Minutes of the PARTS meeting on November 2nd, 2002

President Pete Skeggs opened the meeting with several announcements. The date of the December PARTS meeting, December 7th, coincides with the first of three ORTOP-sponsored FIRST LEGO League competitions. To encourage and enable PARTS members to volunteer their time for this (and other) ORTOP events (details available at http://www.ortop.org), there will not be a PARTS meeting in December. FIRST LEGO League is a robotic competition for teams of 9- to 14-year olds.

Pete said that ORTOP needs hundreds of volunteers for various aspects of the competition, such as security, team staging, registration, judging. Pete said that our presence at the ORTOP events enhances our standing with local supporters (Intel, Tektronix, Nike, etc) of the events. He passed a sign-up sheet around the room and asked for everyone to volunteer for one or more of the competitions.

Pete welcomed visiting students from ITT Tech. The school is sponsoring Tech Week from November 11th through 17th, and invites PARTS members to bring their robots to an open-house display and competition on Saturday the 16th. More details are given below in the "show and tell" section.

The first planning meeting of the PARTS Events committee for PDXBOT.03 will be held on Thursday evening, November 7th, at the Lucky Labrador Pub on SE Hawthorne, beginning at 7:30. Anyone interested in helping plan and present next year’s robotics exhibition is urged to attend.

Andrew Greenberg and Tim Brandon of the Portland State Aerospace Society (PSAS, http://twiki.psas.pdx.edu/twiki/bin/view/PSAS/PsasHome) spoke about the club’s history, launch tests, and development of an inertial navigation system using vectored thrust to control a rocket’s trajectory. PSAS was organized about five years ago, and comprises graduate students and some members working in local high-tech industries. The organization has a goal of launching soda-can-size "nanosatellites" into orbit. Launch Vehicle 0 (LV0) reached an altitude of 1000 feet in June of 1998. LV1 reached an altitude of over 12,000 feet in April of 1999. Most recently, LV2 reached an altitude of 18,000 feet in September of 2002.

Andrew and Tim explained that precise control of the rocket trajectory is required to maximize vertical height and forward velocity. An altitude of at least 75,000 feet and a forward velocity of 17,000 miles per hour are needed to place a nanosatellite in orbit. Because GPS position information is updated too slowly to be used for rocket control, they’re developing a guidance system that combines GPS location data with six axes of accelerometer data. They brought their LV2 rocket (161 inches tall, 5-1/2 inches in diameter), and had launch videos, and a GPS-derived 3D plot of the LV2 trajectory. The processor in their navigation system has an AMD 586 processor, compact flash memory, and runs Debian LINUX. It has a CANbus (Controller Area Network) bus in which message IDs (as opposed to device addresses) are sent to automatically prioritize messages. A PIC 18F458 oversees control of the CANbus.

Because there were no questions from the group, we did not have an "Ask Dr. Robotics" session and went straight to members "Show and Tell".

Pete Skeggs showed two brochures that he picked up at the Southern Oregon Robotics Club RoboMaxx event. The first brochure was for John Olson’s TIGBot micro-sumo kit. It’s priced at $199. The second was for the OPTAScope digital real-time two-channel USB oscilloscope (http://www.optascope.com). Pete then showed his balancing two-wheel robot that he built from the Mk III kit, and passed around his wheel encoder demonstration board.

Jonathan Fant showed FRED and his mapping software . Jonathan wrote the interface in Delphi; it graphically shows the outputs from the IR distance sensors, and the direction that FRED is headed. Jonathan needs to filter his analog inputs to prevent noise, and needs to mount his sensor servos more rigidly.

Paul Burkey showed a catalog that he had recently received that featured home robots for sale.

Larry Geib showed Myke Predko’s latest book, Programming Robot Controllers (http://www.myke.com).

Daryl Sandberg reported that he is making a new body for Goliath. (Goliath’s previous body was damaged on obstacles at RoboMaxx.) Daryl made new wheels for Goliath out of ABS plumbing connectors with Mark III wheel "hubs" ; these new wheels are 20 grams lighter than the originals. Daryl passed around his new wheels, his silicone rubber tire molds and the latest issue of Robocon magazine (which is covering more and more biped designs).

Dana Weesner reported that he is working to finish all of his current projects by March, 2003. He showed his machined body and wheels for a mini-sumo robot, and his aluminum mold for casting urethane tires on his wheels. Dana reported that he puts his mold in the oven with the heat set as low as it will go. This thins out the urethane so that bubbles quickly rise and leave the tire.

Brett Hall brought a lead-acid gel cell battery and some powered speakers to give to the club. The items were delivered to Dana to be sold as club fund-raisers to whoever was interested.

Warren Leach donated a Motorola Nitron demonstration board (http://e-www.motorola.com/webapp/sps/site/prod_summary.jsp?code=M68DEMO908QT4&nodeId=01M98634) to Dana to be sold as a club fund-raiser.

Dan Gates, president of the Southern Oregon Robotics Club, reported briefly on RoboMaxx . He also showed a Plantraco (http://www.plantraco.com/) Desktop Rover Microvehicle and an autographed copy of Gordon McComb’s Robot Builder’s Sourcebook (http://www.gmccomb.com/biblio.html). He showed his line maze robot (in development) with a CMUCam, and a voice-activated R2D2 toy robot ($85 at Kmart). He said that he is designing an ant-weight robot. He also had some RoboMaxx tee shirts and pins for sale.

