Minutes of the PARTS meeting on October 5th, 2002

Pete Skeggs, PARTS President, opened the meeting by showing everyone the proposed club logos designed by Cory Poole, and announced that we’d vote on the submitted designs later in the meeting. Cory’s design showed a rose held by a robotic arm. Pete also announced that the presentation that had been scheduled by members of the Portland State Aerospace Society (PSAS) had to be postponed until the November meeting. In place of that presentation, the group watched a videotaped segment from Scientific American Frontiers entitled "Games Machines Play" that showed development of winning strategies and machines for robotic soccer.

Following the video, Mikhail Pivtoraiko from Portland State described recent work on the Robotics and Automation Society’s soccer robots. The RAS team is working on walking, as opposed to wheeled, soccer robots. Mikhail said that the RAS robots are programmed using the C language. Pete suggested that our club might work cooperatively on amateur robot projects suggested by RAS.

Pete reminded everyone that the Southern Oregon Robotics Club RoboMaxx event was happening the next weekend (Oct 11th-13th) in Grants Pass. Details of the event can be found at http://www.mini-sumo.com. Pete said that PARTS had been offered a vendor table at RoboMaxx, and could possibly sell tee shirts left over from PDXBOT.02. About nine PARTS members are planning to go to RoboMaxx, and could staff the table to sell the tee shirts.

Pete mentioned that the video projector used for the morning’s presentation had been loaned by Bruce Schaeffer of ORTOP. This year’s ORTOP competitions will host 145 teams, compared with only 65 teams last year. Volunteers are needed for the three competitions (two regional preliminary events on December 7th and December 15th in Wilsonville and Clackamas, and a state competition in January in Hillsboro. Volunteer and competition details are available at http://www.ortop.org/. Pete said that Intel will match volunteer hours donated by employees, and that last year’s Intel contribution to ORTOP was $4000.

Voting on the club logo happened next. Eleven designs were shown, and the overall winner was Cory Poole’s rose held by two robotic arms. Cory said that his design should scale well, and would lend itself to being rendered as line art, suitable for stationery or club membership cards.

The next item of club business was to discuss club members’ preferences for the day of the week we’d hold PDXBOT.03, next year’s robotics exposition. One of the drawbacks of last year’s event was that the food vendors who are normally available were closed on Sunday. By a 14 to 1 vote, those members present indicated that they’d like to have food available at PDXBOT.03. However, a clear majority of members thought the advantages of free parking on Sunday made that day their preference for when the event would be held. Pete said that he’d contact the PSU planning department to see if there are any open Sunday dates in May.

A question was asked about how last year’s event was publicized. Pete responded that in addition to our color flyers, we had spots on KPDX-TV, a segment during the opening of the Computer Bits radio show, and the Portland Family Newspaper had written an article based on Matt Ivey’s press release. Eric Stewart mentioned that he’d like to see large color posters this year. Larry Geib said the Central Illinois Robotic Club, http://www.circ.mtco.com/, produced a television commercial for their event for only $50.00. Pete said that if we can firm up our date now, perhaps ORTOP would allow us to hang a banner advertising PDXBOT.03 at their competitions.

Warren Leach reported that Bill Harrison, who is getting out of robotic competition organization so he can build and compete, has offered to train interested individuals in how to judge robotic competitions. Pete urged club members to take advantage of this opportunity, since Bill has been one of only two judges at our events in past years.

The Ask Doctor Robotics session resulted in the following questions:

Daryl Sandberg indicated that he’d like to send data over the audio portion of his wireless TV link on his rover. Several members suggested that he just use a modem to accomplish this, but to plan on relatively low data rates because the audio portion of the signal has limited bandwidth.

Mikhail Pivtoraiko reported that he has had problems getting machines running Linux and Windows to communicate. It seems that neither machine can ping the other. It was suggested that he run NTSnoop to display what’s being sent. Another attendee suggested that his switch might be filtering the pings, and suggested replacing the switch with a hub temporarily to see if this is the case.

Branen Riley showed his mini-sumo built at Brett Nelson’s Saturday Academy class. He reported that the robots backs up and turns, but doesn’t move forward. Pete suggested that the bottom line sensor may think it’s always seeing "white". Another person suggested checking the installation of the line sensors to ensure they weren’t mounted backwards. Someone else suggested hooking up the on-board LEDs to indicate the state of the line sensors to aid diagnosis.

The Show and Tell session started with Robert Pearson reporting that they were forming a new team for the ORTOP competitions. Last year’s team took home a trophy, but didn’t come back together this year, so they’re "putting together a new team and plan to kick some robot butt."

Fred Stevens reported that he has successfully milled circuit boards on his CNC Sherline mill, and passed around a sample. He is using CADSoft Eagle software (http://www.cadsoft.de) to lay out his boards. Someone mentioned an introductory special being offered by Advanced Circuits at http://www.4pcb.com where you can get three free circuit boards totaling 150 square inches. Pete mentioned a 50% off deal on circuit boards from ECD in Molalla; details are available at http://www.pcb123.com.

