iMAKE 2018

DPRG had an impressive display at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s iMAKE 2018 event (3/16/2018). The event was an all day celebration of the maker spirit. It was well attended by persons of all ages.
Members hosted six tables of robotics related displays. The displays stressed either interactivity or demonstrations. Additionally the IRON REIGN team hosted a separate room demonstrating their robot on a practice First arena. Unfortunately in the heat of battle, no one took pictures or video. The members who participated were: Ray Casler, Scott Gibson, Carl Ott, Steve Edwards, Mary Mathias, John Kuhlenschmidt, Karim Virani, and Doug Paradis.

“Build More Robots” Series

Dallas Personal Robotics Group (DPRG) is proud to announce the “Build More Robots” Tutorial Series.

What is it?
“Build More Robots” is a 5 part tutorial series that uses an inexpensive robot kit to teach people interested in robotics how to build robots.

Where is it?
All sessions will be held at the Dallas Maker Space located at 1825 Monetary Lane Suite 104, Carrollton, TX 75006.

When is it?
The series starts on Saturday, February 10th, at 12:15 PM (i.e., just after noon). The following sessions occur on the next 4 Tuesday evenings.

  1. Saturday, February 10th, starting at 12:15 PM. The first session will coincide with the DPRG monthly meeting.
  2. Tuesday, February 13th, starting at 7:00 PM
  3. Tuesday, February 20th, starting at 6:30 PM
  4. Tuesday, February 27th, starting at 7:00 PM
  5. Tuesday, March 6th, starting at 7:00 PM

Who can attend?
The series is open to everyone, however It is not recommended for children under 15. Attendees should be interested in learning how to build robots and have some knowledge of the Arduino environment. Strong programming skills are not required.

Do I need anything?
It is recommended that you buy the robot kit used in the series from Amazon, and use the video below to assemble it before the first session. You will need to bring a laptop with the Arduino environment (version 1.8.5) installed. Also, you should bring a small toolkit consisting of screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, and wire strippers similar to what you used to build your kit.

If you can’t complete the robot before the 1st session, bring what you have. Help will be available after the session to assist with such things as soldering. If you already have a similar robot kit, you can use it. The basic robot requirement is a Arduino Uno controlled two wheeled differential drive robot with an ultrasonic sensor. Later in the series, you will have to buy a few additional sensors, available from local stores like Tanners (around the corner from the DMS) and Microcenter, or online from Amazon.

What will it cost?
The robot kit is currently available from Amazon for ~$23. The extra sensors needed later in the series will cost ~$12. The Arduino software and the “Build More Robots” series are free.

What will we do?
The 90 minute sessions will be broken up into 3 thirty minute portions: Build, Programming, Techniques. The build portion will modify the robot to create new functions and the capabilities. These will be, “Moth” (attracted to light), “Table Top” (run on table without falling), “Wall Following”, “Line Following”, “Going Straight and Turning” (positional feedback), “Navigation/Mapping” (know location). The programming portion of the session will outline the software needed to create the different functions and give hints on how to improve programming style. The techniques portion will teach basic skills, algorithms, and tricks of the trade.


November Competition Results – 2017

The big winner of this year’s DPRG November competitions, both indoor and outdoor, was Scott Gibson.

Both of Scott’s robots, CanMan and B.U.R.P., sported major improvements since their last appearance.  CanMan struggled in last May’s Can Can Soccer competition, taking third in the event.  However, at this November’s 6 Can event, the robot collected all 6 cans in 147 seconds.  Scott attributed the improvement to better software. B.U.R.P., Scott’s impressive outdoor rover also received major improvements. In Scott’s own words “B.U.R.P. has new wheels, drive motors, and custom designed H bridges, along with a new tail wheel assembly. I also completely revamped the sonar sensor unit with a new CPU and enclosure, and made more SW upgrades in all the CPUs than I can recall.”. B.U.R.P. achieved a perfect score of 9 in RoboColumbus Plus by stopping and touching all 3 of the course’s traffic cones.


