And adding more lanes

Read more: And adding more lanes

Over the weekend I took the arena to a family party, and it was a big hit! I learned a lot about how people interact with it and a couple of 'bugs' that I need to fix. Leave it to little cousins to find new and exciting ways to try to destroy the arena (under my direction to do so of course). All in all though, everything stood up really well. No breakages or anything.

The robots held up really well to. I was a little worried about the video transmitters, and while they certianly heated up over time, I didn't see any failures or issues.

Read more: And adding more lanes

The original plate I printed to mount the camera to the servo was pretty bland, so I use Tinkercad to whip up something more fun. I was definitely inspired by the HR-OS1 head and I think it came out pretty alright.

It looks like rain on Saturday so we'll probably be inside. Honestly, its probably for the best. I've still got a couple things to finish, but I think I'm on track to be all finished by Saturday. I've got prototypes for the 'ground stations' that I'll post pictures of later. Kat is almost done with obstacles. Now I need to work on special moves for the 'bots.

We are widening the corridors (Quick Update + Video)

Read more: We are widening the corridors (Quick Update + Video)

So the arena is coming along. Goals are built and painted, and we're almost done with all the trim. We're still working on obstacles, but the current cardboard boxes are good stand-ins. We cut 10"x10" holes in the EVA foam and the box flaps are layed out underneath to keep the box from getting pushed out.

Now I've got to do some control work!

Read more: We are widening the corridors (Quick Update + Video)

We are widening the corridors

Read more: We are widening the corridors

Like I mentioned last time we decided to build up a foam wall around the arena. This makes it really easy to setup, but leaves the arena a little rough. After a trip to the Home Despot, we found J-Channel Vinly Trim in 10 foot strips. After a little bit if spray paint, we had some nice end caps for the EVA foam walls.

We tried melting the trim to make some nice corners, but it didn't work out. We also thought about making 45 degree cuts to make some corners, but we really liked the idea of curved corners. So when everything else fails, why not 3d-print it?

Read more: We are widening the corridors

I measured the inner/outer diameter of my wall in the picture and used illustrator to make a rectangle with rounded corners. After a little bit of pathfinder manipulation I had a good shape. I exported to an SVG and imported that file to tinkercad. Extrusion game me the basic shape, then I resized a copy of the shape to make a channel for the foam to fit in. Now, I've got corner pieces that fit right over the foam.

I ended up adding a small holder for a flag. I'm not sure if I'll have time to make the flags, but I figure its better to have the hole than not. I'm still using corners without the holes for the inside corners where the goals meet the arena.

So next up, coloring the goals and building obstacles. Getting there!

Read more: We are widening the corridors

We are building an arena, we are building it bigger

Read more: We are building an arena, we are building it bigger

Next month is the Chicago Northside Mini Maker Faire and fort the 4th year I'll be there representing Trossen Robotics. Every year we have several robots ready for attendees to control like our robot arms and our Hexapod on a Leash

But I've been itching to do more at the faire. So here's the pitch: a 10'x10' arena where 2 Geekbots race around to collect balls. Each geekbot is piloted by a Maker Faire attendee. Here's the catch: just like Mech Warfare, the pilot can only watch the match from a camera mounted to the robot.

So begins my quest to build a 10'x10' arena. It needs to be modular and easy to install and take down. I've got multiple faires in multiple venues, so it needs to work indoors and outdoors. For the floor, Wade reccomended Interlocking EVA foam, which is working out amazingly. Its easy to lay down and take apart, and the Geekbots have no problem rolling around on it.

Read more: We are building an arena, we are building it bigger

Since we're not using projectiles like in Mech Warfare, the arena doesn't need to be totally enclosed, but I still couldn't' decide how to do the walls. We couldn't have the Geekbots falling out of the arena now. After playing with a variety of ideas (insulation foam, vinly, PVC, plywood) I finally came to the realization that I don't actually need a full wall - just enough to keep the Geekbots from going over the edge. After a little experimentation Wade figured out how to make a 2" foam wall that keeps the Geekbots at bay. First, we're hot-gluing extra EVA foam onto the outer finished strips of the EVA foam - this make it easy to take apart and store the 'walls'. To keep the geekbots from pushing the walls right off the arena, we're using a long thin plate of ABS under the finished strip to add support. This combo keeps the geekbot in the arena and wall stays nice and in place.

There's still a lot to do. Kat is going to make some arena obstacles and we need to figure out coloring for the goals among other things, but we're well on our way.

You Pass the Butter

Read more: You Pass the Butter

Last year at the Northside Maker Faire I met Adrian Choy, Lead Robotics Specialist at Museum of Science and Industry. Last month he got in touch with me about his amazing robotic competition, Robot Riot. I think Adrian's Quote about Robot Riot sums up the competition nicely.

If the DARPA Challenges can be considered the Olympics and Battlebots can be considered boxing then ultimately I want people to consider Robot Riot as Wrestlemania.

