2011 Midwest SRS RoboMagellan Competition
This year’s SRS RoboMagellan competition truly pitted man & machine against forces of nature such as grass, trees and clouds. Chibots welcomed four brave competitors and their fantastic creations to the 2011 Midwest SRS RoboMagellan Competition held at Moraine Valley Community College at Palos Hills, Illinois. We thank this college for allowing our event to be hosted at their campus. The competitors were:
- Tyler Wulf, Electrical Engineering graduate student at South Dakota State University and his robot Robo-Rabbit.
- Central Illinois Robotics Club (CIRC) of Peoria, represented at the event by Joshua Whitley, Peter Campbell, and Mike Dvorsky and their robot Wheel-E II.
- Rick Brooks of Fort Wayne Indiana, winner of the Midwest SRS RoboMagellan competitions for 2009 and 2010 and his robot No Name.
- Team Conehead, represented at this event by Eddy Wright, John Kjellman and Stuart Hecht and their tanked robot, SDR.
The prizes for this year’s competition were:
- First place: FreeScale Mechatronics Biped Robot.
- Second place:Blue Wolf FlashFly unit with XBees
- Third place: Maxbotix outdoor sonar detectors.
We would like to thank our sponsors for helping us with this event. Also on hand were sample issues from the following magazines: Make Magazine, SERVO, Elektor and Circuit Cellar.
All four competitors found the course a formidable challenge. Salvador Garcia, Chibots President, was appointed as official time keeper, a task he accepted as soon as he figured out how to use the stopwatch function of his wrist watch. A CIRC member came to the rescue lending him a smart phone with a stop watch app (there’s an app for that!). Once all preparations were made we were all ready to start.
The first to go was Tyler Wulf. He positioned his robot at the starting point. The small robot sped forward just as the timer started. However, instead of heading in the general direction of the cone, Robo-Rabbit made a right turn and drove right into the Chibots welcome stand. RoboMagellan course: 1, Genius Robot Builders: 0. Tyler made some quick adjustments and tried again This time Robo-Rabbit made it further, turned right and again drove right into Chibots’ Welcome stand (we had a long 10 foot stand). RoboMagellan course: 2, Genius Robot Builders: 0. At this time Tyler took a leave to more closely examine his robot and determine what troubleshooting was necessary.
Robo-Rabbit was based on a small Traxxas RC truck, outfitted with GPS, compass and ultrasonic rangefinders. Its main processor was a Gumstix Verdex Pro xm4 Computer On Module.
Other teams had similar experiences. Rick Brooks’ No Name tried to run the course, but collided with a hollow cement bench. Unfortunately, the robot was not able to free itself from this predicament. RoboMagellan course: 3, Genius Robot Builders: 0. No Name was as speedy as ever, forcing its builder and all spectators to get some real exercise. No Name was nicely equipped with ultrasonic rangefinders, GPS and a compass. The main processor was a Parallax Propeller. This robot is an example of the elegance of simplicity. Rick’s philosophy has always been “Keep it simple”.
While this was going on Team Conehead found some anomaly with their robot and requested some time to debug it before they made their first run. Both Eddy Wright and KJohn worked arduously to get their bot into shape. Rick Brooks tried again. This time the robot drove right into a tree. Rick tried different runs, but had similar results. No Name once went into a flowerbed and on another occasion ran into a plastic wheeled platform that was lying on the grass besides the sidewalk. RoboMagellan course: 6, Genius Robot Builders: 0
CIRC’s first run was, interesting to say the least and entertaining to the spectators, although not so much to its builders. When the run started Wheel-E darted forward a few feet, stopped for second then darted in reverse. This rhythmic movement repeated various times until a CIRC member ended the run remotely stopping the robot. RoboMagellan course: 7, Genius Robot Builders: 0
Finally Team Conehead was ready to go! Their robot was a marvel of mechanics and engineering. This robot had everything! Sonars, a 3 Mp Webcam, a Mini ITX motherboard, a controller based subsystem, tank threads, a front bumper, a rear ventilator and a chassis that made it look a SWAT RV crossed with the Monster Car, the main antagonist of the classic Speed Racer episode “Car with a Brain”. In fact, it had everything, except a name. Update: Since the initial writing of this text Team Conehead named their robot SDR.
Team Conehead positioned the robot at the starting point, aiming it with milli-metric precision in the general direction of the cone. When the robot started its run it started to drift towards the left, eventually ending up in a flowerbed. Luckily one of the operators stopped the treaded wonder just before it could do any damage to the flowers in its path. RoboMagellan course: 8, Genius Robot Builders: 0. A second run also ended similarly, except that instead of the flower bed it was a bush. RoboMagellan course: 9, Genius Robot Builders: 0.
CIRC feverishly tested and debugged their robot and after a while it was ready for another run. The robot made it further this time, but still seemed lost, unable to get to the general area where the cone was located. The CIRC robot, Wheel-E, was a wonder of engineering. It had GPS, compass, Webcam and ultrasonic rangefinders. The main processor was a Mini-ITX motherboard with 2 GB of RAM. It used components from a Traxxas truck for its wheels and suspension system. Several thin metallic discs were placed over the motherboard to reduce electromagnetic interference with the GPS module.
Another run ended with the same results. CIRC spent a good deal of time troubleshooting some issue that Wheel-E had with its sultrasonic rangefinders. They used a backpack as an obstacle to test the robot. Even with the modifications that they made the robot could not finish the course. RoboMagellan course: 11 Genius Robot Builders: 0.
After this, both CIRC and Rick Brooks did a demo run of their robots, helping them along when they got stuck. Both robots performed adequately, but still did not successfully locate all the cones. Wheel-E approached one of the cones well enough. No Name not only found one of the cones, but embraced it emotionally. Later on, No Name tried to climb over a moderately sized step in the terrain and ended up with its front wheels in the air. It had to be rescued by its builder.
All of this robot mischief entertained the crowd of spectators which totaled about 23, including the builders. We had the pleasure of welcoming Matt K. and Dale O. from the University of Northern Iowa. The event was an overall success even though the robots did not finish the course and the weather was hot and humid. At the end of the event some of those present looked as though they had been through boot camp. People got to talk with each other and discuss all things robotic.
And the award goes to…
The RoboMagellan course! Since no robot completed the course, but all showed great promise, we really could not award a first, second or third place to anyone. All teams got a chance to observe their robot in action and I am sure many thoughts of how to improve them raced across their minds on their way back home.
Even though the robots were not able to finish the course, there was no agony of defeat. Instead there was cheer of success because in the end, we got together and celebrated, learned and shared a fantastic experience. I would like to thank everyone that came to the 2011 Midwest SRS RoboMagellan event and to our sponsors that so generously donated the prizes.
Are you interested in the SRS RoboMagellan competition? If so, we’ve got news for you! We are already in the planning stages for the 2012 event and will have the date out soon. [Update: The 2012 Midwest SRS RoboMagellan event will be on August 4, 2012.] Additionally, Minds-I has graciously offered to sponsor one team, providing them with key components for a RoboMagellan robot. Totaled, these components are worth over $600 USD and a great asset for anyone who is interested in participating, but whose wallet does not run deep. For more information, check out the blog on the Chibots Website:
See you all next year!