                               CanMan Robot                                                                          B.U.R.P. Robot

In the 6 Can competition 2nd place was taken by VexNavigator, the robot that won Can Can Soccer last May. No major improvements were made to this robot which uses a Pixy CMUCam5 interfaced to a VEX Robotics IQ controller.  Third place was taken by ClubBot,  a robot using the DPRG club robot 2016 design. This is the first time a robot of the DPRG club robot 2016 design has competed in a contest. ClubBot collected all 6 cans in 232 seconds during the competition. However after the competition, ClubBot made a demonstration run with better tuned speed values and achieved a time of 165 seconds, which would have taken 2nd place. One of the features of the club robot design is how easily the robot can be reconfigured. The competing robot had a modified front end and sported 3 sensors (ultrasonic, IR gate sensor, and Pixy CMUCAM5). The owner, Doug Paradis, says that the competition spawned several ideas for improving the robot and he is anxious to start upgrading.

                                   6 Can contest winners



November Competition 2017

Get Ready!

DPRG’s annual November indoor competition for 2017 is Saturday, November 11th. The competition will start at 12:30PM at the Dallas Maker Space. Competitors will have access to the course at Noon. The contest for this year is the 6 Can (see rules). Also, a competitor is taking on the unbeaten DPRG Challenge Line Following course (see course layout).

In addition to the competitions, Carl Ott will run his successful Challenge Line Following Simulation for the video. There will also be demonstrations of club member recent projects and robots.

Everyone is invited to watch or compete. Members are encouraged to attend and support the competitors.



Simulation Success!

In 2011,  gathering inspiration from Carnegie Mellon’s yearly outdoor sidewalk line following contest for freshman engineers,  DPRG decided to create a challenging line following course for indoor use.  The result was a course that included both black on white and white on black elements, segmented S curves, three different line widths, intersections, 90 degree and oblique curves, lines through color puddles of different contrasts, gaps, and more.  The course even had one gate similar to those used in the Carnegie Mellon competition.  The course layout was introduced at the Roborama 2011b competition (see course layout ).

Several members have attempted to complete the course since its introduction, without successful. One of the attempts was witnessed by Carl Ott. Carl became a DPRG member and set out to solve the course by creating a RoboRealm and Node.js based vision system.

At the Robot Builders Night Out held at the Dallas Maker Space on November 7th, Carl successfully ran to completion a RoboRealm vision system simulation of the DPRG Challenge line following course cheered on by attending members.  Carl plans to mount the vision system on a DPRG club robot base and complete the physical course at an upcoming DPRG event.




Monthly Meeting – August 12th

David’s presentation slide deck: Moving Up to ARM

The next DPRG monthly meeting is at Noon on Saturday, August 12, at the Dallas Maker Space. This month there will be two presentations at the meeting.

Member Carl Ott will make the first presentation, which will touch on the use of  node.js and javascript in a robotics project from a beginner’s point of view. He will also give an update on his line following robot simulator. The simulator’s goal is to solve the DPRG Challenge line follower course that was first attempted in May of 2012. To date, no one has successfully completed the course. The course layout can be found at Challenge LF course diagram.

Member David Ackley will present how to prepare a STM32F103C8 minimalist ARM board, commonly called the “blue pill”, for use in the Arduino environment. He will also cover the new STMicro STM32 support package for Arduino. This initiative by STMicro allows programming of Nucleo boards and boards like the blue pill using the Arduino IDE.

NOTE: David’s presentation was actually made at the September 2017 monthly meeting due to time constraints. 

As always, remember to bring and share your projects with other members in an informal show and tell session after the presentations.

Moon Day 2017

Judging by the sizes of the crowds, Moon Day 2017, set attendance records.

This annual collaboration of the Frontiers of Flight Museum and the National Space Society of North Texas, celebrates space flight accomplishments, such as the moon landing, and focuses on current and future activities in space exploration. The event features an extensive list of exhibitors and three series of presentations: Moon academy for the younger set, Lunar University a college-level series of presentations, and a Teacher Professional Development series. There were many STEM activities to excite students (and adults) about the possibilities of space and the universe.

DPRG was there! DPRG along with Iron Reign (FTC team 6832) sponsored a 6 table booth with interactive activities and displays.

DPRG and Iron Reign’s booth


                                   Iron Reign                                                             DPRG Members

Monthly Meeting – July 8th

Will’s slide deck: slide deck (pdf)

The July DPRG monthly meeting is at Noon, on Saturday July 8, at the Dallas Maker Space.

