So Let it be Written, So Let it be Done!

April 12, 2008

Robotics in the Morning

Filed under: kamakula,robot,trinity firefighting — kamakula @ 8:03 am
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Yesterday afternoon I made the trip to Rochester. Stopped by RIT and got to see Dr. Phillips and Dr. Brown. It was good to catch up with them for a bit. I wandered around the engineering building looking for more professors but nobody else was around. I went by the SAU and saw a couple people from OAS. Chatted a bit, then went over to the science building to look for the Chrises, but I guess they were gone too for the weekend.

Leaving RIT, I went over to the gallery where April’s senior thesis was on display. I’m really amazed by the work she’s done. I mean, I’ve always been impressed by her artistry and skill. It definitely was a great thing that her interests intersected with robotics enough that she hung out with us guys. I finally had a decent conversation with her. Got a couple pictures of April (gasp!) and even got a hug before I left.

The trip to Hartford was uneventful. I did get 450 miles on my current tank of gasoline, however, a few wrong turns and having to travel about 3 miles further outside my way in a 30mph zone extended my overall trip length by about 30 minutes. Nevertheless, I arrived at the hotel in Hartford and noticed something. . . an SG van! Not only did MDRC get funding for the trip, they also got a van, and brought six people.

That plus the level of completion that the robots were in when I arrived and the way that they’d divided up work (different people working on different modules providing services to each other), I’m really impressed with the improvements they’ve made since Nate and I left. As usual though, MDRC was very short on sleep the night prior to competition. Heck, my Thursday night was likely the only night this week I got more sleep than these guys though :).

Another thing, these guys are all young. And by young, I mean 2nd and 3rd years. I think Alex may be a fourth year. So, definitely our workshop idea worked. To jump start the new MDRC members into building robots and directly participating in the club, rather than having to sit on the sidelines and only minorly help the more “experienced” guys because they didn’t have any idea of the skills they already possessed. Nate’s going to be really happy when I tell him about this trip.

Pretty soon we’ll (well, some of us) will head up to Trinity, register and secure a table, hopefully in a good spot. Though I remember arriving more or less on time last year and still getting relatively screwed. Though I ended up meeting this really cool guy who got the spot next to me so maybe it was worth it. I wonder if I should have printed out business cards. . .but I think going informal will be ok. I’ve got my pad so I can jot down names and other contact info as needed. . .

I could pass mine out, but like girls you meet at bars or clubs, they never make the first move. If you give out your info without getting theirs in return, you’re pretty much not going to hear from them again. You need to be the one initially driving the interaction. Anyway, I think I’ll stay here tonight and drive back early Sunday morning. If I leave around 4-6am, I can get back between noon-2pm.

I really need to work on the DSP project so I don’t have so much to do on Sunday. . . Yaay, I’m so excited about today. I can’t wait to get there and start meeting people and seeing what others have worked on, how things have improved (in terms of algorithms, robot design, the still major problem of reliable detection and localization of the candle) since last year. I feel bad I don’t have a robot to enter, but I’ve got some ideas for how to generate some more time.

I’ll just need to start earlier. I also have another idea for a balancing robot platform. It costs money though :(. So, I definitely have another reason to get a job this summer than just paying living expenses and fixing the remaining issues with my car. I need to raise money for a kick-ass balancing robot that I can use for next year’s competitions and other stuff.

April 16, 2007

Firefighting Competition Over – now at IEE SoSE conference

Filed under: kamakula,robot,trinity firefighting — kamakula @ 9:26 pm
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So, I was not able to get my robot into competition ready mode. The following was accomplished before I left trinity:

  • Robot base 75% complete.
  • Encoders tested and partially working.
  • Successful measurement of PWM pulse width from accelerometer.
  • Successful test of A2D code.
  • Implementation of PID code.

Unaccomplished Items:

  • Creation and testing of tone detection circuit.
  • Testing of IR detectors ability to find candle.
  • Creation of mechanism to put out candle.
  • Testing of route guidance code.
  • Testing of I2C code.

After I finally got the PWM code working, I started testing closed loop PID control of wheel speed. However, I noticed that the encoder output was too erratic to be used. It would take too long to attempt to calibrate PWM values to match speeds for each motor, so I decided to halt further work on the robot and go around talking to other builders, taking pictures/video, and enjoying other parts of the competition.

I still plan on getting the robot balancing and doing to hallway following/obstacle avoidance behaviors. Once I get back home, complete my final exam project, and some other school related things, I’ll see if I can redo the wheel encoders (perhaps add pull-down resistors on the output lines). With working encoders, I can determine the necessary PID parameters for closed loop wheel speed control. From there, I can work on closed loop control balance control. Once the robot is balancing, I can test driving the robot around and then add the hallway following and obstacle avoidance behaviors.

My experience this year has taught me a lot. I’ll likely discuss some of that here as time progresses.

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