Author Archives: Jeff Cicolani

First Competition Night a Qualified Success

Last weekend we held our first Fifth Sunday Competition and it was a success. I say a qualified success because we have to keep in mind it was our first and it was fairly short notice.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our Fifth Sunday Competitions, I can’t blame you. It was something I dropped on the membership with less than six weeks notice, which is not a lot of time for folks to get their robots into competition shape. But, nevertheless, I am pleased with the turnout.

In actuality, we had a single competitor. Several of our members tried to have their Raspberry Pi ‘bots, from the workshops, ready for the competition, but didn’t quite make it. Apparently, Michelle experienced failure in three of her four motors. Chip and George just weren’t ready with such short notice, especially because we had covered PID control the weekend prior. So, the fault there is mine. But, next time! Right folks?

Thank you, Mitch, for bringing out your ‘bot for the edge finding contest. After successfully completing the course, Mitch won the coveted kudos from the attendees. Mitch’s solution was pretty impressive. He had taken the edge finding to heart and built a robot with sensors on an arm, offset from the main body. It would approach the edge of the table then, when detected, align itself with the edge and then follow it around the entire table. Very well done.

Mitch also attempted the line following contest. After making some adjustments to the sensors, he placed his ‘bot on the line and let it go. The bot roared forward, promptly lost the line, and headed straight to the edge of the table… which it was no longer configured to detect. Fortunately, Mitch anticipated this and was there to catch it. So, having not actually completing the course, we were unable to award him with the line following win. We don’t do auto-wins… you have to complete the course.

In addition to Mitch’s bot, Michael brought his chess playing Prusa conversion. He has taken a Prusa i3 3D printer, converted the printe head to a grasper, added a camera, and hooked it up to a computer with a chess program. Though it operated a little slowly, it was an impressive conversion. Very well done.

These Fifth Sunday Competitions will occur on every 5th Sunday of the month, naturally. This means they will happen, roughly, four time per year. The next one will be happening on October 29th. This is 12 weeks away, so plenty of time to prep or build a ‘bot to participate. Since we had low participation at this last one, we will be repeating the contests at the next. For more information check out our competition page.

Competition Reboot

In an effort to promote building, provide a goal, and establish a series of deadlines, we are rebooting the quarterly(ish) competition nights. These nights are a chance to show what you’ve been learning and provide a bit of a challenge. Competition nights have been very successful for other groups, most notably the Home Brew Robotics club out of Silicon Valley. The plan is to develop a night where we can all get together, invite in other groups from around Austin, and have a good time running our robots. The vision is to have multiple events throughout the day including tabletop challenges, floor challenges for the larger ‘bots, Magellan demonstrations, and a show off demonstration.

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BSA STEMBoree 2017

Once again, we have been asked to participate in the Boy Scout of America’s STEMBoree. Like most of our outreach, we’ll be demonstrating robotics projects from various members, this time to the Cub Scout, Boy Scouts, and their families.

STEMboree
Saturday, April 1 from 9 AM to 3 PM
Anderson High School, 8403 Mesa Dr., Austin TX 78759

In terms of demos, we currently have planned:

  • Nomad (of course)
  • Sand Draw
  • The Infinity Mirror
  • Animatranic Eyes
  • Sonar
  • Arduino Synthesizer (if completed)
  • BARB
  • 3D Printer (M3D and possibly my Prusa, but it doesn’t like to be moved)

We will need another 2 to 4 volunteers to help us keep an eye on everything and interact with the kids. To volunteer, go to the volunteer sign up page here: http://therobotgroup.org/rsvpmaker/bsa-stemboree-2017-2017-04-01/

We will generally setup a half hour before the event starts, so if you can come out a little early to assist with that, it would be appreciated.

