up the robot.  For example it utilises an Atmel AVR ATXMEGA128A1 chip as the main CPU (Central processing unit).

Now I am more curious about making the robot do what I want it to do, without having to build up 'trust' points to unlock certain levels of programming blocks in the software (Command Center) which comes with the robot (pictured below)

To do this, there are a couple of things to consider:
  • The Atmel chip is in a circuit, which means we will have to find out if it can be programmed without removing it from the circuit.
From what I have read about the Roboni-i is that it was developed with the maker/tinkerer/hacker in mind and I found that jumper J1 on the board is connected to various pins on the chip. This jumper is marked 'Spec Port' which leads me to think that this jumper is quite possibly  a programming port, but more information is needed.  As you might know (or not) is that chips and micro controllers are programmed under certain conditions through specific pins.
  • The type of programer needed to load and read the program onto and from the chip.
I have been told via the House4Hack Google group ( +House4hack ) that something like a STK600 (a complete AVR starter and development kit, which seams a bit of an overkill in this case) or some other PDI programer.
  • Is there a bootloader on the chip for possible firmware upgrades?
  • Which peripherals are connected where? 
These last questions and more will only be answered once some more digging has been done.  In the mean time I will need to 'reverse engineer' the circuit, since there are some other smaller controllers in the circuit to control the RFID input for example.

I will also build the circuit using Ealge Layout Editor which is a freeware PCB design package.  Watch this space for more on this project.

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