Tim Weaver brought his Motorola Nitron demonstration board that he wanted to trade for an ATMEL board, if anyone was interested.

Mark Christiansen spoke for his team of first-quarter students from ITT Tech. Tech Week has been officially recognized with a proclamation from Mayor Katz, and will be held November 11th through 17th at the ITT campus on Columbia Boulevard at 78th. They will have robotic competitions and demonstrations (line following, obstacle course, maze) on Saturday, Nov 16th from 10am until 4 pm. He showed his team’s line-following robot platform.

Aidee Vang is the Tech Week webmaster, and reported that details will be available at http://kinetics.freewebhosting.com.

Gene Collins showed FRANC (Free Ranging Autonomous Navigating Computer) . Since last month, Gene has added even more control, and demonstrated his robot climbing a 2-1/2" step to thunderous applause. Gene reported that if he gets a job he won’t have time to tinker with his robots.

Eitan Tsur brought an R/C Volkswagen car to give away that should be hackable for anyone who is interested.

Andy Nousen is a manufacturing engineer from Corvallis who had heard about PARTS and drove up to Portland to attend a meeting.

Karl Boe showed his IR sensor housing mounted on his tracked robotic platform (www.kronosrobotics.com). Karl mounted a cam to a servo so he can control the tilt of the IR sensor without interfering with its rotation.

Tim Rohaly showed a Mk III robot with an OOPic2+ controller; this new chip allows you to program, control and monitor the chip with a serial cable. He showed a $50.00 Magnevation Logic Status Indicator (http://www.magnevation.com/products.htm) that makes program debugging easier. It has high-impedance inputs, low current consumption, and signal pass-through. He told the group about Total Robotics, a British firm that sells OOPic accessories (http://www.totalrobots.com/oopic_accessories.htm). In particular, Tim mentioned the OOPic-R robotics controller board with SMT components, servo and DC motor outputs, 5 amp voltage regulators; also available is a GPS module with I2C and RS232 communications. Last, he mentioned a relatively new alternative to the Analog Devices accelerometer. AD’s device is mechanical, based on a torsion spring. The new MEMSIC (http://www.memsic.com/memsic/) accelerometer is based on thermal sensing, and is pin-compatible with the AD units. It has relatively low bandwidth, but is extremely tolerant of mechanical shock (rated to withstand 50,000 g shock).

Monty Goodson reported that there were 5 micro-sumo competitors at RoboMaxx. He has found a terminal emulator for his Palm Pilot that allows him to re-program the flash memory in his micro-sumo robot.

Steve Davee has been designing a circuit board for micro-sumo robots. He has a Solutions Cubed MotorMind C driver board that he would like to trade. He also asked if anyone knew of a circuit board supplier that could accept files from a Macintosh. Douglas Electronics (http://www.douglas.com/hardware/pcbs/) was mentioned by several attendees.

Rick Farmer brought in a data logger that he had built for his racing motorcycle. It uses Hall-effect sensors on the engine output to display engine RPM and speed, and flashes the digits when the engine is operating close to redline. Rick had the last of his PicLoader boards available for anyone interested.

Mark Medonis commended Dan Gates on the job the SORC did of putting on RoboMaxx. A photo of Mark and Maxwell appeared in the local paper during RoboMaxx. Mark had some books, a combined 5-1/4" / 3-1/2" diskette drive, and two 12-volt gel-cell batteries to give away to anyone interested.

Bruce Kroeze showed a DonTronics (http://www.dontronics.com/) PIC development board with a SIMM bus. He envisions being able to make modular robotic subsystems to attach to the PIC board. He’s very satisfied with DonTronics’ postage-paid 3- to 4-day delivery from Australia. He reported that he has written a LINUX bootloader in Python, and he’s building a servo calibration board.

Ron Nucci showed the CMUCam (which he sells from his website, (http://www.seattlerobotics.com) mounted on the new Parallax (http://www.parallaxinc.com) robotic platform.

Eric Stewart described his new Mark Tilden book, JunkBots, BugBots, & Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots with BEAM Technology. The book (http://shop.osborne.com/osborne/pressroom/0072226404_press.shtml) describes how to build 8 or 9 different projects. Eric also had a surplus lens to trade.

Mikhail Pivtoraiko reported that he had written an LED driver program for the new Intel LINUX processor board, but now he’s looking for wireless network support. He said the next version of the Intel board will provide support for USB ports, but that board isn’t available yet. He also reported that the Robotics and Automation Society (RAS, and our partner for PDXBOT.02) had obtained a new video camera for its robotic soccer field. They successfully used a home video camera also; its auto white-balance circuitry was a vast improvement over the video camera they had been using previously. Mikhail also reported that Michele Folgheraiter, the visiting electrical engineering student from Italy who attended the October PARTS meeting, was continuing work on an anatomically-correct robotic hand. He is trying to replicate the human neural network that controls the muscles of the hand.

Doug Hall reported that PSU will host the open-source development web site for the new Intel board that Mikhail spoke about. He sees great potential for this board in the next level of intelligence in robotics. Intel is working very hard to keep the price low, and expects the final version of the board to be about 2 inches square.

The next PARTS meeting will be Saturday, January 4th, 2003. If you haven’t already signed up as an ORTOP volunteer, contact Pete Skeggs (plskeggs@noeticdesign.com).