SXSW Create Information

It has been confirmed that we have a 20×20 booth again this year. That means we will need a minimum 4 to 6 people manning the booth got all three days.
The more folks we have volunteering, the more flexible we can be with the time. We want everyone to be able to get out and explore the event. There’s always a lot of very cool exhibits, so we want you to come out, help us get some new members, and see the event (and those of us that are there all weekend appreciate being able to eat).
A day at Create generally looks like this. You’ll hang out at the booth and learn about the various projects. Once you’re comfortable with one or more spiel, you’ll jump in and help engage the guests. If you get questions you can’t answer, you’d defer those to the owner of the display. You’ll be able to wander around the event as your leisure, assuming you spend most of your time helping at the booth. Periodically, the exhibitors will want to wander, take a bio break, or stuff food in their face and you’d need to help cover for them while they’re out an about.
To volunteer, please go to our web-site at http://therobotgroup.org, sign in or register. Then go to events/volunteering from the main menu (top of page). There you will see the calendar and a list of the days. Click on the title for each day you are available to volunteer and select the shifts you are available. I have them broken into 2 hour shifts and you can select as many as you like.
The volunteers so far:
Myself – all day, all three days
Rick – all day, all three days
Wolf – all day, all three days
Mike – all day, all three days
Kurt – all day, Saturday
Chip – all day, Saturday and Sunday
Kevin – ??? – has volunteered, I don’t recall if he said when.
The exhibits planned so far…
  • Nomad (of course, Me)
  • Rick’s Piano
  • Sonar radar (Rick)
  • Infinity Mirror (Rick)
  • Sand Draw (TRG as a whole, mostly Rick)
  • Telemaster, RC Plane (Wolf)
  • Quadcopter (Wolf)
  • Ping Pong Printer (Wolf)
  • Animatronic Eyes (Rick)
  • Frankenlab CNC (from Jerry, but he can’t make it, so ???)
  • Vision demos (Me)
  • Rasbot-Pi (our workshop project, Me)
Filler, if needed…
  • Incomplete R2-D2 (Me)
  • BARB, robot based on Powerwheels drive train (Me)
If you want to bring something to show off, let me know… and sign up to volunteer. We can make room as needed.
I am planning on doing the next installment of the workshop series at the event. Raspberry Pi and the Arduino (of course that means I have a lot of writing to do this weekend). I’ll determine when once I’ve had a chance to peruse the schedule. That also means part of the booth will be setup for the presentation. Probably the part where I have my displays.
Let me know if you have problems registering on our site. I know a couple folks got caught in a vicious security cycle because their account was stuck in permanent pending mode. Once I activated the accounts, everything went through fine.
If you have any other questions, please feel free to reach out.
Cheers.

Upcoming Shows

SXSW Create is coming up March 10th through the 12th. In the past we have set up Thursday afternoon with final touches Friday morning. I am working with their new organizer to find out how big the booth will be this year. Last year we had a 20’x20′ booth. I am expecting the same this year.
As soon as I know more I will start to call for demos and exhibits for the show. This year we will be grouping our exhibits into four topics:
  • Industrial Robotics: Think CNC and the Puma Arm
  • Robots in Education: These would be smaller robots used to teach STEM.
  • Robots in Entertainment: Rick’s Player Piano would be a prime example. But also think animatronics, animated art, and things like that.
  • Research Robots: Nomad is a prime example of a robot being built for research purposes.

So, start thinking about projects that would fit into these categories. I have a feeling we’ll need more than Nomad for research.

If you don’t have a project to bring out, we still need volunteers to help man the booth. Three days is a long time and we’ll need enough people to be able to rotate out our volunteers. I will be posting a calendar with time slots that will need to be filled. I’ll know more, again, when I find out about the booth size. Once we know the projects that will be displayed, we will need to figure out how to get people up to speed on them. Chances are we’ll have to get a couple people knowledgeable on each of the main, more complicated displays, so once we know what those will be I’ll list them out so folks can choose which ones they want to know more about so they can speak about them.
In addition, April 1st, the Boy Scouts are having their STEMboree at Anderson High School from 9AM to 3PM. I’ve reached out to them to see how they’d like us to participate. We are hoping to leverage some, if not all, the displays and volunteers from SXSW for that show. Again, more information will be sent out as I know more.

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