The Deliverator – Wannabee

So open minded, my thoughts fell out…

Archive for the 'Titan Robotics Club' Category

2008 FIRST Portland Regional – Day 1

Posted by Deliverator on 28th February 2008

Been a busy day here at the Rose Arena. Some team members were at the arena by 7:45 this morning for the deboxing of the robot and are still here tweaking code, tightening bolts and tucking away loose cables. After a couple false starts during practice matches this morning, the drive, build and coding teams seem to have gotten a handle on things and have deemed the robot competition ready. As such, I am dropping my own private codename for the bot (Tulip…don’t ask) and have started mentally referring to it by its recently christened name, Mnemosyne  (aka this robot comes from our memories of what we have done well and not so well). Qualifying matches start tomorrow with the playoffs and championship matches on Saturday. The TRC faces some very stiff competition this year. Team 378 from Hawaii and Team 360 in particular have constructed some very high scoring bots. I don’t think Memnosyne is directly competitive with their’s, but barring mechanical failure I think we have a pretty good chance of getting into a competitive alliance for the playoffs.

Internet access is still a bit of an iffy proposition here, but I have managed to upload some pictures of today’s events.

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Greetings from floor 12

Posted by Deliverator on 27th February 2008

Today I drove to Portland with TRC members in preparation for the First Robotics PNW regional which starts tomorrow and runs through Saturday. This year, due to a convergence of various conferences on the Portland area, we ended up having to stay at a different hotel, DoubleTree Portland – Lloyd Center. The Internet situation is somewhat less than ideal here. The DoubleTree offers free wifi, but only in the lobby. They have data jacks in the rooms, but they are decidedly non-free. A LOT of TRC members wanted to get online from their rooms, so Paul, Jonathan and I whipped up a combination of strategically placed access points, bridges and various oddments to share out my N95’s EDGE connection to everyone. It isn’t fast by any means, but it seems to be holding together and is giving everyone a chance to check their email, download various FIRST game manuals and last minute addenda.

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How did you spend your summer vacation?

Posted by Deliverator on 20th August 2007

DIY Segway Scooter!

A group of high schoolers who participate in FIRST got together this summer and built their own D.I.Y. Segway scooter! Many of the building blocks of their design are straight out of the annual kit of parts given to all FIRST teams. There is extensive documentation and source code available on their site (linked above) and they put out a hilarious spoof video about their exploits. Long live the Retro Encabulator!

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2nd Annual PNW MATE ROV Competition

Posted by Deliverator on 15th May 2007

As Ryan noted in this entry, I did indeed spend part of my weekend watching underwater robots built by high school students. It was a lot of fun and next year I hope to be able to stay the whole day. I don’t have time for an extensive entry, but click the picture below to see my photo gallery for the event.


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My Computer and My Tinfoil Hat

Posted by Deliverator on 27th February 2007

No, its not what you think.

Tin Foil Hat

I had a busy day today, as I am trying to finish up a recent avalanche of work from clients before I head off to Portland this Thursday to take members of the TRC to the Pacific Northwest FIRST Robotics Competition, but took five minutes to glance through Craigslist to see if there was anything I absolutely needed (so sue me, I am a gadget freak). I spotted an interesting item offered free by a kind gentlemen named Tom Humphreys, a SmartNAV 3 EG from NaturalPoint.

Smart Nav 3

This neat little doohickey allows for hands free control of a mouse cursor. I have one friend with CP who has motor coordination issues which make using a conventional mouse difficult. The International School is also unfortunately amongst many schools in America to see former students return home from Iraq with serious injuries. I know of at least one student who has been left substantially paralyzed from the neck down. I figured one of the two were likely to make good use of the device, so in a break between jobs, I went over and picked it up. I brought it home this evening and have been experimenting with it.

The unit consists of an emitter/sensor device which sits on top of your monitor, plugs into a USB port and accepts click input from foot pedals (what this unit came from) or a variety of other simple switches. Newer versions of the software which comes with the device support voice clicking as well. The emitter/sensor device seems to be a combination of a CCD camera and a few near IR LED emitters. You are supposed to stick an adhesive dot to your forehead, glasses, boom microphone, etc to reflect the IR back at the sensor. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of the special dots (made by 3m out of the stuff I am sure is used for jogging reflectors), but still wanted to experiment. I found that coins, watch batteries and other similarly reflective round objects made a poor substitute for the real thing. I tried a jogging reflector and found the camera tracked it much better using the test application, but was too unwieldy for actual use. I noticed that NaturalPoint sells a special baseball cap with a reflector mounted on the brim in their accessories section on their website.

SmartNAV3 Reflector Hat

The idea is with the reflector on the brim being farther in front of the point of rotation (your neck), the reflector describes a greater arc due to small neck movements than a reflector mounted on your forehead, making it even easier to track. I decided to imitate this simple solution by taping a rectangle of tinfoil to the front of my FIRST cap. I found a rectangle of foil about an inch tall by two inches wide worked best. Afterwards, my tinfoil hat and I spent about twenty minutes surfing the web, checking email and doing other routine tasks with relative ease. I am sure an official dot would do even better.

