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[DPRG] Ideas for a Rover Class

Subject: [DPRG] Ideas for a Rover Class
From: Paradug paradug at gmail.com
Date: Tue Aug 5 12:07:26 CDT 2014

     This idea has a lot of merit. I do have some reservations about a 2 day event. Also, currently we have people pursuing varied paths to building an autonomous rover. I would like to keep this diversity of approaches for at least through our November contest. A review of the results of that contest would provide direction for the club’s next step in developing a solid core of  skills. 

     On the other hand, an 6-8 hour event (maybe at RBNO or on a weekend), that focused on skills that would be common to all approaches might be a great kick in the pants for everyone. It might also better fit in the busy schedules of members. It would be best to poll the members and see if they are interested and what subjects they would want included. 

     I am not too interested in a pushing a specific build for a rover. I have seen members pursuing converted RC rovers, Dagu tank, 6WD, and 4WD chassis , home built chassis, and David’s JBot.  People are also investigating a multiple of sensor suites and the use of ROS.  I think the different approaches are great.

     Our immediate goal is for the rover to be able to successfully complete RoboColumbus.  This means that the rover should be able to move in a given direction for a specific distance, locate a target at the end of the run and stop when it reaches the target. There are many ways to achieve these four goals. 

     In the future, we want to our rover robots is to be able to successfully run the Sparkfun Autonomous Vehicle competition, SRS RoboMagellen, and successfully repeat David Anderson’s hat trick. This would require the addition of good object avoidance, multiple waypoint navigation,  greater speed, and the ability to travel more difficult terrain. If the rover is meant to evolve (i.e., not a RoboColumbus specific robot), these things should be considered in the beginning of the robot build.  However you must crawl before you walk. The time, cost and skill restraints, that our members are under may require them building a basic rover that can only meet the objectives of RoboColumbus. A good intermediate approach is to build robust modules with solid capabilities that can be transported to other robots. 

     Developing robust modules might be the approach to take at such an event. As with your experience at the Houston TXRX makerspace, people should leave the meet-up with a module that works. This means that the hardware and software of the module is built to the level that it can be used. Here is a quick and incomplete list of ideas:

    1. multiple ultrasonic sensor array capable of targeting an object (similar to David’s JBot ultrasonic array).
    2. Data merging GPS data
    3. Targeting with Pixey 
    4. Neato LiDAR with ROS
    5. Robust bumper system
    1. A RC based deadman switch
    2. Method to log run data
    3. How to add FPV (real time or stored video)
    1. Build encoder and use with Arduino   
    2. Pololu IMU using DCM 
    3. APM2.6 autopilot
    4. GPS S/W routines
    1. Behavior-based robotics with Arduino
    2. Practical ROS
    3. Blob detection and targeting with OpenCV or SimpleCV using Rp or BBB boards.

Again, the idea would be at the end of the session the participants would have a working module that they could use on their robot. Parts would have to be ordered and received before the event, there would need to be tools to assemble the hardware and software that could be used to drive the module. There would need to be a “teacher” who had some knowledge about the goal and could get everyone started. Since interest in a specific module would vary due the the individual’s resources ($), strategy for competing, or just plain desire. The event should maybe pick 2 modules to pursue, an easy one and a more challenging one. 

Doug P.




From: Rud Merriam 
Sent: Monday, August 04, 2014 2:52 PM
To: Dallas Robotics 
Subject: [DPRG] Ideas for a Rover Class

This last weekend I built a quadcopter at the Houston TXRX makerspace. It was a 2 day activity, a lot of fun, and very intense. My brain was fried by the end of the weekend. But it flies!

I got thinking about doing a similar class for a an outdoor ground rover. In line with some other comments recently about wanting to see autonomous rather than RC robots the class project would be autonomous, possibly with RC override. 

I am looking for suggestions for you in Dallas on how to proceed. If we get the details worked out someone up there might like to give the class at the DMS.

A point I find surprising is how much more it costs to get an outdoor rover chassis vs a quadcopter. The parts for the quad were around $150 but that did not include the battery or RC TX/RX. It did include a micro-controller with accelerometer, gyro, and barometer. Other parts include were the arms, plates, motors and props. 

I have some thoughts but let me gather any comments from y'all, first. One important point is how much capability do you feel the rover would need to be interesting? Keep in mind this is not the end-all rover to win RoboColumbus but something to introduce people and show them they can build and operate it. 


- 73 - 
Rud Merriam K5RUD
Mystic Lake Software

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