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Showing posts from 2012

Frustrating Week

It has been one of those weeks where you take three steps forward and two steps back.

I got the computer for the prototype. I is targeted at installation in a car. The case is a heavy (!) aluminum with fins for cooling when installed under a car seat. The overall weight is 7-8 lbs. I wanted to order a COTS computer so save time and effort. I need to be working on software, not messing with hardware, either robotic or computers. But I didn't check out the weight when I ordered this beast. The Wild Thumper is supposed to handle an 11 pound payload.

I have the Pololu Simple motor controllers working and can control the motors either using RC or a computer. I ran the Thumper around the front yard and in the street using the RC control. I am on a cul-de-sac and there is an island in the middle of it. The Thumper  limbs the curb nicely. Shouldn't need that with competition but nice to know it has that power.

I put the controllers on the Thumper platform along with some euro-type ter…

Challenge On!!

NASA has announced the Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge is ON for June 2013. It is again a Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The rules appear to be basically the same as the June 2012 challenge. Prizes are similar but there are $500 awards for showing up with a competitive robot and another if the robot picks up the cached sample. I'll read the rules more carefully to see if anything else is changed.

Now I have to decide if I can do this on my own. The registration deadline is 7 January 2013 which gives me ten weeks to answer all the open questions.

I did order a Dagu Wild Thumper 6WD from the Robot Shop. Should be here next Monday.

I have two Pololu Simple Motor Controllers that I bought during a sale last November. I worked with a Pololu Maestro Servo Controller with my iRobot Create so have the basic Pololu control protocol working with a C++ Maestro class. In the last couple days I added a PololuSimple class, and a PololuBase class to generalize between the Maestro and …

Thinking About the Challenge - Hardware

Continuing my summary of thought over the last few weeks, I'll consider the hardware platform. This is not the final platform for the challenge. There are two major issues that need to be settled:

Swarm or singleton,Picker and, related, storage of samples on the robot. 
Despite those uncertainties I need an outdoor capable platform to start work on the software tasks discussed in the previous article. One of the interesting ones I'd like to accomplish is proceeding to a potential sample. Keeping the vision processing on the sample while driving the robot is, hopefully, non-trivial but requires a lot of detail chasing. The work on the vision processing should help my understanding of how to locate samples.

The requirements for the robot are:

Capable of driving in a park type setting, e.g. no major rocky areas, some obstacles like trees and benches.Large enough to carry:One or two cameras, possibly on a 1-2 meter tall mast,A PC class system with Wifi,A prototype picker (thinking …

Thinking About the Challenge - Software

Despite nothing appearing here for awhile I have been thinking about the SRR Challenge. I had a week in Mexico and a week with a cold that kept me from writing. Now I am back to making some progress. I'll summarize some of the thoughts, possible plans, etc. No additional analysis, but there are some things that need to be looked at based on my thoughts.

As I look at hobby robot builders web sites I've concluded that most build a nice piece of hardware that doesn't really accomplish anything real. I've seen some beautiful robots that are the delight of machinists. But there is no mention of any software driving them that makes them meaningful. As I looked at the robots from the 2012 SRR Challenge competition I wonder how many of them spent many hours on the hardware and let the software go until the last minute.

I know from experience in embedded systems development that the hardware is always late. Since there are limits to what can be accomplished in software when you…

Another NASA Rover

Stumbled on this NASA rover in this article on an Lagrange L2 point space station being considered. NASA Ames is using the rover to test teleoperation. A station at the L2 point would be directly behind the moon from the earth. Astronauts could use teleoperated robots to study the backside of the moon.

[Lagrange points are stable locations caused by the gravity fields of an object orbiting another object, in this case the Earth and Moon. An object at a Lagrange point is held in place by the gravity fields. See Wikipedia for more details.]

Anyone have more information on this rover?

DARPA LAGR Project

Today I was looking through some robotics papers applicable to Sample Return that I previously found on the web. One mentioned they were using a DARPA LAGR robot so I looked to see what it was. I found that Carnegie Mellon was involved in producing the standardized robots. The idea was to provide these robots to different researchers, have them develop navigation software, and have them compete on real-word runs to see what went better. The robots only had vision, GPS, and bumper sensors. The outcome of this project seems very applicable to the SRR competition.

One of the researchers at NYU has a long list of papers on navigation.

Sample Return Robot Challenge

The focus of the blog is changing. I mentioned that I rotate through projects. It is time to focus more on robotics, specifically the NASA Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge.

In June 2012 NASA ran a Centennial Challenge competition at Worcster Polytechnic Institute. This concept for the competition was a robot on the Moon or Mars retrieving samples. Its tasks were:
Obtain a pre-cached sampleSearch for other interesting samplesReturn all samples to a landing platform I considered entering but abandoned the effort for personal and technical reasons. I am going to use the competition guidelines in the development of a robot. I believe the challenge will be repeated and am working now to overcome the technical issues. I will be sharing the effort on my web site. I am starting with a high-level analysis and dropping down to more details as that proceeds.
On this blog I will keep some notes on what has been updated on the project and provide some running commentary on the effort.