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Name: Dennis Draheim
Member since: 2001-03-29 02:18:03
Last Login: 2001-12-07 13:47:44

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My interest in robotics is both personal and professional. For the past 15 years, I have been writing software to control semiconductor manufacturing equipment, much of it in the area of scheduling material movement through machines by robots. Originally, this was at Texas Instruments; in 1998, we were spun off from TI as Adventa Control Technologies (http://www.adventact.com). I started getting seriously into personal robotics about 3 years ago, when my wife bought me a Robotix kit for my birthday, and my best friend bought me a Lynxmotion Carpet Rover kit (http://www.lynxmotion.com) for Christmas. Shortly after building this kit, I bought a Lynxmotion 5-axis arm kit. Then I heard about the Dallas Personal Robotics Group. I took my robots to their August '99 meeting, saw what others were doing, and was hooked. I entered "Rover" in the October '99 Roborama and took 3rd place in Line Following, 1st Place in T-Time, and 3rd place in Can Collecting. Shortly after this contest, my friend Tom Gralewicz showed me a prototype of a new robot chassis he had built -- it had tracks on all four sides, and could raise and lower alternate tracks so that it could change its direction of motion without turning. I helped build a controller for this, based on a 486 running linux, with software written in Perl. It used a Scenix microcontroller as a subcontroller to read the encoders. The final form was a 16" smoked plexiglas cube, christened "Ortho of Borg" -- Ortho because it only moved orthogonally, and "Borg" because of the cube shape. We entered it in the DPRG Spring 2000 Roborama, but unfortunately the direction change motor was underpowered and it stripped its gears halfway through the course. After retrofitting with a better direction change system based on two motors, and replacing the drive motor with a more powerful one, we entered Ortho again in the Fall 2000 Roborama, and took 2nd place in the Quick Trip and 1st place in the T-Time contest. Meanwhile, in August 2000, I built my 3rd mobile robot, PatrolBot. This was my first entirely-from-scratch robot. It was built to fit into the shell of a 6" diameter red hazard light, similar to an old-style police car light. It uses differential drive with 2 gear motors controlled by a dual-h-bridge board. The brain is a BasicX microcontroller. It uses 5 Sharp GP2D02 analog IR sensors to avoid obstacles, and it has an expansion connector on the front where I can attach task-specific attachments. Currently I have a line-follower attachment and a can-collecting attachment. I entered this robot in the Fall 2000 Roborama and took 2nd place in the Line Following contest, and 2nd place in the Can Collector contest (although I didn't manage to actually collect a can). I hope to add encoders and a better algorithm for can collecting and enter this robot again in the Spring 2001 Roborama in April. My 4th robot is a Tyco Racin' Ratz RC car modified for autonomous operation using a Basic Stamp 2-SX micrcontroller. I replaced the headlights with IR LEDs and mounted a Panasonic IR detector in the grille for obstacle avoidance. By alternately pulsing the LEDs, I found that I could do wall following with this arrangement, so I entered it in the February 2001 DPRG Table Top competition, and took 1st place in the Quick Trip, as well as winning Most Entertaining Robot, because the robot did a little victory spin at the end of its run. My main reason for building the little Racin' Ratz bot, though, is that I want to put together a small collection of these, to experiment with group behavior. I plan to add a mast with an IR emitter and an array of detectors, to allow the bots to communicate with each other. My 5th bot is a modified RC skate board toy "skate bot". I added an OOPic microcontroller to it, mainly so that I could play with the OOPic to see how I liked it compared to the other micros I've been using. I've found it to be interesting, but so far I like the BasicX better. I've just started playing with PIC 16F873's and a C compiler to try to come up with a cheaper, faster alternative to the various Basic-programmable micros. I enjoy sharing my experiences and code with others. I'm also a member of the Robot Club of Yahoo, and have been active in their Wednesday evening chat sessions for the past few months.


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