Fall Competition 2019 Highlights

The FALL competition for 2019 has come and gone. It was casual, exciting, and a lot of fun. Great progress was shown by several competitors.

Some highlights were:

  • Ross Melbourne’s Donkey Car completed 20 flawless laps within the 5-minute time limit of the Donkey Car competition on a course with an inside boundary length of ~50 feet (course is visible in the image above) . We hope to post video of the run on DPRG’s YouTube channel.
  • Carl Ott, Ray Casler, and Clay Timmons were all able to finish the Challenge Line Following course with 4 interventions. Each competitor showing great progress from previous attempts. Carl was able to reach block 5D before requiring an assist.
  • Carl Ott debuted his modified version of the 2016 Club Robot in the Quick Trip competition, taking first place with a perfect score of 7 in a time of 14.77 seconds.
  • Scott Gibson continued to rule the 6-Can competition, collecting all 6 cans in 1:42 minutes.



FALL Competition Update

By now, you should know that the DPRG Fall Competition has been moved from November 9th to November 16th, but do you know that the rules for the Donkey Car competition have been released and the training times scheduled? You can find out the details on the DPRG Fall 2019 Competition page.

Date change: Competition will be held on November 16th, 2019.

Donkey Car Training: 10:00 AM to Noon.

Donkey Car (DPRG version) Rules:  donkey_car-dprg_version_v20191014

Practical LiDAR for Hobbyist Roboticists

Scott’s slide deck: slide deck (PDF)

Followers of DPRG’s competitions are familiar with Scott Gibson’s very successful robot CanMan. CanMan utilizes a spinning LiDAR manufactured  by RPLidar (~$100). In competitions where the arena is bounded by walls, CanMan’s LiDAR allows the robot to reacquire its location even after a collusion with walls or other robots.

At the October 12th DPRG monthly meeting Scott is going to share how you can add a similar LiDAR to your robot. The presentation will take a quick look at the serial interface and data fields used by the RPLidar unit, and then dive deep into how to use this data.

Scott will discuss the algorithms and code that he uses to:

  • Find the center of the arena,
  • Align to an arena wall,
  • Detect an outside edge,
  • Detect an inside edge.

This is a great opportunity to learn about how to use a spinning LiDAR unit.

The meeting is at the Dallas Maker Space and starts at Noon on Saturday, October 12th.

Fall Competition Contests Released – Time to prepare

DATE CHANGE: From 11/9 to 11/16

The DPRG’s Fall Competition is on November 9th! We have about two months to get ready. The Fall Competition is a low pressure, friendly competition where hobby roboticists of all skill levels can play with their robots. It is an excellent time for beginners to test their first robot, or old hands to explore new ideas and methods. Details and contest rules for the competition are at Fall Competition.

DPRG is encouraging every member to try and compete in at least one contest. The contests are open to the public. Anyone can compete (student teams are encouraged) and all are welcome to watch.

New to the hobby?
Not sure if you are ready to compete?
There are two contests just for you. “Basic line following” tests your robot’s ability to follow a line with gentle curves. “Quick Trip” tests whether your robot can drive in a straight line, turn around, and drive back to its starting location.

Want a slightly bigger challenge?
There are two intermediate contests that may appeal to you. “Advanced line following” which adds several harder elements to the line following course. “Six-Can” where your robot attempts to remove 6 florescent orange soda cans from an arena. Robots participating in “Six-Can” often use computer vision to assist with the task, however the problem has been solved using nothing fancier than an ultrasonic distance sensor and odometry.

None of the above interests you? 
Want a true challenge?
There are three advanced contests that will allow you to show your hobbyist roboticist chops. “Challenge line following” which takes line following to another level. The course includes background / line color switches, line width variations, tricky elements, and more to test your robot’s skills. You have to see the course to appreciate it (see: Challenge LF course). There is “Donkey Car” where small robots run a course using vision, learned speed and steering inputs, and utilize a neural network to determine outputs. Finally, there is “Sample Retrieval” where your robot starts at a home location and must return 5 specific generic items spread around the room on the floor to home base in a given time. This contest begs for the use of AI “object recognition”. Note: All Sample Retrieval objects are available every Tuesday night at Robot Builders Night Out (RBNO).

All contests require that your robot be autonomous. No robot drivers here…

Introduction to the ESP8266 – Monthly Meeting Topic – Sep 14th, 2019

Steve’s code and presentation slide deck: code_and_slide_deck

DPRG member Steve Edwards will present an Introduction to the ESP8266. The ESP8266 is an easy to use, inexpensive, yet powerful 80 MHz WiFi micro-controller. You will learn how to create a simple and secure REST api (Web Service), which will allow you to send commands or query information from your robots or other electronic projects. Steve will also be demonstrating one of his recent projects. A lot of blinking LEDs are involved.

This is a great opportunity to learn about the ESP8266.

The meeting is at the Dallas Maker Space and starts at Noon on Saturday, September 14th.

Autonomous Rover Robot with GPS RTK and Novel Control System – Monthly Meeting Topic – August 10th, 2019

Ross’s slide deck can be downloaded at: slidedeck (PDF)

Guest speaker Ross Melbourne will demonstrate his autonomous rover robot which uses GPS RTK for navigation, and a novel robot control system that employs Unity and Python. Ross’s robot control system has potential practical applications such as: robotic lawn care, security patrol robots, and autonomous delivery services. Ross’s talk will cover both the challenges and the lessons learned that he experienced while building the robot.

This is a great opportunity to see a sophisticated antonomous rover build.

The meeting is at the Dallas Maker Space and starts at Noon on Saturday, August 10th.

Moon Day – 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Moon Day 2019 held at the Frontiers of Flight Museum celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. DPRG and Iron Reign, a very successful FTC team, both hosted booths at the event. Their booths contained multiple robotic themed demonstrations that allowed the crowd to participate while learning something new.


DPRG Picnic – 2019

July was the month in past times that DPRG held its annual club picnic. For one reason or another this tradition had fallen by the wayside. However this year, thanks to the gracious invitation of Steve and Trina Edwards to host the picnic, DPRG members and families gathered to relax and have fun. The club thanks Steve and Trina for their wonderful hospitality.

Untangling the Mesh: Bluetooth, BLE, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, LoRa, DigiMesh, Z-Wave … – Monthly Meeting Topic – June 8th, 2019

Brent’s slide deck: slide_deck (PDF)

The multitude of radio communication protocols available to the hobbyist roboticist can be overwhelming. At the June 9th monthly meeting presentation “Untangling the Mesh: how to choose between Bluetooth, BLE, Zigbee, Wi-Fi, LoRa, DigiMesh, Z-Wave, …”, guest speaker Brent Grimm will compare and contrast BLE to other wireless protocols.

This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the various trade-offs between wireless communication methods and how they can be used control or share data with your robot.

Note: Ron Grant shared a very interesting show and tell of his Challenge line following course simulator. See the video above.

The meeting is at the Dallas Maker Space and starts at Noon on Saturday, June 8th.