Based on the Hebocon competition, Robot Riot is a sumo style competition where 2 robots compete to push each other out of the ring - but that's where the similarities to a standard sumo competition end. First of all, pushing the competitor out of the ring does not guarantee a win - the crowd is the final kingmaker in this competition. This means that your robot needs style and needs to put on an amazing show. The Riot emphasizes artistry, grandstanding, showmanship and craziness.

I had been planning on going to The Riot all month, but I've been running around like crazy between trips and work, so I wasn't sure if I was going to try to compete or not. The Wednesday before the Riot, Wade and I decided to give it a shot and see if we could put together something functional for Saturday.

We talked about a lot of different possibilities - from a dog robot to a crawler robot. Back when I was testing the RoboTurret, I had it accidentally fall over and start crawling away. I thought it would be funny to have a turret crawl around the ring like a snake (something I accidentally figured out you can do with a pan/tilt turret while testing some of ours at Trossen).

We started sketching a robot and discussing 'personas' that we could dress up as. I was just about ready to dress up as Tiger Millionaire when we hit upon the idea of the idea of building the Butter Robot from Rick and Morty. Of course our our robot wouldn't be your run of the mill butter robot, no the plan was to build The Butter Buster

Obviously this would mean that Wade would be dressing up as Rick and I would be dressing up as Morty. A couple of Amazon orders and a goodwill trip later, Wade and I were ready. Special thanks to Kit for styling the Rick wig, she did an awesome job.

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The robot build turned out to be pretty basic. For the mobile platform we 'borrowed' a Surveyor SRV-1 from the Trossen Museum. I made a super basic plate in Tinkercad to adapt the surveyor to a RobotGeek bracket. I also made a hole that we could put a bluetooth speaker in to give the robot some jams. (We played with the idea of adding an MP3 module right onto the robot, but ended up deciding against it for time and control constraints). The rest of the endoskeleton was 4 RobotGeek Servos (roll, tilt, 2 arms) cobbled together with C-brackets and side brackets. The arms are made out of aluminum standoffs and right angle brackets.

For electronics we've got an Arduino Pro Mini controlling everything, powered by a little 7.4 LiPo. A little dual 1A motor driver is enough to push the motors in the SRV-1. Luckily the servos and drive motors were all happy in the LiPo's 6.6-8.4 battery range. To add a little show we've got a WS2812B RGB LED (A.K.A. Neopixel) for the robot's 'eye' and LED Driver connected to the red led on the top of the 'bot.

The mini gets its marching orders from an ArbotiX Commander via an XBee link. The commander hardware and library made it a cinch to control the robot.

The Butter Buster Firmware is pretty basic - the firmware reads from the commander to directly control the servo motors. There's a little bit of hacky drive control to let the robot get driven from a single analog (instead of tank control). The neopixel changes color as the robot moves forward/backwards/turns.

Wade used his extensive experience with EVA foam to build an awesome head for our robot that fits directly over the endoskeleton. A hole for our salvaged camera lens and some wires for the top of the head finished the look.

Butter Buster is by no means the best designed robot. The initial run actually had the power switch on the back, so it would fall over and power off. Even after that was fixed, the balance was during operation was a little tricky. To rotate without too much roughness you need to tilt the head forward just right, and falling over was still a hazard. Despite that it's a capable enough robot, and Wade even figured out some good ways to get back up from a fall with the tilt and roll servo. Really, he didn't even need to, as he could still drive around even after falling down. I think the wonky-ness was part of it's Robot Riot Charm.

Read more: You Pass the Butter

The event itself was a total blast. Adrian came in an awesome referee shirt and started things off right with a Piezo Buzzer rendition of out national anthem. Other competitors included 'Ham Immanuel', a walking pig robot, and 'Knife to Meet You' a vibrating robot with a knife attached. Check out the video to see all of our fights in action. I'm hoping to get a copy of the live stream from Adrian soon.

Butter Buster performed all night admirably. In the first match we did manage to burn out our roll servo, but a pair of wire cutters and some tape got the Butter Buster back in fighting shape (without roll capabilities that is.) Before each match, Wade (our designated pilot) had to take a shot of J├Ągermeister, and while he was certainly drunk by the end of the night, he too did a great job, piloting the robot as effectively as he could have. We won our first 3 matches, and in true Hebocon style we attached Bowie Bot's head and limbs and 'america bot's flags to Butter Buster, upgrading him into the 'Young American'. In the end we got pushed out of the arena by 'A Bot Named Slickback', a pencil-case bodied, 4-cell LiPo monster of a rover. This robot actually ran itself off the stage after every fight except ours. But I'm still proud of our little butter busting robot.

So what's next for the Butter Buster? Who knows, maybe we'll make the con circuit, or put him in the next Robot Riot. Until then, he sits on the shelf, watching, waiting, ready to pass the butter and bring the pain.