Tim Rohaly reported that he has been working with Scott Savage (http://www.oopic.com) to modify the Mark III by using the OOPIC 2 Plus controller. Everything is now done with standard serial connectors, and you can even create objects in the OOPIC 2 while it’s running a program. Tim has also added support for an LCD display, and the Devantech ultrasonic range finder (http://www.junun.org/MarkIII/Info.jsp?item=23) and magnetic digital compass (http://www.junun.org/MarkIII/Info.jsp?item=26) modules. He showed a Mark III robot that he had programmed to drive toward magnetic north regardless of its starting orientation. Tim is tinkering with Bluetooth to provide wireless communications for the Mark III robot; up to eight devices can be connected on a "scatternet" with a ten-meter range, 1 mbps data transfer rate operating at 2.4 gHz spread-spectrum and drawing about 40 mA of current. TI has a new 6x6 mm, 2nd generation Bluetooth chip that should sell for under $4.00 each. Tim had a Hitachi H8 evaluation kit and a BasicMicro development board to give away at the conclusion of the meeting.

Gene Collins brought his latest tethered robotic creation. It was built of copper-clad fiberglass circuit board material, had 4-wheel drive, and motors at its "elbows" to facilitate raising and lowering of the main platform, or to enable stair climbing. This proof-of-concept design is currently controlled with a console of doorbell switches, but a microprocessor controller is planned.

Tim Brandon said that he was inspired by seeing Daryl’s lunar rover, and had started construction on one of his own. It wasn’t complete in time for the meeting, but Tim indicated that he plans to bring it next month.

Karl Kuchs reported that he had submitted a paper describing his robotic colony to a Siemens-Westinghouse college scholarship competition.

Pete Skeggs reported that he has designed and built a serial interface board for his micro sumo. Also, he re-designed his encoder circuit boards (Monty Goodson’s suggestion) to accept either the small Hamamatsu IR detector, or discrete parts (for lower cost).

Mark Medonis showed his CMU Cam which he intends to mount in Maxwell, the robotic head. Mark has had several Maxwell head kits laser-cut by Bruce Filener, and he’ll take them to the SORC RoboMaxx next weekend. When asked about color calibration of the CMU Cam, Mark said that it is very dependent on the light level. He has seen a black and white checkerboard used for color calibration.

Rick Farmer said that he had more serial breakout boards and PIC evaluation boards available to give away at the conclusion of the meeting.

Mikhail Pivtoraiko showed a single-board computer that Intel had designed for robotic applications. The board uses an XK "Strong ARM" processor running at 400 mHz, 64 meg of RAM, 2 USB and PCMCIA ports. Mike has been trying to port Linux to the board; all communication with the outside world is via a serial port. The board requires only 1 Amp of current at 5 Volts.

Michele Folgheraiter is a visiting PhD student from Italy who is studying at Portland State University for the next three months. He said that he is interested in robotic hands and neural networks, and robotics in general, and was happy to be able to meet with other folks with similar interests.

Monty Goodson reported on Bill Harrison’s Northwest Robot Sumo competition. Monty’s microsumo suffered from some weight distribution problems, so he rendered his robot using PTC Pro/DESKTOP Express (http://www.ptc.com/products/desktop/) and found a way to relocate the batteries to solve the problem. Monty said that PTC is offering DESKTOP Express as a free download with renewable 6-month licenses. This is 3D design software, and the only crippling versus the full version is the inability to collaborate on projects, do photorealistic rendering, and animations.

Steve Davee reported that the two Mark III mini-sumo robotic kits have been delivered to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Doernbecher has a regular school on-site, and they need some mentors to help solder the kits, modify the servos, etc. Anyone available to help should contact Steve.

Dana Weesner reported that he had attended an IRS seminar in Reno in September. While there, he met the person who makes decisions about non-profit 501c3 status applications for the Northwest region of the US. The agent offered a few suggestions about the PARTS application. Dana also showed a copy of the October 2002 Scientific American Magazine which advertised an October 22nd television show "The Intimate Machine" which describes artificial intelligence research.

Brad Lewis reported that his robotic arm is not quite complete. He plans to modularize his robot and use distributed processors connected with fiber optics rather than use a centralized processor to control all robot functions.

Warren Leach said that he had followed the Microchip vs Atmel conversation that had occurred on the PARTS discussion group, and decided to look further into the Atmel product line (http://www.atmel.com). He showed an evaluation / development board that he bought for $79.00 that is socketed for all of the Atmel processors. One clear advantage is that the instruction set is identical across the entire Atmel product line, so any software written for one processor will run on any other processor.

Tim Weaver showed some hand-milled circuit boards that he made on his Sherline mill. Because Tim’s mill hasn’t been converted to CNC control, he is sticking to straight-line and right-angle milling to produce traces. He showed his encoder board with Hamamatsu IR detectors mounted. Tim also showed the ESCAP gearhead motors he’ll use in his next mini-sumo robot. He plans to drive the wheels with timing belts, and has had Bruce Filener laser-cut some custom timing belt pulleys.

Daryl Sandberg said that in the last month he attended Bill Harrison’s Northwest Robot Sumo competition in Washington, and the Pacific Rim International Model Engineering (PRIME) show in Eugene. He brought photos from the PRIME show of model gas, steam, atmospheric and Stirling engines. He brought the H-bridge motor driver he bought from Oatley Electronics (http://www.oatleyelectronics.com). He has upgraded the steering on his rover, and it now is powered by a windshield wiper motor that gives quick turning at lower voltage than before. Daryl also showed the motor mounting plate he is making for his 3 kg Japan-class robot. He designed the plate using AutoCAD, and machined it on his milling machine with digital readouts. Daryl plans to have both magnets and vacuum to enhance his robot’s traction, and hopes to compete in San Francisco.

In a final announcement, Pete reported that the problems we experienced last month with access to the building have been resolved. PCAT Room 28 has been secured for PARTS meetings until the building is demolished (about three years from now).

The next PARTS meeting will be Saturday, November 2nd.