Posts Tagged ‘Arbotix’

Here is Chimera showing the walking for the first time.  It isn’t optimized, but it is exciting.  Paint is complete also.

Day 1

This past weekend I made the trip out to San Mateo for the annual Robogames.  It was a very good experience for me.  Right before leaving I decided to change my gun system on Draco, to the automatic fire “Defender” style gun.  This was great for firing but caused a lot of problems for me at the event that I could have avoided with better testing of all my systems.  That was my biggest fault and piece of valuable information.

TEST! TEST! and TEST some more!

So we got in Thursday night and had a little meet up with the Trossen Community at the hotel bar.  They are a great bunch of guys to hang out with, and it was awesome finally getting to meet everyone and put faces to the robots I had been following on the forums.

Friday was the start of the competition.  So checked in nice and early Friday morning and started assembling Draco.  No problems getting her together.  Mech Warfare was also setting up at this time.  That consisted of getting the scoring system up and running, the wireless routers placed, and the buildings in the arena.  These things were amazing.  Andrew, from Trossen Robotics, had gone down to San Fran a few weeks early to meet up with Fon Davis and create these building facades that had such amazing detail in them and really gave Mech Warfare a realistic look for this robots going down a city street.  Fon Davis is the creator of MORAV and worked with Industrial Light and Magic, which is a visual effects division of Lucasfilm.  So, if you’ve seen any Star Wars movies, I think he has worked on them…

Back to the progress, all mechs need to pass a qualifying round in order to compete in Mech Warfare.  Draco worked fine, walking, shooting, scoring, video.  Passed with flying colors.  But there was a small problem actually, my video was dropping out some times when I fired my gun.  This had my checking my voltage levels when firing guns to make sure I didn’t drop to far for my video wifi encoder to reset.  Stupid me though, shorted it out by touching the leads together, and this in return fried my arbotix board in some place.  I didn’t know that at the time though, and spent the rest of the day, frantically tested what happened, trying to fix this, that and the other thing.  It was a frustrating time then.  At the end of the night, I was finally running again with the help of a friend donating me a new board to use.

The rest of the first day, was spent between testing my bot for problems and helping Mech Warfare run qualifying rounds, plus getting to walk around Robogames and checking out some of the other events and booths.

These are pictures (1-9) of the arena and buildings in the arena.  They are some really impressive pieces of work.  The next bunch (10-18) are pictures of other mechs, robots, and stuff around the venue.  The last few (19-20) are pictures of Draco and myself at the competition.

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.

I will try to catch readers up with my work in robotics in this post.  Like I said, I started a year ago in March of 2010.  Happened to be looking through some magazines about robots, just thought they looked cool.  I came across some articles about Mech Warfare and was hooked.  But that was all of my robotics experience – ever.  That goes the same with electronics, programming, anything that has to do with robotics, I had zero experience in.  Maybe when I was very young I took apart a few Sega controllers and re wired them when my dog chewed part of it up, but that was just connecting wire A to tab A, easy.

The Robotis Bioloid Comprehensive Kit is an all inclusive robotics platform made for versatility as well as power, that’s where I started.   It was able to help a total beginner like myself get going in robotics.  Put together all the configurations, played around with the programming software, made some of my own creations, and was ready to get going on my mech.

Mech refers to the robots found in video games much like Mech Warrior, Chrome Hounds, Front Mission, etc.  They are piloted robots made for military purposes.  If you visit the Mech Warfare site you can read the rules and vision of the competition is.  I can give you a short rundown of it.

  • The robots must walk (there is another division for treaded vehicles)
  • The driver can only view the arena through a First Person POV camera mounted on the robot sending the video back wirelessly to a laptop or viewing device.
  • The driver scores points by shooting BB’s and hitting the opponents target panels a certain number of times.

That is pretty much the idea of the competition.  The robots are small-scale, ranging from 8-24 inches tall.  But that does not mean they are easy to make, or make well.

The robots come in 2 types, Biped and Quadruped.  The bipeds look very cool and resemble the mechs from the video games more closely.  The quads are able to move quicker and keep their balance having more feet touching the floor.  This is why I decided to create a quad for my first mech robot.

I was introduced to Autodesk Inventor, a 3D design program that I use frequently now to plan out my robot and design builds.  Was able to put each little piece 3 dimensionally on-screen to make sure everything fits and works.  This has been a huge help.

Now I was able to create my custom robot for the competition.  Plans changed multiple times in order different parts to fit or work correctly, but the design was done and I started getting more parts in for the mech.

Pretty much the project on this mech is in the final stages of completion.  In the videos you can see the mech has the ability to walk and look around so far.  The programming is all done for that, with help from the creator of Vanadium Labs and the Arbotix Robocontroller who created a Python based application to take measurements of the leg segments and body and spat out Arduino based code.  The only things left to do are:

  • Wire the motors on the guns for firing.
  • Program the guns for firing.
  • Program some usual movement sequences.
  • And practice…

I am hoping to have those last few things completed within the next week.  I would like to be able practice piloting the mech through the first person POV camera around the house.  I will get more practice for Robogames because of a new event which has opened up.  It is called the ShepRobo Fest.  It is at Sheperd University in West Virginia in a couple of weeks.

That is where I am today with my Robotics.  I have some future plans which I will talk about in the next few posts, but for now I think I have written enough.

Photos will be posted shortly…