Member Will Kuhnle is going to make a presentation on Closed Loop Feedback System (Servo) Design. He will be giving an overview of the design process including considerations taken for operating in discrete time, i.e., real-time sampled systems as we implement in our robot designs.

His design example system will involve a DC motor – certainly a common component in many our robotics control pursuits.

As always, remember to bring and share your projects with other members in an informal show and tell session after the presentation.

Roborama 2017 Results

On the morning of May 13th, the Dallas Makerspace bustled with the excitement of competitors in the 22th annual Roborama. Activities started with a tour of the makerspace. Many of the competitors and their guests had never seen a makerspace and the creative possibilities displayed by the work of various makers was a real eye opener.

Each competitor or team was assigned a table area in the pit room where they fussed with final robot adjustments while checking in. At check in, robots were measured, weighted, and inspected to insure that they passed competition rules. By the time check in was finished, everyone was very excited.

In the Plastic Fastener Sumo contest, the quality of the robots was good. The impact of the learning from the Sumo/Line Following workshop, held a week before Roborama, was clearly evident. The competitors that had attended the workshop had taken to heart the best practices they had learned. As always the competition was fierce with several of the matches not decided until a final push by the winner.

The Line Following contest, the second part of the student portion of the of the competition, also showed improvement over past contests, with the winning robots achieving higher speeds. The contest doesn’t require the robots to be made from plastic fasteners, however all student competitors used them.

After the student portion of Roborama concluded, prizes were rewarded to the winners of the student portion of the competition. Each winner received a DPRG trophy and choice of a complete robot kit or a gift certificate provided by our sponsors. Kits and certificates were provided by Pololu, Parallax, REV Robotics, Tanners Electronics, RoboRealm. and Richard Neveau.


                                            Trophies                                                                      Prizes

The unrestricted participation part of Roborama consisted of the contests Big Table Top 2 and Can Can Soccer. In Big Table Top 2, a robot must complete 4 tasks. The tasks are: return a can to the starting zone, knock a can off the table, place a can into an overhanging box on the side of the table, and use the two remaining cans to form a line with the can in the starting zone that a yard stick can lay over (cans must be at least 8 inches apart). The top prize for Big Table Top 2 was won by a visitor to Roborama from Vancouver Canada, Markus Lampert.  His robot, Freddie, achieved a perfect score with a hitchless performance on the 1st attempt. Freddie has a hand crafted frame made of jig sawed plywood, a very tight design that incorporates several IR sensors, and a unique fin style grabber using flexible 3d printed claws. Markus is a member of the Vancouver Robotics Club (www. Second place was taken by Doug Paradis with his robot, Little Andy.


                          Freddie dropping can over edge                       Freddie placing cans in a line

Can Can Soccer, where two robots go head to head in an non-aggressive test to collect cans, becomes more competitive and exciting with each repetition of the contest. The winner this year was Doug Paradis and his robot VEX Navigator. Vex Navigator is built with the VEX IQ system. It incorporates a CMUCAM5 Pixy to identify cans. The Pixy is connected via a TI MSP430 LaunchPad  board, using the techniques published by James Pearson, in his documentation of the VEX IQ Sensor Reference. Second and third places were won by Ray Casler and Scott Gibson. Ray’s robot, Rainman, sported several new modifications. The modifications included a beacon system to allow determination of location after a collusion event. Scott’s robot, Can Man, usually a truly strong contender, suffered from a flurry of undetermined problems that hampered performance. Markus Lampert’s robot, Freddie, also participated. Fredde made a good show, but did not place. The final bout pitted VEX Navigator versus Rainman. In the ending moments of the bout, Rainman and VEX Navigator targeted the same can. Time ended with Rainman trying to catch VEX Navigator as Navigator snatched the can and placed the winning can into the goal.


                               Big Table Top 2 Winners                                   Can Can Soccer Winners

Trophies and prizes were handed out by DPRG President Steve Edwards.


Steve Edwards, David Ackley, and Richard Neveau were the judges for the event.


Come Build Robots in Plano, TX!

DPRG will hold its 2nd sesson at in Plano on Thursday, April 27th, between 6:30 and 11:00 PM. The event’s purpose is to help people complete their club or other robot. However if you have another project, please feel free to come work on it and socialize. Everyone is welcome.