Archive for the ‘Turret’ Category

Day 2

Morning came up shortly after a long first night in West Virginia.  Saturday was the start of the competitions at ShepRobo Fest.  And it started quick.  Upon walking in the venue, the organizer of the event and head of the Robotics club at Shepherd, Dr. Kim, asked us to put on a demo of Mech Warfare for the spectators.  Andrew and I had the only mobile mechs at the time, so we put them in the arena and started shooting around.  People loved seeing Giger and Draco running around.  I even put my turret in the arena for show.  It was really cool to see everyone run over and cheering for the robots which I had built.  You could easily see all the attention that Mech Warfare got.

There were some other really cool things at the competition. FIRST Lego league was something that I really enjoyed seeing.  Teams at the elementary level put together robots using Lego NXT kits and had to follow some rules that I didn’t understand at the time to be able to complete a myriad of obstacles and tasks with a pre-programmed robot.  I would have definitely wanted to participate in a class like that back in elementary school if we had it.  That looks like a great way for young kids to get into the field of robotics.

There was also the fire fighting competition at the event.  This was also neat, because it was fully autonomous.  This group ranged from high school up to university level which built robots that had to sense walls, travel into a bunch of maze like rooms, find a single candle and be able to put it out.  Some teams used fans, some used wet sponges and smacked the candle, but it was still really neat to see this.

Through the day there were a couple more demos of Mech Warfare which always brought in the crowd right to the arena.  Again, so cool to see the attention of everybody drawn to these robots which shoot each other in a scaled down city-scape.

The night also ended again around 3 or 4, with all teams trying to put together their mechs for the competition on Sunday.  And once again, energy drinks, coffee, soda, pizza, and snacks were the main course.  Everyone set out to help everyone else, it was really a big community effort to try and have everyone working for tomorrow.  Teams were in various states of completion, some walking, some connecting guns, some putting on finishing touches, some not so much.


Over this past weekend I attended my first Robotics challenge down in West Virginia, at the Shepherd University ShepRobo Fest. This was a really cool experience for me.  A member of the Trossen Robotics forum, Seth (sthmck) put out the invitation to any mech robot builders to come join in the festivities and compete in the first East coast Mech Warfare competition.  A few of us made the trip.  And I think it was a well worth it trip.


First off, I found out that packing Draco for travel is really a PITA!  I am going to try to make improvements on how I will pack him, but I think going to Robogames will be easier since I decided not to bring my turret along, I’ll explain shortly.  I took a train down on Friday early so I could meet up with the guys and get things set up with my robot.  We arrived and met with Seth.  He took us on the grand tour of the competition venue, which they got the theater department at Shepherd to make a full Mech Warfare arena.  It was really nicely done, with all removable panels and such.

Then we went over to the lab, where we met the rest of the competitors, who were all going crazy trying to put together their mechs.  Looked like a madhouse.  I think there were about 20 or so Robotics club members of 5 teams.  Each team was scheduled to make one mech and one fire fighting robot for their class.  There were tons of electronics, metal, plastic, screws, tools, computers, BBs, and then some strewn about the lab.  Seth pushed everyones stuff off a table and let Andrew, the creator of Mech Warfare, start assembling Giger, the massive 24 DOF humanoid mech robot.  You can find tons of pictures on the trossen forums, but seeing this thing up close is really impressive.  He gave some nice demos of the robot and everyone was in awe.  I also put together Draco to have it ready for the weekend.  Draco got some good attention since every other competitor there was also working on a quad robot as well.  I still needed to work on the gun/firing and tune in some walking gaits.  Oh and, forgot, before I left for WV, Draco somehow reassigned a leg servo ID number by accident, and all of my legs were non-functional.  But with a few clicks of troubleshooting, Andrew got it back up and running, and I was able to show off my mech to everyone.  I also put together my turret which was easy enough, but like I said I don’t plan on bringing it to Robogames.  It takes up too much room in my pelican case, and I had to disassemble Draco in order to fit the turret  This way, I can keep Draco assembled and not have to worry about that when I arrive in San Fran next month.

The rest of the night was spent trouble shooting small problems, optimizing gaits, and just helping the team members out.  This was done with tons of coffee, energy drinks, and snacks all around.  The night ended around 3, when people started getting too silly to work on advanced robotics machines.

While making my robot, Trossen Robotics came out with a base for a turret system.  This just appealed to me so much.  I thought there were so many possibilities for this system.  I had to have one and I already knew what I wanted to do with it.  Out came the trusty Autodesk Inventor and I went to designing a turret firing system.  My inspiration came from military designs mixed with a little Halo.  I also wanted it to still work within the rules of Mech Warfare, although I knew it can’t compete, since it doesn’t walk.  I thought maybe it could be used in some sort of game or different situation.  Either way, I still wanted to make one and I thought it would make for a great practice partner.  I could pilot the robot while someone else controls the turret, and I could practice avoiding being hit while controlling my weapon system from the first person view.

I had a couple AX-12+ Dynamixel servos left over from the Bioloid kit that I didn’t use in my robot, so I thought it was perfect.  I also had bought a Trendnet wireless IP camera to use on my mech but had to find a different situation because it was too large to fit in the robot.  Therefore, I used it on my turret.  The turret now has pan/tilt capabilities and wireless video.  From Inventor, I was able to create the plastic parts and some custom brackets for making the military style turret.  I got the plastic parts laser cut and had to think about what to do with the brackets.

I did not want to make custom aluminum brackets again, like I did for my robot.  It seemed too unexact for me trying to bend them to perfect angles, without the correct equipment.  When looking through another robot magazine, I came across articles about peoples experiences with 3D printing services.  I looked at a few and decided this would be perfect for future project, and would work out right now to test getting my brackets done to see the quality of the 3D parts.  I went with Shapeways, a service that has a lot of different materials you can pick from and only charges you for the volume of plastic in your design, not the containing cube.  When the parts came I was really happy.  They were printed in a material called Alumide.  It is a white plastic that has aluminum flakes mixed into it.  The color comes out as a dull grey.  They looked great against the black ABS plastic on the turret.

Everything was mounted and ready to go, except for the airsoft tank guns and barrels.  I did get them in, but they are not mounted yet.  All in all though, the turret has really come together nicely, with a little left to finish.

Here is some video of the turret system without the guns yet, showing off the movement and control.  It is all being controlled via the Arbotix Robocontroller again via Xbee to the Arbotix Commander.