Wow it's been a long time sense I last wrote an entry. Looks like the last time I was still getting ready for the Trinity Fire Fighting contest that was going to be held locally by Acroname. Well to keep a depressing story short. Fritz my fire fighting robot wasn't as well tested as should have been. I had programed him to avoid walls. As a result he did a great job moving about my house finding a candle and putting it out. However I never tested it in the event arena. I was a little concerned that the much tighter confines would be a problem. It sure was, Fritz had a serious case of "Claustrophobia"! He just couldn't find a way to get away from those bad walls! Next time he will be programed to wall follow. This will probably mean adding a few extra sensors.
The next item is the new robot club in Denver, the Denver Area Robotics Club challenged my club Front Range Robotics to a little inter club contest. Foolishly I accepted to come up with a new contest.
I wanted to create something that was more intellectually challenging and constructive than the traditional head to head combat like stuff such as sumo. I thought also it would be nice to come up with something that would allow for a wide variety of sensors. Most of all I wanted the robots to actually manipulate their environment. Most hobby robots don't ever seem to get past the wander around and avoiding bumping into things level. That's of course a great way to start into robotics but after that's mastered I think a bot should do more. Being most people think of robots as things that should do useful work, why not a good simulation of work for a contest. Thus the "Find a Object" contest.
The short of the idea is there are eight cylindrical objects of varying but well defined characteristics. Of the eight, two are "Bad". The idea is to keep a robot from simplistically sweeping the field and not really knowing what its doing. Thus the total of points for all the "good" objects is equal to the total negative "bad". The objects are made out of PVC pipe. The objects are characterized by height, color, weight and "taste", which is a couple of copper bands with a fixed resister. There are several levels of difficulty from simply having the objects set all around the bot in a ring where the bot simply has to push out the correct ones to the most complex where the objects are clusterd and the bot has to take the objects to a deposit location. If interest check out the rules at the FRR http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FrontRangeRobotics/ web site
My bot to date can find and push out the objects correctly most of the time but is still undergoing lots of work and modifications to do better.
The very latest robot built was for the Critter Crunch, a yearly event held at a science fiction convention in Denver every October. Most of the bots are simply remote controlled stuff meant to push the other guy off an arena. However there is a effort by fellow FRR club member Dennis Clark to get autonomous robots to this event. This year there were four competitors, but maybe next year there will be more.
My bot was a tracked design using IR proximity for sensors. It worked pretty well, however the robots had trouble seeing each other. Lots of this was due to flat black paint on the bots. Probably sonar will be much more popular next year!