Minutes of the PARTS meeting on July 5th, 2003

The start of the meeting was delayed approximately 10 minutes due to the PCAT building being locked. President Pete Skeggs got a Campus Security officer to open the building. The security officer announced that parking for the day would be free because the parking attendants had the July 4th weekend off. Pete encouraged everyone to enjoy the free day; he has been notified that parking will increase to $8.00 per day due to lack of sufficient state funding for PSU.

Pete listed several upcoming robotics-related events on the west coast this summer:

Pete announced that he has arranged to have PARTS listed as an official O’Reilly User Group. This means that PARTS members can register for O’Reilly conferences at reduced rates, and purchase O’Reilly books at a discount from the O’Reilly website.

Pete explained that we are seeking a list of robotics topics to be the special focus of upcoming meetings. He passed a sign-up sheet around the room so attendees could suggest topics they’d be interested in learning more about (or teach). Pete suggested that a 15-minute session on the selected topic for the day would open each meeting. There were quite a few topics on the sheet by the time it circulated around the room.

Treasurer Dana Weesner reported that PDXBOT.03 tee shirts are still available for $15.00 each. He passed a donation bucket around the room to collect free-will dues.

Vice President Warren Leach reminded everyone that elections for new club officers would be taking place in November, and encouraged club members to consider running for an office.

Warren also reported that the PARTS web page is running low on disk space once again, and suggested that perhaps it’s time for PARTS to consider paying for additional space. Pete said that he would contact Easystreet, our current ISP, about additional space.

Paul Burkey started the show and tell session by reporting that he had gutted a camera for motors and gears.

Brett Nelson said that he is working with an elementary school in Camas to build a six-foot robotic arm for a space shuttle mockup. He showed a grappler that uses thin nylon-covered stainless steel cables to snare pegs that are attached to objects. His prototype design was made of plastic drain pipe and thin cables. The arm will use an electric drill motor to extend and retract nested aluminum tubes. Someone in attendance suggested 8020.net as a possible source of rectangular aluminum extrusions. Brett showed his home beer brewing controller (previously seen in a breadboarded state) mounted in its plastic keyboard case with its large LCD display. Brett uses a PIC F877 microcontroller to read two thermistors to control a solid state relay that drives an electric water heater element.

Christopher Wayers was attending his first PARTS meeting and reported that his employer, VIDEOptions in Lake Oswego, was building a vehicle to compete in the DARPA Grand Challenge. Christopher said their design uses a diesel-to-electric drive, is all microprocessor controlled, has a Raytheon ground-penetrating radar, and will use GPS for navigation. He estimates that the company has spent about $600,000 so far developing the vehicle. Details of their test runs are posted on the VIDEOptions web site.

Steven Minichiello reported on his progress modifying his Lynxmotion L5 robotic arm kit. He has been in contact with Jim Frye of Lynxmotion, and learned that the L5 kit now has a big brother, the L6 kit that includes a wrist joint and a better clamping mechanism. The L6 kit costs about $40 more than the L5 kit; Steven recommends going for the newer L6 kit if you’re interested in getting a robotic arm.

Pete Skeggs announced that he’s re-building his "Skeggsway" balancing robot. He is considering using USDigital inclinometer modules (about $50 each) in place of the Sharp IR sensors that he used in his first attempt. Pete plans to include 4 feedback terms in the mathematical model of his robot (and claims he’ll finally get to use the differential equations he learned in college!)

Monty Goodson announced that he’s selling his MEGAbitty micro sumo controller board and line sensor board kits through Tim Rohaly’s web site. Monty said that the documentation has been taking up a lot of his time lately. He has been looking in Bluetooth communications and wants to use a Bluetooth-controlled servo driver. Bluetooth is a spread-spectrum RF technology that has about 10-meter range.

Dan Gates reported that Little Johnny is going to Canada for filming in the 20th Century Fox movie "I, Robot", starring Will Smith. Dan has heard that Little Johnny (and Daryl’s MR2) will be filmed on static display in the front window of a futuristic robot repair store. Will Smith is cast as a detective trying to solve a robotic murder. Dan also showed a Mark III mini sumo robot that he had modified to use low-cost Solarbotics GM2 gearmotors instead of modified servos. Dan also had closeout Sumo-11 68HC11-based controller boards for sale. He showed the first stage of a robotic ankle joint that he is building, and showed photos of a bipedal walking robot designed by Koji Yoshino.

Daryl Sandberg reported that his Moon Rover 2 (MR2) is also going to Canada for filming of "I, Robot". Daryl showed the Devantech text-to-speech board that he is adding to MR2. Daryl said it’s a great board for the money, although it lacks an inflection control. Daryl really likes Monty’s MEGAbitty controller board, and is practicing his SMD soldering skills.

Larry Geib showed some treasures that he picked up at surplus stores while on a recent trip to the east coast. He brought an air-actuated linear positioner that he bought from Bound Brook Electronics. He also had DC and stepper motors that he bought at Tanner Electronics and BGMicro in Dallas.

Doug Arnold mentioned PDXLan2003, a networked computer gaming event held at the Holiday Inn later that afternoon. A computer case modification competition is one of the featured events at PDXLan2003. He also mentioned that Basic Micro is offering reduced prices on its Basic Atom 28 and Basic Atom 40 Development Kits to Nuts and Volts subscribers if you mention code "NV1" when ordering.

Warren Leach reported that he has run into difficulties getting TI DC-to-DC converters to work properly. Someone in attendance suggested that you need a very low ESR capacitor across the output pins to ensure proper startup. Warren showed his second-generation panoramic camera pan head. This one was laser cut by Brice Filener, and uses a servo to provide rotation to the camera platform.

The next PARTS monthly meeting is Saturday, August 2nd at 10:30 am in PCAT 28.