Posts Tagged ‘Rusty Wrench Robotics’

Thought I should do an update of my trip recently to Robogames.  Competition-wise, Chimera was a complete and utter disappointment.  I ended up burning up 2 of my RX-64s for some unknown reason.  Luckily I did get to show it off for a little while on qualifying day.  Completely qualified and looked great by the way.  I got to do a demo that day as well where some press video taped Chimera and Insanity Wolf going at it for about 15 minutes.  I would like to see what comes of that footage.

After that though, burned up my servos, and couldn’t compete due to disqualification at setup time before my matches.  I did get fixed and competed in an exhibition match for fun again Godless Endeavor and I think I took that one, but it was fun to just finally get to compete.

Otherwise it was good showing off Chimera to a lot of people, and the 3D printing really brought in a lot of the crowd to see how I did it.  If you were any of the attendees to Robogames and Mech Warfare, and you stumbled across my card, I hope you drop a message by here and let me know what you thought of Chimera.

I will post pictures of Chimera and Mech Warfare as I find them.  To start though, here is a video montage of Mech Warfare, I put the start time to my exhibition match, but rewind the whole thing to check out all the mechs.

I think the posters will be available sometime soon from me (Rusty Wrench Robotics) and/or at the Mech Warfare site.  Remember, all the proceeds are going to help us to continue to improve the arena and other aspects to make Mech Warfare better for the viewers.


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

Just a display stand.  Well for display purposes but will also be used for programming and testing, so it doesn’t have to fall to the ground if there’s a mishap.

Quick peek at the black primer I put down on the pieces so far.  Gives it a nice look, and highlights all the details.  Sorry about the blurriness, took it from my phone.

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.

Day 3

Sunday was finally here, time for Mech Warfare competition.  The tournament was set, and ready to begin even if participants weren’t.  We had about 2-3 hours to put on all the finishing touches and get batteries charged for the upcoming matches.  Teams scrambled to get their mechs ready, and this is where I learned the most about mine.

Draco may have taken around a year, with tons of planning and trial and error, but nothing lets you know more about the robot then testing in competition situations.  This is why going down to West Virginia a few weeks before Robogames was so beneficial to me.  I tested my mech in the arena with Giger, and learned how terrible the Airsoft Tankguns really are.

  1. They are incredibly slow!  I was getting one shot off for every 15-20 that Giger was hitting me with.
  2. Accuracy is terrible!  It would take 5-8 shots on a non-moving target in order to zero in.  I don’t think robots will stand still for me to shoot them.
  3. They are so finicky.  Every other time they would jam up and nothing would come out.
  4. The motors did not like me at all!  The turret shot nicely for awhile and then just stopped sometime on Sunday.  I totally pulled off one of the two tank guns because of its inability to ever shoot a BB!

This helped me easily decide to go with a fully automatic airsoft gun.  The same kind of guns found on a lot of other mechs attending Robogames.  I guess thats the experience of veteran Mech Warfare competitors had over me.

Through the testing, it became visible that my mech was a little heavy.  Something that can be very troublesome if its very overweight, but Draco isn’t bad.  He was able to go about 11 minutes of full operation and then 2 of his leg servos would collapse from over heating trying to carry the weight.  That’s 11 out of the 12 minutes needed for a full Mech Warfare match.  A little leg position tweaking and hopefully I can make the whole 12 minutes then.

The matches themselves went okay at ShepRobo Fest.  Many of the competitors were still having problems with their mechs.  My first match, the opponent had some trouble walking, and he collapsed.  Second match was against a fully functional mech, and was going well, but then he lost his video feed and couldn’t continue.  My last match was against Giger, and just couldn’t contend with his firepower.  I was able to get around back of him a few times, but again, the airsoft tank guns are so terrible I only scored one or two hits.  In the end, I finished in 2nd place and came home with a cool trophy form ShepRobo Fest.  The knowledge I learned about my mech was the most useful though, and can help me to have better matches while at Robogames.

There are some nice write ups about ShepRobo Fest online from some local newspapers.

Here is a video put together of some of the matches down at ShepRobo Fest.  You can see Draco running around and getting shot at a lot.

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.

Short post.  A lot of my custom plastic parts were made at the company called Big Blue Saw.  The owner/creator, Simon Arthur, is a really great guy.  When I was deciding on what materials to use for my robot, he was answering emails from me multiple times a day.  Simon really made the experience easy and really helped me produce some nice work.  But now he has done it one even more.  I talked to Simon again about my robot coming to completion here, and he asked me some questions about it and turned it into a nice blog post ( Wicked Sculpture ) on his company’s site.  So, pay back is due.  Everyone go check out Big Blue Saw if you need any custom laser or water jet cut material.

Big Blue Saw