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[DPRG] Re: Contest Course ideas from RPL

Subject: [DPRG] Re: Contest Course ideas from RPL
From: Robert L. Jordan rljordan at airmail.net
Date: Sat Aug 12 20:14:31 CDT 2000


My vote for the contest area size is 1/2 of the present arena, or 12 foot long by 8 foot wide. 

The modular 4' by 4' floors should work OK for a 12 by 8 for course and be easy to repair or replace. This would make is easier to keep the flooring in good shape as we go along. The course floor we have been using is hard to repair - carpet creased in the middle and frayed and damaged edges.

I like concrete for the floor. Also, this is approaching more or the real world where robots will eventually need to operate anyway. 

Perhaps use concrete floors, or Science place floor, for most contests and do the line following on an 8 foot folding table, brown top with light colored (masking) tape.

The walls we have talked about could be setup without the flooring we have talked about, so use of any of the new designs should allow using them at the contest. Hopefully we decide to build walls that are also quick to assemble. (Remember I like the strap hinges as "pinned" connectors on butt joints.)

Table Top Arenas:
In addition to the 1/2 sized contest arena, I think we should have folding tables at each meeting for displaying all robots on. Also, I think we should have one table with short walls around it for testing and demonstration. Every time I bring one of my tables, it is well utilized.  This would get more hands on time and interaction going at the meetings. 

I've been able to get SR04's line-following mechanism to work fine
on a standard concrete floor following standard 1/2 inch masking tape.
So I'm not convinced that a black-black floor with white-white tape
(or vice-versa) is necessary for elementary line following.
Good to hear that this works. That makes preparation and testing at home and at the BPI easier.

I'm enjoying the conversation on the contest arena. This could help us all work through the options and get a good, long term, arrangement going for the club contests and testing during the meetings.

Robert L. Jordan

-----Original Message-----
>From:	David P. Anderson [SMTP:dpa at io.isem.smu.edu]
Sent:	Saturday, August 12, 2000 3:46 PM
To:	dprglist at dprg.org
Subject:	[DPRG] Re: Contest Course ideas from RPL

Howdy DPRG

Ed Koffeman edk at kinetric.com wrote:

> We need the pieces to lie flat on the floor, so just using ordinary plywood
> probably won't be satisfactory.  Perhaps marine (5 -ply?) plywood would not
> curl so much.
> Rubber sheeting, indoor-outdoor carpet (almost no pile), or thin hardboard
> (pressboard) are candidates.
> Where pieces join, we will need to tape them together underneath or on top
> to avoid gaps or steps.
> If the covering is limp, we can roll it up and there is less likelyhood of a
> curl causing a high spot or a step.
> A stiffer material like a plywood might rock a bit on an undulating floor,
> but if thin enough might conform well enough to fllow the floor.
> At the Science Place, the floor is hard and flat, so almost anything will
> work.  But on a regular concrete area there are undulations.
> In general, I think realtively limp materials are best.
> Whatever we choose should have enough body to it that it lies flat and
> doesn't wrinkle up ahead of a robot or from someone walking on it.
> The other option is to do like the fire-fighter course and have a floor that
> has thickness, but that requires enough support under the surface to avoid
> being damaged by heavy robots or people with sharp heels.  This would have
> the advantage of controlling the joints more closely, and likely avoiding
> any warping.
> We leave open the option of using the existing carpet on the smaller course.
> It won't be as much trouble to store it correctly in the smaller size, and
> so avoid the wrinkles.
> Criteria for evaluating flooring:
> 1. Must form a continuous (no gaps, no bumps, no steps) surface when being
> used.
> 2. Must be a uniform color that contrasts with the walls and navigation
> lines.
> 3. Must be cost-effective.  Either long lived or cheap.
> 4. Must allow robots and people traffic without deteriorating or moving out
> of place.
> 5. Must allow taped lines to be applied and removed without damage.  This
> means it may be best to use something that doesn't need to be painted.
> 4. Should have some surface roughness.  This helps with traction and reduces
> specular reflection (shinyness), but also helps keep dust and dirt from
> footprints being so obvious.
> 5. Should be easy and quick to prepare the course floor for use.  For
> example, if we want to practice at a meeting.  Relatively less taping or
> joining is better.
> 6. Should transport easily in a pickup truck..  This means it needs to be in
> sections of about 4 ft. by 6 ft. or a roll.  Also needs to arrive undamaged.
> 7. Should store well.  For example, should not become unuseable from
> humidity or high temperature.
> 8. Should be readily available so individuals can duplicate the course.
> 9. Should have characteristics like flooring typically found in a home or
> office, so robots that work in a home environment will have good mobility on
> the course.
> Candidates mentioned:
> Plywood - regular, marine
> Hardboard - regular, black (baked?)
> Poster board - black
> Carpet - automotive (the current carpet), indoor-outdoor
> garden cloth - black thin
> tarpaper - (too dirty)
> rubber horse barn mat (too expensive)
> thin rubber mat
> tile
> linoleum
> kids' play area interlocking mat (too expensive)
> Well that's my straw man - everybody can chime in to revise the criteria.
> I don't think we should spend any money unless the new material meets or
> exceeds the present carpet's ability to meet whatever criteria we agree on.
> Ed Koffeman

Great summary!

Some of the difficulty with choosing contest flooring arises from the
size of the DPRG contest course, which is large, 32x24 feet originally.
It is 24x16 feet in it's current cut-down form, after the end-zones
were shortened from 8 to 4 feet deep.

If the chosen flooring ends up to be a set of 4x4 foot "tiles" then
there will be inevitable problems with the joints, ridges and gaps, 
especially as the course ages.  If the solution is instead a "mat"
of some type, rubber or vinyl kitchen flooring or whatever, then we
end up with this huge heavy rolled up thing 16 feet long or more,
difficult to move and difficult to store.

In my experience the "ideal" floor for a robot is the venerable Kitchen
Floor and it's close cousin, the Bare Concrete Garage Floor.  Suppose
we adopted as the DPRG standard the bare concrete garage floor. It
might have some advantages over any "rolled" or "tiled" floor that
we could fabricate.  Pretty much everybody has one or can get access
to one.  Setup is greatly simplified.  It has good traction.  No
need to store or transport.  It has a uniform color, is low in cost.
It's tough, you can walk on it, taped lines can be applied and
removed without damage.  It's water proof.

I've been able to get SR04's line-following mechanism to work fine
on a standard concrete floor following standard 1/2 inch masking tape.
So I'm not convinced that a black-black floor with white-white tape
(or vice-versa) is necessary for elementary linefollowing.

If the new contest wall can be made self-supporting, this would greatly
speed the setup.  This was part of the idea behind the cardboard
"mini-T" which uses no supports and sets up in about 60 seconds.

Suppose this is scaled up by 2, and someone comes up with a clever
design such that no additional supports are required.  Then setup
might also be on the order of 10 minutes or so on whatever garage-
floor-like surface happens to be nearby.

Having helped setup the current contest course twice I can attest
that even this simple arrangement takes in excess of an hour. We're
not likely to ever do that at the monthly meetings, and to my knowledge
we never have.  A 10 minute setup might be much more likely to
happen at BPI meetings.

Alan might even let us paint the line-following lines on the floor
in the automotive shop where DPRG meets.  (careful!)


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