Given that the tracking unit simply relies or reflected light, I figured that an emissive target would be even better. I pulled out a 1 watt Luxeon and taped it and a coin cell to the end of my FIRST cap. The tracking was even better than with my tinfoil cap. Unfortunately, taping an LED to one’s forehead isn’t very practical for real world use. I think I will get some reflective tape from the hardware store and see if I can make a better passive reflector hat. If I can’t come up with a better solution on my own, I guess I will just buy some from NaturalPoint, but the hacker in me wanted to see what I could cobble together. Hopefully one of the two above mentioned individuals will be able to make good use of this neat little device. I may just have to pick one of these up in a few years when my wrists are completely shot (my wrists currently make clicking noises which annoy everyone around me and my hands are pretty useless when I first awake in the morning, but I figure they still have a couple good years of use in them).

Posted in Portable Computing/Gadgets, Tech Stuff, Titan Robotics Club | 1 Comment »


Posted by Deliverator on 21st February 2007

FRC 2007 - Oceanus

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All Nighter at the JPF and 2007 Pre-Ship Event

Posted by Deliverator on 18th February 2007

The TRC has been working overtime to finish Oceanus in the ever more threatening face of Tuesday’s ship deadline. Friday night, we decided to work through the night at the JPF, with a parallel effort going on at Ian Hovander’s house as they worked to finish the ramps, which Oceanus will hopefully deploy during the match to gain a massive point bonus. Saturday morning, the JPF played host to a pre-ship event, where teams from around the area met to skirmish against other teams. Too tired for any more words, here are some pictures, instead.

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Very Tired

Posted by Deliverator on 10th February 2007

… but satisfied

-110 feet of wooden field railing
-54 feet of 6.5″ high end zone stations
-2 additional target lights put up
-Oceanus (Codename: Lollipop) driven for the first time.
-3 years of TRC robots running around the field.
-Helping rookie team Tahoma (the other TRC) with their first robot

Good times. Going back for more tomorrow…

The Gallery

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Dean Kamen Speaking in Seattle

Posted by Deliverator on 8th February 2007

Dean Kamen

Dean Kamen, perhaps best known for his invention of the Segway (and perhaps more significantly for the first insulin pump and an improved dialysis machine), is coming to Seattle this Friday to speak about one of his less well known projects, developing simple devices (targeted for use in the third world) that generate electricity and clean water and operate off thermal differentials. Dean is also one of the cofounders of FIRST, the organization in which the Titan Robotics Club participates. He will be speaking at 7:30 at Town Hall Seattle located at 8th and Seneca. Tickets are available at the door only and are $5.

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3 Days at JPF

Posted by Deliverator on 5th February 2007

Spent the past 3 days at the Joint Practice Field. Friday, the TRC and Eastlake Robotics showed up and got the carpet in place, taped sections together and marked out all the field dimensions for this year’s FRC game. We then got the rack in place and did some driver/human player training.


After getting the field set up, Eastlake split their time between doing vision system coding and playing Halo on an Xbox, which they somehow managed to smuggle into the JPF in their shipping crate :)

Eastlake Playing Halo

Saturday, the TRC’s drive team headed to the JPF and drove Gaea, last years FRC robot, around the field for a good chunk of the day. I felt like this was time very well spent, as we got a good sense of upper limits for what is achievable during an all too short match period. I think Jonathan, this year’s drive train operator is going to be a great driver. He exhibits a great deal of poise and control on the field and has excellent spatial perception. We ran a number of exercises where he had to run the robot across the field at high speed, avoiding obstacles and then wind up carefully aligned to the rack (simulating scoring against opponents) and he nailed it more often than not on the first try. He also did a great job of getting up a simulated ramp.

Hopefully, we will have an actual ramp to train with shortly. Ian Hovander’s father Burt has been working hard to finalize a prototype ramp for this year’s competition. Burt managed to create a ramp that is very light (~18 pound estimated) but sturdy enough to endour several weeks of slamming by 120 pound robots. As light as he has made then, we are likely going to go over the weight limit if we choose to mount two of them on the robot. Hopefully we will be able to shave off enough weight in other places to enable us to mount two ramps.

Ethereal Ramp

On Sunday, Joel, Paul and I headed to the JPF to work on autonomous coding. Paul and Joel worked on merging some vision system object tracking code provided by Kevin Watson with our codebase. They ran into some difficulties due to different ways of handling serial ports, but I think they have most of the kinks worked out now. Hopefully we will have enough time to use the camera for something productive in this year’s competition. I spent most of the day putzing around cleaning up the JPF, putting up a target light and numbering the goals with a sharpie. Exciting, eh?

Target Light

Here is a link to pics from the JPF from the last 3 days.

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